As a business owner, you’re always looking for ways to attract new customers and grow your business. You probably spend money on marketing and advertising, but if you’re not also working to build authority, then you’re missing out on the one thing that can make the difference between success and failure.
Why Authority Matters for Local Business Owners
What is authority and why does it matter? When you make a decision about where to spend money, you take many things into consideration. You may look at things such as the quality of the product or service you are buying, the cost of buying it, and the ease with which you can make the purchase. Those are all important, but there is one other thing that can make a huge difference in purchasing decisions, and that’s authority.
A person who is considered to be an authority is someone people trust. Do you remember those old commercials for EF Hutton? They said, “When EF Hutton talks, people listen.” The intent of those commercials was to demonstrate that EF Hutton was an authority when it came to investing money – someone with broad knowledge who can be trusted to give reliable information and advice.
If you are a viewed as an authority in your industry, potential customers are more likely to reward you with their business than they would otherwise be. The things you say and do carry weight when you are an authority – and there are things you can do to build authority both online and offline.
Building Online Authority
Building authority online is not difficult, but it does require a time commitment from you. Here are some of the most effective things you can do to become an authority.
- Build an active and engaged social media following. If you let your regular customers know where you are active on social media and use paid advertising strategically, you can build an audience of people who are genuinely interested in what you share. It’s not enough simply to build a large audience. It is far better to have a small audience of people who are deeply engaged with you and your product – and likely to share your content with others – than it is to have a large audience that mostly ignores what you say.
- Share a combination of original content on social media and relevant content curated from other sources. The best sources are those that are from influencers and authorities in your industry, and you should always add a bit of your own commentary when you share. The message you send when you do this is that you are an authority who is qualified to comment on content from other authorities. Make sure that you always read content thoroughly before sharing it.
- Answer questions from your followers. As an authority, you must monitor your social media comments and be prepared to jump in and help people when it is needed. The more responsive you are, the more likely it is that people will view you as a resource. Not only is responding to questions a good way to boost customer service and build good will, it also gives you the perfect opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge and expertise.
- Start a blog and write about topics that are relevant to your niche. Blogging might seem somewhat old school at this point, but having a blog on your website serves a couple of important purposes. First, it ensures that you always have fresh content on your site, something that can help improve your rank on Google and bring you additional traffic. Second, it gives you a regular opportunity to share valuable information with your readers and show them why you are an authority, someone whom they can trust.
- Cultivate relationships with authorities and key influencers within your industry on social media and by reading their blogs. Just as you can build authority by sharing relevant information from other people, you can also build authority by speaking to other authorities. It increases the chances that they will reciprocate and share your content, and even a simple but helpful comment on an authority blog in your industry can bring traffic to your website and social media pages. Just make sure that you always link back to your website so that people know where to find you.
All of the above strategies can help you to demonstrate your knowledge and build online authority.
Building Offline Authority
While online activities get a lot of attention, any local business owner who relies on the community to stay afloat needs to build offline authority, too. Here are some simple things you can do:
- Participate in community events such as street fairs and celebrations. To be perceived as an authority, you must have name recognition. Even if you don’t sell a product that lends itself to being offered at such events, you can still find a way to be a part of it. For example, you might set up a booth where you can answer questions about your services and hand out something (mugs or pens, for example) with your company name on it.
- Look for conferences and other events within your industry and participate as a speaker. Not only does speaking in front of an audience give you automatic authority, but attending events is a very good way to meet other influencers within your industry and build relationships that can help you both online and offline.
- Consider hosting a charity event, especially if you can find a way to link it to your industry. For example, if you own a restaurant you might consider organizing an event that works to end childhood hunger or feed people who are homeless.
- Write an article for an industry publication. Many industries have a number of specialty periodicals that cater to professionals. Writing an article, or even sitting down for an interview with such a publication, can do a great deal to build your public profile and turn you into an authority figure.
- Teach a class at a local community college or adult education center. Teachers are authority figures, and teaching a class can be rewarding in and of itself.
- Enter competitions or obtain industry certifications and use them as trust symbols both in your store and online. When you get recognition within your own industry, it acts as a seal of approval that tells others that your work and products are to be trusted. For example, if a local magazine does a “Best of” issue every year, do whatever you can to get readers’ votes. You can frame the award and put it on display, thus showing everyone who walks into your business that you are viewed as an authority by the people who know you best – your customers.
As you can see, it may take a bit of effort on your part to build authority. However, the rewards you reap as a result may far outstrip the work that it took to get to a position of authority. When you are truly seen as an authority, people will flock to your business because they know they can rely on you – and that’s what you want.