July 17, 2020

How to market your way through the crisis [Part 2], with Stephen Woessner

Episode 955:

Good Morning Onward Nation — I’m Stephen Woessner, CEO of Predictive ROI and your host. Thanks very much for taking the time — please know — it’s always an honor to have you here.

Today’s episode is going to be a solocast — where it will be just you and me exploring a topic with some real depth. And this episode is Part 2 of the solocast from several weeks ago that I entitled, “How to Market Your Way through the Crisis.”

If you missed that episode — click here to listen to Part I.

I will start off with a quick refresher of the highlights from Part 1 and then we will take a deep dive into what I wanted to share with you today so that you can continue marketing your way through the crisis — and — to put yourself in the very best position possible to come roaring out the other side.

In Part 1 — I shared a number of 3rd-party research sources that showed the importance of not freezing in place as a result of the crisis…how to keep you imaginative skills running at full capacity…and…that the companies who came roaring out of the last 6 recessions where the ones who made progressive decisions and were not prevention-focused.

The progressive companies smartly reduced operating expenses in order to boost financial efficiency — and — 75% of the companies did not reduce the workforce because they realized that to do so…would mean cutting into the muscle of the operation and would negatively affect their ability to come roaring out…when the economy was on the rebound.

Instead — the progressive companies doubled down by making significant investments in R&D, marketing, equipment, facilities, and a variety of other strategic investments. I shared multiple examples back in Part 1…Episode 933 in case you want to look it up in your listening app…and again…the link is in today’s show notes.

We also took a deep dive into the forms of marketing where progressive companies made their investments. Because what they didn’t do was spent loosely on advertising or other sorts of broad promotional tactics. Instead — they focused their efforts around strategies that would help them build trust in their brands…plant their flag of authority even deeper in the niches and industries they served.

Which was super smart and synced up perfectly with the recent research study that my Predictive ROI team conducted alongside our research partner, Susan Baier, founder of Audience Audit. There is — without a doubt — a direct financial correlation between your authority position and financial ROI.

And much of that is due to the critical importance your prospects and clients place on TRUST.

So let’s peel this back a little bit more so we can explore it.

We are entering the era of the authority. While you may already be tired of the phrase of “thought leader”, the truth is there aren’t that many of them…and there are even fewer occupying that status in the niches you and your team serve.

Thought leaders don’t write content that any other agency, coach, or consultant could claim. Thought leaders don’t write about anything and everything — and thought leaders don’t compete on price.

And their time — your time — is now. Why am I saying that so definitely?

For the last 20-years — the global PR agency, Edelman has conducted research that examines who and what consumers trust and how that trust influences buying behaviors.

I shared some of the results of their special March study during my Market Your Way Through the Crisis webinar several weeks ago…

But if you weren’t able to attend — you can find the free replay here and I also included the full slide deck…all 199 slides that I used. No email required — happy to share it with you and your team.

Some of the biggest takeaway’s from Edelman’s research is that consumers assign a high level of trust to people they believe are “just like me.”

When you think about how ratings, reviews, and influencers affect their audiences — you can see the power of that belief.

Now — it’s also important to not get hung up on the fact that the study involved 33,000 CONSUMERS from 27 countries.

First off — that’s a huge sampling of people — and second — even if you are selling B2B — which my guess is you are — people are people…so if people put this much emphasis on trust in their personal lives…you better believe they behave the same way while at work making even larger buying decisions.

But — here’s what’s interesting.

Edelman’s research isn’t about celebrity influencers. Edelman is documenting the rise of the common man and woman influencer. It’s noteworthy because it gives statistical validity to the idea that real people as influencers and the impact they can have on behalf of their business.

The research asked participants to rank what attributes made an influencer believable and trustworthy. The relatability of the influencer was nearly twice as important as the influencer’s popularity. In other words…when consumers see themselves in an influencer, they were far more likely to follow and trust that influencer.

So — it’s not about having a million followers…it’s about being someone you can relate to and connect with.

