Starting off a piece of writing with a dictionary definition ranks among the hokiest of openings. But, as is often the case, the dictionary provides inspiration to the fact-checker and copy editor in me. Authority (clears throat): 

  1. : the power to give orders or make decisions : the power or right to direct or control someone or something
  2. : the confident quality of someone who knows a lot about something or who is respected or obeyed by other people

  3. : a quality that makes something seem true or real

Authority confers power (1), respect (2), and authenticity (3). Establishing your authority is incredibly important when you're building your business. 

Here's one example: over the past few months, I've spoken to a lot of real estate agents in San Diego because my husband and I are thinking about buying a house. We've met them haphazardly, often at open houses. One real estate agent stuck out.

Why?

She didn't wow us with details of the deals she'd brokered; she didn't make promises about prices. She didn't push us with talk of scarcity and a hot market. In fact, she impressed me not by talking about houses for sale at all.

Instead, she talked about the neighborhood she'd lived in for nearly two decades. She was helping to organize a block party celebrating the neighborhood, and in talking to her about it, it became clear she knew her neighborhood inside and out. She knew her neighbors, knew the other agents selling in the neighborhood, knew the schools, parks, and hangouts. She provided that same attention to detail to other San Diego neighborhoods: she knew their histories, their ups and downs, their potential for resale value. 

Her authority earned our trust. We wanted to look at houses with her because she'd proven in conversation that she was an authority on this town.  

How about an online example: Facebook ads. When you see an ad exhorting you to click, sign up, buy, whatever, how often do you take them up on it? If you've never heard of the company, do you go for it? 

When I think about my own interaction with Facebook ads, I realize that one of the only companies whose ads I click on are Amazon's Daily Deals. Why? 

  • I've bought from Amazon before
  • Every time I buy from them, I get exactly what I ordered, and it arrives on time 
  • And most of all, I go for it because Amazon's prices have consistently matched or beat other retailers where I've shopped

So what do the real estate agent and Amazon have in common? 

Trust. 

They've both developed expertise in their respective spaces. Their expertise shows in the way they interact with me, the potential customer. And those interactions have established them as authorities and inspired my trust.  

And this is a lesson that you, me, and everyone else can use. Is there a subject, a place, an industry related to your business that you know a ton about? When you get started on this topic, do your family members roll their eyes? 

That's a topic in which you have expertise. Sharing that knowledge with potential customers, on- or offline, will help you build your authority on that topic. You'll gain power and gain respect in an authentic way--also known as gaining trust. 

PS: My favorite guru on the link between gaining trust and doing business is Ian Altman, who talks a lot about "same side selling." I love what he has to say on this topic. 

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