4 Ways to Effectively Build Brand Authority in Your Industry

From infancy, humans are trained to follow the instruction or recommendations of those in authority.

Often, authority is determined more by perception than any concrete trait, knowledge or ability. But the instinct to follow experts (perceived or otherwise) doesn’t go away.

We simply cannot know everything. And most of us don’t have the time to try. Instead, we rely on industry experts and people of influence to guide us through their particular area of expertise.

This is why the USA TODAY bestseller list often features books from Oprah’s Bookclub; and, why the American Dental Association’s recommended toothpastes sell so well. It also explains why most of us take our freshly-signed prescriptions to the pharmacy without question.

Why is brand authority important to your business?

Ultimately, brand authority comes down to trust.

Trust is critical to acquire and keep customers, especially if you’re selling higher-priced goods or services.

If your business is trusted, customers feel confident that you know what you’re doing and that they’re spending their money wisely when they buy your company’s products or services.

What is brand authority and how is it determined?

Dr. Robert Cialdini is one of the most respected authorities on marketing and influence. His book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, discusses six principles of influence that can help you grow your business. The principle of authority is one of those six principles.

Authority can mean many things. But, for the purposes of our discussion today, authority is the influence that your brand develops from its experience, knowledge, and leadership.

Traditionally, according to Cialdini,  authority is identifiable by three symbols:

  1. Titles: Prestigious titles have a compelling psychological effect.  Consumers are more likely to blindly follow someone with an authoritative title like Doctor, Judge, President, or CEO.
  2. Clothes: Well-attired business professionals and people in uniform are more likely to have influence over others who lack such status-laden clothing.
  3. Trappings: These are status symbols that imply authority – even if that authority is only perceived. Examples of trappings include items like luxury cars and homes or living in exclusive, expensive locations. Cialdini notes that at stoplights, drivers are more likely to honk at economy cars which pose no authority rather than the luxury vehicles that do.

While titles, clothes, and trappings still play a role in deciding authority in-person for brick and mortar businesses, much of the authority needed to influence purchasing habits appears online.

Social media following, expert seals of approval, and celebrity play powerful roles in establishing authority in your field.

Importantly, you can’t develop brand authority by conferring that status on yourself. Brand authority is a status that others ascribe to your business – assuming they trust and respect your business.

In this respect, brand authority is similar to brand identity. As we wrote in our comprehensive guide on building a great brand identity,

Importantly, your brand is not what you say it is.

Your brand is how your customers and prospects perceive your company.

You may want your customers and prospects to see your brand as innovative, fresh, and socially conscious.

But what’s most important isn’t what you want – but how they actually see your brand.

Having said that, your company’s brand authority is not completely out of your hands. In fact, you can implement strategies to grow your brand authority and customer trust, as we’ll discuss below.

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Authority in Action

The Oprah Effect

Oprah Winfrey, a self-proclaimed “poor girl from Mississippi”, is now a thriving businesswoman with a worth of over $3 billion. Throughout her 25 years as host and producer of her own talk show, Oprah earned the trust of the world.

Oprah then built on the trust earned through her talk show, and established authority in the literary world, too.  She launched Oprah’s Book Club in 1996 – and it’s still thriving today.

Of the 81 books that have been featured on the book club, 59 have made it to USA TODAY’s Top Seller list.  That’s a sizable influence – a reflection of the power of Oprah’s authority.

American Heart Association – Heart-Check Mark

On a scale of 1-10, how important is heart health to you?

If you’re like most people, you’d probably agree that it’s very important.

The American Heart Association capitalized on that sentiment when they launched their Heart-Check program.

Well-established as a source of authority in heart health, the AHA expanded their influence into commerce with this program. Now, when consumers roam the aisles of their local grocery store, they are greeted by the Heart-Check logo on items the AHA deems a healthy option.

An authoritative seal such as the Heart-Check gives consumers confidence in their buying decisions – even when they have no idea what the standards for that seal are.

People rarely think about the process of how a product achieved an endorsement or seal of approval. Instead, the authority of the “face” behind the recommendation drives the traffic.

4 actionable ways to establish brand authority for your business

Everyone wants to work with experts – so, use these strategies to position your brand as an expert authority in your field.

1. Choose your niche – don’t be a generalist

Looking for a way to stand out? Align your brand with a unique and specific niche.

As we previously wrote,

Small businesses should target a focused, specific market that really connects with their product or service. This tactic (called niche marketing and sometimes, micromarketing) allows you to focus your marketing dollars on the most valuable audience – the customers who are most excited about your product or service.

Think of niche marketing as a subset of the market on which your specific product or service is focused. It’s a smaller, more precise market segment than your overall market. Importantly, a niche market is created by the combination of the target market and the specific product or service.

Niche marketing – done well – shouldn’t be purely transactional. Instead, businesses invest in, support, and serve their niche; generating truly loyal customers who will come back again and again.

Setting yourself up as an industry leader in one specific area will have your customers and potentials listening. Narrowing your focus and becoming the go-to authority on just one type of service or product will command the attention of customers and competitors.

Don’t try to be a generalist and claim to be an expert about everything. This will merely water down the areas in which you and your business are true experts. As we wrote in our complete guide on how to start a business,

A strong brand identity is the most effective way your new business can gain a competitive edge in an increasingly crowded marketplace.

your brand is your company’s public identity. Ideally, your brand should embody the best (and most essential) attributes of your company.

A brand represents how people know you (or your business), and how they perceive your reputation or the reputation of your company.

In today’s noisy world, a strong brand is more important than it has ever been.

2. Feature your company’s awards and accreditations

Toot your own horn!

Showcasing the awards your business has won (or even been nominated for)  and professional memberships is an excellent avenue to prove authority.

A research study by Hendricks & Singhal of the University of Western Ontario and Georgia Institute of Technology found that more than corporate award winners had 37 percent more sales growth and 44 percent higher stock price return compared to their peers.

Clients want to know that you are as qualified as you say you are – prove it to them through the display of your certifications, testimonials, reviews, awards, and professional membership.

3. Invest in content marketing

According to the Content Marketing Institute,

Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.

Creating content with valuable information and providing that content for free via a business blog or social media shows your expertise in action. It builds trust and gives people the gift of your knowledge.

But, the best content goes even further. As we previously wrote,

Most content marketers measure “engagement” as a re-tweet or a like. But successful content marketing must go beyond simple vanity metrics. For content marketing to succeed, it must help a company develop a relationship with a prospective customer. And for that to happen, content must create an emotional reaction in the prospective customer that more closely connects the prospective customer to your brand.

Aim to create an emotional link with your readers whenever possible. But, don’t sacrifice your credibility to do so.

And be sure that the content you create is easily identifiable as your content. That includes featuring your company’s logo or business name on your content and using a consistent style to present the content you created.

Pro Tip: in order to be recognized as an authority – you must speak like one.  Using phrases such as “scientists say”, “experts say”, and “research shows”  helps to establish credibility and expertise.

4. Be who you say you are – offer a great customer experience

The number one way to build brand authority is to be who you say you are.

Trust is built through consistently delivering on the promises you make.

As we mentioned,

The old saying goes, “It’s not personal, it’s just business.”

But, the truth is that if you want to build lasting relationships with customers you have to make it personal.

Customers are more likely to invest in your business if you invest in them.

This isn’t just hearsay, it’s based on elementary principles of psychology.

Informative content, the psychology of influence, and awards/accreditations may get the client to you, but a positive customer experience will keep them coming back for more.

A brand with authority and influence is a brand with a clear path for growth. Use these strategies to build brand authority for your business and help your business grow faster.

To learn about more ways you can grow your business faster, read the following articles:

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