One of the most effective promotional strategies my successful clients do is make themselves an expert or authority in their markets. They brand their business as a market leader, attracting loyal consumers who seek them out by name.
What do we mean by authority?
Consumers prefer to do business with people and companies they’ve heard of before. So it’s important to get your name out there and to expose your company to as many consumers as possible. In marketing, we also call this “branding.” It’s the art of developing your brand as a recognizable authority in your niche.
The more they see you and hear about you, the more they’ll recognize you as one of the leaders in your industry. And consumers love doing business with leaders, as long as the price is competitive. But often, an authority can get away with higher prices just by virtue of their status as the “place to go” for a particular service. This is an incredibly envious position to be in.
Companies that are positioned as authorities are also sought out specifically in the market place. So for example, instead of searching Google for say, pest control companies in Scottsdale, which will render a whole list of names, of which you may or may not be one of them, a consumer might instead just type the name of a pest control company they already know—perhaps one they heard of on radio and TV commercials. This will render a list of results as well, but all for the same company—hopefully, yours.
Being an authority in your market makes you an obvious choice for consumers, or at worst, the clear front runner in their decision making process.
All my clients work toward becoming the leader in their respective markets. In fact, making them the authority is part of my own unique selling proposition and a primary objective. It would be stating the obvious to say that authorities capture the largest share of the market, but we have some clients that we estimate receive more than 50% of total market share, leaving the other 50% for all their competitors to split.
Becoming the authority is clearly something that industry leaders take very seriously and spend a lot of resources on.
How do you become the authority?
You become the authority in the minds of consumers when you are seen everywhere. If you have a big enough budget you can buy television ads, radio spots and prominent real estate in the local newspaper, but most small business owners don’t have that kind of budget. So maybe a better question is how can you become the authority on a tight budget?
The best way I’ve found to do this is to become the virtual authority. We know that most consumers search online for local business services before they purchase. Even when they do see television and newspaper ads, they often turn to the Internet for more information. If you can position yourself prominently here, then you can make yourself the authority.
If you do have the budget for media buys, then be sure to use some of that money to hire a consultant. You want ads that will have the highest conversion rates and I’ve seen too many businesses try to write their own advertising and end up wasting a lot of money. The same goes for billboards and other forms of advertising.
The biggest bang for your buck is going to be with your digital marketing campaign. You can reach more targeted consumers using online media than you can with anything else. A good book to get you started is a book by Jim Lecinsky of Google called Winning the Zero Moment of Truth. You can pick up a free copy at?www.zeromomentoftruth.com. Rather than me explain ZMOT, take a look at this quick video…
So this video is saying to be present and engage consumers online. I’m saying all that is important, but the top companies also set themselves apart by becoming the authority online as well.
To do that effectively, you need to have a solid brand. A brand is your identity. It is what you want consumers to think of when they see or hear your name. For example, where is the happiest place on earth? If you have kids, I’m sure you know that it’s Disneyland. Even if you don’t have kids, most of you recognize the Disney brand when you see it. And let me ask you this, are you in good hands? If so, then you probably have Allstate insurance. Coca Cola is the real thing and like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.
But a good brand is more than a recognizable slogan. It’s a mental picture of your product or service. It congers a specific image in the minds of consumers. For example, most people wouldn’t know a Ferrari from any other high end sports car on the street when they saw one, but when you mention Ferrari, people instantly get a mental picture of a red, sleek, fast Italian sports car with such high quality that only the rich can afford. That’s good branding.
Your brand should come directly from your unique selling proposition. Your USP is the reason why consumers use you instead of your competitors. It’s not because you’re the best, the fastest or the cheapest. Best and fastest is not measurable and cheapest is not even considered a marketing strategy. You’ll never grow by offering the cheapest service. In fact, a brand is stronger if consumers are willing to pay a higher price to get what you have.
So ask yourself, “what do you offer consumers that they can’t get with any other company in your market?” That’s your USP. The manifestation of your USP is your brand. So if people use you, for example, because they know it’s going to get done right the first time or the service is free, then branding is the process of promoting that message to consumers.
