Authority Based Marketing

More than ever, media messages and advertising are clogging consumers’ radios, television sets, mailboxes, newspaper and magazine pages, and computer screens. This white paper explores how to cut through the clutter by employing authority-based marketing.

We have entered the information age, and with it comes information overload. More and more often, people are inundated with sales calls, spam mail, and other marketing materials cluttering their mailboxes, email accounts, and televisions. People are tired, and they’re turning off.

Traditional marketing is dead. Direct mail ends up in the trash, emails are deleted immediately, and television marketing is too expensive. So how can a professional or business break through the clutter and connect with potential clients?

The answer: authority-based marketing.

Authority-based marketing is the process of establishing a professional as an expert in a particular field and positioning the professional as the primary voice on the topic he or she specializes in. With so many messages coming at people day in and day out, everyone is looking for trusted sources of information, advisors to educate them and help them make informed decisions. They want authority figures on the topics of interest to them.

How to Establish Yourself as an Authoritative Source

Establishing yourself as an authority figure takes time; it doesn’t happen overnight. However, you can start developing your position as an authority figure right away by following these steps.

Step 1: Identify Your Specialty

True authority figures are authorities on a specific topic—and the more specific and differentiated their area of expertise the better. People who claim to be experts on multiple topics aren’t experts at all, they’re dabblers. Becoming an expert takes experience, knowledge, and a track record of results. One can’t develop those while pursuing multiple fields at once.

Being specific is key to developing your role as an authority figure. For example, leadership is a big topic, but nonprofit leadership is a specific topic. The concerns and challenges of nonprofit leaders vary greatly from corporate and military leaders. If you can speak to the needs and wants of this specific group, you will find yourself better able to gain credibility as a source. Plus, it will make it easier to develop materials relevant to that group and identify ways to connect and interact with them.

Differentiation is also important because it gives you a competitive advantage. As the example above shows, leadership is a big topic in which there are already hundreds of experts. Focusing on nonprofit leadership narrows your competition and helps you stand out. So does presenting a new technique or approach, point of view, or new facts and insights not already prevalent in your field.

Action Steps:

  • Ask yourself this question: When people seek you out, what topic do they most frequently ask you about? This is your specialty.
  • Go to the Internet, a bookstore, or an industry association and identify the leaders in your field. Make a table listing their strengths and weaknesses. Do you see an opening you can fill?

Step 2: Define Your Value Proposition

Now that you’ve narrowed down your specialty and differentiated yourself from your competition, it’s time to identify your key message and the value that you will bring to others. Using the nonprofit leadership example, your valueproposition could be “growing socially oriented leaders” or “teaching organizers how to motivate volunteers.” Again, being specific and brief will help you quickly home in on your target audience and will help them identify you as an authority on their topic of concern.

Action Steps:

  • Make a list of several key messages. Mix and match to make new ones.
  • Bring in a few trusted advisors to help you brainstorm.
  • Sleep on it—this is your brand message. You don’t want to rush into it.Make sure it is something you can deliver, develop, and live with for yearsto come.
  • Choose one and stick with it.

Step 3: Develop Your Message

You’ve identified your key message, and now it’s time to develop the content to carry your message forward. What tips, strategies, frameworks, and examples do you have that help communicate your message and provide value to your audience? Do you have access to important statistics, research, or fellow experts? Compile all of your information into talking points and organize them by subtopic.Next, make the items in your message actionable. This means boiling down your ideas into steps or strategies that individuals can easily apply. Ideas are great, but real value comes when people learn how to employ those ideas to improve their lives. As in the case of the nonprofit leadership expert, actionable items could be “5 steps to building trust in a team” or “3 ways to run a meeting.”Honing and developing your message is not a one-time deal. Any expert worth their salt understands the importance of staying current and constantly building on their knowledge base. Not only does this help you build a skill set, but it also keeps you involved in the dialogue so you can make timely comments and feed debate in your field. It’s those who are involved and current who get the media coverage and clients.

