Building authority on your target market is essential when you want to gain some early traction organically. On a competitive market, people don’t just buy products, they the best product from the people who really understand their struggles.
When we started Livestorm our main concern in terms of marketing was not only to gain visibility but also authority in a competitive market: the web-conferencing market.
After a few months of existence, we had some pretty good results and gathered a few best practices about what to do when you start from scratch.
Here are our two cents on what’s like to build authority from scratch and how to do it.
1. Answering questions and solving problems to build authority
This is a basic principle you can apply to several aspects of life, not only in the professional environment.
If you want to be perceived as a problem solver in area X… You have to solve other’s people problems. Pretty obvious.
Ok, now how do you find people that are struggling in a specific area? It’s all about empathy. Where would you go if you were in the same situation?
Let’s say you are solving a developer problem, usually this niche goes to forums, Stackoverflow, IRC or even Slack communities to find help.
For more “business” related inquiries, if you are struggling with lead generation for instance. You can go to Quora. Quora is a great way to create authority.
The main advantage of all this is that you will not only build authority on your market, but you will drive highly qualified traffic to your website. It’s simple math: people buy products built by “experts” in their field.
One of the best example I have encountered regarding Quora was when I was working for TOTEMS (now acquired by Stripe). An influencer marketing suite for Instragram. Quora was their first source of traffic generation it was insane.
Here’s what Thibaut Davoult, former Marketing Manager at TOTEMS and now Growth Manager at Solid, told me:
“Quora is an effective platform to build market authority early on. It’s a long term game as you’ll have to build authority on Quora first. But once your first few answers get upvoted, your profile will consistently rank up, and you’ll get asked for more answers.
You should really aim to write a great answer every time, but be especially careful with your first few ones. For example at TOTEMS (then Nitrogram), I wrote a long, funny and hopefully insightful answer on “Why does Instagram user nala_cat have so many followers?”.
I remember spending more than a day to craft it, and I came back to update it a few times after. It was all worth it because it’s been viewed over 40k times since.”
How we do it at Livestorm
Quora has been a huge help for us at the early days to drive traffic and acquire a solid emails list of beta users.
At the time, I was looking for niche of people struggling with their current webinar solution and looking for an alternative. The web-conferencing topic on Quora was exactly what I was looking for. Low volume of answers, aka not much competition but many questions left unanswered.
So that was it, I started to answer, each day, one or two long detailed answers at the time. Then I would share it with my team mates and network and ask for upvotes.
At some point, I got featured as most-viewed writer for that topic with over 20K views (all-time) on my answers.
As for the traffic, Quora was for a long-time our number one source of traffic. It was very highly qualified, we even got 25% conversion at some point for each visitor from Quora. Crazy.
2. Building free tools, content and side-products
Actually, this point is kind of an extension of first one. When you build a side product for X, you are basically giving away your know-how on X for free.
The idea is simple. Let’s pretend you are a cold emailing software.
With time, you got some real good experience with cold emails, you know what works and what does not in terms of reply ratio and conversion ratio.
However, people are struggling with those aspects and if you help them you are not giving away your product for free.
Therefore, you can share that knowledge by giving away free email templates, or better, creating a tool to generate templates. You will get love letters and traffic from sales people (your target probably).
Emails are actually a great example. The best example of side product I’ve seen this year was undoubtedly GoodEmailCopy from Front.
They managed to put together a list of great emails copy from awesome companies for each stage of your customers lifecycle.
Here’s what Blake, Senior Account Executive at Front, told me about GoodEmailCopy:
“The idea for Good Email Copy evolved from a research project at Front. Our goal was to compile content from our favorite brands to help us formulate how we wanted our content to read. In the spirit of collaboration, Mathilde decided to share what we’ve compiled so that other companies benefit. Her Product Hunt post helped spark a great discussion around good content as well as increased awareness about what we’re doing here at Front!”
How we do it at Livestorm
At Livestorm, we are still experimenting stuff to build authority using side products and got some exciting results.
For instance, the first thing I did was to put up together my answers on Quora to create a guide to webinars on best practices for organising, presenting, promoting your webinars.
Using Drip, and thanks to their blueprint, I was to able to create a 5 days free email mini-course in no-time. It’s available here btw if you want to check it out.
