While surfing one of my favorite business forums last week, I realized something shocking. Most business owners have absolutely no “authority” in their market. No personal branding. No unique positioning. No influence over their niche.

These are some of the most powerful ways to stand out in a world filled with “noise…” And almost NOONE takes advantage of them. If you’re a business owner in a smaller market, read this article and apply the tactics today.

Because the smaller your market, the easier it is to dominate by building up your authority.

The Benefits Of Building Your Online Authority

The go-to “authority” in any niche has complete control over the market.

As opposed to something like a profitable ad campaign, landing page design, or sales page copywriting — which can all be copied, imitated, and reverse-engineered – authority is intangible. You can’t purchase thought-leadership. Because it is generated through hard work, relevant years of experience, and an in-depth knowledge of your target audience.

If you become the go-to guy for [insert your niche here], people will be more trusting of your advice, more willing to purchase your products, and more likely to share your content and ideas with their friends.

It’s really simple — building your online authority should be one of your main priorities. It amplifies every single piece of your current business strategy.

Why Is Authority Important For Online Business Owners?

One of the biggest advantages (and problems) with online marketing is that everyone has the power to control their own reputation. In the offline world of business, if you’re a scumbag, everyone will find out sooner or later and know not to trust you.

But online — it’s extremely easy to create a website, throw up some content and drive some traffic, and voila.. a new competitor has entered the playing field. For some long-time business owners, that’s a huge problem because they have to compete with every aspiring entrepreneur with a laptop and a domain name.

Often, these “wantrepreneurs” shouldn’t be taking money from people just yet.

For better or worse, this new competition usually:

  1. Has a lower quality product
  2. Doesn’t have enough experience or knowledge to be serving the market
  3. Isn’t offering enough value to their clients

And when they start to take your business — it’s a lose-lose situation for all of the involved parties. If you can prove that you provide more value to the market than these competitors…

It’s your ethical duty as an entrepreneur to regain market control, and help those potential customers from being swindled.

 How To Quickly And Efficiently Generating Market Leadership

It all comes down to positioning. This old saying really drives the point home:

In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

For most businesses, the target audience is highly uneducated to the intricacies of your market. They don’t know why YOUR product or service is better than the competition. And that’s a HUGE problem… because that means you could lose customers to a lower-quality competitor just because they are employing the latest marketing trick.

You need to demonstrate your authority, and earn respect from your market. Here are my top seven ways to accomplish that:

1) Become A Thought Leader

This is one of the best ways to differentiate yourself from the competition. Anyone can throw up a sales page… but very few people can articulate intelligent (unique) ideas about their market. A good example of this is the guys over at Moz. They dominate the SEO analytics market through thought-leadership.

Essentially, since their company is run by very knowledgable marketers, they are able to release an amazing amount of value through content marketing. This demonstrates their authority in the market and has led to their multi-million dollar growth year after year.

This strategy is so powerful because your competition can’t compete. The winner of the thought-leadership game is the person (or company) most qualified to give advice. If you don’t know what you’re talking about… it will show.

Important Tip: You need to have an opinion. Be polarizing, if the situation suits it, because people would rather look up to a real person that is relatable (albeit opinionated) than a drone that never shows emotion.

2) Be Noticed On The Top 5 Communities For Your Target Demographic

Another key to building your online influence is appearing in multiple communities. Don’t stick to your own website.. because you will miss out on reaching a very large portion of your market.

Find the top 5 (or more) communities for your audience. That could be:

  • Forums
  • Social media groups
  • Q&A sites (like Quora)
  • Other related blogs + influencer sites

Have an active presence in all of these places. (That’s why I said 5, don’t overextend. Focus on quality over quantity.)

That means adding serious value. Answer questions, help people, offer advice, etc… And people WILL notice. This isn’t an immediate process, but if you brand your profiles on these sites correctly, people will want to learn about you and your business. Slowly you’ll establish yourself as an authority figure.

Personally, I spend a significant amount of time following this exact strategy, and it has driven thousands of dollars in new revenue, gotten me into exclusive marketing opportunities, and created tons of networking opportunities with other entrepreneurs.

Important Tip: Don’t relegate yourself to communities. You can also get noticed by contributing to other “influencer” content marketing efforts in your market. Reach out, and try to appear on as many relevant podcasts, videos, books, articles, etc. that your audience will interact with.

3) Have Intense Passion For Your Product, Business and Clients

If you don’t have complete belief and passion for your business… who will?

This is a very important part of the process, because it shows in all of your marketing efforts (whether you do it consciously or not). If you don’t believe 110% in what you’re selling to customers… that’s a HUGE indication that something needs to change.

