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Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2009 at 2:07 pm

Six Ways to Sell Your Expertise Online

By Brendan Regan
August 19th, 2009

expertMany of our clients are in the business of being Experts. Some are consultants, some are advisors, some highly-skilled professionals within their field. The challenge with using the Web to market one’s expertise is that the online world is full of charlatans, and most people who’ve hired a few “experts” have had at least one of them not live up to their claims and produce poor results.

Selling expertise face-to-face is quite bit easier. The true Expert’s skills come across in their body language, their confidence, their humility, and how they carry themselves. Most of this non-verbal communication isn’t accessible online, so how can you use the Web to market and sell your expertise?

Here’s six ways we’ve found, in no particular order:
1. Persuasive CopyOne of the biggest (unspoken) challenges of selling expertise is persuading the prospect that it’s OK for her to give up control. The risk (especially in the B2B market) is that you bring in an Expert, and they do such a good job that you yourself are out of a job! How do you know that the Expert will make you look good to your bosses instead of bad? No one wants to feel stupid, and no one wants to lose face, so overcoming this objection online is very tricky. Persuasive copy is probably the best way to solve it. Look at this copy from Jeff Sexton’s sample fitness/training website from his post.

p.s. Once, a very long time ago, when I had just gotten my license, I was with my father in a rather [expletive] of a snow storm in the mountains of North Carolina in my new car.   The weather was awful and I was scared to death… and I’m not ashamed to admit that.  We were seriously in danger of sliding off the edge of the mountain.   Then, I remembered something he had told me years ago when I was a kid.

He taught me that if you’re ever in a situation where you happen to be traveling in a DANGEROUS situation, give the controls of that vehicle to the person with you who is most skilled at operating a vehicle under those types of conditions.   That means you should not necessarily take control yourself… or to give them to the person that’s been driving the “longest”… or to the person that has the most driving “certifications”…

You should give the wheel to the person who is BEST at navigating that car through that particular dangerous terrain.

So, rather than let my pride possibly take my car away from me:

I gave the controls to my new car in that dangerous situation to my father!

In this situation… ask yourself… “Who should I give the navigational controls to?”

See how the copywriter used a parable to let prospects learn it’s OK to give control to an expert who can handle a particular situation?

2. Video Testimonials – We talk about testimonials all the time on this blog, but text-based testimonials are intrinsically “fake-able,” and some skeptical prospects may dismiss them as less than real or authentic. We’re not sure why more companies aren’t leveraging video testimonials, which are a lot harder to fake. When someone believes in their heart that you’re an Expert, and they’ve placed their trust in you, that emotion should come across in a good video.

3. Search Engine Optimization – Let’s face facts…buying a Pay Per Click ad to tell me you’re an expert isn’t very persuasive. Seeing you (or even your name) a few times on the first page of organic search results is. There aren’t many businesses that don’t need to be working on their SEO, but if you’re selling expertise, you’d better be putting some resources towards showing up organically for your target keywords. NOTE: Proceed with caution–overly-aggressive search optimization practices can hurt your credibility with searchers AND search engines!

4. Have a credible web presence – there’s a whole field of study around online credibility, so I won’t spend much ink on this, but it’s worth mentioning that the credibility of your design, content, and even your social networking accounts will definitely have an impact on your ability to market your expertise.

5. A Good Track Record – Maybe this one goes without saying, but make sure your prospects can find your “track record” — your case studies, before and after comparisons, etc. And please don’t make them submit a lead form to get to them. Put the content out there and if they’re interested, they’ll reach out to you.

6. Publish or Perish – Somewhat related to numbers 3-5, what I mean by “publish or perish” (apologies for jargon from Academia) is that you have to be constantly proving and re-proving your expertise. Especially in the technology space, just because you were an Expert 18 months ago doesn’t mean you are now. So make sure that your case studies stay fresh. Keep updating your website to deal with hot topics in your field, and when you don’t have time to do either one, you’d better be blogging or micro-blogging. If you give out a strong, consistent signal, prospects gravitate towards you. If you get lazy, they’ll flounder around for a bit, then follow the newer, stronger signals.

[Ed.: If you didn't already know, FutureNow is the acknowledged Expert in the conversion optimization space. To prove we take our own advice, check out our website to see how we apply these same six principles to our own online efforts.]

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Comments (39)

  1. Brilliant summary and a timely reminder! 3 of the 6 I can be working on straightaway. I think written testimonials from identifiable businesses work well too.

  2. With respect to your point number 3,I would agree with you that SEO has become soul of an online business.

    And yes reputation always plays a big part.

    Besides “publish or perish” is an all important thing to continue.Keep doing the great job.Just like you all are doing.

  3. [...] edge makes a big difference. Brendan Regan, a persuasion analyst (a what?) at futurenow, gives you six ways to sell your expertise online. I think his advice is [...]

  4. Very good advice, although it takes a lot of time and dedication to build most of these things up.

  5. Great things to know. It must be of great help for new search engine optimization professionals as well as an intermediate SEM SEO person. This is a must read post.

  6. I really think you’re particularly right on your point no.2. We’re all being witnesses of the giant steps towards a more integrated real multimedia experience over internet, and video is now really ubiquitous compared to just a few years back, now with an improved capability both in terms of quality, resolution and deliverability, thanks to better video compression algorithms and increased availability of broadband everywhere. Video offers a better package for this particular purpose, and I think we’ll only see more and more video testimonials as time goes by.

