So you want to become an expert – but how can you stand out and become the go-to person in your industry?
In the competitive world of digital creators, you need to find a way to catch the attention of the people who matter. That might be your customers, media outlets, potential brand partners or more.
To make your business a success, you need to learn how to come across as an expert to the people who can make all the difference to your business. That means building your personal brand to become an authority figure in your industry through careful positioning, consistency and a lot of confidence.
To tackle the question of how to position yourself as an expert, we learned from experts, Maya Elious and Tonya Rapley at a previous Think In Color conference to get the inside track on the topic.
Read on to find out how to come across as an expert in your chosen field, so you can win trust and business in no time at all.
What does it mean to position yourself as an expert?
Think of a topic you’re interested in. Whether it’s yoga, investing, DIY or anything else, is there someone you look up to as an authority on that topic?
Chances are, there will be a relatively small number of people who you follow to get information. These are the experts you trust to tell you what you need to know about the field you’re interested in.
Now think about what makes you gravitate towards these people. What makes you trust them? What about them convinced you they were experts?
First up, they have probably shown you that they know a lot about their chosen field.
There’s no getting around the fact that becoming an expert is hard work. An expert will know their subject inside out and will be able to fluently explain and present information or ideas that reflect this knowledge.
It’s their authority and knowledge about a subject that makes their audience – including you – confident enough to invest time and money into learning from them.
A true expert will be up to date and responsive to current trends and discussions in their industry, meaning you’ll continually return to them to get their perspective on new challenges or opportunities.
For example, what does a social media expert specializing in Instagram make of the latest algorithm update? How does a leading music production expert rate that exciting new recording software? How can they help you do the things you’re interested in even better?
The experts keep their community engaged, even in a rapidly evolving and changing landscape. People go to them for guidance when things start to shift because they have confidence that they know what they’re talking about.
How did you first get introduced to that expert? It’s likely that they came onto your radar because other people were using them as experts first – they have the most viewed videos on YouTube or they rank no. 1 on Google for an important question related to the topic, or maybe a friend recommended them.
Experts are only experts if other people believe they are. In the world of experts and authority figures, their audience matters.
Becoming an expert
People looking to educate themselves, develop their skills or improve their lives through online courses will be faced with a wide range of options. That means that in order to find success as an educator, coach or course creator, you need to learn how to position yourself as an expert.
If you can master this combination of authority, adaptability and audience trust, you can be seen as an expert in your field and draw people to your brand to find out the answers they need to know on the topics they care about.
Want to learn how to come across as an expert? Here are Tonya and May’s 10 top tips.
10 tips for how to come across as an expert
Consistency is key
In the words of leading personal brand strategist Maya Elious, consistency means “building visibility”.
Maya first started out designing MySpace pages for aspiring models in college, before moving seamlessly into web and graphic design and then to content and brand messaging. She argues that consistency was one of the main things that got her to where she is now and helped her monetize her expertise.
“The people that come to me now trust me because I kept going,” Maya says, “not because of what I do or because I say I’m the best, but because I kept showing up for myself.”
Whether you’re chatting to clients, designing a new course or putting out a post on social media, the consistency of your communication style and the content you put out can help you position yourself as an expert among your audience.
Tonya Rapley, personal finance entrepreneur and creator of the award-winning money management site My Fab Finance, recommends setting up business social media accounts as one of the first steps to positioning yourself as an expert.
If you have separate profiles for your business, you can be confident that it says exactly what you want it to say. Keeping a business-based profile that’s solely focused on your topic of expertise not only ensures that your audience gets consistent and useful information – it also helps to optimize your online presence.
If you want to know how to come across as an expert, aim to create a consistent tone of communication across your website, blog and social media posts. At the same time, stay on topic with your business accounts and consider making a separate account or page for unrelated or personal content.
Be consistent and people will start coming back to you to hear what you have to say.
You can know all there is to know about a topic – which is awesome in its own right – but unless you’re communicating your knowledge to others, you’ll never be able to build a reputation as an expert.
Online forums, social media and publications are all buzzing with conversations about any and every topic under the sun. The more you can confidently dive in and make useful, valuable contributions to relevant discussions, the more you’ll be able to build a following for your brand.
The secret to how to come across as an expert is to be visible to the people who matter – including your audience, other authority figures and organizations that matter in your industry.
Tonya Rapley recommends using speaking engagements to be more visible in your niche and she has some great tips to help you land them:
- Reach out to organizers and ask if they’re taking submissions for speakers
- Connect with organizers on LinkedIn and send them a message
- Go to other conferences that organizers might be attending to network
- Consider volunteering your time for a relevant cause
- Contact online and print publications to contribute knowledge or ideas
When you’re first starting out with your business and trying to figure out how to position yourself as an expert, you need to spend time building up your network to create connections and increase the visibility of yourself and your brand.
