In nearly all professional services firms, there are individuals who are legitimately experts in a specific area of practice. But, while they may be well known within the firm—or even among their peers—they remain largely unknown to potential clients and other influencers.
We can think of these folks as “invisible experts.”
One of Hinge’s area of expertise happens to be developing these individuals to become Visible Experts.
A Visible Expert® combines the qualities of high visibility with specific areas of expertise. This expertise might include a specific industry, or it can be associated with particular issue that might cross industries. But, regardless of the area of expertise, the expert has to be visible to key audiences and be someone whom people turn to for trusted advice and opinion.
Here’s a good short-hand definition: The Visible Expert is an individual with high visibility and acknowledged expertise who can command influence within a specific target audience.
Fame isn’t enough—many people are well known but lack expertise. Nor is technical expertise on its own sufficient. The two qualities of visibility and expertise must be combined to become a Visible Expert.
Benefits of Being a Visible Expert
As you might expect, there are benefits to raising your visibility in a particular area of expertise. Here are six of the most compelling:
1 – Increases the firm’s visibility. In professional services, your people are your product. With a Visible Expert in the firm, you are offering a superior product.
2 – Strengthens the firm’s brand. Think about the strength of your firm’s brand 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.
3 – Attracts new clients. This relationship between higher visibility and more clients is well established. It has been an important pillar of professional services marketing for years. Potential clients believe that a recognized (visible) expert is a good bet to solve their problem.
4 – Commands higher fees. Premium service providers typically command premium rates. And nothing says premium like being the most well recognized expert on an in-demand topic.
5 – Attracts 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.
6 – Makes recruiting easier. One of the least obvious benefits is how the presence of Visible Experts helps recruit talent to your firm. The best and the brightest want to work with a recognized authority, or at least be associated with a Visible Expert’s firm.
Obviously, having a Visible Expert on your team is pure gold. As they speak, write articles, grant interviews or publish books in their area of expertise, they attract potential clients, teaming partners and top job candidates.
The Road to Visibility
So how do you become—or develop—a Visible Expert?
The first step is to conduct a comprehensive assessment to identify your areas of demonstrable expertise, your current visibility with your target audience, and your level of influence on the audience. Let’s look at how one might assess each of these to establish your baseline:
1 – Start with an assessment of your current level of expertise. What area of expertise do you want to be known for? Is it a broad area (such as IT consulting) or a narrow specialty? Choosing the best target topics is a matter of strategy. But it is best to start off by focusing on what you currently know.
2 – Define the audience of interest. Be sure you understand the target audiences you want to influence, including potential clients, key influencers (such as journalists, bloggers, opinion leaders), and other professionals who may become a source of referrals.
3 – Assess your current visibility. You can either ask your target audience to name firms in your area of expertise (unaided recall) or ask them to rate firms from a list (make sure you include your name). Or you can conduct an indirect assessment of online search results, citation indexes, Twitter followers, and the like. Just remember to measure your visibility within the target audience.
4 – Consider your current level of influence. Here again you can look at direct evidence by getting an influence rating from members of your target audiences. You can also check indirect sources, such as social media shares or inbound links. Another approach is to identify new business referrals, partnering inquiries, speaking requests, press citations and the like.
5 – Identify your competitors. Here you are identifying other Visible Experts and trying to understand their visibility, expertise and impact. This allows you to develop a rough competitive strength analysis that will be helpful as you take the next step toward becoming a Visible Expert.
Consider Your End Goal
Once you have a baseline assessment of where you currently stand, it’s time to develop your strategy for thought leadership marketing. And every good strategy starts with an end goal.
A focused, clearly stated goal will make the strategy development easier. Be specific. Here are the basic steps to get you going:
1 – Start where you are strong. Any successful strategy is founded on a realistic assessment of where you stand today. Thankfully you have already know your area of expertise and strengths. Now it is just a matter of leveraging these strengths.
2 – Pick your target audience. Again based on your earlier assessment, be very specific about the audience you want influence. The more focused your targets, the faster you are likely to be perceived as an expert by that audience. Remember, to target both potential clients and their influencers.
3 – Specify the limits of your expertise. The goal here is to be as narrow as possible while still being broad enough to have an enduring impact. Of course, be sure your chosen area of expertise is enduring. If you focus on a single technology it may well become outmoded when the technology shifts. On the flip side, the narrower the focus, the faster you can achieve your Visible Expert goals.
4 – Pick your issues—carefully. An expert becomes visible by applying their expertise to specific topics or issues. If your perspective is particularly insightful or provocative it will gain traction. Look for issues that are about to emerge and are likely to be complex and controversial. These are the issues that journalists will be writing about and potential clients will be talking about.
Remember some issues will endure for years, while others will have a very limited life. Over the course of your career you will have both. And be sure you have a clear and distinctive perspective. That clarity and consistency will help you as new variations and permutations of the issue emerge.
5 – Outline an implementation strategy. How will you develop your expertise and visibility? Think in terms of where you can publish your insights, where you can secure speaking engagements, and who you can cultivate as a partner.
6 – Identify the tools you will need. What are the specific tools you will need to implement your Visible Expert strategy? The specifics tools will vary by industry and profession. And you may need outside professional help you develop some of these tools.
Here are a few important ones to have at the ready:
- Bios in various lengths
- Professional photography
- Videos overviewing your expertise or sampling speaking skills
- Dedicated website or microsite
- Blog posts
- Position papers/ white papers
- Media kits
- Books or e-books
7 – Turn your strategy into an action plan. The final stage of your strategy development is to turn it into an action plan for thought leadership marketing.
Once you have these basic planning tasks completed you can start to implementation your Visible Expert strategy and increase your visibility across your select area of expertise.
- Find out more on becoming a sought-after expert in your industry by downloading a free copy of The Visible Expert® book.
- Learn about our research into high visibility experts in the research report Visible Experts®: How High Visibility Expertise Helps Professionals, Their Firms, and Their Clients.
How Hinge Can Help
Want to become an industry thought leader? It’s one of our specialties. With Hinge’s Visible Expert® Program, we can help you implement a thought leadership platform that builds your reputation and visibility in the marketplace.