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Brand authority and expert status are funny things.
When I work with students who are just starting to build their online businesses, one of the first things we have to tackle is mindset. They are so hesitant to become an expert or call themselves an authority.
People think they have to go to school for years, or invest that mythical “10,000 hours,” or receive some kind of unspoken approval, before they’re entitled to call themselves an expert. Until then, they hide in the shadows, watching what the “big guys and gals” are doing.
They’re worried that if they speak up and bring attention to themselves, they might be called out for being a fake or fraud.
I think that's silly.
But here’s the problem: While in theory it might seem like a good idea to “watch and wait,” while you’re waiting to receive the green light from some unknown panel of judges, your competitors are out there in the spotlight, making money and building their audience!
If you look at the people who have positioned themselves as influencers and experts within their industry, it’s because they have positioned themselves. They’re experts because they say so.
Granted, they’ve created content that supports their position, but at the root of it all, they’re an expert because they say they are an expert.
Imagine standing on a crowded platform and a fellow passenger falls unconscious to the ground near you. People crowd around in a panic, arguing about what to do when someone steps in and claims they’re a doctor. Everyone is ordered to move back.
And they listen. They don’t question him, or demand to see his credentials. There is power in authority, and in this situation, our hypothetical doctor has been given the opportunity to show his expertise. His education backs up his authority and expertise, but getting the attention of everyone around him starts with the claim.
You don’t need to spend a decade of your life learning to become an expert before you claim to be an expert. Anyone can get there; it’s all about how you position yourself.
It’s time to stop suffering from “Impostor Syndrome.” Here’s how.
1. Remind yourself that you don’t need anyone’s approval.
Make a list of a dozen “A-List” influencers in your industry. Now go down that list and ask yourself how those people became “experts.”
In some cases, people may have a degree or some kind of certification that says they’re really good at what they do (for instance, Ryan Levesque has a degree in neuroscience from an Ivy League school. Ramit Sethi is a Stanford grad.)
Others on the list might have written a best-selling book… or been interviewed on TV… or sold millions of dollars worth of products and services…
But NOT ONE of those people are on that list because they got permission from someone else to be there.
Your action step: Stop waiting to be recognized. Instead, remember this quote from Apple co-founder Steve Jobs:
“Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.”
2. Name it and claim it.
Look at that list again. The people on there have positioned themselves as influencers and experts because they CHOSE to. At some point, they each made a decision that they were going to step into the leadership role.
The best thing you can do right now is to name what you want to be known for, and then claim that role.
Often, I see businesses floundering because the owner is jumping from thing to thing, from idea to idea, instead of hammering in a set of stakes and saying, “This is what I stand for!”
No one can be an expert at everything. You need to choose a very narrow category you can master, become an influencer, and expand your territory from there.
Just a few examples:
Chandler Bolt, founder Self-Publishing School and host of the Self-Publishing Success Summit, is known for teaching people how to write a number-one Kindle/Amazon best-selling book. He doesn’t help people get book agents, or get their books into book stores, or illustrate books. He does one thing, and does it really well -- to the extent he now runs a multiple-seven-figure business.
Amy Porterfield made her mark in the online world by teaching people how to use Facebook ads. Once she built that into a steady seven-figure income, she started expanding into other areas, with courses on profitable webinars and now profitable courses. But she didn’t do that until she had a super-strong following.
I didn’t get traction until I stopped messing around with different business ideas and marketing strategies and focused on ONE THING -- virtual summits. As soon as I did that, my income, visibility, and expertise exploded to the point where The Huffington Post called me “the world’s leading authority when it comes to creating and promoting virtual summits.” Only after I was a recognized expert in that narrow field did I start offering courses on other topics, like connecting with influencers.
Your action step: Decide what you want to be known for and FOCUS on that.
3. Value your experience.
Sometimes we earn our “degree” from a traditional school. But online, more often we get our diploma in trial and error.
I don’t have a formal degree -- I’m a law-school dropout! But I’m not the only one. The “dropout” club includes other great businesspeople:
- Chandler Bolt of Self-Publishing School (college dropout)
- John Lee Dumas of EoFire.com (law school dropout)
- best-selling author Ryan Holiday (college dropout)
- and many, many more including Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates.
