How can you or your company benefit from the respect and admiration that comes with being an influential leader in your market, even if you are just starting out? There are several proven strategies to shorten your path to becoming an authority in your niche. And we’ll be talking about five actionable steps over the next few weeks.
Step One: “Niche Down” and Focus
No matter what business you’re in, you can learn a lot about becoming an authority figure in your field from NFL Draft Expert Mel Kiper, Jr. Even if you don’t care for football, or even sports in general, the following story illustrates how anyone can go from a “nobody” to the global leader in a targeted market in a very short period of time.
In the late 1970s in Baltimore, Maryland, Mel Kiper, Jr. was a teen-ager who loved the National Football League (NFL). The NFL is the largest professional football organization in the world. Kiper wrote player evaluation charts, showing what college football players he thought would be a good fit for the NFL.
The problem was, he was a total unknown, and no one took him seriously.
While attending school at Essex Community College in Baltimore in 1981, the young entrepreneur nevertheless started Kiper Enterprises, calling it an “NFL Talent Evaluation Business.” When anyone asked him his name, he would say, “Mel Kiper, NFL draft expert.” The NFL draft is the process by which teams select college football athletes to play for their franchises.
At that time, there was no such thing as an NFL draft expert. Very few people paid attention to the draft, except if you were personally associated with college football or NFL teams. Not to be swayed, Kiper continued releasing a yearly draft report, and talking up the importance of his evaluations for the annual draft to anyone and everyone who would listen.
A young ESPN network hired the self-professed draft expert in 1984. He tirelessly suggested to the growing 24-hour sports network that they needed to start covering the NFL draft before anyone else did. Today, thanks to Kiper’s efforts in establishing himself as the preeminent authority in his field, the NFL draft is a multi-million-dollar franchise, which draws year-round attention from football fans and media channels.
And guess who is viewed as the top global expert?
That’s right: Mel Kiper, Jr.
Kiper could have called himself a college football expert. However, that was a huge field, with thousands of individuals who were extremely knowledgeable about college football. His knowledge of the NFL meant he could have sold himself as a National Football League expert. The same situation existed there, with too much intelligent competition.
So he did what you should do.
He dug down deeper than anyone else, and found a niche which no one else was serving. He also ensured that he focused on an evergreen business.
Evergreen markets are viable year after year, providing a lifetime of revenue and profits to the authority figures in those markets. While you can’t foresee huge changes in technology, at least try to focus on markets that don’t change from year to year. As an extreme example, centering your business around this year’s iPhone model will limit your authority to the period of about a year. However, becoming an expert on all things related to iPhones and iPads would at least keep you evergreen while iPhones/iPads are still being sold. You just have to stay on top of all the changes.
Fans of both college and pro football, NCAA and NFL executives, coaches, managers and owners, as well as prominent college and even high school athletes were Kiper’s target market. By placing a laser focus on a small niche market (the NFL draft), rather than a large market (the NFL or college football), Kiper became the #1 NFL draft expert “overnight.”
Don’t sell yourself as just another dog trainer. Begin calling yourself the world’s greatest trainer of Appenzeller Sennenhundes. Don’t open a hot dog stand. Sell vegan hot dogs, served on almond flour buns, with a wide variety of natural, organic condiments and toppings.
Niche down far enough in your market or area of expertise and you will find a group of rabidly enthusiastic prospects which are being under-served. This is possible in any and every market, and can dramatically shorten your path to being viewed as an authoritative influence in your field.