Once you’ve established your brand then you want to promote it across the Web. Now I don’t want to get too deep into search engine optimization and digital marketing because it’s way too much involved to cover here. I’d have to charge you $10,000 for a 10 week course to teach you everything you need to know about SEO. Instead, I’ll go over a few important?points and for anything you don’t understand, you’ll have to ask us about our one-on-one?digital marketing and branding consulting services.
In the video I have provided below, I indicate that my firm no longer is accepting new clients. At the current time, we have room for one or two more so if you are interested, please contact me personally at [email protected]
To promote your brand, your website is clearly a good place to start. Search engine optimization is generally thought of as the practice of getting your website to show prominently within search results. When I promote a website I think of two things, traffic and conversions. You want to drive traffic to your website by getting it to show well within search results. Then, you want to convert those visitors into paying customers.
First; traffic. If you’re a consumer in LA and you lock your keys in the car after visiting the Santa Monica Promenade, you’re going to search the internet on your mobile phone for locksmiths in LA or locksmiths in Santa Monica.
A locksmith who has branded himself or herself well will likely show at the top of search results and will get the call. Likewise, a plumber, divorce attorney, dentist or landscaper will want to do the same for consumer searches related to their niche.
So how do we show up at the top of search results? There are many ways and that’s the job of digital marketing specialists. Think of the Internet as a popularity contest. If the search engines think that your site is popular, then they are likely to improve your visibility to allow more consumers to find you. Getting a lot of visits to your site is a clear sign of popularity, but so are links. If another website links to yours, that link becomes a path for consumers to find you. It tells the search engines that another site deemed yours important enough to direct its visitors to. So for example, if the New York Times website linked to your website, then it tells Google that if your site is important enough for the New York Times to send its readers to, then your site must be pretty important and that other consumers, even those who do not read the New York Times, will want to visit as well. Therefore, Google is going to improve your visibility by moving you closer to the top of search results. Do you see how you become an authority by having other, authoritative websites linking to yours?
The best links are those of other authoritative sites, especially if they’re in your niche—and your community if you have a business that sells locally. Try to get as many of these kinds of links directed to your website as you can.
So visitors and links are important factors in the visibility of your website within search. So is social media. There are so many people using social media these days that Shares, Likes, Comments, Tweets, Pins, Pluses and the rest will increasingly play a role on the authority search engines give to your website. But more importantly, social media is a great place to get the kind of exposure that will help you brand your business. Be sure to remain active in social media and try to get others to share links to your website as well.
I often say that you can get all the traffic in the world to your site, but none of it does any good if you can’t convert those visitors into paying customers. A digital marketing specialist can work on your website to construct it in a way that will entice consumers to take some sort of action such as calling or emailing you to ask about service or to set an appointment.
They do that by knowing how consumers act on the Web, where they go, what they do, what they click on and what pages they visit. A good conversion specialist can direct visitors to specific pages we call landing pages.
Generally, you want each page of your website to have a strong, compelling title and call to action. You want to make sure you answer all the questions a consumer will have that will enable them to take the next step. What is it that they typically want to find out by visiting your site? Do you have an instant chat or customer service feature? Do you have your telephone number prominently displayed on every page? Do your pages flow and read easily or are they full of a bunch of confusing text that consumers will likely skip over? Is it interactive and engaging? Are its features and colors soft and easy on the eye? Do you give the visitor a compelling reason to contact you?
Do a search for your own niche and check out your competitors’ websites. If you were a consumer, which company would you choose? What is it about that web page that is compelling to you? Don’t be afraid to steal ideas from your competition. It’s all there for everyone to see so have at it.
Beyond Your Website
One of the biggest mistakes digital marketing consultants make these days is limiting their work to your website. How many times have you seen advertisements or promotions promising to get your website on the first page of Google. I hate that. It’s so limiting. You can’t become the authority in your market with just your website, even if it ranks at the top of search. There is so much more out there that you can take advantage of.
I want to show you an example of what I mean and for those of you who have been in my webinars before, you may recognize all this because I’ve used this example before.
Now, if I’m a consumer either living or visiting Portland, Oregon, and I want to find a good espresso bar, what am I going to type into the search engines? Probably phrases such as espresso bars in Portland, Portland espresso bars or espresso bar Portland.
