You know what products and services you sell. And you know why you think they’re great. If you didn’t believe in your business, you wouldn’t have one. But have you ever stopped to think about why your audience should put the same faith and trust in your company? Beyond sales, why should people trust your business at all? Why do some companies gain people’s trust so quickly while others languish for years without a solid customer base? It all comes down to authority marketing.
Today, we’re looking at this marketing strategy and answering some of the most important questions about it to figure out if using it is right for your brand:
Authority marketing is exactly what it sounds like: a marketing strategy rooted in brand authority. Companies and individuals use authority marketing to position themselves as thought leaders on a topic or in an industry. People and brands with authority often have more influence over others’ thoughts and behaviors. If your company is an authority in its niche, your audience is more likely to listen to you if you tell them they just have to try your latest product or service.
Authority marketing is easier when you understand your company’s unique selling proposition. What makes your company, product, or service better than what’s already out there? When you know what makes your company different, you can use authority marketing tactics to show your audience and convince them of its value for themselves.
Author and entrepreneur, Adam Witty developed a concept called the Seven Pillars of Authority Marketing. According to Witty, if you want to develop the authority it takes to win over leads and maintain a strong customer relationship, you need to develop your company’s presence in seven different marketing and sales areas:
Branding is the marketing concept of giving your company—or your subject matter experts—an identity. The idea is to earn brand recognition from your target audience. When they hear your company name, you want them to associate it with certain values. When they see a specific logo, you want them to associate it with the company name and those values. Beyond that, when you establish your subject matter experts with their own identities, they become extensions of your company and its branding. When working on branding, some of the most important elements to develop include:
When you define and promote these areas of your company, you solidify that identity. Your organization is no longer a faceless group trying to make a buck. It’s a living, breathing entity people can get to know and trust.
Content marketing is one of the major vehicles you use to get your brand identity and opinions out into the industry and the world. Whether you’re publishing blog posts, sharing videos on social media, or running a podcast, there are plenty of options to choose from when creating content.
The more quality content you produce, the more chances your audience has to encounter and interact with your brand. When they like what they read, see, or hear, they’ll be more likely to come back for more. And when the content is helpful to them, they’ll be more likely to trust anything your brand tells them.
Hosting or sponsoring events is a great way to get your brand name out into the industry and bring people together for a common cause. The better and more helpful the event, the more favorable attendees will think of your company. If you can’t host your own event, attending ones put on by other organizations in your industry can work too. In the digital age, you don’t have to confine events to the real world. Besides conferences and trade shows, you may also send brand representatives to webinars, online panel discussions, or social media live-stream events.
Lead generation is more of the “endgame” of authority marketing, but it’s still one of the primary pillars. It’s easier to generate leads when your brand uses authority marketing and has clout in its industry. Life isn’t necessarily a popularity contest, but name recognition and trust can be everything in business. The best-known or most trustworthy option is likely going to get the most interest and traffic from new customers.
When you have authority, you don’t have to do as much hard selling to get people interested in your products and services. If someone with knowledge or power tells them what they need, they’ll listen. Look at influencer marketing on social media. Without leads, your business dies. No customers equal no company. But if you follow the other pillars of authority marketing, this one strengthens on its own.
What if we told you developing authority in your industry has less to do with what your company says about itself and more about what others say about the brand? People are more likely to believe your brand’s reputation than the information that comes from its internal team. Unfortunately, you don’t get to set your own reputation. You can just encourage it.
Getting positive press from media outlets is one of the fastest ways to grow or improve your brand’s reputation. But you can’t buy good PR. Earn it. Sending your press releases to the right news outlets, getting guest spots on well-known podcasts, or appearing in a good story on the nightly news can all help strengthen your brand’s authority in its industry and community.
Related: How To Create a Winning PR Strategy
Media outlets aren’t the only groups that can affect how the public sees your brand. Your leads, current, and past customers can, too. Referral marketing is the process of increasing your brand’s qualified leads when other people in your industry or audience recommend your brand to others. Even when they’re satisfied with something, it’s not always top-of-mind for them to run around and share it with other people in their lives.
