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The 3 Mistakes That Are Killing Your Authority Marketing

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October 18, 2020 8 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

What if prospects came to you? That’s the point of

Authority marketing is a multifaceted approach that includes , , speaking, and for many, authorship. Some call it “attraction marketing” or “doing thought leadership.” But whatever you choose to call it, the goal is to position yourself as an authority and have prospects knocking on your door. 

This approach is particularly valuable in this era of information availability. Most sales conversations don’t start with a prospect actually reaching out to you or your sales team. The sales process often starts with a web search.

People who decide to market their authority take control of what appears in that web search. When the results of a web search position you and your company as experts in your field, your rises. 

Consultants, coaches, and professional service providers struggle with credibility when the bar to entry for their respective fields is so low. Marketing their authority helps them get higher-paying clients. Not to mention, making a point to incorporate speaking engagements, interviews, and written contributions builds marketing momentum pretty quickly.

If authority marketing is such a rock-solid strategy, how are people “killing” it? Well, there are a few key steps that are consistently neglected by almost everyone who engages in authority marketing.

Related: What Is ‘Authority Marketing’ and How Do You Achieve It?

1. Waiting for opportunities to come to you

People work hard to build their email and audiences. They believe that if they “get big enough,” opportunities will come to them. This couldn’t be further from the truth. It is true that when the environment aligns with your expertise, people may reach out to you. 

For example, more diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) consultants are being asked for their expertise for a variety of marketing opportunities. But what about when the news cycle moves on? It’s not that DEI isn’t a topic that people are talking about consistently. But what do you do when people aren’t reaching out anymore? 

Public relations pro Jennifer McGinley recommends consistently reaching out and building your web of connections. 

“It’s so important to be proactive and consistently connecting and serving others in order to be seen as an expert or authority in your field,” she says. “The more visible you are, the more credible you can become. Essentially you are building a community. Clear, consistent content and build a community.”

Even when you get momentum, you should always be on the hunt for better opportunities. Once you’ve built up your speaker’s resume or Expert’s Portfolio, you’ll be able to secure opportunities that dramatically increase your credibility. 

Some of the largest conferences have an application process for speakers. So even when you start getting invitations, be sure to actively seek out new opportunities to showcase your expertise.

Related: 6 Do-It-Yourself PR Tips for Small Businesses

2. Not creating authentic content

Take note of the adjective before “content” in this subheading. Authenticity is your unique marketability factor. What will people find when they click through to your website? If you’re hoping they’ll hire you or invite you to speak, your site had better be good. 

In many cases, people find a website and blog devoid of any personality. Your site may be described as “professional, approachable, and competent.” What’s wrong with that? Well, ask yourself, how many other websites can be described in this manner? A professional, approachable, and competent website won’t keep you from getting some clients. But it’s lukewarm at best, which means your website isn’t providing the highest ROI possible. 

This is where authentic content comes in. When someone lands on your site, they should experience your unique brand. If your personal brand drives a lot of your business, as it does for a lot of service professionals, then your site visitor should feel as if perusing your site helps them get to know you. 

Don’t view it as “just your website” or “just your blog.” Think of all of your content efforts as contributing to your content library. You may create unique content for a particular social media platform. But if it performs well with your , then you need to invest in growing your content library and creating content on your site.

Related: The 1 Rule You Need to Follow to Authentically Build an Inclusive Brand

Sarah Noel Block, founder of marketing consultancy Tiny Marketing, often counsels her clients to invest in what they own. “Too often, businesses get wrapped up in focusing on quick-win marketing like social media or paid ads. Instead, focus on what you own, not what you rent. You rent social media. can go down tomorrow,” she advises. “Rather, focus on what you own — your website and your email list. Building a content library increases your SEO, your Know, Like, and Trust factor, your email list, and gives you something to say in email and . It’s the marketing that keeps on giving.” 

If you approach your content authentically, then your prospects (marketing opportunities or new business) will already feel as if they know you. This is one of the ways they convince themselves that you’re a good fit before they even speak with you. 

Not that even rote topics can use your fresh take. Many professionals take the time to create content surrounding common topics related to their expertise for (SEO) purposes. There’s nothing wrong with this as long as you remember one thing: your unique experiences are what make this content special. 

Explaining why it’s important to create header tags in blog posts and website content is a good topic for a content professional. But when you add in the story about having to edit 50+ blog posts for a client to better optimize their content, you do two things: 

  • You show that you go all out for your clients.
  • You give them a story to remember your tip with. 