For this very reason — if you’ve been avoiding putting together a content strategy where you share your depth of expertise in your niche — I recorded this solocast just for you — so that you rethink that decision.

Onward Nation — the data is all on your side.

Now — let’s continue to peel back the curtain to get a look at some of the attributes of someone who is a true authority.

If you were asked to think of an authority on any subject, who would come to mind? What about them designates them as an authority? What’s true about them? And what does someone have to do to earn and keep the title of authority?

My co-author of Sell with Authority, Drew McLellan, CEO of Agency Management Institute, and I would argue that there are 10 Truths to someone being seen as an authority.

Let’s do a quick review…

Truth #1: They have a focus area or subject matter expertise.

Truth #2: They don’t just repeat what everyone else is saying.

Truth #3: They have a public presence where they share their expertise.

Truth #4: They don’t stray from their area of expertise—think specialist versus a generalist.

Truth #5: They aren’t equally attractive to everyone. In fact, they probably bore most people to tears.

Truth #6: They’re significant—which is different from prolific—in terms of content creation.

Truth #7: They don’t create any generic content that someone with far less knowledge or experience could have just as easily written.

Truth #8: They’re perceived as an educator in some way.

Truth #9: They have a passion for their subject matter.

Truth #10: They have a strong point-of-view, which is the foundation of all of their content.

A true authority has something specific to teach us, and they want to be helpful or illuminating.

They’re eager to share what they know because they have a genuine passion for it, and they don’t fear giving away the recipe to their secret sauce (or so it’s perceived).

That confidence and generosity are contagious. Their expertise is something specific groups of people (their sweet-spot prospects) are hungry to access.

So Onward Nation — to call them an expert, a thought leader, an authority, a sought-after pundit, advisor, or specialist…doesn’t matter. They’re all words for the same thing — a trusted resource who has earned that trust by demonstrating and generously sharing the depth of their specialized knowledge over and over again.

Now — let’s hook this back to the Edelman research for a moment.

Want to know what made an influencer even more compelling to the research participants?

The one attribute that ranked higher than the trust we have in “people like me” is the trust we have in highly educated experts. The only three groups of people we trust more than people like ourselves are company, industry, and academic experts.

Why?

Because experts are often afforded the highest level of confidence and trust because they have a depth of knowledge in a specific industry or niche.

So why in the world wouldn’t you capitalize on that, Onward Nation?

Instead of writing generic content that look like every single one of your competitors, which is what many agencies, coaches, and consultants do because it’s so much easier and they feel compelled to create something and don’t want to invest the time necessary to go deep, deep, deep.

Or — they feel that they should be paid to share their smarts and don’t want to just give it away for free.

Ouch.

My hope is that as we get started in this solocast — my words are serving as a very loud battle cry for you. My hope is you see that now is the time to share your smarts and to double down on being helpful to your niche.

Now is the time for you to jump into the trenches alongside your prospects and clients — who are just as concerned as you are about everything going on — and to begin giving away the best of what you’ve got — and when you do that — you will build so much trust that it will be difficult for you to contain it.

There’s a huge upside for you and your team to do this now. As I said earlier — there are very few thought leaders (and even fewer in the niches you serve)…which means if you can still be one of the early adopters if you commit and boldly step out into this strategy right now.

Okay — now let’s turn our attention toward Part 2…how long will this effort take — and — how do you go about doing it?

Drew and I are often asked, “How long does this take?

The answer is yes.

Meaning — we can’t give you a precise time frame for you because it’s different for everyone.

There are many factors, including:

The consistency of your content creation
The quality of your content — are you saying something fresh or just repeating old news?
The amount of time and effort you spend promoting your content
The hunger of your audience. Some are starving and will gobble up everything you share, others will only consume the tastiest of offers

But — building your authority position is clearly not a get rich quick scheme. At a minimum, you should count on it taking six months to a year before you reap any significant benefit from your efforts.

