#147: How to Position Yourself as an Expert (Without Feeling Like a Fraud)

As your business grows, it’s important that you begin attracting prospects and building your authority.

Prospecting is still key. But there’s nothing like having prospects knocking on your door.

Especially when the prospect has read some of your articles or blog posts … and liked what they saw.

In today’s episode you’ll hear from someone who built their software business on this idea.

I’ve found that there’s great value in stepping outside of traditional freelancing and seeing how other types of businesses do things—and how you can incorporate some of these ideas into your own practice, regardless of your experience level.

That’s why I wanted to bring Josh to the show. Enjoy this conversation about the power of writing helpful content to build your authority and generate quality client leads.

The notes that follow are a very basic, unedited summary of the show. There’s a lot more detail in the audio version. You can listen to the show using the audio player below. Or you can subscribe in iTunes to get this show delivered straight to the Podcasts app on your smart phone, tablet or iPod.

Tell us about yourself and what you do today

Josh Haynam loves inventing things of all kinds. He considers himself more of a builder than an entrepreneur. Over the years, he’s started three or four companies.

For the past four to five years, he’s been running Interact, a company he started in college. Today, Interact has about 45,000 customers.

You’ve been very purposeful about positioning yourself as an expert. How did it start?

It started out of necessity. When Josh first started Interact, he did outreach for eight months and had no sales to show for it. So he decided to go back to the creation process, which felt more natural to him.

He started creating content around online quizzes, which was pertinent to his product and something he knew a lot about. He wrote articles about how to use quizzes for marketing, research and surveys.

This content creation ended up working. People would sign up for his quiz building service because of the content he had created around it. In fact, some of his articles from 2013 continue to drive sales.

Where were you posting these articles?

Josh started by posting generic marketing articles on his company’s blog. These were actionable, simple posts that would help people develop a strategy. Topics along the lines of “72 Blog Post Ideas You Can Use” or “33 Lead Generation Ideas You Can Use to Generate Business.”

Eventually, he switched to a “boring content strategy,” where he wrote content that would be boring to everyone except for the exact people he was targeting. An example: “How to Make a Personality Quiz for Your Food Blog.” Only five people may read it, but all five would be deeply interested.

These articles ended up attracting big companies (such as Forbes and the American Red Cross) because they needed expert advice in this narrow area.

Writing about things you do (or know) well is a great way to pierce barriers with prospects.

Sometimes it doesn’t take much to become an expert. For some projects, such as writing white papers, it only takes two or three projects to become a mini-expert where you know more than your clients.

What’s your process for creating content?

Start by building your foundation and developing your self-confidence. Talk to other writers. Find out what process they use.

Then spend some time reading. Read books about writing and the process of writing.

Once you’ve laid this foundation, commit to writing a certain number of words per day or for a certain amount of time per day.

You’ll also need a coach. If you’re writing for others, your coach is the editor. If you’re writing for your own blog, your coach is the feedback you get.

When you structure your practice this way, it’s less daunting. Your writing doesn’t have to be good. But with practice, it will become good.

Where do you get ideas for your articles?

When you’re writing for a specific audience, it comes from conversations with people. You use the articles to answer questions that people ask. You can turn any question into a 1000 word blog post.

Write down questions that clients ask you. Or client objections that you can turn into questions. Or a client’s concerns. Save them to Evernote or write them in a notebook.

Then, when you sit down to write, you have some ideas at your fingertips.

Books and publications can be a great source of content ideas. You may have a different perspective or angle. You’re not stealing the content, you’re just stealing the idea.

The more you write about a topic, the more of an expert you’ll become on that topic. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle.

What advice do you have for writing guest posts?

You should get comfortable writing for your own site before you start pitching guest articles. Pick two of your best pieces to use as examples.

Consider how your piece will help the guest site. Use tools (such as BuzzSumo) to find the most popular pieces on their blog that relate to your topic. Then say, “I see that these pieces were popular with your audience. I can write something similar. Here are some examples of my writing. Would you be interested?”

Or you can go straight into your idea and explain how it would be useful to their audience.

This is very different than just saying, “Hey, do you want me to write a guest blog?”

Blog owners get annoyed with pitches that are irrelevant to their audience. If you do some research, your pitch will stand out.

Are you a proponent of short, focused pieces or longer pieces that cover more area?

Josh is a proponent of an upside-down tree approach. You start each article narrowly, with a few sentences on the topic and a quick synopsis. But then you expand the article into the branches, where you get more in depth.

With this structure, if people only want to read the first couple paragraphs, that’s fine. If others want to read on and get into the weeds, they can do that too.

How can listeners learn more about you and your company, Interact?

Josh Haynam on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jhaynam

He writes on the Interact blog: https://www.tryinteract.com/blog