You’ll never be able to effectively brand yourself as an authority if your business doesn’t offer serious value to the world.

Ask yourself: Does my product (or service) provide value at least 10X greater than the cost to my clients. If the answer is no, you might want to go back to the drawing board with your product. This is the key to profitable long-term client relationships.

The lifetime value of a customer that is enamored by your products is massive, when compared to a business that sells lackluster products. 

4) Help People Without Charging For Your Time

One of the best ways to connect with your target audience is to get personal.

This is a bit of a “grass roots” approach to marketing — but it works. (Don’t believe me? Listen to Paul Graham on “doing things that don’t scale.”)

While you’re still growing your audience, offer free skype consultation sessions where potential clients can talk to you about their problems, and you can offer them valuable advice while asking for nothing in return. Nothing demonstrates trust (and makes people want to give you money) more than providing them insane value for free.

Important Tip: Don’t treat this as a time-waster. You’re the one who REALLY gets value from this experience. You get to talk to your target audience and hear their pain points. You get to hear them voice their problems in their own words.

Don’t understand yet? They will tell you EXACTLY what products or services would sell like crazy to your audience. (You just need to solve the “pain points” they bring up in conversation.) This is the best market research you could ever ask for… for free.

5) Work Harder Than The Competition

Another piece of the equation is how much effort you put into marketing. Often, businesses will base their efforts off the competition. So if your competition starts blogging… so do you. If you start advertising on TV, the competition follows suit.

This is an unbelievably ignorant way to approach marketing (and is probably costing you serious money). You need to be innovative… don’t worry, it’s easier than it sounds.

It comes down to putting in more effort into:

  • Testing new marketing channels
  • Optimizing your current marketing strategy
  • Putting out a larger amount of amazingly valuable free content
  • Putting more time into non-scalable projects meant to grow your authority

Important Tip: You need to get to a point where your business’ strategy is proactive versus reactive (like above). Your competitors probably don’t know what they’re doing so don’t copy them. Test new ideas (you want to know what doesn’t work, just as much as what *does* work), optimize your own campaigns, and provide massive value to your clients… that’s the key to increasing your profit each month.

6) Network With Other Influencers (Create A Mastermind)

Another way to crush any annoying competition is to network with other powerful businesses in your market. I don’t mean competitors (although there is a lot of potential new revenue in remarketing your competition’s past client list, and vice versa).

Network with other major influencers that are serving the same target demographic. So if you sell web design services, reach out to influencers in related niches like content marketing, programming, software and web app design… etc.

Connect with those influencers, and figure out a win-win relationship where you can cross-promote each other’s non-competing products or services. That way you can reach an entirely new audience, for much cheaper than traditional advertising, and you lose nothing from the venture.

Important Tip: Want to take this tactic to the extreme? Create some kind of mastermind community or network for this group. This could be as simple as a skype group, private forum, or a weekly phonecall where you all meet up and share strategies and help each other.

I’ve been doing this for a few weeks now, with a weekly mastermind group over google hangouts… and it’s been invaluable to my business growth. I’ve had mastermind calls instantly provide the perfect solution to a problem that had plagued me for months beforehand.

7) Prove It

Finally, when it comes down to the wire… you need to be able to prove your authority. That means you need to be 100% (if not more) of the persona you are marketing online. You need to actually have the experience, knowledge, and connections to back up your claims because there’s a chance you could get called out.

Be prepared to defend your claims and don’t be afraid to squash any and all insignificant opposition.

Prove your authority by adding social proof factors to your site:

  • Display “no-holds-barred” case studies prominently
  • Post your best testimonials all around your site (like your “about” page, blog sidebar, etc.)
  • Prominently display any logos of larger well-known companies that you’ve worked with
  • Have real pictures of you and other employees on the site
  • Show-off the size of your “tribe…” the amount of followers, email subscribers, likes, etc. that you’ve amassed

Important Tip: The social proof factors I mentioned above will have a significant impact on your conversions. Even indirectly, when people notice those factors, it will make them much more likely to listen to what you have to say… and respond to your calls-to-action.

Why It’s Easier Than Ever To Grow Your Online Authority

So what are you waiting for? If you’ve got the ‘chops’ to back up your business, get out there and start branding yourself like it. Start recapturing all of the lost revenue that’s going to less-ideal competitors… and guess what! They won’t even know how to respond.

It’s a win-win-win scenario… that allows ethical entrepreneurs to aggressively compete and grow their business, while providing serious value to the customer.

If you liked this article, please share it. It helps me know which topics I should cover in the future. Also feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions about building online authority through content marketing. I’m always happy to help out fellow entrepreneurs.