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A New Era for A/E/C Professionals: The Making of Visible Experts

Consider the names Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jobs, Lady Gaga and Hillary Clinton. These names conjure images of celebrities, polarizing figures and evangelizers and we can probably all agree that they are experts in their craft. These “experts” may be out of reach for most of us. They have high visibility and acknowledge expertise that just so happens to be with a large population. Nevertheless, they channel lessons for technical professionals.

In the world of professional services, you don’t need to be a celebrity to have an impact. This week I had the fabulous opportunity of to speak to marketing and business development professionals at the SMPS Virginia Annual Conference on the topic of Visible Experts.

A Visible Expert is an individual with high visibility and acknowledged expertise who can command influence within a specific target audience. You can learn more about Visible Experts in our book. The key difference between mainstream celebrities and visible experts is that visible experts target a specific target audience. 

I asked attendees: how many of you work with someone who is “sought after” by clients and peers for their expertise? At least 1/3 of attendees raised their hand. These “sought after” experts are secret weapons for their respective firms, yet they are hardly showcased. Historically, the A/E/C industry has lacked visible experts – a sentiment clearly echoed by conference attendees. But, why should we care to change this?

Having identified Visible Experts within your firm has its benefits. Visible experts can:

  • Increase firm visibility
  • Attract new clients
  • Command higher fees
  • Strengthen the firm’s brand
  • Command the halo effect
  • Attract stronger partners
  • Recruit the best talent
  • Win new business

To help crystallize this concept, the presentation highlighted a few A/E/C Visible Experts. Each of these experts represents a different level of visibility. Consider the following:

Michael Graves – Known as the Voice of American Architecture. Renowned architect, designer, speaker, evangelizer and author; crossed into the mainstream with the launch of his high aesthetic products in Target. 

Jerry Yudelson – Known as the godfather of green building. Committed to sustainability and passionate about sharing his knowledge through books, video and a myriad of other channels. 

Each of these experts are solidly established as Visible Experts – they are highly visible in sharing their expertise within a specific target audience. From our recent research on How Buyers Buy A/E/C Services we know that specialized skills and expertise top the scale on what buyers look for when selecting a firm. 

Most every firm has the potential to create visible experts. There are three steps in creating a Visible Expert:

  1. Create the Platform
  2. Build the Content
  3. Engage with Audience

While it’s natural to self doubt, let’s face it….if your firm doesn’t do it…..you’ll lose to the visibility of others. In creating Visible Experts, firms “allow” their technical professionals to speak to their expertise without being “salesy”; it provides a platform for them to reach greater numbers without “forcing” them to engage in the dreaded traditional business development “networking”.

During the course of the presentation, three additional Visible Experts were showcased. 

Carl Elefante, FAIA, LEED AP O+M – Coined the phrase “the greenest building is the one that is already built”.  As the Director of Sustainability with Quinn Evans Architects, Carl is frequently found in the speaking circuit discussing various topics related to green preservation. 

Mary Ann Lazarus, FAIA – Founder of the sustainable design initiative at HOK, she recently began a 2-year stint as Resident Fellow with AIA where she will be helping to prioritize activities around sustainability and design.

Tim Klabunde, Director of Marketing at Timmons Group, Fellow from Johns Hopkins University and the founder of the Design and Construction Network. He is a recognized expert on the intersection of relationships and marketing, made even more popular by his book Network Like An Introvert.

As you can see, each of the highlighted experts has a different degree of visibility. However, they all have one thing in common – they all create content.

Creating content is like planting seeds for future consumption. Content such as blog posts, videos, webinars, books, speaking, etc. are vehicles for sharing expertise. By creating such content, technical professionals have the ability to position themselves for the future.

Visible Experts share their knowledge and expertise freely, on issues that are important to their clients.  Why? Keep in mind that 80-90% of the time, potential clients are not ready to buy right now, but they will buy in the future. There are issues that are of concern and they are seeking information that is useful to them – it’s the technical professionals that develop content on such topics that quickly rise to the top of the heap. The content helps build visibility, enhances their credibility and provides a vehicle for nurturing relationships. You can learn more from our Content Marketing guide.

For Visible Experts, they key is to be present in the venues where their clients go looking for information – whether it is online or offline. The era of not sharing knowledge has passed. It’s a new dawn and for A/E/C professionals, it’s time to come out from behind the desks. 

Sylvia Montgomery, CPSM A Senior Partner and the head of Hinge’s A/E/C practice, Sylvia collects many shoes and wears many hats. When she’s not traveling around the country for speaking engagements or client meetings, you will find Sylvia creating marketing and branding strategies for clients, supervising her A/E/C team, developing new business, or working on her personal brand. With a 20+ year career spanning visual communications, strategy, and marketing, and over a decade working in the A/E/C sector, Sylvia brings a creative, business-focused approach to her client engagements.

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