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January 13, 2016

Are You an Expert?

expert2The 3 things you must have to truly be called an ‘expert.’

Read through many (if not most) websites in our industry and you’ll find that many firms – and the top employee(s) at those firms – claim themselves to be experts in their particular field… methodology experts… industry experts… application experts… or some combination of those. Further, an intellectual industry like Market Research is a great place in which to be an expert. Expertise is why we get hired. Expertise can differentiate us from our competitors. Expertise is how we position ourselves in the marketplace.

But what does it take to be an expert? Or more importantly, to be perceived by others (your clients and prospects) as an expert? I think there are three critical factors…


This is the fundamental piece, of course… you must have the breadth and depth of knowledge about a particular subject. You should be able to wax eloquently about that subject for hours on end. And to truly legitimize the knowledge, it must come from hands-on experience (not just education)… that’s what clients really want to see.


You all know the old saying, “If a tree falls in the forest and there was no one there to hear it, did it make a noise?” The same goes for your expertise… if you have deep and broad knowledge of a subject – but no one knows you have it – are you really an expert?

To be known for your particular area of expertise, you need to get in the habit of sharing it – speak at conferences, write article and blog posts (or books), present webinars, engage in online conversations and so on. This kind of “content marketing” is an effective way to ‘prove’ and promote your expertise.


OK, you have knowledge and you’re really good about sharing it… but here’s the million-dollar question, “Does anyone care?” Does your expertise resonate with the marketplace? Yeah, it’s really important to you…but what about others outside of your firm?

And that relevancy needs to exist on two levels:

  1. The topic itself. Let’s suppose you’re an expert in surveys… printed surveys. You know everything there is to know about how to create them to get the best responses, as well as all of the latest postal regulations for efficient mailing. But, does anyone care? Maybe… but far fewer than care about other types of quantitative market research, for example.
  2. How you talk about it. Let’s suppose you’re an expert in focus groups… creating screeners, how to structure them, how to moderate them and so on. Does anyone care? Sort of…but not really. What most people will care about, however, is how focus groups can help them…how they can be used to test new products, do research on ad concepts and so on. It’s critical that you share your expertise through your clients’ and prospects’ eyes.

Bottom line: being a true expert is a great thing and can be a compelling sales advantage. But before you claim to be one… make sure you meet the minimum requirements.

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