Customers want to deal with someone that can help them. Bottom line. If you want to be that someone and win their business first you'll need to win their trust.
And how do you win their trust? You start by demonstrating your authority and expertise. This gives you credibility.
It doesn’t matter what products or services you offer, your prospects likely have lots of different options to choose from. Being able to differentiate yourself from your competitors, and position yourself as the person or business most suited to serve them is vital to your success.
The secret to getting noticed despite all the noise in the marketplace is to establish your authority. When you have authority, people will pay attention. When you are perceived as a subject matter expert, people will naturally want to work with you. They will seek you out.
Getting to that level is all about positioning. Using a few simple strategies, you can position yourself as the go-to expert for your customers. You can attract business to you. Instead of constantly hustling to find your next client, you can turn yourself into a client magnet and let them find you.
Here are 7-Steps to Becoming An Expert, to position yourself as an expert for your customers:
As with almost every other element of marketing, the more you can focus, the better the results you are likely to generate.
A well written article with valuable information is likely to be shared by the people who enjoyed it. This is how content goes viral – through peer-to-peer sharing. By writing regularly, you expose your brand and your business to new audiences on a consistent basis. As you publish and promote your content, you will gradually begin to position yourself as an expert on the topics that you focus on.
Make a list of the most popular publications, journals, websites and blogs in your industry and your community. These are the sites that your ideal clients are visiting regularly to obtain information about your topic. Contact those websites, and request to become a guest contributor. Most website owners are always looking for high quality content to publish on their website that will add value to their visitors.
Write an article exclusively for each website on your list, and include your bio with a link back to your website at the end of your article. This strategy, known as being a guest contributor, helps you get your message in front of new audiences online that may have never discovered you otherwise. You provide content to the media for free, and that content helps direct new visitors to your profile. It’s a win-win.
Challenged with writing?
Most people are terrified of speaking in public, so when they see someone do it they tend to immediately perceive that person as an expert and a leader. Plus, when you speak to a live audience, you have their undivided attention for the duration of your presentation. This affords you a unique opportunity to engage and connect with a large amount of people at the same time.
If you’ve never spoken in public before, a great starting point to develop your skills is your local Toastmasters Group. This is a non-threatening, positive environment in which people meet regularly to practice their speaking and communication skills. Once you build up some confidence, you can begin speaking at networking events, Meetup groups, seminars or conferences in your industry. If you speak regularly to groups of hundreds, or even thousands of people, you can establish yourself as an expert in your industry very quickly.
Most podcast hosts are always on the lookout for more guests to interview for their show. If you think that your story, message, or advice would add value to the audience of a specific podcast, then visit that podcast’s website and find their Contact Page. Send the host a brief message outlining your experience and area of expertise, and tell them you’d like to be considered as a potential guest for their show.
Many podcasts attract thousands, even tens of thousands of listeners on a regular basis. If you make it a routine to be a guest on other podcasts regularly, your name will gradually become known by thousands of highly targeted people from around the world. At the end of each interview, tell the listeners how they can get in touch with you if they want to learn more about what you do or how you can help them.
Have bios prepared in 1-paragraph and 1-page formats. You can either write these yourself or have someone write them for you, but make sure you have these prepared in advance.
The impact of professional photographs can't be understated. If you want to be seen as an authority or expert, your image needs to be professional. These can be either studio sessions, or in your place of work, or ideally both. Spend the money on this once and you will be able to use these photos repeatedly for years.
Your LinkedIn profile is a great place to showcase your expertise, professional experience, and achievements. Used properly, it can be an incredibly powerful networking and positioning tool.
Here are a few tips to optimize your LinkedIn profile:
A great way to become known in your industry is to engage in conversations that are happening on popular news sites, online forums, blogs and social media groups in your industry.
Another advantage of adding value to the conversations that are happening online is that the owners of those blogs or social media groups will likely notice. Building relationships with other influencers in your industry is never a bad idea, because it opens the door for potential collaborations or partnerships in the future. Commenting regularly on their platforms can help build that relationship.
