The Six Best Avenues to Demonstrate Your Expertise

You have something your client needs--how do you deliver that effectively? (Read the last blog post on combining your expertise with the client's for the right partnership.)

Here are the six best avenues to deliver your expertise to an agency prospect or client:

  1. Questions. Asking good questions is the simplest way to demonstrate your expertise. One key skill account people have is teasing the right information out of the client's head. Experts know what to ignore and what to capture, and they can gently guide conversations to meaningful conclusions. This is one of the three primary skills of the best account people, and also why it's the most difficult job in an agency. Remember that no good answer starts without a good question.
  2. Answers. Back at the studio, the account planners and analysts and researchers should answer those same questions, but sometimes provide different answers. You should expect a client to ask any question they like, and (without hesitation) there should be a ready answer, or a promise to find one. If a client tests you with good questions and your answers pass the smell test, they'll relax and let you do your job. Early questions are a test; later questions are truly exploratory.
  3. Research. This is the kind of research that's meant to bolster insight around your expertise, apart from a specific client project. An accessible example of this is Google's Consumer Surveys tool. Recently I was preparing for a presentation about how agency leaders assess their own management abilities. After some initial screening of the respondents, each answered a simple question, on a seven-point Likert Scale: "how does your management ability compare to others." I exported the results to a freelance SPSS expert who found the causations and correlations and built a brief presentation for me. The total cost was $518 ($193 for the 176 survey responses and $325 for the analysis and building of the deck). But that allowed me to offer real insight into a fascinating aspect of management: self-assessment. You can see a copy of it here (see especially page 7).
  4. Interviews. When you are cited as an expert in someone else's article, it conveys a certain imprimatur of your work and influence. These will likely come from connections that you already have, but it's worth scouring Help a Reporter and ProfNet for specific queries to which you can respond. In addition to many dailies, I've been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, USA Today, Inc. Magazine, and then in Forbes again last week by Mike Maddock. It was a small mention, but you don't say: "I had a tiny mention in Forbes." No, you say "my work has been discussed in Forbes." That's how it works. In none of these cases was I looking for it. I never asked anybody for it. Each mention came because of a relationship or because I'm always writing and speaking and good things happen to people who are disciplined about that. In one case I took the time to write a helpful response to someone on Quora, and the managing editor of Fast Company took my answer and turned it into an article, verbatim, with attribution. Keep working at it and be helpful to people.
  5. Writing. Like speaking, writing implies certain things about your expertise. It gives you a platform, and once you have the platform it's yours to lose. It's much easier to get writing opportunities than speaking ones because there's little danger of embarrassing someone. Your contribution can be shaped or even pulled before the audience sighs with disgust.
  6. Speaking. Several assumptions accompany most speaking opportunities. First, someone of authority thought you would be a sound choice. Second, quite a few people want to hear what you have to say. Third, you not only have something to say but you know how to say it. Someone doesn't have to hear you speak to see you as an expert--they just have to know that you did. And if you aren't very good at it, concentrate more on telling people you did it than on trying to get them to attend! Here are some ideas for starter topics. Speaking covers your own seminar, someone else's conference, or webinars. Speaking feeds on itself far more than writing does, but you have to work farther in advance.

You'll never stand out in the agency world by doing better work. The client's you serve don't recognize better work, for one thing, and then they wouldn't be willing to pay a premium for it. No, what they do value is smarter thinking. Their environment is crammed with data that is not meaningful or actionable, and they need someone to cut through the clutter and guide them to a solution that makes them look like they know what they are doing. It's really just that simple. How good are you at doing that, every day? How successful have you been at monetizing skill?

Best wishes to you.

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