Formal education is great, but what’s more important is the experience you have that’s directly applicable to your area of expertise.
I love this quote by Jim Rohn, which is so true today (just look at the people mentioned in this post as an example):
Formal education will make you a living, but self-education ill make you a fortune.
Best-selling author, blogger, and podcaster James Altucher even wrote a whole post on why college is a waste.
Just like you don’t need permission to declare yourself an expert, you don’t need a degree, either -- if you have other experience that has given you wisdom and experience.
Your action step: Make a list of all the ways you’ve “earned your stripes.” What experiences have you had? What lessons have you learned? Maybe you learned sales skills by working at Starbucks and time management from being a parent. Nothing is wasted unless you LET it go to waste.
4. Provide value.
You’ll hear me preach this one again and again:
I really believe that a PhD from the most prestigious university, 10,000 hours spent studying and testing, or years spent mentoring with the world’s wisest gurus mean NOTHING unless you put that knowledge and experience to work serving others.
In fact, "gurus" are often made fun of because they live out of touch with reality, sitting on mountain tops and contemplating the meaning of life.
With all respect, what’s the point?
If I can’t put my experiences and resources to some practical use, they’re just being wasted. It’s our duty to share what we’ve learned with others to help them live more fulfilling, profitable, fun, and/or enjoyable lives.
Not only is this really rewarding, it builds your authority, too.
When Derek Halpern of Social Triggers was starting out online, he contacted high-level internet marketing experts like Jay Baer, Amy Porterfield and Pat Flynn and offered to do free site reviews for them.
This helped him make a name for himself, yes -- but it also created the beginning of a “value chain” where he offered something of worth to someone at no cost.
In turn, the people he helped out would likely want to offer something of value in return. (You may have heard this called “the law of reciprocity” by Robert Cialdini.)
Your action step: Go out and help five people with your area of expertise. Put up a post on Facebook offering to review a landing page, send an email to your email list (or friends if you don’t have a list yet) and ask them if they’d like you to help them with their sales copy. Don’t overthink it -- just do it.
5. Raise your profile.
I’m sure you’ve heard the statement, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with,” credited to motivational speaker Jim Rohn.
In sum, what that means is that you are the company you keep.
Want to be seen as an influencer? Hang out with influencers.
It’s not as hard as it sounds. Yes, it’s going to be tough to just email a high-level expert and expect to be BFFs overnight. But you can put yourself in their orbit:
You can hire a coach. When EOFire was just an idea, John Lee Dumas hired Jaime (Tardy) Masters of EventualMillionaire.com to help him launch his business. The first thing she did was take him to BlogWorld/New Media Expo and introduce him to her network. In doing so, she was creating connections that John could leverage for his podcast interviews.
You can host a virtual summit. Of course this is my favorite! By hosting a high-level, quality virtual summit, you can align yourself with influencers at all levels. The summit attendees will see you interacting with and interviewing these experts, and they’ll naturally think of you as an “expert.” A virtual summit can really help you exponentially grow your audience, influence and revenue faster than you ever could imagine, as proven by me and my Virtual Summit Mastery students.
You can provide value. I talked about how Derek Halpern connected with some high-level internet marketers by giving them a valuable site review. You can do the same thing by offering something influencers will appreciate (book review, testimonial, case study, etc.). You could do an expert round-up post and include them, or quote them in a piece of skyscraper content on your website. Think outside the box.
You can attend conferences and events. Find a way to get to the leading conferences in your industry (for online businesses, Traffic & Conversion Summit, Funnel Hacking Live and Social Media Marketing World are all great for meeting people face-to-face). Some people just show up where the conference is with no intention of actually going to sessions -- they just want to meet and greet!
Your action step: Commit to one of the above suggestions and take the first step to making it happen THIS MONTH. Register for a conference. Brainstorm a great virtual summit idea. Ask around for a well-connected coach. Do it NOW.