Anyone can give a tip. But that story belongs exclusively to you. 

Related: Why Google’s Search Page Redesign Is the Death of SEO

3. Not marketing your expertise-showcasing opportunities

Have you been a guest on a professional webinar or podcast? Much to the dismay of many event organizers and show hosts, guests often don’t market their appearances. This is a missed opportunity to support your host and also to market yourself. 

Marketing an expertise-showcasing opportunity allows you to get in front of your host’s audience outside of the opportunity itself. More important, it gives you a chance to interact with that audience. 

Bill Sherman, the co-host of the Leveraging Thought Leadership Podcast, offers a few great recommendations. At a minimum, guests should comment and like any post where the event organizer, article author, or podcast host mentions them. A thoughtful comment on social media, especially , can really push up — engagement that’s great for you and the organizer, author, or host. 

Next, he said that podcast guests should “rate and review the episode on whatever podcast player they use. It will help the episode (and the podcast as a whole) show up more frequently in searches.”

He also shared that when guests engage with audience members who leave comments on social media, he’s thrilled. It doesn’t happen often for most podcast hosts and community builders, but when it does, it creates conversations that lead to all sorts of beneficial connections. 

These engagement opportunities are critical for expanding your network and building your authority. Because most people don’t engage this way after an expertise-showcasing opportunity, you’ll stand out even more when you do. Not to mention, the people who take the time to comment warrant a response from you. They could be your people, but not if you ignore them. 

Fix these three mistakes and your authority marketing will take off

If you’re making one or all three of these mistakes, there’s good news. You can work to fix them right now. Go back to your most recent interviews and engage with the audience in the comments. Get started on your content plan so you can build up your content library at any time. Actively seek out the opportunities you need to grow your authority and your business. 

Being aware of a problem is half the battle. Now you have the knowledge to fix it. 

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The Trump campaign celebrated a growth record that Democrats downplayed.

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The White House celebrated economic growth numbers for the third quarter released on Thursday, even as Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s presidential campaign sought to throw cold water on the report — the last major data release leading up to the Nov. 3 election — and warned that the economic recovery was losing steam.

The economy grew at a record pace last quarter, but the upswing was a partial bounce-back after an enormous decline and left the economy smaller than it was before the pandemic. The White House took no notice of those glum caveats.

“This record economic growth is absolute validation of President Trump’s policies, which create jobs and opportunities for Americans in every corner of the country,” Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign said in a statement, highlighting a rebound of 33.1 percent at an annualized rate. Mr. Trump heralded the data on Twitter, posting that he was “so glad” that the number had come out before Election Day.

The annualized rate that the White House emphasized extrapolates growth numbers as if the current pace held up for a year, and risks overstating big swings. Because the economy’s growth has been so volatile amid the pandemic, economists have urged focusing on quarterly numbers.

Those showed a 7.4 percent gain in the third quarter. That rebound, by far the biggest since reliable statistics began after World War II, still leaves the economy short of its pre-pandemic levels. The pace of recovery has also slowed, and now coronavirus cases are rising again across much of the United States, raising the prospect of further pullback.

“The recovery is stalling out, thanks to Trump’s refusal to have a serious plan to deal with Covid or to pass a new economic relief plan for workers, small businesses and communities,” Mr. Biden’s campaign said in a release ahead of Thursday’s report. The rebound was widely expected, and the campaign characterized it as “a partial return from a catastrophic hit.”

Economists have warned that the recovery could face serious roadblocks ahead. Temporary measures meant to shore up households and businesses — including unemployment insurance supplements and forgivable loans — have run dry. Swaths of the service sector remain shut down as the virus continues to spread, and job losses that were temporary are increasingly turning permanent.

“With coronavirus infections hitting a record high in recent days and any additional fiscal stimulus unlikely to arrive until, at the earliest, the start of next year, further progress will be much slower,” Paul Ashworth, chief United States economist at Capital Economics, wrote in a note following the report.

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Black and Hispanic workers, especially women, lag in the U.S. economic recovery.

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The surge in economic output in the third quarter set a record, but the recovery isn’t reaching everyone.

Economists have long warned that aggregate statistics like gross domestic product can obscure important differences beneath the surface. In the aftermath of the last recession, for example, G.D.P. returned to its previous level in early 2011, even as poverty rates remained high and the unemployment rate for Black Americans was above 15 percent.

