It doesn’t matter if you are selling your expertise to a company in exchange for a salary or directly to clients in exchange for contracts or freelance fees. Today’s economy likely sees you as an expert. Your value is your expertise, which allows you to make quick and educated decisions in a world where complexity is rising by the hour.
The Industrial Revolution promoted the working class, as new machines demanded workers who knew how to deal with them. The modern-day technological revolution has led to an overwhelming increase in the amount of available information. And increased demand for those who can help us make sense of all that information — from traffic reports in your city to realizing there are about 30-plus ways to cook chicken for dinner. Every day, we have more information about every aspect of our lives, including those we once deemed “simple.” However, more information does not always make our lives simpler.
Just as an engineer was a hero of the Industrial Revolution, an expert is a modern-day savior of the technological one. And as demand for experts is rising, so is the supply. According to “The Rise of Expert Economy Report” by Bruce Reed and Matthew Atwell of Civic, the expert sector is about to hit the 1 billion mark by 2022. So, as an expert, you are up against an ever-growing competition. If you want to stay afloat, it’s time to get savvy with the law of the expert jungle.
Here are a few ways you can stand out in the expert economy, no matter what your expertise is.
1. Niche down or create a whole new market segment
Look at the companies or customers that would hire you for your expertise. According to a classic marketing theory, there are five levels of customer awareness. On the lowest level are the unaware customers, which are the hardest to sell to. It’s usually much easier to sell expertise to people who already know they need you. The first segment is followed by those who are problem-aware, solution-aware and product-aware. And when the market is the most aware, the next step to stand out is by niching down.
It takes knowing your market well to understand if you need to offer a new, elaborated solution to their problem or simply take a portion of the market in a new direction. The markets with the highest levels of awareness are often seeking simplicity. A good example would be the time a third-wave coffee company came around in the early 2000s. By that time, consumers have tried every syrup flavor, whipped cream, cookies and whatnot in their drinks. Instead of out-flavoring the most elaborate seasonal drink by Starbucks, the third-wave companies put a stop to the madness by bringing back the good old quality black coffee.
Another example would be shaving products. Gillette’s head of North American grooming Pankaj Bhalla once started a press conference with the words “We’re debuting a razor with 19 razors and 74 lubrication strips.” It was a self-irony, of course. But it illustrates the complexity that this market has reached. A few years earlier, the Dollar Shave Club took the industry by storm with its hilarious ad and deliberately simplistic product.
If your industry is starting to resemble a razor with 74 lubrication strips with never-ending competition, it might be time to go back to basics.
2. Implement thought-leadership marketing
The reality of the expert economy suggests that every expert is also in charge of promoting his or her own expertise. The idea might not sit well with many experts! For example, when you’ve chosen to become a leadership coach, you dove deep into management and psychology. Naturally, you want to spend your time applying this knowledge to help your clients solve their leadership challenges, not being a marketer.
Having to market yourself creates extra resistance. I know many brilliant experts who feel rather uneasy about promoting themselves. My father — one of the best psychologists in town — has never agreed to advertise his services, despite my best efforts to convince him otherwise. But he was always open when my journalist friends approached him for expert comment and printed it in a local newspaper.
The increasing complexity of the world leaves people with more questions, which means there is always room for you to provide answers. Thought leadership is a form of marketing strategy, the most suitable for promoting expertise. It feels natural, as instead of spending your time on lead generation and sales tactics, you just share your expertise. What are the questions most of your clients ask? What seems to be the most common misconception people have about the problems you help them solve? Thought leadership is a well-articulated position on the industry’s most burning questions.
Related: What Exactly Is Thought Leadership?
3. Use media to your advantage
Thought-leadership impact can be maximized with the right channels. While anyone can claim expertise on social media, online and print magazines still hold the allure of exclusivity. Writing an article for your LinkedIn page takes as much effort as writing one for a magazine in your niche. Yet, the second one comes with added perks. As a media-published expert, you command a different level of credibility, get exposed to new audiences and effectively stand out from the crowd. My clients tend to use their media features to create trust where it’s most needed: when pitching coaching services to corporates, bringing sponsors on board for their podcasts or opening a high-ticket offer to the public.
Start by building relationships with editors in your niche or look for magazines that are open to contribution. If you aren’t much of a writer, a pleasant podcast and YouTube show would also appreciate a contribution. I love this little strategy because it allows you to take advantage of the “borrowed credibility” effect; just by choosing the right platform, your words gain so much more weight and credibility.