If you are looking to build your brand, attract new customers, and increase sales then becoming an industry expert is an excellent way to achieve these goals. Here are a few tips to get you started on the fast track to becoming a trusted resource in your field.
In order to reach your customers, you need to find them. Research and join the organizations your customers belong to. Become a member with the goal of learning as much as you can about the industry. Resist the urge to sell-this can quickly turn potential customers away. Instead, learn and network. By attending meetings and participating, your network will begin to grow organically.
Read, Read, Read
You should really already be doing this, but incase you are not-start reading the same publications your customers are reading. For example, if your customers are snow skiers you should be reading the same ski magazines and books they are. Your goal is to be an industry expert — know what they know times 10. When speaking with potential clients make references to articles you have read, or new products you have heard about. By taking the time to keep up-to-date, you are making a large investment in your personal expertise.
Find the Trends
If you want to become a trusted resource for your customers, stay abreast of the latest trends and breaking news in your field. You can do this by reading trade publications (as previously mentioned) and by searching the Internet. Use tools such as Google Alerts to track terms of interest to you. Listen to what customers are saying by reading industry specific blogs. Find industry specific blogs by using sites such as Technorati or Post Rank. Here you can tap into the intelligence of millions of online users.
You should know who your competitors are, and what they are doing. Ethically spy on your competition in a professional way to see how they are running the show. Then use that gathered information to benefit your business. For example, if your biggest competitor offers free shipping with the purchase of a complete ski outfit, or a free lift ticket with every pair of boots sold, you may want to offer the same deal.
If you have employees, or independent salespeople ask them what types of questions, concerns, or issues they are hearing from customers. Listen to what is coming up on the phone (and in the field). Ask how they are addressing them. By listening, and staying a top of direct customer feedback you can help others and make necessary adjustments.
Establish yourself as an industry leader by getting involved, reading trade publications, tracking the trends, ethically spying on the competition, and listening to employees and customers. Through knowledge and helping others you will become a trusted resource one that can convert network followers into sales.