Content curation on it's own won't position you as an expert, but it's an excellent way to supplement your efforts.
What is content curation? Simply put, you'll be finding articles, posts, videos on your subject matter expertise that have been published by others, and you will share them to your website, newsletter, social media feeds, or email distribution list, along with a short description about why it's relevant to your audience or customers, or what they should take away from it.
MORE INFORMATION: Head over to our guide on How to Make Social Media Work For Your Business for more useful tips on utilizing social media to your advantage.
You can become a go-to expert for your customers and build awareness of yourself and your firm, but don't expect it to happen overnight. Build a managable and realistic plan. Think of the journey as a marathon not a sprint. You want to start small & build momentum.
Even if you implement just a few of these strategies properly, you can expect to build awareness, establish credibility, and ultimately attract a considerable amount of new business.
TIP: We've helped hundreds of professionals and businesses use this model to become famous experts. We can coach you through this process. Head over to Coaching and schedule your appointment.
Every successful B2B business needs to have a strong online presence. Today this means more than just having a website and an email address. Your prospects and customers today have 24/7 access to the internet at their fingertips through the myraid of smartphones, tablets, laptops, and IoT connected devices.
Before you jump into the components of your Total Online Presence, you want to make sure that you've laid the foundation and set the direction that you want to go in.
Think through the following
Keep a copy of your Marketing Hourglass handy as you work through each of the following steps.
There are a variety of tools and technologies which you can consider, but a modern marketing program usually includes:
Pick the themes for your content strategy.
I find it helpful to create a theme for each month that all of your content can revolve around. Each theme I use has a substantial topic related to my audience’s industry/pain points and represents an important keyword search term.
Provide valuable information and use content upgrades to convert the readers of this information into leads. Try to personalize and add emotional components to your content as much as possible to really establish a connection with a reader. The more they feel that connection, the more likely they’ll be to convert into leads and eventually customers.
Also, keep in mind that you don’t always have to reinvent the wheel with your content. You can share relevant content from other sites on your social platforms to provide value to your audience. You can also repurpose content you already have, so, for example, if you have a podcast episode, transcribe it and turn it into a written blog post.
No one will argue whether or not your practice needs a website, but your need website needs to do the following: tell people who you are, tell them what you do, give them confidence and build trust in why they should do business with you.
When it comes to content revisions, it always surprises me when people don’t think to start with their website as the content hub. The role of your website is to help you:
Oh yeah, and it needs to be optimized for use on mobile devices. While many professional services firms have websites, they tend to be older, brochure-ware type sites that were built a number of years back. They may still be viewable on a desktop browser (even if they look older and stale), but viewing them on a smartphone or tablet may be difficult or near impossible.
SEO, or search engine optimization, is how your content and website get found online. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) refers to the method used to increase a website’s position on search engine results pages (SERPs) on sites such as Google, or Bing. Developing an SEO strategy for your business can help draw traffic to your website.
Keep in mind that the goal of a search engine is to provide unbiased results that deliver information you are looking for as quickly and as accurately as possible. In order to do this, search engines are capable of identifying all relevant information online and ranking them in order of quality and relevance. There are hundreds of factors that are involved when search engines rank websites in an organic search. SEO is constantly evolving so that search engines like Google and Bing can provide the best, most relevant results. You don't need to be an expert, but it is something to keep in mind as part of your Total Online Presence.
Paid advertising can get expensive very quickly, but don't rule online advertising out for your professional services practice. Online advertising can be highly targeted based on keywords, search terms (programmatic), and geograpic locations, and can therefore be very cost effective. With remarketing, your practice can advertise to visitors that have come to your site or social media pages, keeping your firm top-of-mind and keeping the sales dialogue open.
The main social media sites for professional services businesses to be on (in order of importance) are:
LinkedIn - Bare minimum: Make sure you have a company page, and make sure all customer-facing staff have profiles that are linked to your company page. Good to have: Post regular updates on your company page. For individual profiles make sure you connect with your customers, prospects, and referral sources. Advanced: LinkedIn can be a great lead generation tool, depending on the type of customer you are targeting.
