While there are times, as both an author and a reader, that I mourn the decline of hardcopy books and bookstores, I have to admit that the breadth and depth of publications available online today thrills me.

The Visible Expert: How to Create Industry Stars, by Lee Frederiksen and Elizabeth Harr and published in print last autumn, is one of those ebooks that deserve your full attention if you are looking for ways to differentiate yourself as a financial advisor. As the book’s title suggests, attaining high “visibility” and a reputation for expertise leads to rewards.

Don’t assume that because this book is available online free of charge that it is lightweight and superficial. It is, in fact, quite valuable. The book is based on interviews with 130 individuals who have attained “visible expert” status in their respective fields and on survey results from more than 1,000 buyers of those experts’ services. So, consider what the research revealed and how it might apply to you and your business.

The authors identify five “visible expert” levels.

At Level 1 is the “resident expert.” These individuals are focused on establishing themselves as experts within their firms. They are dedicated to self-education and improving their skills. Although their value is recognized by their clients, their staff and their colleagues, these experts are not yet visible outside their firms.

At Level 2 is the “local hero.” These experts are beginning to share their leadership outside their firms and engage in some promotion, such as speaking engagements and blogging, thereby contributing in a more significant way to the growth of these experts’ companies. These experts have begun to focus on a target market and are starting to experience the power of differentiation in the marketplace.

At Level 3 is the “rising star.” These professionals understand that leveraging marketing tools – including blogging and social media – are critical to building a reputation. That reputation allows these experts to graduate to the regional or even national stage and create a “halo effect” for the firm, resulting in new leads and more sales.

The Level 4 expert is the “industry rock star”; this person has become a nationally recognized name within his or her niche. These professionals’ visibility has taken on a life of its own and continues to drive business opportunities, resulting in the ability to charge premium fees for the experts and their firms.

The challenge for Level 4 experts becomes managing the flow of inbound leads and opportunities. Attention turns to being selective and choosing clients who are a good fit.

At Level 5 is the “global superstar,” who has an intense level of visibility. These experts have become synonymous with their areas of expertise. These experts’ names are their brands, which are recognizable both inside and outside of the industry.

We all have been exposed, at some level, to these visible experts. It would be easy to assume, because of the confidence they often exude, that they are smarter or born with natural gifts that allowed them to establish a strong presence in their industry or the public mind.

The research, however, suggests otherwise. The vast majority of those interviewed insist they are no more intelligent or lucky than any other business person.

Many interviewees experienced self-doubt and business failures. Then, somewhere along the way, these people found a niche and established themselves as experts. As their skills matured, they developed strategies to make the most of their expertise and their reputations began to grow.

Not every financial advisor will want or need to gain the visibility of, say, Warren Buffett. But we all can take a lesson from this book regarding how credibility and differentiation can be achieved.

The Visible Expert
by Lee Frederiksen and Elizabeth Harr,
Hinge Marketing; 133 pages,
(ebook free from hingemarketing.com)


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