The Visible Expert: new research shows the benefits of thought leaders in professional services

Sylvia Montgomery
September 17, 2014

This post is by our guest blogger Sylvia Montgomery. Sylvia is a Senior Partner at Hinge, a US-based marketing and branding firm for professional services. She is a co-author of The Visible Expert, Inside the Buyer’s Brain, and Online Marketing for Professional Services.

Marketing

Let’s discuss the age-old question: if an expert falls in the forest and no one sees him, does it affect his brand?

Because let’s face it, having expertise won’t grow you or your firm until it’s noticed. In an effort to better understand the dynamic between what we call Visible Experts and their clients, Hinge recently conducted a study of 130 of these industry stars and more than 1,000 buyers of their services. Not only did we learn how these Visible Experts grew to prominence, but we also uncovered how and why clients seek them out.

First, let’s talk about what makes clients so eager to sign on with firms that have a Visible Expert on board.

The professional services buyers in our study averaged about 2.5 reasons for seeking out expert assistance. These reasons fell into four major categories:

Figure 1. Why buyers seek out Visible Experts

Professional services marketing

  • Problem solving. Sometimes, firms simply need expertise beyond their internal insights, and who better to provide it than someone well known for having the right stuff? Often, the problem at hand is high-impact or very time-sensitive. There’s simply no time to shop around or train current staff. You need the big guns and you need them now.
  • Brand building. Ever hear of the halo effect? It never hurts to let the glow of a superstar illuminate your own firm. Buyers’ reputations grow through collaboration with Visible Experts, with a coinciding uptick in lead generation and new business.
  • Confidence. Simply put, buyers trust well-known, well-regarded names. Working with the best gives them peace of mind.
  • Legal proceedings. Not only do buyers trust Visible Experts, but juries do too. This is the least common category that our research revealed. It’s a bit tangential to brand building, but goes to show the gravitas of and confidence inspired by Visible Experts.

So there are definite benefits to buyers, which is great news for clients who connect with these exceptional thought leaders. 

But what about the experts themselves and their firms? What are the advantages to having a Visible Expert in your firm – or being one yourself?

Here’s the rundown on what our 130 experts had to say about their impact on their firms:

Brand building. More than 60% of the thought leaders interviewed said their firms enjoyed a heightened visibility and reputation in the marketplace. Having an expert on board boosted the credibility and expertise of the entire organisation.

Business growth. 66% of Visible Experts reported significant growth associated with their status. Lead generation, audience reach, and conversions – not to mention the premium rates commanded by thought leaders – were all improved by having an industry thought leader in view.

These benefits are derived in a variety of ways, such as through speaking engagements and networking events, and by posting content online that demonstrates their expertise and educates their customers.

And of course this is just the tip of the iceberg revealed by the research. The Visible Expert book further breaks down the benefits that these individuals bring to their firms and clients. Even better, it reveals the secrets of their success – how to increase your own visible expertise and start reaping the benefits of industry stardom. 

 

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This post was contributed by Sylvia Montgomery, Senior Partner at Hinge. You can follow Sylvia on Twitter @BrandStrong.

 

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