Facebook Business Pages Bare minimum: Setup a business page for your firm. List off your address, profile, website, and services offered.
Email marketing is vastly underutilized in accounting. It’s really quite easy to implement. All you need are three things:
If you have a CRM with robust email marketing capabilities, then you already have your list management tool. Some of the market leaders in the enterprise space include:
In the small and solo firm space, any of these vendors are more affordable and a few of them are free:
When you choose a vendor, be sure to choose based on email deliverability rates in addition to feature set and price.
Some firms will need to do some admin time to put together their client list, especially if they don’t have a CRM or have not collected emails. If you don’t already have a process to add new clients and prospects to your list management tool, it’s essential to put that process in place.
What will people learn about you and your business as the search around online, apart from your website? You want to make sure that your business turns up favourably in places that could generate new leads for you, or in ways that will help to add credibility to your business.
Often you can have your business listed for free. It can be time consuming, but every listing is another source of leads or helps prospects to determine your legitimacy.
Consider the following for your business, based on your area, your industry, and your customers:
List your business and make sure it can be found on search engines. The top two in Canada are: Google My Business and Bing Places for Business. Once you have business listings, make sure to encourage positive reviews.
Online reviews can make or break a business. Your goal is to generate as many positive reviews as possible. If you've been in business for awhile consider reaching out to existing and previous customers to get them to complete reviews for you. Often if you ask, they will. Also, put a regular program in place to reach out to new customers once you've provided them with your product or service.
Drive reviews for the following:
Your Online Presence will be the backbone to your marketing. It will help you to create awareness, be found, generate leads, help nurture those leads, build trust and credibility, and generate the sale. A strong Online Presence can help your business to stand out and to thrive.
Look, if you’re a local business, meaning most or all of your business comes from customers living in your community, you must get very serious about local SEO.
Don’t worry, ranking locally for the kinds of things your prospects are looking for isn’t rocket science, but it does take a serious commitment to a handful of things.
In case you’re wondering if it’s worth the investment in such a commitment, let me share a few survey tidbits.
And, I could go on, but I’m guessing you see the point – if you don’t rank well locally for the things people are searching for marketing will be a lot harder and a lot more expensive.
Here’s the good news – focus on these five elements and you can expect great results from local SEO and search. (The competitiveness of your industry may dictate your ultimate results.)
Optimize Google My Business
Google has a bit of a naming crisis when it comes to their local directory listings, but for now, you must pay attention to, claim, and optimize your Google My Business Listing.
If this is news to you go immediately to Google’s Free Business Listing page and find out if you can claim your current listing.
Many people created or had created Google+ listings and Google made a mess of how this became Google My Business so you may have some cleanup to do to make sure that you only have one listing for your business and it’s the one Google thinks is your business.
Once you claim the right listing you need to make sure you take full advantage of all of the real estate and linking options available to you.
This, by the way, is essential if your business is to ever show up in the coveted Google 3-pack for local searches shown above.
Make sure you have the right business category and subcategories chosen for your business.
Make note of the exact way your business name, address and phone number (NAP) appear. Exact meaning is is Street or St., is it Heating & Cooling or Heating and Cooling. Whatever you show listed as the NAP on your Google My Business Page, you’ll want to use consistently on your own website and across all directories. (More on this in a bit.)
Get markup right
Search engines are busy trying to adopt a consistent markup protocol to help use HTML code to properly identify things like businesses, reviews, addresses, books, movies and the like.
You can learn about the current popular markup for local businesses by visiting Schema.org.
Using proper markup for your address is kind of like handing Google your business card on a silver platter. It doesn’t look like anything to the naked eye, but Google spiders can be 100% certain what they are looking at when it comes to identifying an address on your web pages.
