Being an Expert Isn't Enough. Be an Authority to Reach More People and Make More Money. You need to become an expert in your field. But if you want your business or career to be hugely successful, you need to become an authority. What's the difference?
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Are you an expert? An authority? Neither?
If you answered "neither," you've got trouble. Whatever business or profession you're in, I can almost guarantee there are thousands or even millions of others in your same business or profession. And if you're in the mundane, "I'm good but not great" middle of the pack, don't expect to get very far in your career. Too many others can offer your service or product better than you can.
Why would clients or customers choose you? Would you even choose you?
If your goal is to create a successful business and a life that is outstanding, you need to set your sights a lot higher than everyone else in your industry. You need to become an expert in your field. But if you really want your business or career to be hugely successful, you need to become an authority. What's the difference?
Being an expert
Experts aren't satisfied knowing just enough to get by. They don't stop after they've gotten whatever license, certification or business degree they needed to do what they do. They don't just take the basic courses required to stay in their profession year after year. They are always learning.
Think about it: Say, you had to choose between being treated by a heart surgeon who has had 30 years of experience but still uses surgical techniques from 1990, or a surgeon with just fifteen years of experience who has kept up with all the advances in non-invasive heart techniques. Which would you choose? Yeah, me too.
Does experience count? Experience is valuable, but it can become a crutch. "We've always done it this way." That's probably what Blockbuster said right before it went out of business.
I'm comfortable defining myself as an expert in both my real-estate and coaching business. I've spent (and continue to spend) countless hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars to stay on top of my game in both.
Several years back, when I was heading to another real-estate training, my dad stopped me and said, "Why do you do all these trainings? You're already in the top 1% in the nation." I said, "Dad, the reason I'm in the top 1% is because I'm doing these trainings."
Then I turned it back on him. My dad owns a very successful business where he maintains vacation homes for their owners. I said, "So, Dad, you've been in the home-maintenance and repair business for decades. Why do you read about home heating repairs and watch videos on how repairs for aging roofs?" "Well," he said, "That's just because I want to give my customers the best service I can." I smiled and said, "Me, too, Dad."
When I started my coaching business a few years ago, I immediately set out to become an expert in that field as well. My coaching business focuses on helping business owners succeed using digital-marketing strategies. So, I took thousands of hours of trainings in digital-marketing strategies and spent mega-bucks on classes and coaches that taught me how to be an effective coach — all before I made a penny doing coaching.
Without expertise, you can't provide great service, period. Don't your clients and customers deserve it?
We all want to work with people we like. But when it comes down to it, we pick a financial planner, software consultant and even a babysitter based on their expertise, not just their personality, right?
You can never stop learning — no matter what your business is. The second you stop learning is the second you lose your claim to being an expert in your industry. The world changes rapidly, and you need to keep up with those changes to be an expert. These applies to every career, business or profession.
And as you expand your expertise, you need to start becoming an authority.
Being an authority
An expert has knowledge. An authority has influence. An authority is the go-to person in your field, the trusted advisor. An authority is an acknowledged leader in your industry, the one everyone would work with or buy from if he or she could. An expert might still need to chase down his or her clients and customers. But an authority will have clients and customers chasing after him or her. An authority will always reach more people and make more money than an expert.
Expert to authority
If a tree falls in the forest, but no one is around, does it make a sound? Actually, I have no idea! But I do know that an expert who stays hidden in the forest is not an authority.
To be an authority, you have to share your knowledge in a way that is valuable to the clients you want to attract. Sharing your knowledge is not about selling. It's about serving. It's not about shoving your service or product down anyone's throat. It's about giving him or her something that makes his or her life easier or better. It's about offering solutions to knotty issues and providing resources people may not have known about. That's what makes you the authority.
When my focus was on real estate, I shared my knowledge by creating and distributing informational videos. These weren't "sales pitches," but short videos crammed with valuable information about topics that people in my community really cared about. I shared what the market was doing, told them about great restaurants in the area and explained how to get bids from contractors. I didn't tell them how much I knew. I showed them what I knew by sharing it. My videos popped up all over the place until strangers at Costco were literally stopping me to ask real-estate questions!
I had become an authority.
When I started my coaching business, I used a similar approach, only this time I also wrote a book. At the time, I was mainly coaching real-estate agents, so I wrote a book that gave them tricks of the trade that I had used to massively succeed in my own real-estate business. I wrote another book sharing my digital-marketing strategies for other kinds of businesses. I gave free webinars, all of them packed with things that would really help people in their careers. It didn't take long before people began to stop me at conferences to ask if there was any way they could get coached by me.
Once again, I had become an authority.
Now you may not want to go to the trouble to write a book (though it's a great way to get your knowledge out there!), and you may not be into giving free webinars (though it's a great way to attract people to you). Still, you need to find a way to share your knowledge as broadly as you can.
Steps to becoming an authority
You need expertise first (though you can start becoming an authority while you gain it) so that you have some valuable knowledge to share. Every industry has zillions of good resources for learning about what is happening in the field. Here are some steps to take.
- Start by asking yourself what your clients and customers really need to improve their lives or their businesses. What information would help them with their problems? It might be something directly in your field or slightly adjacent to it.
- Pay attention to what experts and authorities in your field know and get that knowledge through them. Often, they write blogs or even books about their expertise.
- Decide where you want to expand your knowledge then get online and poke around for webinars and online classes on those topics.
- Grab audio books to expand your knowledge. Listen while you brush your teeth, clean the garage or stand in line at Starbucks.
With some expertise in your pocket, you can start on your way to becoming an authority by sharing your knowledge with your community. I teach my students to do this digitally using video and social-media distribution. I've found this to be the quickest and most effective way to establish authority for most business owners and professionals.
Here are some other ideas:
- Present your knowledge at local business organizations or to groups that could benefit from your knowledge.
- Share your information through blogs or articles. Try to get them in your industries' publications or websites so that people other than your mom will see them!
- Write a booklet or create an informational pamphlet. Give these away for free. Give them to businesses that dovetail with yours so they can share with their own customers.
It may seem like a lot. But keep in mind, being just good enough is a losing proposition. You need to be an expert in your field to survive. And if you're an authority, you will always reach more people and make more money than an expert.