Once you’ve developed a referral marketing strategy, the next step is to implement focused marketing techniques designed to demonstrate your expertise.

Maybe you’ve complained, at some point, that “everyone’s a critic.” These days, it can feel like everyone online is a self-proclaimed expert. So for your expertise to make an impact, it’s essential that you do more than claim to be an expert in a given area — you have to prove it.

But how do you prove that you’re an expert? The answer lies in producing exceptional educational content, showing your audience exactly why you’re an authority.

Why experts are educators

In the Hinge Research Institute’s comprehensive study on the impact of high-visibility experts in the professional services marketplace, we uncovered a revealing key to the mechanics of reputation in the professional services marketplace.

When we asked buyers which characteristics persuaded them that a professional was an expert, well over a third of respondents reported that an individual’s ability to make complex topics understandable was what sealed the deal. This trait was significantly more influential than professional certifications, prestigious clients, and other conventional markers of expertise.

There is a saying often attributed to Einstein: “If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.” While Einstein likely never said those exact words, it’s a genius assessment of the way we project and interpret expertise, both in the professional services marketplace and in our everyday lives.

When you understand a topic well enough to break it down clearly for your audience through educational content, especially in a highly technical area, it’s an ironclad sign that you know your stuff. Your audience will understand not just what you know, but why it matters and how you think. And with this information in hand, they’ll develop the familiarity to not only consider working with you, but to refer you on the strength of your expertise.

Remember, though — sharing your expertise is all about education, not promotion. The trust that you build through teaching and knowledge- sharing can be quickly squandered if your audience feels that you’re simply trying to sell to them. As you develop educational content like blog posts, webinars, and more, make sure the focus is on helping folks in your marketplace solve relevant problems, not on trying to sell a service or puffing up your own firm.

Creating expert content

What kind of expert content should you create, exactly? Well, knowledge sharing takes a number of different forms, and we’ve found that some of those forms are particularly effective for building an expert reputation.

In our research study on high-visibility expertise, we analyzed the tools and techniques used by leading industry experts, the effort they expended on each tool, and what impact they saw from their efforts. The most impactful tools and techniques included some of the most effective formats and venues through which to educate your audience.

VE Tools and Techniques with Greatest Impact

Every item on this list is an effective way to share your knowledge and educate your audience. Books, speaking engagements, and blog posts are particularly strong ways to build a reputation for expertise.

If creating all of this content and providing all of this education sounds intimidating — well, it’s hard work. But there are ways to simplify the process. You can extend the life of your content and share your insight across multiple platforms by repurposing what you’ve already created, so that a series of blog posts form the basis for an eBook, and that eBook is the foundation for a webinar. This gives your audience multiple ways to interact with your offerings, and it gives you the opportunity to gradually expand on your ideas and take audiences more and more in-depth.

With original and truly educational content, you will have one of the key ingredients of a successful referral marketing strategy, helping generate new referrals from folks you may never even interact with. It’s an important piece in any strategy, and as long as you are diligent and provide expert content in a sustained way, you will see results.