  7. Great analogy with navigating a car in a snow storm. The weather conditions (site development and promotion) are dynamic and you need someone who has established references and current skills in an ever changing environment. Thanks for the very relevant tips.

  8. I would add and emphasize (due to my experience) submitting articles in your area and about your specific niche. You may gain a professional exposure.

  9. Nice article. I have some expertise in web design and graphics but I never sell my expertise. Doing those projects are a past-time for me. I simply help out people who have similar goals and know a bit about what they are doing. By doing this I get some great connections with people all over, rather than strictly business connections. I love doing this. I am always rewarded, even though its not in cash

  10. This a very interesting topic going on here…Really learning alot from these free online resources…Hope some more god content like this will come online so we can all grab the most of it…

    But, my question is, how to encourage experts to share their expertise for free ? should I look for retired internet marketers ?

    Thanks for this great job…

  11. By doing this I get some great connections with people all over, rather than strictly business connections

  12. Even though I have respect Number 3, can you please enlighten me why some companies which rank first on google, pay as well on Adwords to be first on the PPC side?

  13. @Dubai: What you’re describing sounds like a bad idea; not sure why a company would do that unless they were trying to hit some very short-term business goals.

    I have, however, read that it’s a good idea to bid on your brand name even if you rank #1 in organic for branded terms.

    Other readers may have more insights than I do :)

  14. All great tips but I love the comment about PPC ads…it made me laugh! A really good internet presence DOES include all the things you mentioned. Thanks for posting.

  15. I agree with number 2. Video testimonials can increase credibility and trust. However, there is a new company called Authenticated Testimonials (http://www.authenticatedtestimonials.com) that can verify text-based testimonials from satisfied clients. Once a testimonial is verified (authenticated), they provide a trust seal which appears next to each authenticated testimonial.

  16. “just because you were an Expert 18 months ago doesn’t mean you are now. So make sure that your case studies stay fresh. Keep updating your website to deal with hot topics in your field, and when you don’t have time to do either one, you’d better be blogging or micro-blogging. “. It is a really good point. One needs to be constantly on top of the game.

  17. Very good advice, although it is not so simple

  18. I think point #4 may gain prominence in the future with respect to the credibility of your social network accounts.

    I know that I for one will try to find out what I can about prospective experts and others by searching for them on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

    Therefore, it pays to be professional at all times doesn’t it!

  19. Publish or perish. I need to put those words on my laptop. I know the importance of writing articles, but can never seem to do it. Maybe publish or perish will finally encourage me to do it.

  20. Great post & I totally agree with your idea, Especially i admire the 6th point. I think saying i am expert is not enough, you have to show & show continuous progress to prove that you are really deserving expert in your field.

  21. Point #3 make good sense. Since if you are selling something and can’t be found with the organic SERP little chance you are an expert.

  22. [...] Source:Six Ways to Sell Your Expertise Online Share and Enjoy: [...]

  23. this is really useful information.
    After reading it,i know how to be an expert.
    it’s like you have to keep making progress in your field.

  24. Had a bad experience with SEO company who spams and spins articles that failed in copyscape. The content of your article is very informative, though, one must also be careful in delegating tasks to ‘experts.’

  25. Video advertising should be number one! Nothing is better at selling yourself short of a in person meeting.

  26. Useful article, I will use it in my work.

  27. I agree about video advertising, it’s especially important for lawyers.

  28. Thanks for the useful information, especially on the copy of a website.

  29. “Publish of Perish”

    That puts it perfectly. With the changes in the internet taking place at such a rapid place, one must must must continue to learn and publish if they are to remain a competitor.

  30. I completely agree with these steps.
    When I’m looking for an expert, the first thing I do is to get recommendations from people I know. So another way to better sell yourself as an expert is to somehow get your satisfied clients to go ahead and spread the word about you. If some one has ideas how to do that, I would be happy to hear :-)

  31. I agree that Video Testimonials have a great potential for prospective customers. Video helps to visualise the Expertise especially since customers may not have direct contact with sellers. It’s more interactive.

  32. I think point #3 (SEO) may gain prominence in the future with respect to the credibility of your social network accounts.

  33. Incredible advice, this will surely dramatically increase conversion ratio’s! Great post.

  34. Here’s my number 1 tip for selling your expertise online. Stop reading blogs and spend your time publishing great quality content. There’s no real shortcuts. It takes a lot of work to create content and start building your online income.

  35. Video testimonials are a great idea. Written testimonials are near-worthless as they are viewed as fake by most visitors. The obstacle is that it will be difficult to get many people to do them.

  36. The fourth Point, having an online presence is one of the most important points to sell your expertise online. If you are well known, and have a good reputation, of course that you will be more successful in selling your expertise online.

    Regards
    Jason :)

  37. How about through blogging for others? I find writing for reputable blogs is a great way to build your presence

  38. I completely agree that text testimonials are more fake-able and video testimonials are more credible. There is a recent study by marketingexperiments.com that shows a 25% increase with text testimonials and a 200% increase with video testimonials.

  39. I don’t have any doubt in SEO and video testimonials, I think this two will work great to increase your presence

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