As an expert, you deserve to charge premium prices for your expertise. But are you really an expert? And if so, are you seen as one by your client base? If not, customers will see your premium prices and wonder, “Who the %&$* do they think they are, and what gives them the right ?” Before you can charge premium prices for your expertise, you must answer those questions before they’re asked, and be able to provide real expert value.
That’s part of what we do. We brand small businesses so they can charge those premium prices, and we dress them up nicely with sexy, consistent design—but all our strategies, tips, and design can’t make up for actual expertise. Customers are smart—they know if they’re getting the real deal or not.
There’s a common misconception about what determines expertise, especially as it relates to how you are seen by your customers. Real expertise comes down to a formula that we’ll break down here, step by step.
#1 - Expertise is… Knowledge
The simple definition of expertise is just knowing a lot about a particular field. Obviously, if you want to be viewed as an expert, knowledge about your particular field is critical. You better know something; otherwise, how can you be expected to sell your knowledge, especially for a premium price?
That seems straightforward, but is knowledge enough to be perceived as an expert, and more importantly for entrepreneurs, charge like one?
No, it’s not. Think about it -- there are hundreds of thousands of people who know a lot about a topic or industry, but are still struggling to profit from it. I’m surrounded by experts, who if I paid only for their knowledge, they’d be making the big bucks. Instead, they’re having a hard time getting paid at all, let alone what they believe their expert knowledge is worth.
This is because knowledge alone doesn’t equal expertise. There are two other factors in this equation.
#2 - Expertise is… Experience
Well, sort of. Of course, experience can be incredibly valuable, but it isn’t always… and certainly not worth premium prices in and of itself.
Experience and expertise are definitely not the same things, and we should take care not to confuse them. Experience simply works as a time-marker: How long did you do X-Y-Z? It just tells us that you did X-Y-Z, but it doesn’t tell us how well, or badly, you did it.
This faux pas reveals itself over and over again in ads and websites. I have seen way too many brands begin their homepage with “For the past 30 years, we have….” suggesting that longevity equals expertise. But just because they’ve existed for three decades doesn’t mean they’re good at what they do, and savvy buyers know that.
What’s more, this “experience” could even be viewed as a black mark against the company.
Potential buyers or clients may wonder if the business owners use an antiquated approach and if a newer company, (who increases efficiency and value because they embrace technology) may be better. They may think: Perhaps the company with “30 years experience” hasn’t changed in those 30 years? What if they charge me more -- not because they’re experts -- but because they waste time on things that could be automated? Would a newer company have more relevant expertise?
In this case, a newer company who lacks the “30 years experience” may work more efficiently and intelligently by utilizing technology and tools, suggesting that decades of experience doesn’t necessarily help the former company’s expert status.
Which brings us to the final factor of the formula: Offering real value as an expert requires more than just knowledge and experience.
#3 - Expertise is… Process
I’m sure you saw this coming with my nod to utilizing the latest technology. As we’ve seen, knowledge plus experience doesn’t always equal expertise. In fact, they can leave much to be desired in how “expert” one’s company is, and it also calls into question their “premium” prices.
However, add in an effective process, and you have a formula for real expertise that is seen as such and can command the price that accompanies that.
Process can be a tremendous help to both the business and the client. If a business tightens its process, it will perform more efficiently, and business owners can stop wasting time on low-value activities like administrative tasks, inefficient emails, and unfocused meetings. Instead, they can dedicate their time to value-added activities like actually providing their knowledge and expertise.
Honing in on a process can allow a company to be exponentially efficient. Business owners can replicate the way they work with clients again and again, increasing the effectiveness of their process, thereby increasing the value of their service.
On the client side, process communicates trust. If I want a certain outcome, I will more readily trust a company who has a proven process and successful track record for producing said outcome, than I will a company who knows a lot about the topic but is asking to get paid by the hour because they don’t know how long it will take.
I know this personally because we’ve used this method with our Brandup process, and we increased our prices fivefold within two years. We repeated our process with each client, improving upon it each subsequent time, which allowed us to add more and more value to the clients while making our side of things more and more efficient.
All the while, we increased our prices to keep up with our increasing value.
So, let’s look at our optimized formula. Your level of expertise in the market can be defined as:
Knowledge + (Process x Experience) = Your Value as An Expert
Why The Expert Formula Works
Most small business owners are only trying to sell their knowledge and/or experience. And while they might possess a wealth of each, if they’re missing the process, they will never be a true expert in the market.
For example, someone who has worked for a company for 20 years and helped build sales teams may have a ton of knowledge about building sales teams, but the reason they’re not just popping open their own business with a line of clients waiting at the door is because their experience is only within the structure of a larger company. If they want to take that knowledge and expertise and strike off on their own as a solo high-end consultant, they need to develop a process that they can confidently tout and utilize. And the more they deploy that process, the higher their expert status will rise.
What this formula shows is that while knowledge is a given, it’s the relationship between your experience and your process that can increase your value in the market.
The more thoughtfully you hone your process with each new client, the faster your experience gains value. Similarly, you could deploy a process and never upgrade it, in which case all the experience in the world won’t do you much good. Ultimately, it’s how much effort you put into increasing these three things that will determine your level of expertise.
A brand that communicates their expertise through messaging, voice, and visuals will cut through the sea of humdrum and gain eager and trusting clients. But it’s that brand’s level of expertise that will allow them to build a premium reputation and charge more and more over time.