As we say we are still experimenting. We also released a bunch of other things to help you with your webinars such as a webinar dashboard template spreadsheet.
Soon we’ll be releasing a major secret project around webinar best practices with very concrete examples. Just teasing ;)
3. Build reputation in your niche communities
Often authority is also about reputation and peer recognition. To effectively build authority you have to check two boxes:
- Helping your target customers in your field.
- Being acknowledged by other experts as an expert yourself.
That’s trickier. There’s no cheating with experts.
Let’s take our cold email software example. You helped some sales reps with their email. Great.
Now, it’s time to be acknowledged by sales experts and influencers as a reference on their own field.
You will probably have to convince Steli Efti from Close.io or Alen Majer that you actually know what the hell you are talking about. Get some kind of seal of approval.
A great way to pop in their radar and put your content in front of them is to invest time and energy in small niche communities. If you are a marketing related tool then investing time in Inbound.org is probably a good start, but the same goes for very industry actually.
If you look for closed Facebook Groups you will find tons of niche communities. I even found one around home decoration for mothers with over 30K active members. That’s actually a super interesting niche.
How we do it at Livestorm
We are still building our reputation in our own niche target communities. There’s no secret, just get involved, help people out and create value for the community.
I am not saying we’re quite there yet but we are starting to get significant results and word to mouth is growing fast.
I don’t any significant data to show you yet but what I can say is that our most happy customers and engaged business contacts come from those communities.
4. Don’t overlook SEO long tail keywords
Authority is not only perceived. It can be algorithmically measured by search engines. If Google considers you are relevant enough to be in first page of a specific keyword, then you probably are.
I deliberately said long tail keywords because it’s a good strategy, even early on, to spot very targeted keywords around your niche struggles.
It’s even easier to get keyword ideas: search for the questions in Quora for example. If someone is struggling about cold emails performance, maybe you can start searching with that expression.
“Cold email template” is getting between 1K and 10k monthly searches with a low competition.
There’s a great post by Jason Acidre, CEO at Xight Interactive, on Moz about building brand authority in SEO. Written in 2014 but still amazingly relevant:
Building on your brand’s topical expertise is probably the fastest way to go when you’re looking to build a name for yourself or your business in a very competitive industry.
There are a few reasons why:
- Proving your field expertise in one or two areas of your industry can be a strong unique selling point (USP) for your brand.
- It’s easier to expand and delve into the deeper and more competitive parts of your industry once you’ve already established yourself as an expert in your chosen field.
- Obviously, search engines favour brands known to be experts in their respective fields.
How we do it at Livestorm
We started this very early on as I said. We spotted some really interesting keywords for us without much competition.
In order to spot them I went through a small process you can easily replicate:
- Establish a list of keywords using Ubersuggest, Keyword planner, etc.
- Analyse competition and competition with Adwords
- Add an arbitrary business value to each keyword from A to D
- Generate a score and add a opportunity: true/false depending on the score.
That’s basic SEO keyword planning. Now that you have your keyword list to focus on you can create content based on that.
Actually, webinars are a good way to create content and repurpose it across different channels and therefore maximize your chances to get visibility.
We create webinars or video content, then create a blog post, YouTube video and maybe even a Slideshare. All those channels will then link to each other.
5. Partner with your market niche experts
Sometimes, when you begin, you just don’t have the shoulders to talk on certain topic.
If you are a lead generation software for example, sometimes you will need to talk about specific sales topics. And maybe you don’t have the expertise in sales.
A nice way to achieve that is to reach out to an expert and ask for a quick interview or, even better, a webinar.
To look cool hang out with the cool kids.
How we do it at Livestorm
We recently started doing this at Livestorm. We released a new serie of live talks in French called SaaSCast. We have live discussion around SaaS topics such as growth, admin, or customer success.
Besides being a great way to get some visibility on our target market and be next to awesome companies, it has been a lot of fun!
It’s super easy to set up, it’s spontaneous, and the replay is as interesting as the live conference.
Plus, we recycle it as a blog post, a Slideshare and a podcast with just the audio.
6. Build a great product
Doh. Well, the best way to build authority is still to deliver a great product to your users. There’s no cheating. If the product sucks, well it will be hard for you to justify your authority in your fields. The shoemaker’s son should not go barefoot, not in this case.