By year two — you should be dancing a jig at how well it’s working.

And by year three — you should be well-established as the authority you are.

On occasion — a single podcast episode, video, or book will catapult someone into the spotlight and earn them a huge payout. But that’s the exception, not the rule.

Don’t count on being the exception or you risk being super disappointed and it could derail all of your hard work.

So — I’m going to make an assumption here…that all of the data I have shared with you during Part 1 of this solocast…as well as the 75-minute webinar that I taught several weeks ago…along with everything shared up to this point in this episode has shown you the very significant upside to you doubling down and building your authority position.

If so — awesome — so let’s turn our attention toward some of the key things you will need in order to make that happen.

There are three essentials to building your authority position.

And they are: 1) narrow niche, 2) a strong point-of-view, and 3) being findable in multiple places.

Let’s take a closer look at each.

Narrow is Gold

The first essential in creating an authority position is recognizing that the narrower your audience, the better. It allows you to be quickly discovered and identified as someone your target audience needs to pay attention to, all because you’re speaking their language.

Ultimately, this means you can build an audience much faster. Once you’ve built the audience, and you genuinely know them and what they need, you can provide additional value by creating products and services you can sell.

If you choose to keep serving everyone as a generalist, you can still absolutely monetize a more generic position of authority (say you’re a business coach, for example), but if you want to get to this more quickly, you need to be ruthless in terms of focus.

I agree — it seems counter-intuitive.

Most business owners focus on quantity in terms of audience. Many believe they need a massive audience to hit their sales and financial goals.

But — the data shows that this isn’t true.

You’re actually in a much better position if you’re in front of the right micro audience where nearly everyone is aligned with your ideal client avatar. Would you rather speak directly to 100 of your right-fit prospects…who are perfectly aligned with your ideal client avatar — or — be on stage in front of 10,000 people where there is zero probability that any of them are your prospects?

And yet, when it comes to business development, most business owners toss out a huge net, hoping that the right species of fish will swim in so we don’t go hungry.

Intellectually, we get it, yet our choices often suggest we’re still focusing on quantity, not quality.

Here’s the reality — you don’t need a million downloads to get your podcast sponsored.

You don’t need to speak at 50 conferences to have someone walk up and ask you some questions that lead to a proposal.

And you don’t need to be on the bestseller list to use your book as an amazing biz dev tool. You just don’t.

Most agencies, coaches, and consultants get this completely backward.

They create broad, generic content as opposed to something that captures the interest of their ideal prospects.

The content is fluffy and doesn’t invite anyone to ask questions or lean in to learn more.

But if you were to hone in on your specific audience and ignore the rest of the world (remember, one of the traits of an authority is that most people could care less about their content), the audience does lean in. They do ask questions, and they will eventually put you on a shortlist of prospective partners to consider.

And when you do it exceptionally well, you will be the only one they consider.

You Need a Strong Point-of-View

Here’s what we know for sure. Your industry (no matter what it is) and the world around us are both experiencing change at an unfathomable rate, and it’s only going to get faster.

How you communicate nowadays, at best, is on the fly.

But the one thing that will not change is that unique cocktail that defines our authority position.

It’s the combination of our area of expertise with the strong point-of-view we apply to that area of expertise. Our point-of-view is what we know to be true, and it’s this truth that defines how we approach the work and how we add value.

For example, Predictive ROI’s point-of-view is the most agencies, coaches, and consultants go about sales in the less productive, most painful way possible. They get thwarted by gatekeepers at every turn. As a result — they cannot build long-term relationships with their Dream prospects.

When we layer that point-of-view, on top of our knowledge and expertise around how to grow an audience, nurture leads, and increase sales by helping our clients Sell with Authority, it’s easy to see how and where we can be of help. It tells us who to serve and how to best serve them.

That’s evergreen. You and your team should have a similar combination.

You need to have an opinion about the work you do on behalf of your clients. You need a strong point-of-view about the marketplace, your audience, or your product or service.