Start broad, then ‘niche down’
You may have heard of the phrase ‘niche down’ – nowhere is it more relevant than in the quest for how to position yourself as an expert.
Niching down is about taking the time to explore your industry and figure out exactly where you can offer your expertise.
Maya and Tonya both highlight the importance of not rushing into a niche just because you think you need one. Instead, it’s worth taking the time to find your niche by figuring out where your expertise lies, what your passions are, where there is the most demand and what your audience wants to hear about.
Tonya’s company, My Fab Finance, started out as My Fab Fico and was solely about achieving a better credit score. “But as time went on,” she explains, “I wanted to talk about things other than credit. I didn’t want to just be ‘the credit person’ because I was learning about budgets. I was learning about debt elimination. I was learning about so many other things and I felt boxed in with the name ‘My Fab Fico’ and felt limited talking just about credit and credit scores.”
Once Tonya changed the name of her brand and expanded her focus, it enabled her to niche down into the broader world of finance and become ‘the finance person’ instead!
By contrast, Maya didn’t rush to zone in on a particular specialty when establishing herself as a branding expert. She explains the value of taking the time to figure out where and how to niche down in her entrepreneurial journey:
“The reason I was able to niche down and figure out what I was excellent in […] was because I started off broad, you know – just like: ‘oh, brand designer, brand expert.’ And I kept going and I kept going and I saw the type of people I liked working with. I saw the results.”
When you’re trying to figure out how to become one of the best in your industry, you have to be okay with starting out and not knowing the answer yet.
- Allow your brand identity to be broad enough for future expansion
- Don’t be afraid to pivot your brand or shift to a new specialty if there’s demand
- Take the time to figure out where your strengths are and who your most engaged audience is
Finding a niche is important to help you stand out from the crowd but if you’re learning how to come across as an expert, it’s a good idea to leave space to change your niche or narrow your focus over time. You can’t predict the future so don’t paint yourself into a corner right away.
Keep studying and stay informed
The world is constantly changing. Experts aren’t just stores of knowledge – they’re highly adaptable people who can apply their existing knowledge and skills to new developments and shifting environments.
“Everything is evolving,” says Tonya. “Content creation is evolving. The way we deliver content is evolving. Laws are constantly changing. Laws are constantly evolving. Current events are happening.”
Things that are relevant to your industry are constantly cropping up, along with new competitors and new interests for your customers.
If you want to come across as an expert, you need to keep studying so you know what’s new, what’s relevant, and what’s important to your audience.
This makes sure you’re not just positioned as a go-to person, but you remain the go-to person in your industry. After all, how to position yourself as an expert also includes how to stay positioned as an expert long-term.
By reacting and responding to current developments and discussions, you can reassure your audience that your expertise is still relevant. Show potential clients that you’re offering not just your course and your knowledge, but an overall mindset and method for engaging with new obstacles and situations.
Here are Tonya and Maya’s tips to stay on top of new trends and important developments:
- Set aside some time every week to explore new developments in your chosen topic
- Try subscribing to newsletters or journals on the subject and read a lot
- Communicate your own views and responses via a regular blog, newsletter or social media
If you want to know how to come across as an expert, you need to be willing to keep studying and engaging with your chosen topic to show your audience that you really do know what you’re talking about – especially when current events disrupt your industry.
Stay concise, stay relevant
There are fewer things more frustrating than Googling a question and finding out the responses don’t come anywhere close to answering it! If you want to come across as an expert in your chosen field, you need to identify what questions people are asking and then answer them directly and confidently.
Though it can be tempting to go beyond the simple answer to demonstrate your breadth of knowledge on the topic, it’s not what people want. They want bitesize, clear and informative responses that tell them exactly what they need to know.
This applies to your website, newsletter, social media and community space – if someone asks a question, answer it simply and concisely in a way that anyone can understand.
As well as saving both you and your audience time, this strategy shows that you are confident in your abilities and don’t need to prove anything with big fancy words. It also shows that you can listen to others and help them out when they need it!
Tonya explains this is also the secret to how to come across as an expert: “You need to learn how to distill what you want to be known for down into sound bites.”
“You don’t want people to get lost in a whole bunch of words. You want them to be able to say, “this is what she’s known for and she communicated it.”
Whether you’re outlining a course objective, weighing in on a topic for a publication or updating your social media profile, keep it sharp and to the point to create space for your knowledge and expertise to shine through.
- Think carefully about the question you’re trying to answer or the point you’re trying to make.
- Edit your content to make sure it’s clear and straightforward
- Remember to keep things snackable and shareable
In the digital age, the secret for how to come across as an expert is to make your words and your expertise easy to understand and easy to share with others – it’s as simple as that!