Aggregate statistics could be even more misleading during the current crisis. The job losses in the initial months of the pandemic disproportionately struck low-wage service workers, many of them Black and Hispanic women. Service-sector jobs have been slow to return, while school closings are keeping many parents, especially mothers, from returning to work. Nearly half a million Hispanic women have left the labor force over the last three months.

“If we’re thinking that the economy is recovering completely and uniformly, that is simply not the case,” said Michelle Holder, an economist at John Jay College in New York. “This rebound is unevenly distributed along racial and gender lines.”

The G.D.P. report released Thursday doesn’t break down the data by race, sex or income. But other sources make the disparities clear. A pair of studies by researchers at the Urban Institute released this week found that Black and Hispanic adults were more likely to have lost jobs or income since March, and were twice as likely as white adults to experience food insecurity in September.

The financial impact of the pandemic hit many of the families that were least able to afford it, even as white-collar workers were largely spared, said Michael Karpman, an Urban Institute researcher and one of the studies’ authors.

“A lot of people who were already in a precarious position before the pandemic are now in worse shape, whereas people who were better off have generally been faring better financially,” he said.

Federal relief programs, such as expanded unemployment benefits, helped offset the damage for many families in the first months of the pandemic. But those programs have mostly ended, and talks to revive them have stalled in Washington. With virus cases surging in much of the country, Mr. Karpman warned, the economic toll could increase.

“There could be a lot more hardship coming up this winter if there’s not more relief from Congress, with the impact falling disproportionately on Black and Hispanic workers and their families,” he said.

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Ant Challenged Beijing and Prospered. Now It Toes the Line.

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As Jack Ma of Alibaba helped turn China into the world’s biggest e-commerce market over the past two decades, he was also vowing to pull off a more audacious transformation.

“If the banks don’t change, we’ll change the banks,” he said in 2008, decrying how hard it was for small businesses in China to borrow from government-run lenders.

“The financial industry needs disrupters,” he told People’s Daily, the official Communist Party newspaper, a few years later. His goal, he said, was to make banks and other state-owned enterprises “feel unwell.”

The scope of Mr. Ma’s success is becoming clearer. The vehicle for his financial-technology ambitions, an Alibaba spinoff called Ant Group, is preparing for the largest initial public offering on record. Ant is set to raise $34 billion by selling its shares to the public in Hong Kong and Shanghai, according to stock exchange documents released on Monday. After the listing, Ant would be worth around $310 billion, much more than many global banks.

The company is going public not as a scrappy upstart, but as a leviathan deeply dependent on the good will of the government Mr. Ma once relished prodding.

More than 730 million people use Ant’s Alipay app every month to pay for lunch, invest their savings and shop on credit. Yet Alipay’s size and importance have made it an inevitable target for China’s regulators, which have already brought its business to heel in certain areas.

These days, Ant talks mostly about creating partnerships with big banks, not disrupting or supplanting them. Several government-owned funds and institutions are Ant shareholders and stand to profit handsomely from the public offering.

The question now is how much higher Ant can fly without provoking the Chinese authorities into clipping its wings further.

Excitable investors see Ant as a buzzy internet innovator. The risk is that it becomes more like a heavily regulated “financial digital utility,” said Fraser Howie, the co-author of “Red Capitalism: The Fragile Financial Foundation of China’s Extraordinary Rise.”

“Utility stocks, as far as I remember, were not the ones to be seen as the most exciting,” Mr. Howie said.

Ant declined to comment, citing the quiet period demanded by regulators before its share sale.

The company has played give-and-take with Beijing for years. As smartphone payments became ubiquitous in China, Ant found itself managing huge piles of money in Alipay users’ virtual wallets. The central bank made it park those funds in special accounts where they would earn minimal interest.

After people piled into an easy-to-use investment fund inside Alipay, the government forced the fund to shed risk and lower returns. Regulators curbed a plan to use Alipay data as the basis for a credit-scoring system akin to Americans’ FICO scores.

China’s Supreme Court this summer capped interest rates for consumer loans, though it was unclear how the ceiling would apply to Ant. The central bank is preparing a new virtual currency that could compete against Alipay and another digital wallet, the messaging app WeChat, as an everyday payment tool.

Ant has learned ways of keeping the authorities on its side. Mr. Ma once boasted at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, about never taking money from the Chinese government. Today, funds associated with China’s social security system, its sovereign wealth fund, a state-owned life insurance company and the national postal carrier hold stakes in Ant. The I.P.O. is likely to increase the value of their holdings considerably.