Action Steps:

  • Organize your thoughts into main ideas or concepts.
  • Identify subtopics for each main idea/concept.
  • Pull together supporting facts and actionable items for each subtopic.
  • Edit and refine your content. Make sure it is easy to understand, providesvalue, and contains action steps to help people apply your knowledge to their lives.

Step 4: Get Heard

The next step is to get the cache of content you’ve developed out in front of the public, but you’ll need to do it in a way that is both credible and useful. Here are some suggestions on how to do just that.

  • Write a book.
    A book provides instant credibility. It’s been the tool for sharing information since the dawn of the printing press. A book acts like a mini infomercial, both educating prospective clients and selling the author’s expertise.A word of caution: Do your research! There are several publishing models available. The one that is right for you will depend on your goals, genre, and resources. Just as in any other industry, quality can vary—so do your homework to avoid the less favorable publishing routes.
  • Start a blog.
    Though starting a blog is free, it will take a great deal of marketing hustle to build a following on one. Still, it’s an excellent and necessary way to engage with your audience and provides a home for content not appropriate for specific media outlets and publications.
  • Write articles.
    Write for industry and trade publications and other blogs. They already have an established readership that’s likely to be interested in your subject, and they handle all of their own marketing. However, they do not accept every article and you will have to adhere to their submissions process. Still, if you have credibility in your field and have differentiated your message well, you will find a market for your content.
  • Speak and teach.
    Share your knowledge with local and industry organizations. Offer workshops, “lunch and learns,” webinars, and other educational experiences to your audience. Not only do such activities build your credibility as an authoritative source, they also provide additional revenue streams.
  • Connect with media.
    Build your position as an authority by offering yourself as an expert source to media. Radio, television, print, and Internet media are always on the lookout for expert sources. Contact appropriate outlets directly or follow aggregates such as Help a Reporter Out ( to locate venues. It is important to note that media professionals prefer experts with at least one book under their belt.

Step 5: Promote

You’ll want to offer a mix of free and fee-based information. Just make sure that the free content has some meat to it and always offer value before you ask for anything in return. You can’t build trust with your hand out.

Here are a few tips to keep your content-building efforts manageable:

  • Create a schedule and stick with it.
  • While you are developing a larger piece of content, like an article, break itdown into microblog posts, tweets, and sound bites. This way you won’thave to double up on your efforts.
  • Develop a backlog of content ahead of schedule. This way you always havecontent ready to go even when life gets out of hand.
  • Reuse and repurpose old content by adding in a fresh quote or updating itwith a current example or case study. This way you only have to insert orrework a small section rather than creating a whole piece from scratch.
  • Make use of blog post capabilities by writing posts ahead of time andscheduling to publish throughout the week. This way your post is active even when you are not.Tell everyone about your efforts. Share your articles and speaking engagements. Keep a running list of your activities on your website, along with an updated press kit and speaking menu so people can easily identify you as an expert source for their topic. Along with your website, you can also promote through:
  • Twitter: Post quick updates and hyperlinks.
  • Facebook and LinkedIn: Build a following and share blog posts, events, andmore.
  • Press Releases: Create and submit regular press releases through such freesites as and through media lists you compile for your industry.
  • Newsletters: Compile emails and send regular newsletters with quick tipsand updates using such resources as Constant Contact and Salesforce.Pull all of those steps together, and you will have established yourself as an authority figure. An authority figure specializes in a topic, provides a different take than that provided by others in the field, provides value, is sought out for commentary, and engages with his or her audience through social media and public appearances. The key things to remember are:
  • Be Consistent. Keep all content and activities in sync with your message.
  • Provide Value. Give and you shall receive. Be sure to give your audiencesome free value; doing so will act as a teaser and help sell your service and other products.

Put It All Together

  • Be Regular. Keep your content fresh and regularly connect and promoteyourself through social media to stay in line with your competition.
  • Be Honest. People can usually spot a phony. Stay authentic, even when youmess up, and people will follow.

Here are a few great resources on refining your message and establishing yourself as an authority figure:

Trust Agents by Chris Brogan

Good in a Room by Stephanie Palmer
The Brand of You
by Tom Peters