Ten years ago, if you wanted to become an in-demand expert, you needed to write a book, set up a speaking tour, and use traditional PR tactics to get on TV and radio shows to promote your expertise. Times have changed. Today, it's all about leveraging the online community. Digital tools are the key to establishing "street cred" and creating a steady stream of people interested in you and your work.

Sales and marketing for today's business-of-one

Becoming an well-known expert requires the same sales and marketing strategy as a successful business. Think of yourself as a business-of-one. If you want to be in demand, you need to be on demand. That means the internet community needs access to your expertise 24/7. This is accomplished by following a proven process for educating people online (aka your prospects), where you specifically focus on the problem you want to help them solve (aka your service offerings). The technical term for this is inbound marketing. Instead of knocking on doors and trying to tell people how great you are to work with, you earn their trust by offering them valuable advice that makes them come knocking on your door instead. Doesn't that sound better? It is. That's why it's become so popular -- because it works!

5 steps to becoming an in-demand expert

Here's an overview of what you'll need to do to implement your own inbound marketing strategy for your business-of-one:

1. Define your service niche. Get clear on the problem you solve (i.e., the pain you alleviate for clients), and develop an easy-to-understand methodology to explain your proven approach that delivers results.

NOTE: This is usually tied to an acronym or is mapped out as a fewer-than-five-steps process so it's easy for people to recall.

2. Provide testimonials. Create detailed descriptions, at least three to five examples, of how you have successfully used your methodology to help clients. Write them out as stories, or record video clips, and then put them up on your personal website. Be sure to promote them on social media and invite people to share and comment on them too.

3. Gain third-party credibility. Guest post on popular sites in your industry offering advice that showcases your methodology and then link some of the text in those articles back to the blog posts you wrote in step two.

NOTE: Free guest posting isn't always the way to go. There's a reason guest posting on advice blogs and industry websites is often done for free. First, many of the sites make you do all the work (write, upload, edit, and promote), so it can be very time consuming. Also, if they're willingly taking your free content, it's usually because they have a smaller viewership and are hoping your efforts will drive more traffic. If you're looking to fast-track your progress, consider investing in getting your articles boosted. This is when a larger, more established site charges you a small fee to feature your articles and promotes them to a wider audience. Their editorial services and expanded reader reach will accelerate your visibility. Plus, it's a lot less work on your part. One boosted post can create more traffic than 10 free guest posts on other sites. Ask yourself, "What's my time worth?" and "How quickly do I want to establish myself as an expert?"

4. Host a free training. Conduct a webinar or free presentation online to showcase your methodology where attendees can ask you questions in real-time. Record it. Then hold it hostage by inviting people to watch the recording for free (on-demand) in exchange for their email address and the ability to send them helpful advice on an on-going basis.

5. Capture and follow-up with leads. Start emailing the people who opt-in for your free webinar by sending them weekly quick tips while also inviting them to do a free consult/eval of their business problems with you. You can also provide them with special offers and discounts on your services. However, don't sell them too much. The rule of thumb is 80 percent helpful advice, 20 percent service marketing.

Top-of-online-mind = where you need to be

The reason the five-step process works so well is it keeps you in front of your potential customers where they're most active (i.e., computer, phone, etc.). The technique is called drip marketing. It enables you to keep offering little nuggets of value to your followers so they can digest them, become addicted, and then want to pay you for more.

Don't be afraid to put yourself out there

The hardest part of the five steps above isn't all the work, it's being brave enough to put yourself out there. You may fear the rejection or criticism. You may worry people will think you aren't worthy of calling yourself an expert. Don't listen to your inner critic! While not everyone will like your style, you don't want them too. Your goal is to find the tribe of professionals that sincerely appreciate expertise you have to offer. That won't happen if you don't get started. The sooner you start working towards becoming an in-demand expert, the sooner you'll figure out what works for you and your customers.

Published on: Sep 13, 2015