Take a look at this screenshot.
What jumps out at you on this page? There are really only two choices. Rather than a whole list of different options, you have Lotus and Marco’s, right? These companies are not just promoting their websites. They’re promoting other pages as well. Believe me, these businesses actively worked on all these listings to get this kind of visibility. It didn’t just happen by itself. This is the first page of search results for a pretty competitive keyword search term.
If they’re smart, these guys would brand themselves by having a consistent message on all these different web properties.
Of all the espresso bars in Portland, Oregon, which ones do you think are the authorities in their market? To anyone searching the internet for espresso bars in Portland, it’s Lotus and Marco’s for sure. How much more business could you get if you were positioned as the virtual authority in your market?
You can optimize your profile page in Yelp, Citysearch, Yahoo Local, Superpages, Merchant Circle or any other website that you have a profile in – just the same way you optimize your website. Your Facebook fan page is also optimizable as well, but here’s a tip. I would focus on the profiles that show gold stars in search results. Check out the Yelp listings in the screenshot above. Visually, that’s pretty powerful to consumers.
Work on these profiles because gold stars stand out in consumer searches. If you’re a consumer, and you see a listing with a five-star rating? How powerful is that in your decision to select a company? Again, it goes toward building your authority.
Speaking of reviews, managing your reputation online is more important today than it has ever been, especially for a business that’s trying to build its authority. You must be tracking the reviews consumers are leaving for you. Most of these sites will allow you to respond to reviews, which you absolutely must do, especially if you get one that’s negative. Just make sure you respond professionally and politely. You should probably even kiss a little butt. Lashing out and berating a reviewer because they wrote something about you that you didn’t like is a very bad idea. You can’t win that battle. You need to use the response feature in review sites to let other visitors know how much you care about their business.?Here’s another ZMOT video about ratings and reviews.
Lots of reviews will help you gain authority in your market. Just remember, consumers know you can’t please all customers all the time. A negative review once in a while is not so bad, especially if you are apologetic and gracious in your response. That can actually get you more business because other consumers reading your response will be impressed that you’re reaching out and making an effort. Just don’t get too many of them.
The Local Media
As important as your online marketing is there are some things you can do to improve your authority offline, too. Let me share one of my favorites. And I have done this in several different industries and it works like a charm. It just takes time to nurture.
Your local media are always looking for experts and “authorities” in particular areas. I like to contact reporters and news producers and let them know that my client is a local expert and available for interviews on subjects relating to their field. For example, I have a client who is a mortgage broker and a few years ago when property values plummeted and the mortgage crisis threatened the global economy, I reached out to all the local media to let them know my client was a local authority on mortgages and real estate and that he was available for interviews, quotes and could serve as an expert if needed for commentary. I even gave them some story suggestions that related to current events.
My client was interviewed repeatedly and appeared on many San Diego news shows. Not only did he get a whole lot of new calls from the interviews, but he also got a link back to his website from those news agencies.
Start by collecting the email addresses of your local news anchors, reporters and producers. Send them a short introduction, a brief bio and the purpose for you contacting them. Now there is a big chance that your email will get ignored so you have to be persistent. I would do it once a week until you get a response.
Keep an eye out for breaking news as well. If you check the news on your computer in the morning and there is something that you can relate to, I would send an email and make a physical call to some of the top reporters. Ask for them by name. Sometimes you’ll get through and sometimes you won’t, but in breaking news situations, reporters will appreciate that you reached out. You’re making their job easier by coming to them rather than them having to hunt down an expert to interview.
By hitting them up early in the day, they’ll have time to come out and interview you for the evening news. I’ve actually been asked to come in immediately after calling a reporter to have them interview me in the studio.
Be persistent and get enough of these under your belt and you’ll become the go to guy or go to gal for future interviews. The next step will be to get your own regular segment on the local news, then you’ll get syndicated and the whole thing gets crazy.
Alright, so you do all these things to build your credibility and authority within your community. If you need help with it, be sure to contact me at [email protected]
With a strong brand, heavy online presence and free media attention, you’ll have all the tools you need to separate yourself from the rest of the pack.