Becoming a Visible Expert℠

This is Part 1 in a series on becoming a Visible Expert℠. We’ll cover why your firm should consider developing these high profile experts, how to do it and the strategy behind it.


Almost by definition, most professional services firms have some level of specialized expertise. In many cases, there are individuals within the firm who can legitimately be thought of as experts.

While they may be well known to their colleagues inside the firm or even within their respective professions, they remain largely unknown to the larger community of potential clients or influencers. We can think of these folks as “invisible experts.”

Now contrast that image with experts who are known to the entire business community. Think Jim Collins on management or Warren Buffet on investing or the late Steve Jobs on technology. Their opinions can make news or start trends. They are the very epitome of the Visible Expert℠.

Visible Expert Defined

The concept of a Visible Expert is very intuitive. A Visible Expert combines the qualities of high awareness or visibility with specific areas of expertise. Examples of this expertise might include cloud computing, business valuation or marine engineering.

Alternately, that expertise can be associated with particular issues, such as health care reform or computer security breaches.

Whether a Visible Expert specializes in a service or an issue, he or she has to be visible to key audiences of interest. The Visible Expert is someone whom people turn to for trusted advice and opinion.

The Visible Expert is an individual with high visibility and acknowledged expertise who can command influence within a specific target audience.

Fame alone isn’t enough. Many people are well known but have no special expertise.

By the same token, technical expertise alone, no matter how impressive, is insufficient. These two qualities must be combined in a way that produces tangible results.

Benefits of Being a Visible Expert

As you might expect, there are many benefits associated with being a Visible Expert. Here are seven of the most compelling reasons:

  1. Increase firm visibility. By his or her very personal visibility, the Visible Expert increases the visibility of the entire firm. This is an easy benefit for professional services firms to enjoy. Your people are your product, so everyone gets it.
  2. Attract new clients. With visibility and expertise come potential clients. This is a well established relationship that has been an important pillar of professional services marketing for many years. Potential clients believe that a recognized expert is a good bet to solve their problem.
  3. Command higher fees. Premium service providers typically command premium rates. And nothing says premium service provider like being the most well recognized expert on an in-demand topic.
  4. Strengthen your firm’s brand. Perhaps the easiest way to think about the strength of your firm’s brand is as a simple equation: your firm’s reputation X its visibility. Clearly, having a Visible Expert in your firm helps on both accounts. Having several is even better.
  5. The halo effect. The halo effect is a well-researched concept from psychology. It explains how people who have a positive evaluation of one aspect of a brand tend to generalize that evaluation to the entire brand. In this case, it describes how others in a firm benefit from the presence of a Visible Expert.
  6. Attract stronger partners. In the same way that clients are attracted to a Visible Expert, so are potential partners. The expert’s status and visibility makes their job easier. There is no need to apologize for partnering with a highly visible, well respected expert on a project.
  7. Make recruiting easier. One of the least obvious benefits is how the presence of Visible Experts helps recruit talent to your firm. Many of the best and the brightest want to work with a recognized authority, or at least be associated with a Visible Expert’s firm.

In the next post we’ll explore how to begin the process of becoming a Visible Expert yourself or helping someone from your firm achieve that status. As you might expect it begins with an understanding of where you are now. 

Note: Visible Expert℠ is a service mark of Hinge Strategy LLC

Lee Frederiksen, Ph.D. Who wears the boots in our office? That would be Lee, our managing partner, who suits up in a pair of cowboy boots every day and drives strategy and research for our clients. With a Ph.D. in behavioral psychology, Lee is a former researcher and tenured professor at Virginia Tech, where he became a national authority on organizational behavior management and marketing. He left academia to start up and run three high-growth companies, including an $80 million runaway success story.

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