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Are You Ready For Guru Status? by Nina Hershberger

by | In the Magazine, Nina Hershberger

In a world where “Lead, follow, or get out of the way” is the prevailing mantra, you should think seriously about how you want to position yourself in your chosen field.

If you’ve been around long enough to weather the ups and downs of the business cycle, learn the wants and needs of your existing customers, and adapt to new technologies and you are passionate about sharing your hard-won knowledge it’s time to stop settling for the customers who walk through your door solely because you won a coin toss.  It’s time to stake your claim as an expert.

If you have a solid reputation and want to take your company to a higher level of visibility, sales, and profit, there are many ways to be perceived as a leader in your field.

For example, in a non-pushy manner, let it be known among civic leaders that you’re a reliable resource.  The movers and shakers will be only too glad to pick your brain and engage your participation for career days, job fairs, downtown revitalization projects, and other programs that give you an extra way to meet the public and push your wares. 

You’ll be regarded as someone who (a) is a wizard in his chosen profession and (b) who cares about the community.

Newspapers or magazines

Make yourself known to newspapers or magazines in your field or neighborhood.  Call up the editor and compliment a specific story or two that you particularly enjoyed.  While you’re at it, you can casually mention some of your successes.  You could very well find yourself profiled in the same periodical.

Some newspapers have started boosting ad sales by setting up a sponsored page called something like “Ask the Experts.”  Local business owners who choose to participate get a few column inches for their photo and some pithy tips about nutrition, pet care, do-it-yourself projects, exercise, landscaping, hairstyling, or whatever their area of expertise is. 

Some readers may think, “Hey, old man Jones is only in there because he bought an ad”; but the less cynical will genuinely appreciate the tips and link your name with “expert” in the back of their mind.

Radio stations

Radio stations offer game-changing opportunities for experts, especially on weekends.  A station may fill the Monday-Friday hours with music DJs, folksy morning drive-time programs, or political firebrands; but on Saturday and Sunday, many open the airwaves to call-in shows dedicated to more specialized fare.

In a canny mixture of advertising and public service, the station turns the microphone over to trendsetters in their field.  Local chiropractors, mechanics, tax experts, hunting-and-fishing enthusiasts, nurserymen, and others get a one-hour or two-hour chunk of airtime to answer listener questions (and keep their name before the public).

The financial setup for these programs will vary from station to station.  (Is there a straight swap of the businessman’s time and talents for the free publicity?  Does the businessman pay?  Does the station pay a stipend?  Does the businessman get a percentage of the revenue from other ads on his program?)  But the potential for standing out from the crowd is enormous.

Sure, many listeners will zoom right past you on the dial if they know that they have no plans for buying a new home, gym membership, or dental implants.  But if you have a pleasant voice, a quick wit, and a wealth of information, those non-listeners might at least mention you to their friends. 

And the people who are genuinely seeking answers about your type of business could very well wind up mesmerized by you for an hour or more at a time.  Yes, think about those times you had the rapt attention of a married couple at your store or office  and multiply that by thousands.

Someone customers can like and trust

Instead of being merely One of a Dozen Interchangeable Guys Who Sell Swimming Pools (or life insurance or HVAC units or…), you can become a local celebrity.

Your anecdotes about your family, your team members, and the things you’ve learned from the school of hard knocks can help solidify your image as someone the customer can like and trust.

The ability to recalibrate a radio program on short notice is a great advantage.  If your special-effects-laden TV ad or glossy catalog is a dud, you’re stuck with it for a while.  But if your first call-in show is rough, you can brainstorm and improve it before the second weekend. 

Maybe you need to bring someone else along to shore up your knowledge and keep the show flowing. Perhaps you need to fine-tune your disclaimers. Perhaps you need a smoother way to direct customers to your business.  It’s all doable.

Complacent businesses that are “just there” aren’t anywhere after a few years.

Whatever the medium or project, boldly seize the chance to stand out as an expert.

 About Nina Hershberger

Nina is a marketing fanatic who loves helping local businesses not only survive, but thrive. She was recognized as one of the top 6 marketers worldwide in 2009 and is the author of “30 Minute Marketing – 101 Ways to wow your customers, clients, and patients”. She hosts a national marketing mastermind group where business owners from varied niches gather to plan, strategize and share marketing ideas.

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