The good news is that you don’t really need to know anything about the underlying code to get this part right. Simply visit Schema.org’s Local Business NAP generator and fill in the blanks – The tool will produce the HTML code you need to add to your site in place of your current address.
There are other things you can do with structured markup and you can read all about it here.
Clean up citations
So, you might very well be familiar with a few directories like Yelp! and Google Local, or maybe even an industry specific directory or two like Houze or Angie’s List, but you probably didn’t realize that Google relies on hundreds of data aggregators and directories to help them sort out and keep straight all of the local businesses out.
So, getting your listing straight on Google is essential, but if you’ve moved, or changed your phone, or just listed your details in all sorts of ways in business filings or Chamber directories, there’s a good chance Google isn’t sure which listing is correct and that’s not a good thing.
Google use many data sources to try to get the most accurate picture. The image above from MOZLocal shows the interrelation of information sourced between data agrregators, directories, and search engines in the US.
The last thing Google wants to do is send someone to the wrong address when they search for a local business.
Above is an example of a local business that has multiple inconsistent citations online. The name is spelled out differently, there are three different phone numbers and at least two different addresses.
I’m certainly not picking on this business – In my experience, some sort of inaccurate data is out there for most businesses.
Use a tool like MozLocal and see just how bad this problem is for your business.
Once you determine there are a few inaccurate, inconsistent and incomplete listings use MozLocal, BrightLocal, WhiteSpark or Yext to clean listings and suppress inaccurate duplicates that often occur.
This step alone can do more for your local listings than any other aspect of local SEO.
Create local SEO content
This one should be obvious but it kind of isn’t.
If you think about it, when you create a brochure and hand it to a prospect that pretty much know that you work in their city. But, when you create content online, you need to go over and above to spell out where you do your work.
Now, it’s easy to get spammy listing lots of local content and that can hurt you as much as help you, but you certainly should talk about where you work and in some cases have specific pages with case studies for specific trade areas, suburbs, and neighborhoods.
Don’t forget to blog and post about local events and happenings. Using your blog to take about community, customer, and employee related local news is a great way to spice up your local content in very authentic ways.
If you have multiple locations you may want to learn about and adopt what many SEO folks refer to as content silos for each location – here’s a great primer on local content silos.
Focus on reviews
Reviews have become another important form of content. As the statistic cited at the beginning of this post suggests, people increasingly rely on reviews to make decisions about the products and services they purchase.
So, while you need positive reviews for social proof, you also need them as a pillar of your local SEO efforts.
Google factors review activity as one of the elements that helps determine what businesses show up in the 3-pack.
No, it’s not the only factor, but it’s an important one.
Just a few years go nearly 30% admitted they didn’t use reviews – today that number is 8%. Meaning – 92% of buyers regularly or occasionally rely on reviews when making a local buying decision.
Take a look at the businesses in the image above. Reviews are displayed and play a large role in what businesses are shown and for the consumer, what business are clicked. You must have at least 5 reviews for Google to display the review stars as a highlighting feature of local results – that alone makes it important to acquire reviews.
Reviews are harder to get than they should be. Even a business with raving fans must work to get those reviews from happy customers.
The key is to ask often and make it as easy as possible for your happy customers to log in to the sites that matter and leave a review. Sure you’ll take a glowing email testimonial from a customer, but far better to push for a Google, Yelp, Facebook or industry review. (Check out this list of important industry review sites.)
You can always repurpose these reviews in email newsletters, on your site, or even hanging up in the store.
Many businesses are finding that they need to make review collection a process rather than leaving it to chance. Tools like GetFiveStars and Grade.us can help automate the process of review collection.
Take some time and make each of the five steps above a priority for your local business and you may find that local leads drawn from organic search can become your most potent lead generation channel.
Here's a collection of various tools that are worth considering if you are a small or mid-size business and looking to do much of the work yourself. We've either looked at, or currently use the tools on this list.
Spend less time on your social media management, and automate the process with these tools.
Hootsuite allows you to schedule posts to multiple accounts, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
Buffer allows you to quickly and easily schedule posts for all of your social accounts.
