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New Research Report: How Experts Build Their Brand

What is the best way for an expert to develop their personal brand? That’s the question we sought to answer in our most recent study of Visible Experts℠. You can download a free copy of the research here.

This research is part of a larger study on high visibility experts to be released separately. The overall study looks at both sides of the equation, clients who engage these high profile experts and the experts themselves.

This first of its kind effort has already produced some very interesting and compelling results for professional services firms. In previous reports we examined how potential clients check out experts, how they find and select them, and the value that these high profile experts offer to their clients and their firms.

Becoming a Visible Expert℠

From lead generation and billing rates to brand development and partnering, these high visibility experts have an unparalleled impact on the fortunes of their firms. But their firms are not the only beneficiaries. Their clients also benefit, often in ways they did not anticipate.

With all these positive benefits, it’s natural to want to become a high visibility expert yourself.

But becoming a Visible Expert is not just about developing expertise. There are many very talented individuals that never become known beyond the circle of people who work directly with them.

Nor is it about labeling yourself an expert and singing your own praises on social media. These self-promotional stunts will gain little true traction.

The true path to becoming a Visible Expert involves honing your special expertise and developing your “expert brand” over time.

To find out how to accomplish this task most efficiently, we conducted in-depth interviews with 130 high visibility experts. Experts were selected using a multiple step screening process to insure that their status was legitimate. (No self-proclaimed gurus need apply!)

We examined their use of 25 common techniques and strategies used by professional services providers to increase visibility and communicate expertise.

Brand development techniques used

One of the most telling findings was the range of techniques that experts employ. The average expert used almost 16 (15.9) different techniques to help develop their expert brand. That’s impressive.

What were the most popular techniques? The figure below shows the top ten techniques and strategies used. LinkedIn tops the list, with a usage level approaching a mind-boggling 93%.  Non-keynote speaking engagements and authoring articles are close behind at over 90%.


 

What’s the least likely to be used by aspiring experts? That honor is held by pay-per-click advertising (PPC), which is used by 27% of the Visible Experts we studied.

Level of effort

But use is only one measure of a strategy. We also looked at the level of effort experts devote to the brand building techniques. Here the picture changes.

Books top the list as the biggest focus of their efforts. Speaking engagements remain high, but LinkedIn drops out of the top techniques.

Put another way, most expert use LinkedIn, but it is not a strategy that they devote a high level of effort to.

Impact of techniques

Perhaps the most telling result is to be found in the analysis of the impact various strategies have on developing an expert brand. This is shown in the figure below.


 

Here books take the top spot followed by speaking engagements (keynote and non-keynote). Their firm's website, blogging and other writing are also very important.

So the situation seems to be one where some techniques are high effort and high impact, such as books, speaking engagements and articles. Other techniques are widely used but require much less effort and attention. While they may not deliver the highest level of impact, they are a part of many experts’ brand building strategies. The best example is LinkedIn.

Return on effort

Are there any strategies that have a high level of impact relative to the effort that they require? Indeed there are.

Writing a book is the prime example. While a book requires a high level of effort, it delivers an even higher impact on an expert’s brand. It’s worth the effort and then some.

Other techniques that deliver a favorable return on effort include online video, newspaper articles featuring the expert, blog posts, and keynote addresses. All of these strategies yield a favorable impact relative to the effort required.

Key take-aways

Developing an expert brand requires effort across a wide spectrum of techniques and strategies. You have to be visible where people are searching for expert help. And of course you must be seen as someone who has the right level of expertise.

Having said that, there are more efficient and less efficient approaches to developing your expert brand. Each technique has its own profile and uses. This research report is designed to help you choose your brand development strategies wisely.

The research report is free and can be downloaded here.

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Author: 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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