Value your expertise and others will too
When you’re first getting your brand off the ground, it can be tempting to try and compete with existing brands on pricing. If you can just secure some clients at a discounted price, surely you can build your profile from there right?
If you’re doing this to try and position yourself as an expert, it’s rarely a good idea.
Why? If people think you don’t value your own expertise, they’re less likely to believe in what you’re offering them.
This is something that’s hugely important for digital creators.
As Maya explains: “When it comes to your pricing, think about what they are willing to pay to get this transformation in their life – in their love life, in their business, in their health, in their wealth. That’s what you want to think about.”
Focus on the person that you’re going to help and the outcome you can get for them – how their life will be changed if they make the investment. That’s what should guide your pricing structure.
You’ve put a huge amount of time, energy and resources into building your personal brand. Don’t undervalue your expertise.
If you want to know how to come across as an expert, this is a crucial tip to remember.
Avoid the hard sell
If there’s one consistent red flag for potential customers, it’s when a self-styled expert tries to do a hard sell of their services or expertise.
Marketing is about making people aware of you, including what you can offer them and how they can learn about a topic for themselves. Selling is about trying to convince someone to buy something from you.
Direct selling to people who haven’t yet made their interest clear is one of the quickest ways you can lose both a potential sale and your reputation as an expert.
To come across as an expert in your industry, you need to radiate calm confidence, not desperation or dependency. Focus on building your profile and establishing your expertise rather than going in for the sale. If you can build up your reputation as an expert in your field, you can generate leads naturally.
If you want to come across as an expert, let people come to you!
Be ready and available – and stick to the stuff you know
When you’re positioning yourself as a go-to person in your industry, there may be times when you’ll get a call saying “Hey, we have a segment coming up and we’re looking for an expert to speak about it tomorrow.”
To come across as an expert to your audience, you need to be so familiar with your content that you could talk about it with 10 minutes notice.
The more you can share your unique expertise and knowledge, the more potential interest from publications and potential customers will start to build. If all goes well, this will snowball into a reliable stream of interest that generates real revenue for your business.
Be aware that as your profile grows, people will assume that since you’re an expert on one thing, you’ll also be an expert on something that’s slightly related. For example, you know about green energy so you’ll be able to talk about electric cars.
To come across as an expert and avoid risking the reputation you’ve built, you need to be prepared to be upfront about things that are beyond your knowledge or skill set. If you don’t know a topic inside out, it’s best not to comment on it. This way you can ensure that your reputation as a reliable source of expertise stays firmly intact – and you can gain more opportunities down the line instead.
Tonya and Maya’s top tips for speaking as an expert:
- Be familiar and comfortable with your chosen topic
- Be ready to talk about it at short notice
- Know when to turn down opportunities that are beyond your area of expertise
When you want to become an expert in a topic, it can be tempting to say yes to any and every opportunity that comes your way. But the secret to how to position yourself as an expert in your industry is to know what to talk about, when to talk about it – and when to say no.
Optimize your online presence
When people are looking for an expert to speak on their particular topic, one of the first places they go is Google. They will search for certain terms to find a relevant expert.
The good news is, you don’t need to be a marketing expert to pick up a few basic search engine optimization (SEO) principles that can drive more traffic to your website or social media account. Using consistent and relevant search terms and keywords will help to make sure you are easy to find online.
When you’re first starting out, it will be very hard to rank in search engines for high traffic keywords such as ‘motivational speaker’ or ‘career coach’. Instead, you need to find longer keywords that are more niche. These will have less competition and it will be easier to get your content on the first page of any search.
In the process of learning how to come across as an expert, you’ll need to take a look at your website and your existing content. Is it telling people what you do and where your area of expertise lies?
It all comes back to making sure you are getting your voice and your name out there. Take some time to research SEO principles and apply them in your website content and social media posts – or enlist the help of an SEO expert to do it for you.
Be confident, calm and approachable
When you think of the experts you look up to, how do they project themselves? If their expertise was questioned or doubted, how would they respond?
The process of how to come across as an expert is as much about your behavior as it is about your social media profile or your content.
Wherever possible, think about how you project yourself to your audience.
Aim to keep a collected, calm and confident demeanor even when you come up against unexpected hurdles or difficult clients or questions. Preparation and planning can help here – if you have a clear plan for your speech, event or lesson, you can present it with confidence even when things go wrong.
The same principle goes for Q&A sessions – practice with friends and family to learn how to handle tough questions and answer them carefully and expertly to cement your status as an expert.
Trust is crucial. So are first impressions. Make sure you’re presenting yourself like an expert to be able to come across like one.
Ready to become an expert?
Tonya and Maya’s tips are ideal to help you learn how to come across as an expert and how to position yourself as an expert in your chosen industry or niche. It takes time to build up your reputation but with consistency, content and confidence, you can become known as an expert.