Our book, The Visible Expert®, explores the many ways the personal brands of highly visible experts boost the profile and success of their firms. The research behind The Visible Expert draws on a study of more than a thousand professional services purchasers, as well as the experiences of some of the best-known experts in the professional services world.
In this post, we’ll take a look at some personal branding examples from different professional services industries, including finance, architecture, and marketing. Which tools and techniques have high-visibility experts used to take their reputations to the next level? We’ll look at four techniques our research has found to be most powerful for personal branding, and show how real experts used those platforms to get ahead.
- Content marketing (blogs, articles and more)—One of the most effective ways for a professional to share their specific expertise with the marketplace is through educational content: blogs, magazine articles, videos, and other forms of content designed to teach audiences useful skills and lessons related to their industries.
- Writing an authoritative book—Our research revealed a powerful secretto building one’s personal brand: if you want to grow your visibility more quickly, write a book. Indeed, experts who wrote authoritative books on their industries tended to rise in prominence more quickly than others.
- Speaking engagements—For rising Visible Experts, speaking engagements can be invaluable, placing them center stage in front of an audience of industry leaders and influencers.
- Specialization in a niche—You will likely note a trend in our various personal branding examples below. All of the Visible Experts we mention are, to one degree or another, specialists. And it isn’t a coincidence: Our research shows that the fastest-rising experts tend to specialize. Our research also shows that specialization is a top trait buyers value most.
It’s not hard to understand why specialization is so powerful. It differentiates you from competitors, helps you focus and define your audience, and makes it easier to attain visibility as an authority in your particular area—as long as you have the expertise.
Ready to learn the secrets from these personal branding exemplars? Let’s get started.
Personal Branding Example #1—Alan Weiss, PhD
Alan Weiss is a preeminent expert in the consulting field. He acts as a consultant to consultants, and is widely respected as an author and a speaker. Today, his practice serves Fortune 1000 clients, such as The New York Times Corporation, Mercedes Benz, GE, Hewlett-Packard, and Merck. Throughout his career he has made masterful use of all four techniques proven to raise his visibility as an expert and build his personal brand.
How did he build his profile to its current status? While consultants are often wary of sharing their knowledge or intellectual property, Weiss took a different approach. He embraced the idea of sharing his expertise, and did so across many different channels.
“You never know what will appeal to different people, so spread it out,” Weiss tells us. “Try using video, blogs, real books, white papers, and webinars.” By creating content that helps his audience better contextualize and understand their problems, Weiss creates a lead generation framework in which clients seek out his highly visible expertise.
Alan Weiss generated similar benefits with his major book, Million Dollar Consulting—the book that launched him to even greater fame in the consulting industry.
Personal Branding Example #2—Jay Baer
Jay Baer, president of the digital marketing consulting firm Convince and Convert, helps high-profile clients like Salesforce and Oracle employ content marketing strategies—and he practices what he preaches. Baer is an active blogger and social media presence. He also hosts webinars and co-hosts the podcast Social Pros. He points out that content marketing efforts tend to be mutually reinforcing.
“The things I do on social media,” Baer says, “drive traffic to the blog. Once you’re on the blog, you might subscribe to our newsletter. Or you might book me for speaking or download a webinar.” When used strategically, content marketing can act as a complex machine that raises an expert’s profile and attracts an ever-increasing audience.
Jay Baer’s second book, the New York Times bestseller Youtility, helped secure his status as an industry all-star. The book was “very impactful,” he says, helping to create new speaking and business opportunities. Baer’s book not only established his authority and credibility in the digital marketing space, but staked out new ground and helped guide the industry forward. This kind of leadership helps set Visible Experts apart from the rest of the pack.
Jay Baer has likewise invested a great deal of energy in speaking engagements. In fact, he averages about 60 speaking events a year, in addition to dozens of webinars. By speaking for key industry audiences, Baer has not only built his visibility and spread his ideas, but forged direct connections with decision makers around the world. Speaking engagements take time and energy, but by choosing the right engagements an expert can put themselves in front of focused, highly relevant figures in the marketplace.
Personal Branding Example #3—Ted Sarenski
Ted Sarenski is a financial planning and wealth management expert at Blue Ocean Strategic Capital. He learned this value of speaking engagements quickly.
“In the early 2000s,” he says, “I was on the executive planning committee for AICPA (American Institute of Certified Public Accountants). They started a conference on financial planning and they needed someone to speak on social security, and I said I’d do it. I read the social security manual cover to cover and threw myself into doing a great presentation. That first year there were 500 attendees at the whole conference, and I had 250 of them in my workshop.”
Today, Sarenski’s workshops draw even larger audiences. A recent conference saw more than 1,100 attendees. Speaking on social security has become a specialty for Sarenski, delivering both press attention and additional speaking requests.
It may have been serendipity that Ted Sarenski also identified a niche full of opportunity. In the wake of his accounting firm’s merger in 1997, Sarenski created a focused investment management division, which was a swift and tremendous success. “By 2007,” says Sarenski, “65% of the division’s business was coming internally from my division, and 35% from the other 11 partners.” Within a year, Sarenski bought out his partners and formed Blue Ocean Strategic Capital.
Personal Branding Example #4—Sarah Susanka
Sarah Susanka is a widely-respected architect and she built her reputation by specializing in the residential market. “There were very few large successful residential architecture firms doing single-family work. This struck me as strange,” she says, “because I knew that most people were fascinated by house design. There had to be a way to make services available and reasonably priced to reach them.”
This recognition of an unfilled niche was the genesis of her firm—and ultimately, her career as an author, speaker, and Visible Expert. Sarah launched her reputation into the stratosphere with the release of her book, The Not So Big House. Previously known primarily in Minnesota, Susanka’s book carried her reputation around the world, landing her interviews with Oprah, Diane Rehm, and Charlie Rose.
“The book caused a huge shift in my life,” she says. “I thought there would be an audience for it, but I didn’t realize how big. It was incredible to watch how, within 3 months of publication, I went from being known only in Minnesota to being known internationally.”
These personal branding examples illustrate some trends that are consistent throughout the marketplace. When rising experts specialize in a niche and share their knowledge through a variety of channels – particularly books, speaking engagements, and other forms of educational content – they give themselves a strong foundation on which to build their personal brand. By sharing useful expertise with the marketplace, experts can take the steps necessary to make themselves visible…and eventually to become superstars in their fields.
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