Missinglettr creates strategic, automated social media campaigns that drive traffic for an entire year.
Here are some websites where you can find highly skilled freelancers and virtual assistants to get the job done for you.
Fiverr allows you to outsource thousands of different tasks to freelancers from all over the world, starting at just $5 per gig.
Upwork allows you to post a job, and freelancers can view your job and submit proposals.
99 Designs is the place for highly skilled freelance graphic designers. When you submit a design task, dozens of designers compete for your business by submitting their work to you.
Rev is a quick and simple-to-use transcription service that you can use for transcribing audio and video files, video captions and subtitles, and translations.
There's lots of tested and proven landing pages out there that you can access quickly and easily.
If you’re using a WordPress website then using Thrive Themes is a great option. Thrive Themes are conversion focused WordPress themes and plugins.
Unbounce is the gold standard for landing pages.
Instapage another fantastic landing page tool.
Sumo is a suite of free tools that can be used to grow your website’s traffic. They’re easy to install, work on any website, and great for creating popups and opt-in forms to collect email addresses from your website or blog.
The most valuable asset you have in your business is your customer list. Without exception, growing and building a relationship with your email list of potential and existing customers is vital to your success.
MailChimp is a great starting point for building an email marketing program.
Aweber allows you to set up autoresponder emails to automate your email marketing.
The next step up, is something like ActiveCampaign .You can use it for integrated email marketing, marketing automation, and small business CRM.
Some great tools for managing projects and workflows.
Trello is a visual tool that organizes your projects into boards. In one glance, Trello tells you what’s being worked on, who’s working on what, and where something is in a process. Not the most sophisticated, but one of the easiest to use.
Asana is another popular project management software. With tasks, projects, conversations, and dashboards, Asana enables teams to move work from start to finish. Easily create tasks for yourself or assign one to a teammate. Organize your tasks into shared lists or boards for your initiatives, meetings, and programs. Sections and columns let you customize Asana to match your workflows and add structure to any project.
Basecamp is a project management and team communication cloud-based service. Basecamp puts everything you need to get work done in one place.
I've been using Evernote for years. There's other, similar tools out there but it's still my go to to capture, organize and share notes from anywhere.
G Suite (formerly Google Apps)
You can’t go wrong with G Suite. With Gmail, Google Docs, Google Spreadsheets, Google Calendar, and Google Drive, and a number of other helpful tools, Google pretty much has you covered.
Dropbox allows you to safely and securely store your business files, and share them with others.
Finimpact has 50+ Excel templates for SMBs. If you're like me and spend hours building spreadsheets, do yourself a favor and get some templates as a starting point to save yourself some time.
Understanding what your audience and customers are doing, and the current trends in your market/industry are very important.
Google Analytics is a free web analytics service offered by Google that tracks and reports website traffic.
BuzzSumo allows you to discover the most shared links and key influencers for any topic.
Google Trends is another great free service provided by Google that displays how often specific keywords, subjects, and phrases have been searched for on Google over a period of time.
Top tools for scheduling and making calls.
The great thing about Skype is almost everyone has it! Perfect for free long distance Skype to Skype calls, group video calls, instant messaging, call phone numbers, and screen sharing. Works on any device.
Google Hangouts is another great tool for staying in touch with others. Video conferencing, either 1-on-1 or in groups, and with handy features like screen share. Best of all, it's free.
Help Scout is a help desk software company that provides an email-based customer support platform and knowledge base tool. They are very affordable (plans start at $12 per month), making it possible for companies of all sizes to offer excellent customer support.
Calendly is a simple, easy-to-use, yet powerful scheduling software. Create different appointment types and availability on your calendar, then share the link to your calendar with whoever asks to book a call with you.
Whether you host webinars to educate your audience or pitch your product or service, you need a handy webinar platform.
Zoom offers remote conferencing services including video conferencing, web conferencing, webinars, and screen sharing.
GoToWebinar is one of the more expensive webinar platforms out there, but it’s extremely reliable and robust.
