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March 28, 2023 (Updated: May 4, 2023)
All companies want to be seen as experts in their fields. They want to achieve a standard of quality and build trust with their audiences so they can stay in business for years to come. But wanting these characteristics and earning them are two very different things. Building brand authority is the process that helps companies attain these characteristics and reputations from their audience and customers. Today, we’re looking at what brand authority is and answering some of your questions about how to earn it and why it matters for your company
Brand authority is the trust level an audience member, client, or customer has with your brand. It’s the reputation you earn from your audience and those who exist within your niche, like other companies. Most often, brand authority is relative to your niche. For example, Auto Zone or Napa may have a lot of brand authority in the automotive industry. But audience members aren’t looking to those companies when they have questions about which pet food to buy.
Brands with authority are the go-to companies in each niche. They’re the ones that start conversations and come up with innovative ideas that make clients and even other brands listen and take notice. That means with brand authority also comes brand influence. When you earn brand authority, your company receives perks like:
Brand authority matters because people like familiarity. They like creating bonds of trust and knowing that any information they get comes from reliable, truthful sources. Think about who you trust to give you recommendations and advice in your personal life: a parent, a spouse, a best friend, or maybe even a therapist. Why do you go to these people when you need guidance? It’s because they’ve either been in your situation before. Or, they understand you and know what to say or suggest to help you solve the problem you’re having.
Brands with authority fill those same roles for clients and consumers with retail or service needs. When you have questions about which replacement strings to get for your guitar, you’re more likely to go to Guitar Center or your local music store for advice. Those companies or brands have gained the reputation of experienced music professionals. They understand your problem and know what you need to solve it.
We’ve already explained that brand authority has roots in expertise. Being an expert doesn’t mean your brand knows everything there is to know about a niche. But it does mean that you understand what’s important to your audience and you put in the work to get them the answers they need. When you’re working to earn brand authority from your audience, there are specific areas where you can focus your time and attention to prove your expertise in your field. They include:
A brand is only as authoritative as its team members. Now, that’s not to say that to earn brand authority from your audience you have to have an entire team of professionals that have worked in your industry for 20+ years. Experts come in many different packages with a wide range of experience. When building your team, it’s important to consider what type of experience each member has.
Your content marketers should be expert storytellers who understand customer needs and pain points. Your IT team should be experts in web design and providing the best possible user experience with client-facing digital systems. Then your brand representatives and salespeople should be the ones with those long, tenured years of experience working directly with your products and services. They know how to prove the brand’s worth to clients and customers.
You also don’t need to worry about hiring all experts on your team. People who have the potential to become experts but don’t necessarily have all the skills can still join your company. Adding these people to your team allows you to mold and train them to be the kids of experts your company and clients need.
Even if you put together the most competent team of experts to work for your brand you might still have a hard time gaining authority from the inside out. Customers are more likely to trust recommendations that come from friends or even online reviewers over your company’s advertising or team recommendations. In fact, word-of-mouth marketing actually results in five times more sales than a paid marketing impression.
When you really break it down, it makes sense why interacting with your expert team and advertising materials isn’t enough to make the sale. Your team members work for the company and the majority of them probably enjoy their jobs. All of them likely enjoy earning a paycheck. Of course, these people are going to talk up a company and try to earn brand loyalty so they can keep their jobs. This is where client testimonials come in.
Current and former clients don’t owe your brand anything (unless they’re in some sort of corporate partnership with your company, but that’s a rare circumstance). Your clients can tell the truth about how well your products work or their experiences engaging with your company. What they say about your brand holds more weight than what your team members say on a sales call. Asking your top customers or clients for reviews that you can display on your website, use in a case study, or include in a promotional video may earn brand authority over all your team efforts.
Related: How To Write a Testimonial in 7 Steps
One of the key components of earning authority is to prove that you know what you’re talking about. Your team can do that through customer interactions. Your testimonials do that for people searching for reviews. But both of these paths target people at the bottom of the marketing funnel, those who are already ready to buy something from your brand. Content marketing is another way to build authority with audience members who aren’t ready to hand over their money just yet.
And what’s unique about content marketing is it shouldn’t make a hard sales pitch. It’s simply a way to share industry information with your audience. Content answers niche questions your audience has. It targets the things they search for, like, “what is brand authority?” When your brand’s content is helpful and trustworthy, that builds authority at the top of the marketing funnel.
Maybe your clients aren’t ready to buy something from you now. But when they get to that point in the marketing funnel, they’re going to remember the company that shared those helpful articles. They’ll return to your website or set up a call with your sales representatives to pursue the next steps because they already know your company and your team understand their needs.
