Imitators and Redefining Expertise

In the pre-digital era of publishing, the printed word carried a great deal of authority.

The assumption by the general public was that “they” would never print anything if it wasn’t true. Of course, back then publishing was confined to established media outlets that employed professionals who were held accountable.

Now anyone can publish, and there are no rules. Actually, there are some rules, such as the rules of disclosure enforced by the FTC. Yet, with the millions of bloggers, and billions of people publishing on the social networks, there is little enforcement of the few rules that do exist.

As a result, the axiom that you can’t publish what isn’t true is long gone.  As you know, there is much being published that is pure fabrication, and that creates challenges for your business and mine.

Demand More of Your Business than Your Imitators

Now more than ever, actively working your craft sets you apart from imitators.

Imitators or posers hold themselves up as your equal, despite not having the decades of experience, practice, and study that you do. Thus, you have to find new ways to differentiate.

Consumers are always seeking better value, and with a web that is commoditizing nearly every profession, you have to prove that you are actually doing the work – and doing it well.

One of the best ways for accomplishing this is to hold yourself to a higher standard. While the imitators are still learning, demand more of your business – and your customer.

Take the Lead to Define Minimum Requirements

One of my mentors shared his simple formula for success with me. It’s one that anyone can benefit from: “I did everything they asked of me – and more.”

That’s how you will maintain a vibrant business today, one that will withstand the challenges of imitators who are confusing the marketplace, and eroding your expertise by claiming it for themselves without earning it.

Expertise not only takes time to build, it also requires ongoing maintenance. That’s the beauty of being an authentic expert. As long as you are willing to do the work to polish and refine your expertise, your business will shine in a sea of imposters.

What are the minimum requirements to be considered an expert in your profession?  You may indeed have to define them yourself.

If you know your industry, you have a good feel for where it is going.  In most cases, it is not business as usual. Be the one to set the new standards and you will readily stand apart from imitators.

7 Ways to Showcase Your Expertise and Differentiate Your Business

#1 – Do the work others cannot (or will not) do.

In any profession there are three kinds of work – before, during, and after the sale. Most companies fall short in at least one of those areas. Some do not sufficiently prepare, a few do not execute well, and as you know, very few follow up after they have been paid.

If you can balance all three, your small business will be noticed, remembered, and rehired.

#2 – Pick a lane – one that is customer focused

Imitators often have no focus. The are willing to serve every client, which means they cannot effectively serve any of them well. Specialization creates differentiation.

Build a profile of your ideal client and say no to any prospect that does not fit that profile. They will respect you for holding your line, and that may even earn you unexpected referrals.

#3 – Educate your prospects and customers

Unfortunately, buyers often cannot differentiate between valid experts and their imitators. You have to do the work to help them.

This is what content marketing is all about. It’s a process of building trust by teaching your prospects how to be better buyers.

#4 – Prepare for taking calculated risks

Risk is something that paralyzes those that are unprepared. When you are doing the work to stay on top of your game, you see opportunity where others see risk.

The harder you work, the more opportunities you will see. And opportunities multiply when they are seized.

#5 – Challenge your customer to challenge you

Have you ever asked your customers what, if you could deliver on it, would enable them to look back on your working together with a great deal of satisfaction?

Then start doing it. When you challenge your customer to raise their expectations, you create the opportunity for owning your business relationship with them.

#6 – Make your buyer the hero

Full credit to @Chrisbrogan for this one. Customers are conditioned to make us the hero. Indeed, it feels good to be the hero.

Forego ego gratification and make your customer the hero. It works to build relationships that bring in more business.

#7 – Ask the questions posers don’t even know to ask

In any profession, the experts know the right questions to ask. Since nobody has all of the answers, one of the best questions to ask is – “What else should I be asking you?”

This one gets everything out in the open, such that you can get to work on what matters most for your customer.

We are experiencing a major reinvention of industries and professions. You basically have two choices – start redefining what it will take to succeed in the near future, or find yourself in a race to the bottom with your imitators.

How about you?  What are the changes you’ve been noticing in your industry?

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Until next time,  Jeff

Photo Credit: David Castillo Dominici