Market yourself effectively

How to get customers by giving away your expertise

By Pete Michaud

As a business owner, you’ve accumulated a lot of expertise over the years that you may not realize you have. Strategies, methods, and skills that are obvious to you could be startling revelations to people just starting out.

Advertising can be a pricey way to tell potential customers how good you are, but giving away your expertise is a free way to show customers how good you are.

There are two different strategies to giving away your expertise, of which you can choose one or both. One is to be an expert’s expert; the other is to be a customer’s expert.

Become an expert’s expert

Microsoft runs what they call the MVP program. MVP, or Most Valuable Professional, is a designation software developers can earn from Microsoft for being active in the software development community. An MVP developer is a recognized expert who has written articles, blogs, and books that help other professionals make the most out of Microsoft technologies.

Developers clamor to get the competitive and temporary MVP designation because, with it, they can name their hourly rate, are offered publishing deals with technical presses, and have more customer prospects than they can possibly take on.

While Microsoft has taken the initiative in the computer programming industry to create a specific designation, anyone can become an “MVP” in whatever industry they are in.

For example: James does fine carpentry work. He builds high-end furniture and fabricates delicate woodwork for historic properties. While other skilled tradesmen struggled to find work during the recession, he remained booked solid with commissions for a full year out.

“It’s the videos,” he says, explaining his good fortune. James has a sizable following on the video hosting website YouTube. He posts videos that demonstrate the techniques of woodworking. Some videos are overviews of a particular period style, while others show a very specific technique or specialized tool.

By sharing his videos for free, he’s trained tens of thousands of aspiring woodworkers who all look to him as their “Expert’s Expert.” When they have too much work themselves or when there is a project out of their skill range, James is the first person they think to refer their potential customers to.

James has a secretary process the requests that flood in from all over the world asking him to produce everything from Jacobean valuables chests with oak inlays, to Federal-style looking glass frames.

James made himself the “MVP” of fine carpentry, but there is another strategy you can use to bring in customers directly.

Become a customer’s expert

While the previous strategy was all about making a name among your professional peers and earning referrals and credibility by doing so, this strategy is about helping your customers directly.

For example: Floor & Décor sells flooring of all types, from granite tile, to ceramic backsplash, to rental-grade laminate. Their customers are mostly homeowners who are renovating kitchens, bathrooms, foyers, or solariums.

One customer acquisition strategy they use is to host floor installation workshops. Homeowners come to a store location to attend classes that teach them how to use the materials that Floor & Décor sells. Classes vary, but they cover topics such as floor tile or hardwood installation.

Once a potential customer has come to the store to learn, they are primed and ready to buy all the tools and flooring material from Floor & Décor instead of a competitor. The added benefit is that if a customer attends the class and finds the work too difficult or time-consuming, Floor & Décor is ready with their own professional installation service right at the moment that the customer fully understands the value of the service.

You don’t have to be a national company to use the “customer’s expert” strategy. For example: A CPA for small businesses can run a workshop about how to organize the accounting system for a particular type of business. When those workshop attendees need their quarterly taxes filed or their business grows beyond their ability to manage the books, he’ll be the first accountant on their mind.

Ways to give it away

Whether you choose to become an expert’s expert, a customer’s expert, or both, you have a variety of options to give away your expertise.

If you’re not comfortable being on camera or presenting in front of groups of people and you prefer writing, try having a blog or website. If you already have a blog or website, provide a free PDF report relevant to the customers in your industry. Let them download the valuable content in exchange for their e-mail address.

The free information is passed around the Web, attracting more prospects, and you can use the list of e-mails later to contact those people about special offers—or better yet, to give them more free information.

If you don’t have a website, you can write guest articles on established websites or in magazines that your customers read. If you’re ambitious, you could write an entire book.

No matter what methods or strategies you employ to give away your expertise, it’s never too late or too early to start. If you begin to build presence and credibility now, the effort will pay off for years to come as a stream of potential customers who already understand what you do and trust you to do it flow into your business.

Pete Michaud is a veteran Internet entrepreneur who has started businesses in the technology, marketing, and healthcare spaces. His current venture, Kenrose Media (, is a publishing company specializing in health and wellness titles. He helps entrepreneurs meet and exceed business goals by training them to connect with core principles, overcome uncertainty, and plan effectively. He can be contacted at or through

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