The factors we listed above aren’t the only things that affect the success of your brand authority. The channels you use to share brand information and content matter, too. To build brand authority you have to put content and information in places where people are going to see it. For example, a wealth management company isn’t going to run a television advertisement on the Disney Channel or Nickelodeon. The target audience for the service doesn’t watch those channels regularly. When focusing on building brand authority in the digital space, here are some of the best places to share information:
In 2023, your company has to have a website. Some brands try to get away with just having a social media presence, but that’s not the best way to build authority. Websites are more user-friendly than social media profiles and they often let you have more control over the layout, design, and content you share. Plus, websites are better for content development, sharing, and appearing in organic search results online. The best authority-building websites include information about your business, your company’s contact information, and descriptions of all your products or service offerings.
Related: What Is an Authority Website and Why Should You Create One?
Just because having a company website is a better way to build brand authority doesn’t mean you should ignore creating business social media profiles. Sometimes, a company’s social media profile is what leads an audience to your website for more information. Many of your clients or customers spend time on social media, so these profiles help you gain brand awareness before proving your brand authority to new audience members. The most important thing to consider when choosing business social media profiles is where your audience spends time online.
Nursing homes probably don’t need a TikTok account but could benefit from a Facebook page. In contrast, a fashion brand for twenty-somethings may find its target audience spends more time on Instagram and TikTok than on Facebook or Twitter. Understanding which platforms best appeal to your target audience can help you create a more zeroed-in social media strategy that proves you know what’s popular and what’s relevant in your industry.
Related: Social Media Content Distribution: What You Need To Know
Appearing in organic search results might be the most important channel for gaining brand authority from top-of-the-funnel audience members. When your website or brand content appears in a featured snippet or at the top of organic search results for a query, that shows audiences that your content is the most relevant or trustworthy source on the topic. At least according to Google’s algorithms. The more frequently your brand content appears in these spaces, the more your audience will trust that your brand is a qualified source on these topics.
That knowledge trust then lends itself to trust in your brand when the searcher needs products or services, too.
Related: Organic Traffic vs Direct Traffic: What You Need To Know
The paid search versus organic search debate is a bit like the discussion we had above about expert team members versus testimonial content. Organic search is like your testimonials. Through a solid SEO strategy and expert knowledge, your brand earns a top spot in the algorithm. It’s the equivalent of Google telling searchers, “this brand knows what it’s talking about.” Paid search is more like hiring experts on your team and having them interact with clients and customers. That push of “we know what we’re talking about” comes from inside your brand.
With paid search marketing, you buy advertising space on the search engine results page (SERP) to have your website or content links appear for specific search keywords. Your team then tells your audience ” we know about topic X,” because your content appears for that query. Using paid and organic search together may be your best search strategy. It helps you gain as much brand awareness and authority as possible across multiple keywords and queries.
Related: Paid vs Organic Traffic: What Is Your Best Investment?
Brand authority and brand awareness work together to bring new clients to your company and keep them coming back. But they’re not the same things. Brand awareness often comes first. Your brand can’t gain authority in the industry if people don’t know it exists. Awareness often starts with your marketing channels and ad campaigns. Buying a radio or television advertising spot puts your brand name where people can see or hear it. Paying for a social media or search marketing ad campaign does the same thing.
But making people aware of your brand doesn’t automatically mean they’re going to trust your company or even explore it further. That’s where brand authority comes in. When people engage with your company, they want to see that you know what you’re talking about. Your audience wants to see expert advice from knowledgeable team members. They also want to see quality content that answers their questions and glowing reviews from past clients. These are the things that make them think your brand is the right choice for their solutions.
Earning brand authority may actually be easier than tracking if you’ve earned brand authority. Authority is an abstract concept. It’s qualitative rather than quantitative, which means you have to get more creative about how you track and measure the results. Some common ways to collect qualitative data, like that on brand authority include:
Some companies may also look at quantitative data that tracks brand awareness to give clues about how awareness is helping to build brand authority. These metrics include:
You might still wonder why it’s important to build brand authority. That answer is simple: brand authority leads to brand loyalty. When people trust your company, your team, and your content they want to come back for more. We said it before, people like familiarity. When people become loyal to a brand, they’re less likely to switch to another. They’re also more likely to recommend that brand to friends and family or leave a positive review online.
The more brand loyalty you earn, the more job stability you can offer your teammates. And the more you can count on your company to stay in business for years to come.
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