As we measure the degree of damage, or more precisely, reduced revenue and increased costs from the downturn, advertising spending tends to be one of the first cuts owners make. Yet this may be a great time to expand marketing to take a share of the market away from your competitors.
The key is marketing without little or no money through efforts like community engagement, referrals or sending a press release to local media. Another method is becoming a recognized expert who is called upon by media and other outlets to speak, write and lend your expertise.
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You want to be recognized as an expert in your field, a specialist with trustworthy credentials that establishes your credibility. How does one become an expert? The traditional path is to spend a lifetime in the industry and earn relevant educational certifications and degrees. But the traditional method takes a long time and is impractical for the new entrepreneur who wants to enter the business arena as a player.
There are alternative paths to reach the goal of being recognized as an expert. Here are 12 ideas:
1. Learn about what’s important in your industry today and become current. Every commercial niche has one or more trade magazines. Obtain a few back copies, three at least, and read them cover to cover, particularly noting the editorials as their topics are what’s currently on the minds of the industry leaders. You should understand and adopt the opinion of the lead editorial from the lead magazine in that genre. The editors and writers know what is best for their industry. You should be adept on the subject and have an opinion or two of your own, of course, as you are an industry expert.
2. Note the advertisements. These will also tell you what’s new and important to the industry, as well as what the leading businesses are talking about and selling.
3. Write an article and submit it for publication in one of the industry magazines. This often isn't as hard as it seems. Once done, you are a published writer in the industry. If you have trouble getting an article published, write a letter to the editor or respond to one; that’s easier, and it will start the process going. People will see your name and read your material.
4. Create a website and a blog. Begin to communicate with your market, discussing industry issues and creating an open forum with you as an expert. Highlight your involvement, as well as your diverse commitment to the industry. You can further establish your credentials and publish your materials, including press releases, articles, and so forth.
5. Create podcasts (video or audio) based on your blog entries. Post the video on YouTube. You can post your audio to iTunes. Some people find it easiest to start with services like Audio Acrobat (www.audioacrobat.com); you can phone from anywhere to record your podcast, and Acrobat feeds it to podcast hosting sites such as iTunes.
6. Offer to speak at a local college. Just about everyone lives near a university, college, state school, technical school, or some other bastion of higher learning. Offer a professor or department head the opportunity to have you speak at a forum run by the professor or department head on a subject relevant to you and the educator’s interest group—at no charge, of course.
7. Offer a local club, association, or service organization programming chair the opportunity to have you speak on a relevant subject both at no charge.
8. Run your own seminar. This is a smart way to continue to build your credentials.
9. Become a corporate speaker. If your subject matter has commercial application, you may be able to get a local business to let you speak after hours, during lunch, or at a business meeting. Being a public speaker at leading businesses and corporations adds to your credentials.
10. Send out media releases to the local press. Repeat your credentials and promote your speaking, writing, seminar or whatever you have to promote that you believe is of interest to and important for the general public to know about.
11. Join a national trade organization for your industry and offer to write a monthly column on interesting aspects of the industry for the organization’s newsletter or magazine. Of course, mention your name and business at the end to insert yourself subtly and tastefully. Be sure your article at least includes a byline with your web address. Now that you’re writing a monthly column for the industry trade magazine, you must be a respected expert.
12. If you can afford it, give a seminar at your industry's national trade show. Or have a booth, or get on the board or any committee for the organization. All these options give you enormous credibility and visibility. Speak at the trade show; sponsor an event; be a presence.
You have begun to cement your reputation into a solid foundation of respectability. Now you can add to your credentials the facts that you are a nationally recognized and published author, a lecturer at universities and colleges, and a nationally renowned expert on your area of interst. In the end, marketing you as the expert leads to more business.
Related: Get More Referrals by Asking
This article is an excerpt from the book Successfully Navigating the Downturn available from Entrepreneur Press.