As you fight for a prospect’s attention, you must differentiate yourself.

You’ve got to plant a flag in the ground and claim ownership. You need to stand out against the sea of competitors. That authority position—your area of expertise plus your strong point-of-view—becomes the flag you plant.

It’s you laying claim to what is uniquely yours—the ability to serve a specific industry, niche, audience, etc., because of what you know and what you believe.

It holds you firmly in place no matter what else changes. It becomes part of your differentiation equation. And you need both halves of the whole.

Without the point-of-view, even industry-specific content becomes claimable by others. Granted, it narrows the field, but there are certainly others who work in the same industry or niches that you do.

If you can take your content (blog posts, white paper, podcast interviews, etc.) and swap your competitor’s logo for yours without anyone noticing, your content isn’t as unique to you as you’d like.

That’s what we mean by claimable.

But don’t get too finite about this. I’m not suggesting you’re going to create an authority position no one else can replicate.

Odds are, no matter what your authority position, a handful of others could claim it, too. But that’s your goal—a small handful, rather than every competitor out there.

Just to be clear, your point-of-view is the truth you overlay onto your niche or industry-specific expertise. It’s an insight that influences the work you do.

The ideal scenario for building your authority position is one in which you have the one-two punch of a point-of-view paired with that narrow audience or topic area. That’s a powerful combination.

You can carve out a more superficial authority position with just one of the two elements, either a point-of-view or niche expertise, but the consequence is, if you’re going to only include half of the one-two punch, you’re going to share your unique position with more competitors.

At some level, you probably already know what you point-of-view is — but you don’t recognize it as such. Odds are, you either take it for granted because you talk about it so often, or you just need to dig a little deeper to find the gold in what you’re already teaching, talking about, and using to build the recommendations you make to clients.

You just have to peel the onion back several layers to get to something that’s genuinely different enough that you can own it.

You Can’t Be a One-Trick Pony

Essential number three is that an authentic authority is not a one-trick pony.

Meaning — you can’t create content so narrow it only works on one channel. An expert doesn’t have just one book. Or just a podcast. You can’t place all of your bets on one horse (or pony).

The problem is that whatever pony you rode in on is not going to be the popular pony forever, and you can’t rely on all of your prospects consuming that specific channel.

You need to be more findable, which means you need to have your authority-positioned content in more than one place. If you’re going to build an authority position — you have to answer the question, “How does my point-of-view come to life across multiple channels?

Your goal is to create the impression that you’re everywhere. The good news is that it doesn’t take that many channels to make that happen. You need a cornerstone channel and some cobblestones.

When Drew and I wrote about cornerstone content in our book, Sell with Authority, what we meant was content that’s big and meaty, so it can be sliced and diced into smaller pieces of content—what we call cobblestones.

The definition of cornerstone is that it is the first stone placed. If you were constructing a building, you would carefully set that first stone because you know all the other stones will be set in reference to the cornerstone.

When you take that cornerstone content and break it up into infographics, quote cards, blog posts, tweets, guest appearances on someone else’s podcast, etc., that’s your cobblestone content. The combo of your niche expertise and your unique point-of-view should be woven into every piece of content you create.

In some cases, it will be overt, and in other cases, subtle. But it should always be present to some degree.

Some experts or influencers try to be everywhere, but that stretches them pretty thin pretty quickly.

All you need are a few channels spot-on for your audience that you consistently feed with new content. You need a single cornerstone and at least two or three cobblestone channels. From there, you can use your social media channels to spotlight both.

Just remember, your cornerstone is the primary channel through which you consistently deliver useful content that helps your audience do their jobs better. And it needs to be meaty enough that you can slice and dice it into multiple cobblestones.

Think of the cobblestones as info-snack-sized pieces of content like a quote graphic featuring your podcast guest that someone might stumble upon and be interested in enough that they are led to your cornerstone content. New York Times best-selling author Jay Baer shared the importance of info-snacks during Episode 305 of Onward Nation.