If you’re building a business online, that means you need to be able to send, receive, and track payments online. Here are some handy tools.
The biggest advantage of Square is how easy it is to setup. Download the app, register, and you can begin accepting payments on your phone (via the magstripe, chip, or touch readers that plug into your phone), on your website, or via invoices that you send out to customers (with payments integrated).
Stripe allows both private individuals and businesses to accept payments over the internet, and is very easy to setup.
QuickBooks is the number one cloud-based software package for small businesses for a reason. Easy to set up and run, it handles everything you need, and scales up as your business does. Taxes, payroll, inventory, anything you need it can do. As the go-to standard for accounting software, QuickBooks is also supported by an army of independent software and accounting professionals, and has integrations pre-built to many external software systems.
Xero is a strong alternative to QuickBooks for small businesses and prides itself on simplicity and ease-of-use.
Freshbooks is another cloud-based accounting software that makes running your small business easy, fast and secure.
Most people, whether they actively use it or not, would agree that social media is a pretty powerful attraction and engagement tool. Business owners and marketers alike know that social media has become one of the most important marketing channels, allowing an organization’s message to be communicated to the masses with just a few clicks of a button. You just can’t deny the power that social media can have.
There’s a common misconception, however, that managing social media is easy. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t have to (and shouldn’t) be hard, but it should take some work. Some people see social media as “fluff” – something that can be put on the back burner and tended to whenever someone has a chance. The reality is that effective social media doesn’t just happen by chance. Having a plan in place will greatly improve the results you’ll see from social media marketing. It’s true what they say: you’ll get out of it what you put into it.
If you don’t have a plan for your social media, your efforts could end up being wasted. Taking a casual approach to how you craft and when you publish your posts could be lead to unnecessary mistakes and missed opportunities. Your social media should be working for you, rather than you working for your social media.
Here are 5 ways to make your social media work for you
1. Appoint someone you trust to manage your social media accounts.
It might seem like a good idea to ask your nephew who “grew up with Facebook” or the summer intern who is “young and understands social media.” Don’t confuse age with ability, though. Sure, the younger generation has grown up with social media and may have more of an understanding of it, but you should carefully consider who you want communicating with the public on behalf of your brand. Make sure that whomever is managing your social media accounts, whether it’s an internal team or you choose to outsource, understands the best way to convey your messages and promote your brand.
2. Implement a social media plan.
Take the time to craft well-planned messages that will showcase your brand well. Getting into a routine of planning a week’s worth of posts will help keep you on the right track of posting valuable content and take the stress out of trying to come up with a post just for the sake of posting. Start using a service such as HootSuite or CrowdFire to schedule your posts for the future and you’ll be one happy camper!
3. Drive people to your site.
This one’s a no-brainer. Your social media accounts should act as a preview to the main event: your website. Attract visitors to your site by providing thoughtful, quality content that speaks to your buyers pain points and will encourage them to click over to your website to seek out your products or services.
4. Promote your content…just don’t over-promote it.
Instead, follow the 30/30/20/20 rule: Post 30% relevant, third-party industry information; 30% your own content to demonstrate your industry thought leadership; 20% information about your products and services; and 20% content about your company culture, people, and values. You don’t want to focus just on one area or another. Relevant, third party industry information is interesting, but tells the audience nothing about you. Your own content is great, but it will be a struggle to produce that much on your own. You want to inform your audience about your products and services, but too much will come across as salesy. And information about your culture and people is always good to build trust in your human side, show that you’re the type of people that customers want to work with, and demonstrate what a great place you are to potential new hires.
5. Engage with your customers and prospects.
We say this all the time – social media is about being social. Show the people who reach out to you that you value their input by giving them some of your time and responding to them, even if you say nothing more than “Great thought, (first name)!” If you stay on top of it, social media engagement is one of the easiest (and best) ways to leave a customer or prospect feeling positive about your brand.
Take a look at your current social media performance. Are you getting all you should be from it?