Editor’s Note: YoungEntrepreneur’s Ask the Expert column seeks to answer questions about everything from starting a business to growth strategies. To follow the column on Twitter — and ask a question — use hashtag #YEask, or leave a comment below. Your query may be the inspiration for a future column.
Q. How do you create a sustainable global reach in a short period of time online, while positioning yourself as an authority in your industry?
- Tom Whiting
A: Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither are most businesses.
While you may be eager to sack the competition and rake in the spoils, it’s important to remember that doing so often takes time. Technology innovations may have shaved days, months or years off your start-up trajectory, but the companies we build and the products we launch still require an extraordinary amount of patience and tenacity in terms of market adoption.
To get to Rome status, which can entail both global reach and becoming an authority within a specific industry, you’ll need to put in the work. Here are three insights that just may help you gain some perspective on this herculean task:
1. Sustainability requires long-term planning. When you decide to launch with a rapid-fire marketing plan that includes possibly pricey PR and advertising, you had better be certain of your customer. In other words, before you spend a dime, you’ll need to spend some time learning about your target market and potential target markets down the road.
Then, figure out a plan for reaching them now and in the future. Connecting with a global audience assumes a level of maturity and dedication on behalf of founders. The assumption: like a Roman soldier, you have studied tenaciously, waited patiently and fired directly with very little margin of error.
If your company is not disruptive or driven by clear market indicators, you can kiss the word “global” goodbye. You’ve missed your window.
2. Online reach is a three-headed beast. The importance of a three-pronged, online media strategy cannot be underestimated:
- Owned media: As the name implies, these are media properties that you own, such as a website, social-media channels and a blog. If managed well through community outreach that’s backed by strategic content development, these properties can serve to educate your audience, build trust and drive traffic.
- Earned media: This prong refers to third party endorsements who then act as referral sources for your product or brand. This could include everything from a popular blog to national and international media outlets. Earned media serves to boost organic listings, which are extremely valuable in terms of searchability and brand-equity building. The antecedent to this, however, is a strong owned media strategy. Meaning, if you drive people to a shoddy website with poor content: game over.
- Bought media: Simply put, this refers to media/ads that are purchased through either third-party ad networks, or platforms like Google Adwords, to drive traffic to your product. Bought media serves a specific purpose: hitting audiences with a direct call to action.
3. Being an authority means you have something interesting to say. Thought leadership is the new black. Why is this? Because there is a plethora of useless information clogging our inboxes, social networks, searches and feeds. We need someone (anyone!) with an actual brain (not a robot) to screen this information for us and tell us what we need to know and do — often in 140 characters or less. That’s a big task, not to be taken lightly.
Point being, if part of your strategy for becoming a global superpower includes becoming a subject matter authority, then newsflash: you actually have to be an authority. Caesar didn’t conquer Pompey because he had a great PR team. Sure, it helped, but ultimately he was fierce. He knew his stuff. So if you want to be an authority, ask yourself these questions:
- What subject matter excites me?
- What is the same question that people ask me over and over?
- What do I enjoy reading and talking about?
- Can I articulate my thoughts in a cohesive way?
- Is my ego driving this, or do I really enjoy educating others about X? (FYI: people can feel sincerity and authenticity and can smell a skunk.)
Remember, don’t let our technology-laden landscape fool you into thinking anything can be built, adopted or accomplished in a day. As the old adage goes: “Success is opportunity meets preparation.” This was true thousands of years ago, and it certainly holds true today.
Have a question for YE’s experts? Submit your questions in the comments section below and those with the most likes from other readers will be answered. On Twitter, use the hashtag #YEask. Include your first and last name, your location (city and state) and the name of your business.