You need both cornerstone and cobblestone content.

But you don’t need dozens.

Cornerstones, by their nature, require a much more significant time investment. Which means you don’t have time to create too many.

Far better to do one exceedingly well than to stretch yourself too thin, and better to be consistently present in a few places as opposed to occasionally showing up everywhere.

And — you want to build something you can sustain for the long haul, and unless you’re going to make being an authority your full-time gig — it’s better to start with one.

Your cornerstone, and at least a few of your cobblestones, need to be built on media you own and control, not on someone else’s platform. That might be your website, a book you write, research you conduct, or your own podcast series.

You can use channels like Instagram, Facebook, or LinkedIn to highlight your efforts, but your cornerstone content shouldn’t be housed there. You don’t want to go to the effort of creating content only to have some third party (like Facebook) decide to take it down or charge people for accessing it.

While you don’t want to build your cornerstone content on a media channel you don’t own, that doesn’t mean you don’t want to be on other people’s channels.

If your cornerstone content is targeted and tied to your point-of-view, and you’re consistent in creating smaller pieces of content from that cornerstone, you’re going to get noticed.

That’s all you need to get invited onto other people’s channels.

One of the key elements about being an authority is that you don’t want everything to remain on your owned channels. You want to leverage other people’s spheres of influence, and when you appear as a guest on their show or whatever channel they own and control, now they’re endorsing you, telling other people how smart you are, and introducing you to an entirely new audience.

That amplification expands your audience exponentially once you have built the foundation that earns the invites. But they will roll in, in a variety of ways.

You’ll be invited to:

  • Speak at conferences
  • Be a guest on podcasts
  • Write bylined articles for publications
  • Sit on a panel of experts
  • Serve on a board
  • Write a regular column
  • Teach a class
  • Be part of a webinar series
  • Be interviewed as a source by the media

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

On occasion, your cornerstone channel will shift. This shouldn’t be because you’re getting bored or are indecisive. It should be driven by your audience, reactions to your efforts, and potentially, media consumption trends.

The content itself doesn’t shift, but how you deliver the content might.

When I started executing this authority strategy for Predictive ROI, book writing was my cornerstone channel. I was creating a lot of content for publications and was being published in publications like Forbes, The Washington Post, Inc. Magazine, and other media about once a month.

And much of that content was sliced and diced off of my books on search engine optimization and social media that I wrote while I was teaching at the university.

But then in May 2015 — when we ran into revenue challenges at Predictive — and that pushed my team and I to launch the Onward Nation podcast as part of our pivot.

And the growth of the podcast quickly eclipsed my written content and took over as our cornerstone content channel. And then we have added some cobblestones into the mix with our YouTube channel, weekly emails for our community, as well as conference presentations. And — we’ve even worked the cornerstone content process backward…with several episodes being instrumental in helping me write our bestselling book, Profitable Podcasting…and after 3-years…is still one of the best selling podcasting books on the market.

For a complete breakdown on how to create cornerstone content — I encourage you to go back to my solocast in Episode 676 of Onward Nation.

Okay — let’s come full circle and bring this in for a landing. Nothing about this recession has been — or will be easy. To come roaring out of it on the other side will take a lot of hard work, discipline, and generous spirit in doubling down to be helpful.

But if you do — the data is on your side. If you take this time and commit to building your authority position…you will put yourself and your business in the best possible position when the sun begins to shine once again.

This is the time, Onward Nation for you to grab hold of those silver linings — they are there — if you’re willing to look hard enough.

Thanks for taking the time to be here and for sharing a portion of your 86,400 you have today…with me.

I’m grateful and I look forward to you being back for our next episode.

Until then — double down — and onward with gusto!


Stephen Woessner

Stephen is the CEO of Predictive ROI and host of the Onward Nation podcast. He is the author of two bestselling books, speaker, trainer, and his digital marketing insights have been featured in SUCCESS, Entrepreneur, The Washington Post, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, and other media.