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 Nigeria Dental Association recommended toothpastes sell so well.
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:
Titles: Prestigious titles have a compelling psychological effect. Consumers are more likely to blindly follow someone with an authoritative title like Doctor, Professor, Justice, President or CEO.
Clothes: Well-attired business professionals and people in uniform are more likely to have influence over others who lack such status-laden clothing.
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 in traffic, 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. 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.
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.
Four actionable ways to establish brand authority
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. 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.
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.
2. Feature your company’s awards and accreditations
Blow your own trumpet!
Showcasing the awards your business has won (or even been nominated for) and professional memberships is an excellent avenue to prove authority.
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
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.
While most content marketers measure “engagement” as a re-tweet or a like, 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.
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.
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.
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.