Opinion: it matters more than you know
As a provider of professional services, you have studied, trained and qualified. You have worked for years, gaining experience across disciplines and industries. By the very nature of the advice that you have provided, you know and understand things that are unique to you, and valuable to others.
Your opinion matters. It matters to more people than you likely realise; staff, colleagues, clients, your market, peers and business partners. Don’t bottle up your knowledge and save it purely for a paying client; use it to demonstrate your proficiency. Use your opinion to market yourself, build your profile and grow your client base.
You’ll find that your opinion matters more than you know. It’s being able to share it, in a relatable way and through an appropriate medium that poses the challenge.
Creating an opinion with meaning
In professional services, advisors can be quick to tick off the list of services they offer when explaining what they do. How often do you pause from this list, pry a little, and try to understand whom you are sharing with? How often have you sought to find a relationship between your expertise and their situation?
Finding a connection is important. It’s an illustration of empathy and provides meaning. ‘Meaning’ engages and signals the beginning of a new, meaningful relationship. Whether it is a client relationship, or that of another type, creating an opinion with meaning makes you memorable; one of the key goals in building your profile to win new business.
An opinion that matters to more than one
We all like to think that the advice we give is 100% unique to the needs of our clients, but it simply isn’t true. Often, you’ll find that you’ll come across similar problems again and again. Sure, you’ll tailor your advice unique to their situation but, having experienced some commonality, you’ll spend your time on the tailoring – where the real value is.
The commonality, however, is very important. It’s the part of your advice that you can use in your marketing to build your profile and attract clients experiencing these similar concerns. This is your target market. If you can describe your target market, right down to the tin tacks of how to reach and connect with them, then you’ll be on your way to using your opinion as a marketing tool and connecting with those that matter.
Resonate, don’t alienate
Using your opinion as a marketing tool is not about alienating; it’s about attracting and engaging. This means sharing what you know with those to whom it matters.
You’ll notice that, at the beginning of this blog, I have clearly defined the type of person I want to read it. I’m trying to help you identify whether this information is going to be relevant to you, before you invest time in reading it. Every day, we screen thousands and thousands of messages. If you can clearly define your target market to your readers, and have them saying to themselves “that sounds like me”, you’ll be helping your message get to the right people (and saving others a lot of time!).
My only warning is resonate, don’t alienate. Sometimes, you may find that your thoughts resonate with those you never thought it would. Keep your door open to these kinds of opportunities. Don’t send them away without consideration. This can be quite a balancing act.
Using your opinion to build your profile
At the beginning of this blog, we identified that there were different groups of people who may benefit from your opinion. These included staff, colleagues, clients, your target market, peers and business partners. Reaching each of these groups will require different strategies, each of which will take time to develop. The best way to reach each group will depend on where they hang out (in person and online), what media they engage with, what events they attend, the associations they belong to and a plethora of other things.
Here are some ideas for connecting with them to build your profile:
- In the workplace, mentor those who are younger than you, write for newsletters, present at client and staff training sessions, create and chair special interest groups, volunteer to be your firm or business’s spokesperson to align with your area of expertise.
- In the media, become a regular, guest writer in publications that reach your target market. Publications are often looking for expert commentary and a regular gig builds your profile consistently over time, as well as supporting the publication to create quality content from a recognised (or soon to be recognised) expert. An added benefit is the credibility you gain from being associated with the publication. The same is true for guest blogging.
- In the business community, present at conferences, training sessions and events. Contact the industry or business association related to your area of expertise and build a relationship that will help you to get these kinds of engagements. Potentially, you’ll be building your profile with your target market, as well as business partners, peers and industry, positioning yourself as the ‘go to’ expert amongst each group. Public speaking can be challenging, but you’ll improve over time, as you get used to it. You’ll also be able to prepare and repeat the same presentation to different groups. This will save time in two ways; one is the preparation of the presentation, and the other is the large number of people who will be listening to you – a ‘one to many’ approach.
- In person and online, seek relevant networking events, social media groups and membership organisations. Regularly attend, or post comments. When participating in social media, make sure to respond to feedback openly and cooperatively. Remember, resonate, don’t alienate.
- Create your own content by supporting your marketing team and providing them with the fodder that they need to promote you and your business. Write articles, blogs, case studies, ‘how to’ guides and white papers, technical advice and tips, related to your area of expertise.
When using your opinion as a marketing and business development tool, there are a number of things to note:
- Mark your spot. Clearly define what you want to be known for before you begin. You can’t be all things to all people. In fact, the more specific you can be about this, the easier it will be to develop the strategy behind it. In marketing, the more granular the better and, often, more cost effective.
- Be genuine. A big mistake experts can make is focussing on their technical expertise and forgetting that their personality is often what attracts new business and opportunities. Be yourself.
- Re-purpose. The same resource can be re-purposed to use in various ways. For example, you have written an article on ‘the top ten things to look for’ (in your area of expertise). This may be included in a client newsletter, written more informally as a blog, or used as a checklist by staff when delivering this service. Re-purposing increases your return on investment – the time you spent creating the resource in the first place, along with the time it has taken for your marketing or media team, or business partners, to gain profile with it on your behalf.
- Create a route back to you. If someone reads an article you have written and finds it interesting, how can they learn more? It sounds obvious, but let them know something else about you that will help them connect. This is easy – let them know your name, how to contact you, what else you have written, who you work for. If online, you may like to link to your website, other articles you have written, your LinkedIn profile or your blog. If in person, have a business card to hand out or, at an event, ensure attendees can pick up a profile, article or purpose written brochure to take home with them.
Whoever coined the phrase ‘all good things take time’, was absolutely right in this case. It takes time to use your opinion to build your profile and develop a reputation that matters.
Over time, and with regular effort, you’ll reap the rewards – some of them unexpected. New clients, invitations to events, speaker appointments, advice to government, new business and promotional partnerships …. are all opportunities that have resulted from supporting advisors to use their opinion to build their profile with those that matter.