So, you’re self-employed. Maybe you’re an architect, a carpet cleaner, a landscaper, or a wedding planner. Could your business be doing better if you were known to be top in your field, niche, or region?
Debbie Allen says the key to succeeding in a fiercely competitive marketplace is to “position yourself as the go-to authority in your industry.” Allen is a business and brand strategist who teaches clients how to market themselves as experts and get paid highly for their expertise. Instead of competing on price, Allen recommends “education-based marketing” that persuades your potential customers of your superior quality.
In her new book, The Highly Paid Expert: Turn Your Passion, Skills, and Talents Into a Lucrative Career by Becoming the Go-To Authority in Your Industry, Allen, who calls herself "The Expert of Experts," shares her step-by-step approach to becoming a “superhero in your own niche.”
She argues that “just about anyone with experience, skills, and talent can break into this business as a consultant, coach, speaker, author, or industry expert" using her trademarked approach called “the Authority Domination Formula.”
Allen notes that the Internet, social media, video marketing, and print-on-demand have made it easier than ever for individuals to promote themselves as experts. Of course, those technologies have also made it easier for anyone to find what they’re looking for without consulting an expert. But Allen argues: "The Internet can only scratch the surface of the amount of information and guidance you can provide. Anyone who is serious about wanting to learn more about something will want to find the expert who will educate them in more depth.”
You might expect to hear that the prerequisite to becoming a trusted and highly paid expert is, well, to possess expertise in a unique area. But that’s not where Allen starts. Her book coaches readers to get over the fears that are standing in their way of being an expert, develop a positive attitude, master the mindset of an expert, invest in learning from other experts, and build their brands. Allen devotes a whole chapter to business card design because “your card will quickly showcase the level of success you have in your business.”
Being a novice, Allen says, is just the bottom tier on the expertise pyramid. It’s where you’ll have the most competition and command the lowest fees. But as you define your purpose, brand, and marketing message and gain clients, you’ll move up to more narrow tiers where you will be considered “skilled,” a “specialist,” an “authority,” and finally a “highly paid expert.”
Allen also shares how to be a “shameless self-promoter,” how to stay on target, what makes an effective expert website, and how to “dominate online" (hint: if typing your own name into a search engine doesn’t turn up your brand in the first page of results, you’re not dominating, she advises). She recounts how her appearance on Howard Stern's radio show propelled her 2001 book, "Confessions of Shameless Self-Promoters," to the top of Amazon's bestseller list that day. Stern challenged her claim that she could make anyone shamelessly famous, asking, "If you can make anyone famous, how come I haven't heard of you?" She replied, "I'm on your show and you know who I am now, right?" Touché.
One thing Allen doesn’t address is what exactly qualifies someone to call herself an expert. Years of experience? Advanced degrees? Proven successes? A roster of referrals? That’s up to the reader to figure out. But once you do, there’s another step she recommends toward becoming a recognized authority: Write a book. It worked for Allen.