Secrets of Growth: How to Be an Expert

Our wise panel provides tips on becoming a sought-after authority in your field.

Colleen DeBaise By Colleen DeBaise

It’s no secret: When your name (or your company’s name) is synonymous with a certain topic, interested customers will gravitate toward you.

Natalie Yeardon of Impetus Healthcare, a Toronto company that builds online healthcare communities, wants to become an expert in her field. She lists her role model as Mitch Joel, an expert in new media who has written a book and presented at the TEDx conference. “I would one day like to follow in his footsteps as a pioneer and expert in the field of online community building,” she says.

For this special “Secrets of Growth” series, we’ve assembled an impressive group of entrepreneurs and small-business experts to share their best advice for building a successful startup. Here’s how they answered the following question.

What’s the best way to become known for your expertise?

TSE_Nell-Merlino_150x150You have to telegraph your expertise in everything you say and do. Tell people what’s new, better and different about being in an online healthcare community that your business helped establish. Write articles and give talks about the benefits of online healthcare communities. On Twitter, develop a following of people who are focused on health care. Keep talking about the value of what you do in your business. If there are business plan competitions in Toronto, enter them. Participate in health fairs. Go for any situation that can increase your visibility and your business’s visibility. And start working on your TEDx talk now. Write it, practice it in front of friends and colleagues, and keep rewriting it until it says loud and clear that you are an expert.

Nell MerlinoPersonal BlackBox, follow at @nellmerlino

TSE_Lori-Horberman_150x150It’s much easier today to achieve “expert” recognition. When I first started my entrepreneurship law practice in the late 1990s, the options were much more limited. Basically, I spoke on panels and wrote articles. Now, you can create your own panels/conferences via WebEx, and market and distribute your articles/blogs through do-it-yourself press releases, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. (Tip: Post on your own page as well as others, and comment on postings by others). The more you “show up” on industry sites, the better you will start to be known. While it’s important to attend local industry events, you’re not limited to a local audience—you can create that “expert” status on a global scale. A PR expert might be helpful, but you can be fine without one, depending on your connections. Hire an intern for the summer to create content.

Lori HobermanHoberman Law Group, follow at @lorihoberman

TSE_Julio-Melara_150x150Expert positioning is one of the fastest ways to increase business and become the go-to authority in your field. Because of the Internet and social media, it’s not as difficulty as it was 10 years ago. My recommendations: First, become an author. Publishing is a great way to claim authority in your field. Second, learn from books and experience. One of my mentors used to tell me, “There’s a time for learning and a time for practicing.” A true expert needs to have both expertise (book learning) and experience (real-world practice). Third, speak in public, as often as possible. You may want to consider hosting a seminar or workshop. Sharing insights, concepts, ideas, lessons and information means you deliver value. And lastly, teach a class. It’s a great way to position yourself as an expert and immerse yourself within a community of individuals that are eager to learn and hear about your topic.

Julio Melara, JulioMelara.com, follow at @julio_melara

TSE_El-Brown_150x150Write, write, then write some more! When I first started KinderJam, I wrote a blog detailing activities I did at home with my son. Print publications would find my articles and contact me to use excerpts or interview me for their projects. Eventually that led to offers to be a contributing writer in blogs and print articles, as well as TV and radio interviews. From there I began to receive invitations to serve as a subject matter expert for speaking engagements and event panels.

Put yourself out there. You know your stuff. Now, share it with others.

El Brown, KinderJam, follow @kinderjam

TSE_Laura-Zander_150x150The best way to establish yourself as an expert in the field of online community building is to … build a successful online community! I.e., the “expert” status will follow naturally once you’ve shown mastery over the field.

Laura Zander, Jimmy Beans Wool, follow at @jimmybeanswool

TSE_JJ-Ramberg_150x150The best way to be seen as an expert is to have truly insightful and useful information and share it. You can do that via your own blog and social media channels as well as through others’. For example, find influential bloggers in your area of expertise and offer to write a guest blog for them. In addition, you can offer to hold a workshop or give a pro bono seminar for events going on within your industry. Once you do enough of these things, if your information is good and you are a good speaker and/or writer, people will likely start coming to you to request your expertise.

JJ RambergYour Business and Goodshop.com, follow at @jjramberg

TSE_Sarah-Kunst_150x150Internet entrepreneur Ev Williams is probably responsible for minting more “experts” than anyone else on the Internet. Use his platforms — Twitter and Medium — to read news that is relevant, share your thoughts and connect with others in your area of desired expertise. Set Google alerts for topics you care about and be the first to tweet or blog about news, studies and breakthroughs. Use LinkedIn’s publishing platform to cross-post your Medium posts and share with LinkedIn groups who are relevant to the topic. Be consistent and vociferous and a generous promoter of other people’s content in the space. Engage on Twitter with # and @ and make sure your bios across the Internet reflect what you want to be known for. Nothing is worse than seeing a security expert with a bio of “Dad, husband and golfer.” How will I know that you have super-relevant information if you don’t tell me?

Sarah KunstFortis, follow at @sarahkunst

TSE_Emily-Blumenthal_150x150
To be a “real” expert, you need years. You need to have been in the trenches, lost money, earned money, had notoriety, and suffered losses. Why do I say this? Because if you can’t speak to personal experiences, then why should I trust you? Doing something that you are passionate about means dealing with day-to-day issues that change constantly. I used to think after having my own handbag line for just two years, that I was most-definitely an expert. But by year three, I had my biggest sales, and year four was bigger. Year five people stopped being interested, year six I knew I needed to do something or my brand would die a slow death, year seven I had a licensing deal, year eight I was on QVC, year nine — both were gone. Who knew?!

The irony of becoming an expert is that your pitfalls are what people want to hear most. How did you handle it when you lost everything? How did you pick yourself back up? How you found the solution is where the creativity and trust come from.

Emily BlumenthalHandbag Designer 101, follow at @HandbagDesigner

TSE_Divya-Gugnani_150x150Continuously be learning about your field — subscribe to all magazines, blogs, and newsletters that relate so you are on top of new findings and information. Watch all videos, conferences, and talks and look at what your competition is doing — and try to do things differently. Attend networking events and learn from all of the people actively working in your field. Leverage social media, do speaking engagements, guest lecture at universities, host a networking event, and write articles for relevant blogs and publications. You become an expert by living and breathing your craft, so always be learning and trying new things, communicate with people in your industry, and share your findings and what works for you.

Divya GugnaniConcept to Co., follow at @dgugnani

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Posted: April 1, 2015

Colleen DeBaiseSecrets of Growth: How to Be an Expert