Build Your Expert Status to "Tip" Your Audiences in Your Direction
By Adele Sommers

Why is developing one's "expert status"
so important in business positioning
these days? Because as consumers, our
ability to focus our attention has reached
an all-time low due to the overwhelming
deluge of information and advertising
that we're contending with today.

We frequently find ourselves scurrying or authoritative advice on what to think, do, or
buy. We have little time to do this for ourselves, so we lean on know-it-all experts, or
"mavens," to direct our scarce attention. This article offers a three-stage process for
building a maven reputation in your field.

Stage 1: Identify a Role You Can Play as a Maven in Your Domain

Malcolm Gladwell helped popularize "mavens" in his blockbuster study of social
trend setting, "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference."

Gladwell posits that a maven is someone who gathers extensive information on a
subject, and knows exactly to whom to deliver it. Because mavens are continually
seeking knowledge and love passing it along to others, they contribute much of the
fuel behind the tipping point formula, in which ideas, products, messages, and
behaviors ultimately explode into "word-of-mouth epidemics."

What kind of positioning would you like to have? Think about how the "experts" you
hear, watch, or read about today package their messages. Each may have a distinct
"persona," or character profile, that makes him or her stand out. A few of the many
"maven personas" you could adopt are:

* Researcher - who filters, assembles, and delivers cutting-edge information
* Contrarian - whose unusual or controversial convictions intrigue audiences
* Intellectual - whose education, knowledge, and experience create authority
* Futurist - who predicts emerging trends that can shape people's decisions
* Synthesizer - who collects and integrates information from many sources
* Cross-pollinator - who sees interconnections among ideas in diverse fields
* Common person - who's "just like us" and has solved our burning problem
* Advocate - who fights for an audience's interests and keeps them informed

Stage 2: Identify One or More Potential "Audience Personas"

In this stage, you focus on the audiences with whom you are trying to connect. To
begin, brainstorm the types of general audiences you already serve, or might want to
serve. The more narrowly you can define your domain, the better.

Many people would stop there, without drilling deeper. Within each domain,
however, lies a range of specialized sub-audiences who could be drawn to specific
aspects of what you have to offer. They comprise distinct, and possibly separate,
slants or perspectives that your offerings and marketing outreach eventually might

Whether or not you already have an audience base, start by identifying one or more
fictitious characters who represent your specific audience, and who will become your
"audience personas." These personas portray typical consumers of your information,
product, service, Web site, or whatever you will be developing. You might identify
three to five or more personas to explore in depth.

To make them as realistic as possible, give your personas names, genders, ages,
professional or personal roles, friends and families, hobbies, educational
backgrounds, and major challenges.

Persona identification is especially important when no specific client or customer
exists, such as when developing something for a nameless, faceless mass market. It can
also, however, work extremely well when working with a client, to help pinpoint
specific kinds of concerns and options that would not have been readily apparent.

Stage 3: Create Your Offerings and Promotional Materials

To establish a strong connection between the "maven" and "audience" personas you've
identified, consider the following:

1. Choose a "maven" voice or perspective, particularly for information-based products
(for example, researcher, expert, advocate, contrarian, futurist, synthesizer). This is the
role you're adopting for yourself as the idea-person in your market. Select this
approach based on what you feel most comfortable with and how well it would
sustain the attention and interest of your audience.

2. Choose a framework for presenting ideas, such as problem/solution, chronological,
modular, numerical, or compare/contrast frames of reference.

3. Develop an outline, proposal, or specification, and fine-tune as needed.

4. Prepare the first and subsequent drafts of the content, proof, or prototype. For
information products, if you can imagine having an informal conversation across a
kitchen table with one of your audience personas, you can explain even complex ideas
in a clear and engaging way.

5. Then ask a group of trusted colleagues to review or beta test your material, and also
help you derive a snappy, memorable title.

Now you're ready to start promoting!

In conclusion, whether you seek customers, clients, subscribers, partners, affiliates, or
investors, strategically building your expert status by connecting your "maven" and
"audience" personas will help tip your audiences in your direction, and set you apart
as the undisputed champion of your cause.

About the author: Adele Sommers, Ph.D. is the author of the award-winning "Straight Talk on
Boosting Business Performance" program. She helps people "discover and recover" the profits
their businesses may be losing every day through overlooked performance potential. To sign up for
more free tips, visit her site at

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