Whether you sell to businesses or consumers you can increase your level of success by becoming an industry expert – someone who’s well known and acknowledged as an authority on matters concerning your industry. It takes work to achieve this kind of commercial stardom but once you’re at the top it’s almost self perpetuating.
Get ready for recognition
Prepare a clear definition of the industry you want to represent, whether it’s a broad one such as ‘retailing’, or very specific, such as ‘manufacturing food colourings’. Now imagine that you are being interviewed and have to answer some probing and analytical questions about your industry. You’re the spokesperson and your answers will be very important to the audience:
· What qualifies you as an expert in the industry? (This will probably be your education and experience.)
· What have you accomplished within the industry? (Perhaps you have developed new products or been elected President of an industry association.)
· What are you now doing that’s worthy of recognition? (Your business could be well ahead of industry benchmarks, or you might be on a committee developing new industry standards.)
Make notes of your answers to these questions for future reference in preparing publicity materials and website content.
Build on strengths and remove weaknesses
For some people it’s natural to be on camera and face up to a journalist’s questions. For others it’s best to just write articles, and still others might enjoy public speaking in front of a crowd. Most of us are good at one or maybe two of these but not up to speed on all three. This doesn’t mean giving up on what you’re not good at, but it does mean that to get a ‘quick start’ on becoming an industry spokesperson you have to build on your strengths and find ways to overcome any weaknesses.
Media training courses are available that will give you the skills to stand up to an interview, whether it’s on TV, radio or even over the telephone. If you have basic writing skills they can be polished up with a correspondence course or by attending a workshop at your local college. And joining Toastmasters, or a similar organisation, is a great way to become better at public speaking.
Update your industry knowledge
As an expert you’re expected to know about developments in your industry. This means keeping up with what’s going on both at home and overseas. You’ll need to join at least one industry association, and subscribe to all relevant industry newsletters and magazines. The Internet will be a good source of knowledge and should be searched regularly for the latest news and advances in your industry. Attending trade shows and exhibitions are good ways of staying informed.
Make your website a source of information
Your business should already have a website, but just in case it doesn’t you’ll need to create one. This is no time to be shy so place your photo and biography on the home page. Give lots of advice from the site and make your business look as impressive, and successful, as possible.
The challenge will be to anticipate what questions people may have that drives them to visit your site in hopes of finding answers. If you can become their source of answers and make it unnecessary for them to look any further you will have fulfilled their need for an expert and be seen as one. You might also want to create an enewsletter that will reinforce your position as being in touch with industry events and developments and can give people who don’t know you an introduction to who you are and what you do.
Market yourself to the world!
Just as if you were launching a new product, you need to prepare a marketing plan to promote yourself and your expertise. Identify speaking opportunities, publications that might accept articles from you, and industry activities like trade shows and seminars where you can network with others that are interested in your industry. You should consider holding your own seminar or trade event, acting as both host and guest speaker for the activity. If your products or services have appeal to a significant number of consumers you can offer to provide a regular column or series of articles to any number of local or ‘free’ newspapers as a way of becoming better known. Your geographic location is irrelevant as long as you have a website where interested persons can obtain further information about you and about what you do. And if you can put together an interesting presentation that suits a wide audience you can offer your speaking services to colleges, libraries, not-for-profit groups, your local chamber of commerce and any other community associations that have regular meetings.
The follow up is important
Always follow up an appearance, event or interview with a media release to all publications and websites that might be interested. Your media list will gradually build up so that you can use it for sending out releases with your comments on industry issues or details of your next appearance. It’s important to keep your contacts, your industry knowledge and your website up-to-date so you’re always at the forefront of your industry. The publicity you receive from being an expert will be invaluable to your business.