Why You Should Make the Claim Now and Start Building Your Brand Authority
So what’s the big deal about “expert” status anyway? Why does it even matter?
I already mentioned how the longer you wait to step up into your “expert” role, the more time you’re giving your competitors to build their own platforms. But there are other reasons, too:
1. People trust experts.
You’re in business to make money, sure. But you probably (hopefully) want to help people, too.
Those people you want to help? They’re more likely to trust your opinions when they see you as an authority. You don’t need to know everything, you just need to know more – or have a different and interesting perspective – compared to the people listening.
You’ve probably seen this happen: Someone (usually a family member) asks you for advice. You give them really good guidance, but they don’t seem to take you seriously. In fact, they completely disregard your suggestions…
...Until someone else -- someone they see as an expert -- tells them the same thing! Then suddenly that advice you gave them a few weeks (or maybe just a few minutes) ago is the smartest thing in the world.
What’s the difference? In a word, PERCEPTION.
No one really cares what you think if they don’t think of you as an expert. But once you claim that expert status? Get ready for the crowds…
2. People want to connect with experts.
I’m sure you’ve seen this phenomenon because it happens every day with athletes, rock stars, authors, and business people:
They are “nobodies” until they make a million, win the lottery, hit the game-winning home run, or sign with FC Barcelona. Then “friends” come out of the woodwork!
For good or bad, it’s human nature. People want to get close to those who they see as important. When you are an expert (and start acting like one!), your emails will be returned faster, you’ll get more publicity, and your followers on social media will seem to clone themselves.
This means it becomes easier and easier to get the attention of the people you want to reach with your products, services, or partnership opportunities.
3. Your engagement expands.
One of the great things about authority influence is that it’s exponential: The more your expertise grows, the more your audience grows. The more your audience grows, the more your engagement will grow.
Almost without trying, your content will draw more clicks, distribution will grow as people share your posts and videos, and on and on...
This is why so many marketers want to work with influencers; their audience ravenously digests their content. And it’s why I recommend that my Virtual Summit Mastery students reach high when lining up speakers for their summits. When my student Sonia Thompson lined up Seth Godin to participate in and support her virtual summit, it was super-easy for her to line up additional speakers.
4. Partnerships evolve.
When you’re an expert, other influencers will naturally want to connect with you, meet you, and collaborate with you.
As a result of co-hosting a webinar with A-Lister in your industry, or getting interviewed by Business Insider, or hosting a summit with Brian Tracy and Michael Port, other influencers will start reaching out to you.
The reasons for this are many: First, you’re suddenly popping up on their radar. Where before they had no idea who you were, now they see you hosting a summit with Expert A and being interviewed by Expert B.
Next, they have the opportunity to see you in action. You’re no longer an unknown quantity. The quality of your work is obvious.
Finally, you’ve gotten a “stamp of approval” from another expert (or 10). You’re in the club! Yes, I said you do not NEED permission to declare yourself an authority, and that’s true. Getting accepted in the “inner circle” is just icing on the cake that makes everything else that much easier -- and sweeter.
5. Your mindset will change.
I started this post talking about how a mindset shift is necessary in order for business owners to really grow and become profitable.
But sometimes your mind lags behind reality. You need to “fake it ‘till you make it.”
Then when you act “as if” you are that expert you want to be, a funny thing happens; you start to believe it. You see what is possible once you get out of your own way.
There was a point in my own career where I had to step up and just decide that I wasn’t going to let anything get in my way of creating a profitable online business. And once I did that, the path started to open up.
Now It's Your Turn...
And that’s what I want for you: To claim your role as expert and build your brand authority in your industry. Step up, and grab it. It’s yours if you want it.
Success lies in imperfect action.
What’s just ONE THING you are going to do as a result of reading this article?
Let me know by leaving a comment below.
Then come back and tell me when you’ve accomplished it. I'd love to hear from you!
Being an expert is all about perception and credibility. Make your claim, do what will make people perceive you as an expert, and then continue to build your brand authority even more to support your claim. It really can be that simple.
What’s your holdup when it comes to building your brand authority and becoming the go-to expert in you