In every business, there’s an element of repetition. The same questions and themes come over and over again with clients and your community.
A biggie for my work is the theme of expertise or authority. From giving people permission to helping them be more confident to simply giving them the nudge they need to assert their expertise it happens every single day.
Which is why when I got this question I stopped dead in my tracks:
How can multiple people be the #1 authority or the “leading” authority on a given issue?
Damn good question. My math skills are not all that hot, but if there’s a #1, there needs to be a #2. And all y’all can’t be #1. It’s sort of like saying you won the Oscar when you’re actually a nominee.
Welcome to the unbridled BS of the expert economy! If we’re going to talk about being an authority, I’m going to now declare myself as the #1 authority on the BS around authority. (*Badge on my website to follow.)
In all seriousness, authority is a tricky business. Because we’re all being taught that anyone can be an expert. That ANYONE can be an authority.
But you know who teaches that? People who make their living teaching people how to be experts for ridiculous sums of money. Experts teaching people how to be experts, is for one, pretty freakin’ meta. And, can you truly trust someone who’s business is turning people into experts at $5k or more a pop?
The shiny happy core of these teachings is that we all have expertise, which I don’t dispute whatsoever. I work with people every single day to help them take their business (which they’ve built on around their expertise) and step into their role as an expert with confidence, knowledge and hopefully some grace.
Where the big old breakdown happens in the expert economy is the fact that people are crowning themselves experts on things they really and truly are not experts on. They just need to find something to commoditize on the road to livin’ the dream of 4 hour work weeks and jetting around the world.
Becoming an expert is not an overnight thing. It’s not a recipe or a formula. It’s hard won wisdom that truly qualifies you.
Stick a fork in me friends. I’m done with BS expert talk.
[Tweet “Stick a fork in the expert BS talk. @magspatterson is done.”]
The Makings of True Expertise
Expertise is not something you magically gain at a weekend seminar in an exotic and sunny locale as you study with the big name experts on being experts. It’s so much deeper than that.
The true makings of expertise are a combination of experience + results.
You don’t need 10 years of experience, but to say you’re an expert, you simply can’t do something once and then solemnly declare that you’re the world’s leading authority. Experience means you’ve done “your thing” over and over to prove it out. That you’ve been through the good, bad and ugly and know all the permutations.
Doing something well once may very likely be the result of a fluke or a whole lot of luck. (Let’s not even talk about about how many people are teaching PR because they’ve personally had success. But good luck when things go bad, waaaay off message or a crisis occurs.)
Repeating success time and time again, is the show of expertise and subject matter knowledge that expertise should be measured against. Which is why on your website, in your content, everything you do, you should be showcasing your actual experience from training to credentials to amazing past or present work with clients/companies in your field.
Got a MBA? You’ve earned that sucker, don’t hide it because you fear looking stodgy or like a sell out. It shows me you can see things through and that you’ve got some solid training. You are, wait for it – reliable and qualified – which makes you stand out amid people who were too flighty to finish anything and entrepreneurship is another pitstop.
Next up, you need to able to prove what you’re saying is the honest truth. Having rock solid results that show you are legitimate and credible helps to set you apart quickly. If you want people to listen to you – you need to be able to prove that your stories aren’t fairytales.
I’m not talking about the “look at me – I was published on CNN” type social proof, but more about your entire body of work. This is the important stuff, that we often can overlook in a world of bold and brazen experts who claim to have what you “need”. The goal should be to cut through the hype and deliver the inside scoop.
This is where you can put on your private investigator hat and get down and dirty, because as my friend and client Racheal Cook says “success leaves clues”:
- What case studies do they have? Testimonials? Real results from people actually working with them/using the product or service? (And not just big name buddy lip service. Holy nepotism!)
- If you are making a bigger investment, can you talk to past clients, users or participants? (I personally will never invest more than $1k without this step ever again.)
- Those media logos – are there articles to back them up? Can you read them? Find them? Are they self-published or something that went through an editor? (More on that issue here.)
I know a lot of that sounds like common sense, but it’s too easy to forget that in the online world, we can say WHATEVER we want.
Common sense is too easily short circuited by copy that is designed to elicit an emotional response, tap into your neurolinguistic programming and make you immediately want what they are offering to you.
On top of all of that add in the personal branding/cult of personality element and no matter how smart we are, it’s easy to buy into what we are being told because we want to believe people are good and trust them to help us.
If you’re hearing the word expert over and over, they are likely overcompensating for lack of something. Real experts don’t need to say it. A good test suggested by my buddy Suzi Istvan is to look at if that “expertise” would hold up outside the expert economy? Get out of your bubble into the real world and then you’ll quickly know how much BS is backing up that expert.
What About YOUR Expertise?
If you’re personally working on asserting your expertise, you need to make sure what you say is verifiable and you aren’t just totally high on the promises of some coach who turns people into experts overnight.
Don’t fall in the trap and become a faux-pert. (Which is my new term for manufactured experts who really have no cred or experience. I’m feeling pretty clever, so if you’ve seen this before, please don’t burst my bubble.)
To show you are the real deal, start by being willing to back up what you say 110% percent. Because the best kind of clients are going to think “they are the #1 expert according to who?” and do you really want to work with people who aren’t clever enough to ask the right questions?
If you want to be an expert, you need to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. Talk is cheap and you’re so much better than that.
Hit me up in the comments below. I’d love to chat more about faux expertise, your pet peeves and this bold and brazen online world with too many #1 experts to possibly count.