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Learn how to elevate your brand as a recognized expert from the author of Stand Out, Dorie Clark. Hear how she converted her book into a course, and the method she used pre-sell her online program for over $20k.

If your goal is to become a recognized expert in your field, how do you go about it?

Cutting through the noise is a challenge for new authors and online course creators alike.

To help you grow your brand and visibility as a thought leader, we sat down with author and online course creator Dorie Clark to learn her tips for success.

Watch the video below to learn Dorie’s best practices for becoming a recognized expert, how she used online courses to serve her audience, and her method to pre-selling before any launch.

Validating and pre-selling your first course

Before jumping into Dorie’s formula for becoming a recognized expert, let’s unpack how she built a course around her books, and grew her brand from there.

As an author and professor at Duke University, Dorie had amassed considerable expertise around how to build a successful leadership brand. She authored the book, Stand Out: How to find your breakthrough idea and build a following around it, outlining her strategies on the topic.

After her book launch, Dorie decided to create an online course to help deepen the material from the book and turn its insights into actionable strategies. To decide what should go in her course, Dorie set out to validate her idea amongst her audience. Here are a few key steps she took to validate her first course:

Survey Your Audience

In December 2015, Dorie sent an email to her list, asking people to fill out a survey on what they would be interested in learning in an online course. A few survey results later, and Dorie had collected themes about what people were looking to learn, and validated the fact that a course on her concepts in Stand Out was of interest.

Run A Pilot Course

The next step was to create a beta pilot course to get even more granular feedback from her audience.

In order to find out exactly what aspects of brand building people wanted to learn, Dorie offered her audience an opportunity to join the pilot program. Participants would be invited to join the beta course at a discounted rate, in exchange for them providing regular feedback on the content, structure, and learning outcomes of the course.

“In my beta course, I provided it at a lower price point in exchange for participants time to co-create the course content and provide feedback. For each module, I was able to get feedback on what they liked or didn’t like, and could identify gaps in the learning content.”

– Dorie Clark

Within 45 minutes of opening the pilot registration, Dorie had filled her 40-person quota for the 6-week pilot program off her sales page, before creating any content.

Choose Your Price Wisely

For her beta course, Dorie chose a price point of $500. In exploring how to price your beta course, consider what your desired price point is for your full course, and work backward. You don’t want to price it so low that it sends the signal that your is not worthwhile.

On the other hand, going into the $3k and up range may price you out of the majority of your audience. When choosing a price, remember to consider the audience’s willingness to pay, the volume of courses you expect to sell, and the perceived value of what course is worth to your audience.

Don’t overthink your pilot production

To launch her pilot course out the door, Dorie simply recorded five weekly webinar conversations on Zoom where she ran through her material, and held a follow-up Q&A period at the end.

Throughout the pilot, Dorie asked participants qualifying questions to understand their toughest challenges and personal goals around branding. By the time the pilot was over, Dorie had more than enough ideas to create a full curriculum answering their key questions, and had an idea of how to arrange them in a logical order.

Remember, you should never spend time or money creating a course without validating it. Dorie spent no more than $150 creating and producing her beta course!

“If you don’t have people who are going to buy your course, it doesn’t matter if you have beautiful shot videos or the most organized course. Do not skip the minimum viable product beta testing phase!”

– Dorie Clark

For more of Dorie’s tips on how to build your audience to validate your ideas on, watch the video above!

Building a Personal Brand

Dorie shared three key components to becoming a thought leader in your space, as part of her recognized expert formula.

1) Content creation

You need to be sharing ideas in a public forum if you want to be seen as an expert. Not only that, you need to be consistent in your messaging and publishing schedule.

For all you renaissance entrepreneurs out there with multiple passions or areas of expertise just remember: the fastest way to become known for something is to create a vast volume of content on a specific topic, in a concentrated amount of time.

The fastest way to become known for something is to create a vast volume of content on a specific topic, in a concentrated amount of time #personalbranding Share on X

Decide on a schedule, and make a commitment to stick to it. Whether that means writing on your blog, posting on your YouTube channel, or recording a podcast, aim to do as much content creation you can over an 18 month period.

Aside from creating content on your own channels, Dorie recommends getting outside of your own watering hold to raise your profile quickly.

Aim to start guest posting on high profile publications like Forbes and HBR, and appearing on podcasts to reach a new group of people.

Pro tip: When creating content for other people’s sites, aim to create a lead magnet beforehand so you can capture email addresses and build your list in the process.

“Two activities that worked well for me to build my profile were guest blogging and getting on podcasts. I did 160 podcast interviews for each book launch. If you want to reach more people where they’re at, you have to be willing to put in the effort.”

– Dorie Clark

2) Social proof

You need to demonstrate markers of credibility for your target audience to believe that you’re worth listening to.

Social proof is especially critical for those just starting out. People want to take online courses from experts, not random people. You need to give people a reason to listen to you, whether that’s demonstrating your affiliations or accomplishments.

3) Network

You need to cultivate a group of people who can help you identify your best ideas, and help you amplify them.

In the words of Harvey Mackay, it’s important to ‘dig your well before you’re thirsty.’

This means taking the time to invest in building authentic relationships with people, before you think of asking anything of them. If you’re just getting started with partner marketing, be patient. Often the most fruitful relationships and partnerships are ones that are planned months, even years in advance.

When going out to create new partnerships, start by giving something of yourself, whether that’s promoting their products or being a supporter and encourager of what they’re working on. Chances are, when it comes time that you need a favor, they’ll spend less time analyzing you and more time responding in kind.

Related article: For more tips on creating fruitful, sustainable partnerships to grow your business check out our article on How To Create An Influencer Marketing Strategy to Sell Online Courses (Ultimate Guide)

Lastly, Dorie shared one of the most common pitfalls she sees authors and online course creators make.

“Avoid doing a half-assed version of everything. You don’t have to be on every social channel – pick one, and commit yourself there. You can’t be a well known thought leader if people don’t know what your ideas are, and how you’re different from other people. You have to show people that over time, and it takes patience and trusting the process to get there.”

– Dorie Clark

Don’t just give up after 3  months, or even 6 months. Progress often won’t show up until years later. If you’re consistent, in your message and publishing schedule, soon enough you’ll start to attract an audience, and that momentum can compound quickly.

Be consistent, be patient, trust the process.

Connect with Dorie at or on Twitter @dorieclark.