“That’s how the state gets its payoff,” Mr. Howie said. With Ant, he said, “the line between state-owned enterprise and private enterprise is highly, highly blurred.”

China, in less than two generations, went from having a state-planned financial system to being at the global vanguard of internet finance, with trillions of dollars in transactions being made on mobile devices each year. Alipay had a lot to do with it.

Alibaba created the service in the early 2000s to hold payments for online purchases in escrow. Its broader usefulness quickly became clear in a country that mostly missed out on the credit card era. Features were added and users piled in. It became impossible for regulators and banks not to see the app as a threat.

ImageAnt Group’s headquarters in Hangzhou, China.
Credit…Alex Plavevski/EPA, via Shutterstock

A big test came when Ant began making an offer to Alipay users: Park your money in a section of the app called Yu’ebao, which means “leftover treasure,” and we will pay you more than the low rates fixed by the government at banks.

People could invest as much or as little as they wanted, making them feel like they were putting their pocket change to use. Yu’ebao was a hit, becoming one of the world’s largest money market funds.

The banks were terrified. One commentator for a state broadcaster called the fund a “vampire” and a “parasite.”

Still, “all the main regulators remained unanimous in saying that this was a positive thing for the Chinese financial system,” said Martin Chorzempa, a research fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.

“If you can’t actually reform the banks,” Mr. Chorzempa said, “you can inject more competition.”

But then came worries about shadowy, unregulated corners of finance and the dangers they posed to the wider economy. Today, Chinese regulators are tightening supervision of financial holding companies, Ant included. Beijing has kept close watch on the financial instruments that small lenders create out of their consumer loans and sell to investors. Such securities help Ant fund some of its lending. But they also amplify the blowup if too many of those loans aren’t repaid.

“Those kinds of derivative products are something the government is really concerned about,” said Tian X. Hou, founder of the research firm TH Data Capital. Given Ant’s size, she said, “the government should be concerned.”

The broader worry for China is about growing levels of household debt. Beijing wants to cultivate a consumer economy, but excessive borrowing could eventually weigh on people’s spending power. The names of two of Alipay’s popular credit functions, Huabei and Jiebei, are jaunty invitations to spend and borrow.

Huang Ling, 22, started using Huabei when she was in high school. At the time, she didn’t qualify for a credit card. With Huabei’s help, she bought a drone, a scooter, a laptop and more.

The credit line made her feel rich. It also made her realize that if she actually wanted to be rich, she had to get busy.

“Living beyond my means forced me to work harder,” Ms. Huang said.

First, she opened a clothing shop in her hometown, Nanchang, in southeastern China. Then she started an advertising company in the inland metropolis of Chongqing. When the business needed cash, she borrowed from Jiebei.

Online shopping became a way to soothe daily anxieties, and Ms. Huang sometimes racked up thousands of dollars in Huabei bills, which only made her even more anxious. When the pandemic slammed her business, she started falling behind on her payments. That cast her into a deep depression.

Finally, early this month, with her parents’ help, she paid off her debts and closed her Huabei and Jiebei accounts. She felt “elated,” she said.

China’s recent troubles with freewheeling online loan platforms have put the government under pressure to protect ordinary borrowers.

Ant is helped by the fact that its business lines up with many of the Chinese leadership’s priorities: encouraging entrepreneurship and financial inclusion, and expanding the middle class. This year, the company helped the eastern city of Hangzhou, where it is based, set up an early version of the government’s app-based system for dictating coronavirus quarantines.

Such coziness is bound to raise hackles overseas. In Washington, Chinese tech companies that are seen as close to the government are radioactive.

In January 2017, Eric Jing, then Ant’s chief executive, said the company aimed to be serving two billion users worldwide within a decade. Shortly after, Ant announced that it was acquiring the money transfer company MoneyGram to increase its U.S. footprint. By the following January, the deal was dead, thwarted by data security concerns.

More recently, top officials in the Trump administration have discussed whether to place Ant Group on the so-called entity list, which prohibits foreign companies from purchasing American products. Officials from the State Department have suggested that an interagency committee, which also includes officials from the departments of defense, commerce and energy, review Ant for the potential entity listing, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Ant does not talk much anymore about expanding in the United States.

Ana Swanson contributed reporting.

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