Social media sharing and influencer marketing have made these practices more common, but it’s still a strategy that requires diligence. Requesting customer reviews online and collecting information for testimonials can help you with your referral marketing through digital channels, even if your brand lacks customer word-of-mouth marketing in the real world.
Related: The Importance of Using Testimonials
Authority has roots in knowledge. One of the best ways to show off your knowledge is to secure speaking engagements in professional settings for your best brand representatives. Speaking engagements help develop more authority than other types of content marketing because there is typically a vetting process to earn a speaking spot. Whether you’re a keynote speaker or on a panel, someone from the organizing committee usually asks you to take part.
Even with webinars and podcasts these days, anybody with a camera and a microphone can create them in their basement. Having that extra layer of external approval from another brand or a committee tells the audience that your brand is the real deal. Then, if you can knock it out of the park with your speech topic and information, you’ll build more credibility and authority that you can take with you to future speaking engagements.
Aside from building awareness and trust in your industry, there are other benefits to using an authority marketing strategy for your brand. They include:
Most of the seven pillars of authority marketing are no-cost or low-cost options for promotion, depending on your company’s resources. You can create content marketing in-house. It doesn’t cost your company anything to ask customers to leave reviews. Sponsoring an event may come with a small fee, but a high return on investment (ROI) to have your name and logo printed on all the event materials. When you don’t have to spend as much of your marketing budget to get exposure, you can save it for other purposes. For example, you might hire more team members or invest in better analytics tools.
None of the pillars of authority marketing promote black hat SEO tricks or spammy content practices. When you’re not tempted to engage in shady marketing practices, you can focus on quality. Less spam also provides a better user experience on your digital channels. This is another signal to your audience that your brand is credible and trustworthy.
As we already said, lead generation is a pillar of authority marketing, but it’s also one of the benefits and results. Though authority marketing can generate leads in the short term—like right after an event or speaking engagement—it’s also a long-term lead-generation strategy. Unless you do something to break it, this only strengthens your audience’s trust. And the content segment of authority marketing helps you leverage that trust for the future growth of your business.
Not only are you able to generate leads quickly, but you can use all the work you put into your authority marketing through content and SEO to keep a steady pipeline of interest even after the immediate buzz dies down.
Any business or agency can implement an authority marketing strategy to increase brand awareness and clout in its industry. Small businesses and startups may benefit most from trying an authoritative marketing strategy, especially in truly niche markets. If you’re in a market where nobody else has emerged as a front-runner, jump on authority marketing right away. If you can establish your brand as the authority in that niche, your company then sets the standard that all its competitors, and any new market entries, have to follow for success.
Brands in larger markets and niches can still use authority marketing, but it’s important to know who you’re competing for authority with. Joe’s Department Store, with one location in rural Indiana, won’t steal a bunch of authority from Target nationwide. But Joe’s Department Store could become the authority on department stores in its local area. The more you know about your industry landscape, the better you can determine who your authority competitors are and how you can position your brand as a more credible option to your audience.
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Though the seven pillars are a significant starting point for authority marketing, they’re actually not the most critical component of it. Most brands create good content. They’re active in their industry networks and they do just fine for recognition and sales. But they don’t hold the authority they could if they spent more time on brand promotion. You may think, “if we sponsor an event, isn’t that brand promotion?” Or, “If our best company rep speaks at a conference, isn’t that a promotion?” You’re not wrong, but you’re also not right either.
Creating content or sponsoring an event is a good first step. But you can’t just create something and expect people to stumble upon it and find it. That’s why we use SEO for online content marketing. That’s why social media is so popular for businesses these days. It’s why paid advertising exists at all. You have to take your content and all your marketing efforts one step further and promote, promote, promote!
Engage in content syndication to get your pieces out on other websites. If you have a team member speaking on a panel discussion, hype up the event on social media. You don’t have to make a hard sell for your products and services. But you need to push your authority marketing efforts to build brand awareness. That awareness prevents you from having to get super salesy when you want people to buy anything from or partner with your brand.
Related: A Guide to Business Promotion
Authority isn’t the same as fame. People and brands can be famous without authority. Companies can earn authority without achieving fame. When you engage in authority marketing, you’re signaling to your audience—and other companies in your industry—that you’re a trustworthy source of information. The more trust you build, the more solid you can make the foundation your business stands on.
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