Authority: Your “Secret Source” for More Business (and How to Build It)

by Corey Pemberton 8 Minutes

AuthorityWhy is Roger Federer, one of the best tennis players in the world, trying to sell you a Rolex?

Last time I checked, tennis doesn’t have anything to do with luxury watches…

But that’s beside the point.

Federer, like countless other celebrities, has authority. Rolex ads become more credible (and profitable) thanks to his endorsement.

Successful businesses might not have celebrity star power, but they’ve crafted an authority all of their own. With it comes more trust from prospective customers, valuable partnership and joint venture opportunities, and much less pressure to rely on marketing alone.

Imagine how your business would change if you had just a fraction of the authority of a titan like Coca-Cola or Microsoft.

Good news. You can systematically build your authority in your niche over time. Keep reading to see how.

A Huge Advantage That’s Hard to Quantify

Authority will help you connect with customers, charge higher prices, and achieve sustainable growth. There’s a reason why it’s one of psychologist Robert Cialdini’s six key principles of influence.

In today’s hyper-competitive environment, authority is a critical “x factor” that can sway someone who’s on the fence to choose you instead of someone else.

Without enough authority, however, people are less likely to give your business a chance – even if you offer better quality or prices than better-known competitors. The challenge is only compounded online, where competition is fierce and skepticism rampant.

But here’s the thing about x factors: they aren’t always easy to measure. You can track exactly how many new website visitors you get after increasing your Facebook ad spending by 10%, but how in the world can you track the ROI on something as elusive as “authority?”

What If You’re Just Getting Started?

You need authority more than ever before. The idea of building it sounds great, but it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

Looking at brands like Google or Sony isn’t much help. They definitely have that “x factor” brand recognition, but they’ve been in business for decades. They have billions of dollars to play with…

What if you’re just starting out?

This is one of the tougher challenges for small, growing businesses. Building authority takes time. There’s no way around that. It isn’t as straightforward as hiring someone or tweaking your marketing budget.

With that said, there are common patterns successful businesses follow to bolster their authority. You can do these things to cultivate a position as a thought leader in your niche – someone who commands attention and the rates to match.

Building Authority from the Ground Up: Action Steps

You can’t “build your authority” directly, but if you focus on the following key aspects of your business, your authority will increase as a byproduct of your efforts:

Have a Platform

build platform

Photo Credit: nicephotog

A platform is “ground zero” for building your authority online.

I’ve harped on this before because it really is one of the most valuable assets you can create for yourself. Solid platforms take time and effort to set up, but they’re a great way to attract customers and expand your influence for years to come.

Why’s a platform so important?

For one thing, it gives someone a central location to find you online. This is becoming increasingly important as more social media sites emerge and audiences fragment into very specific niches. Without a platform where you can direct them, visitors are left with an incomplete picture of your experience and the value your business provides.

The last thing you want to do is leave it up to users to figure out how to find you on their own. The guy who bought your eBook on Amazon won’t know you’re hosting a webinar next week… unless you guide him to your central platform. The same goes for the gal who sees your funny Tweet. Without guidance to your website, she won’t find out you offer just the type of consulting she needs.

Compelling platforms are easy to navigate and consistently updated with content. These key elements will position you as an authority:

  • A blog
  • A professionally-designed web page
  • A simple way to continue the relationship (contact forms, email signups, demo requests, etc.)
  • An “About us” page
  • Case studies and testimonials
  • Contact information
  • Videos of speeches, links to books, press mentions, etc.

Keep Track of Industry News and Share Your Opinions

authority opinionsPhoto Credit: Truthout.org

If there’s one thing in common about authorities, it’s that they all have something to say.

They’re doing interviews. They’re writing books and weighing in on what’s happening in their industries.

You can do the same.

Sharing your opinions about developments in your niche shows people that: 1) you make the effort to keep up with what’s happening right here and now, and 2) you have something to say.

I’m not saying to just spout off about every little thing or get obnoxious or overly emotional. But if something big happens and you feel strongly about it, don’t be afraid to explain yourself via social media, email, or a blog post. As long as you support your opinion with experience and logic, most people will respect it – even if they don’t totally agree.

You don’t have to wait until you have a massive customer base to share your thoughts or make predictions where your industry is headed. A little controversy is healthy. If another industry leader writes in article you don’t agree with, go ahead and write a rebuttal. Controversial content is often some of the best traffic drivers!

Being in a position of authority requires a vision for the future and making tough decisions. You can’t do those well unless you keep pace with your niche and aren’t afraid to share your opinion.

