The Visible Expert

Lee Frederiksen

What does it take to become a well-known expert in your field — someone other practitioners and the media seek out for leadership and insight? We call these stars Visible Experts℠. And becoming one is easier than it looks.

What You Will Learn

  • The 5 levels of Visible Experts
  • How these stars earn up to 13X more and help their firms grow faster and be more profitable
  • Why and how clients them seek out
  • A step-by-step program to turn you — and others in your firm — into Visible Experts
  • How you can do it up to 5X faster than most Visible Experts
  • Tips and advice from real-world industry stars

In this research-based book, you will learn how you or your colleagues can become Visible Experts and leverage this status to drive significant new growth and profits for your firm. You will discover which tools and techniques you need to build your reputation and ascend to prominence. And you will hear from real experts from across the professional services who have climbed from obscurity to the peak of their profession — successful experts like Warren Buffet, Seth Godin, Robert Lang, and Sarah Susanka.

The Visible Expert is the essential manual for any individual or firm that is ready to take their expertise to the highest level. Based on interviews with over 130 Visible Experts and 1,028 buyers of their services, this book will take you higher, faster.

About Does Your Professional Services Firm have a Visible Expert?

In our work with professional services firms, we noticed an interesting trend: firms with a well-known technical professional or sought-after industry “star” on staff seemed to have a much easier time generating new business. Over time, the trend became so apparent that it warranted further investigation. We spent the last year interviewing 130 of these industry stars, or Visible Experts, and surveying 1,028 buyers of their services. These Visible Experts are in the areas of management consulting, accounting and finance, technology, marketing and architecture, engineering and construction (A/E/C). The results are in, and they are unequivocal: having a Visible Expert in your firm confers a major competitive advantage.

Benefits to Firms

The study showed that Visible Experts’ benefits to their firms extend across almost all business metrics, helping firms become better known, attract more leads, grow faster, and command higher rates. The data also revealed five natural levels of visibility, each defined by its own set of criteria. As an expert’s visibility increases, the benefits that they bring to their firms increase, too. Here are some of those specific advantages:

  • Building a firm’s brand

The study showed that 62% of Visible Experts substantially contribute to their firm’s brand-building capabilities. Having a Visible Expert helps firms establish market leadership and credibility, and positively affects brand recognition.

  • Contributing to Growth

We learned that 66% of Visible Experts play a major role in their firms in terms of business development and growth. When we dug into this category, we saw Visible Experts exerting influence across a number of areas, with the biggest increases occurring in firm growth, lead generation, and audience reach.

  • Charging premium fees

Visible Experts enable firms to charge premium fees for their services, with fees rising dramatically as experts gain in visibility. For example, buyers expect to pay 200% over baseline for a Level 1 Visible Expert (the lowest level of visibility), and 13X over baseline for a Level 5 Visible Expert (the highest level of visibility).

Figure 4.4

  • Generating leads

Firms with Visible Experts also benefit from a significant boost in leads, and those leads are easier to close. Visible Experts produce leads for their firms in a variety of ways:

  • – Content production—blog posts, articles, whitepapers, and books
  • – Speaking engagements—including keynotes, webinars, podcasts, and interviews
  • – Networking activities and relationship building
  • – Search engine marketing
  • – Focusing on target markets


Marketplace Demand

When we surveyed buyers of Visible Expert services, we learned that buyers seek Visible Experts for two primary reasons: 1) to solve critical problems and 2) to build their brand and win new business. The research also showed a strong marketplace demand for Visible Experts, with demand steadily rising along with an expert’s degree of visibility before dropping off at Level 5—the so-called “Global Superstar” level.

Figure 4.5

Why is there a demand drop-off at Level 5? While we don’t know for sure, we can assume that most business problems do not call for international-level expertise. Coupled with the fact that Level 5 experts command significantly higher fees (almost double that of a Level 4 industry star), it makes sense that purchasers would call in Level 5 Visible Experts for only very special and specific needs.

Growing a Visible Expert

As we examined the data, it became apparent that Visible Experts confer a major competitive advantage to firms that already have one in their ranks. But what about firms that do not have a Visible Expert? Is it possible to grow your own? Yes, it is possible to organically grow Visible Experts for a professional services firm. Through the research, we were able to isolate the critical elements to becoming a Visible Expert, and there is now a roadmap to becoming a Visible Expert, one that any dedicated professional can use to get to the top. The only question that remains is: do you have what it takes?

About the author: Sylvia Montgomery is a Senior Partner at Hinge, a marketing and branding firm for professional services. At Hinge, Sylvia provides strategic counsel to national clients. She is a co-author of The Visible Expert, Inside the Buyer’s Brain, and Online Marketing for Professional Services. You can follow Sylvia on Twitter @BrandStrong.


About the Authors

Lee W. Frederiksen, Ph.D., is Managing Partner at Hinge, a marketing firm that specializes in branding and marketing for professional services. Hinge is a leader in rebranding firms to help them grow faster and maximize value. Lee has authored or edited several books on marketing and management, including Inside the Buyer’s Brain, Spiraling Up: How to Create a High Growth, High Value Professional Services Firm, Online Marketing for Professional Services, Handbook of Organizational Behavior, Marketing Health Behavior: Principles, Techniques and Applications, and Computers, People and Productivity.

Elizabeth Harr is a partner at Hinge, a marketing and branding firm for professional services. Elizabeth is an accomplished entrepreneur and experienced executive with a background in strategic planning, brand building, and communications. She is the coauthor of Inside the Buyer’s Brain, How Buyers Buy: Technology Services Edition and Online Marketing for Professional Services: Technology Services Edition.

Sylvia Montgomery is a Senior Partner at Hinge, a marketing and branding firm for professional services. At Hinge, Sylvia provides strategic counsel to national clients. She is a co-author of The Visible Expert, Inside the Buyer’s Brain, and Online Marketing for Professional Services.

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