Borrow Authority from Others

borrow library shelvesPhoto Credit: loungerie

Low on authority?

Just borrow!

By associating with people who already have authority, you’ll elevate your own status. This is known as the “Oprah effect.” Oprah Winfrey didn’t start as an authority, but after decades of interviewing famous people, she became one. Now she’s the one whose face is used to sell books, Weight Watchers, and practically everything under the sun.

You can do this too – no famous people needed. One of the easiest ways is to make a list of influential blogs in your niche that accept guest submissions. Make pitching them a regular habit, do a good job on your content, and enjoy the authority and exposure that follows.

Another option is to target well-known outlets (like Forbes and the Huffington Post) and try to get your articles published there. Publication credits from these sites are great “feathers in your hat” you can feature on your website, adding a quick boost of authority.

If you aren’t the writing type, you can always invite authorities to come to you. People like John Lee Dumas (founder of the EOFire podcast) have experienced tremendous success from interviewing authorities on their podcasts.

Consider becoming a curator of content from other influencers on your blog and social media platforms. If you focus on exposing people to the highest-quality content around, they are more likely to see you as someone they can trust.

Never Compromise on Your Standards

business standardsPhoto Credit: Nachett

For an authority, navigating a jam-packed schedule is just another day at the office.

They just don’t have time to accommodate every demand for their time. The name of the game becomes weeding out the most rewarding opportunities from all the rest.

As you’re building your authority, it might make sense to take on a few projects at a low rate or launch your software with an inexpensive price point. Sometimes that’s what it takes to secure those critical first few testimonials and portfolio pieces.

Once you get going, though, it’s a good idea to put up some “velvet ropes” around your business. Trusted authorities are selective about which opportunities they take on because: 1) they’re very busy, and 2) they understand whom they associate with can have a huge effect on their reputation.

Think about it like this:

Do you want to be known as someone who settles – who does whatever it takes to get the customer even if you don’t like it?

Or do you want to be known as someone who has a clear vision of whom you serve and the value you create?

How you shape this perception is up to you. Don’t be afraid to be a little selective about which opportunities you take on. Set reasonable but fair rates.

As your authority grows, the challenge becomes deciding which cool project to work on or product to develop. Those are great problems to have!

Create Long-Form Content

long form contentPhoto Credit: christiaan_08

Tons of businesses use content marketing to drive traffic and build relationships with leads online.

Now that so much content is available, the challenge is finding the best stuff. The vast majority of content is “surface level” – things like short blog posts that rehash the same concepts people have read about dozens of times.

It’s understandable things are like this. Small businesses have a lot on their plates already. But they’ve heard so much about content marketing’s potential that they feel pressured to keep churning out new stuff – even if they don’t give it the time or attention it deserves.

Going deeper – creating a few pieces of killer long-form content instead – can do wonders for your authority.

Here are just a few types of long-form content you can create:

  • eBooks
  • White papers
  • Case studies
  • How-to guides
  • Self-published books

Having a piece of long-form content available gives prospects the chance to read more advanced technical content, which is invaluable as they go deeper down the sales funnel. Prospects get the information they need, see you know your stuff, and even sign up to your email list (if you use the content as a lead magnet).

If you aren’t much of a writer, don’t despair! You can host webinars, release a video series on YouTube videos, or even create online courses for websites like Udemy. It might be helpful to record yourself explaining the content out loud, then pay someone to transcribe it. You can hire a writer to clean everything up, and you end up with a nice piece of long-form content.

Consistent content production is key, but too many small businesses overlook quality for quantity. A willingness to go deeper (even if it means creating content less often) will separate you as a true authority.

A Recipe for More Trust and Business

You might have “the next iPhone” ready to sell, but if you’re still establishing your business, it can be tough to convince people to give you a chance.

Authority gives you an edge. With it comes trust from prospective customers, opportunities to form lucrative partnerships and joint ventures, and less pressure to spend so much money marketing.

You don’t need to build nearly as much authority as Apple to see the benefits. Authority is like a snowball. Once you pick up some momentum, other people help take it to the next level through links, media mentions, and referrals.

It won’t happen overnight, but if you focus on the key things above, it will happen. There’s no better time to start than now.

How do you approach building authority in your own niche? Leave a comment below and let me know!

Get Our $270M Client Proposal Kit (free)

by Corey Pemberton
Corey Pemberton is a freelance copywriter and blogger who helps small businesses and software startups get more traffic and conversions online. You can find him on his website or follow him on Twitter.