Marketing today requires laser-focus. Mass marketing is dead.
It's all about specialization.
The great thing about the internet is it allows people all over the world to connect in a real way. And when you're running an online business, that connection is vital.
And being perceived as an authority in your industry can dramatically impact your bottom line.
Being an authority builds trust. It gives people confidence that, regarding the subject matter, they're in the right place. It makes it a lot easier for them to take out their credit card.
In any industry, you'll find different businesses with different types of authority. In this example, the topic is learning art.
But think about how you could apply this in any industry.
Here are four different ways to position yourself as an authority:
1. The mega authority
One way to differentiate is simply to be bigger and more comprehensive than anyone else.
Simply, in this case, doesn’t mean easily.
The site ArtistsNetwork.tv brings dozens of well-known artists and art teachers under one virtual roof, partnering with big publishers of art books to give authors a venue to teach.
The model is: find ultra qualified authorities, publish excellent tutorial content that’s interesting and useful, then use the publishing platform to offer more advanced content at an additional fee.
2. The professional authority
Over on Twitter a couple of weeks ago, Derek Balsley brought my attention to the site The Art of Education.
They’ve partnered with an accredited college to focus on professional development for a very well-defined group of artists — art teachers. The Art of Education offers courses for graduate or undergraduate credit, as well as satisfying ongoing education requirements for teachers.
If you can create content at the right quality, professional development is always a smart play. It’s highly marketable, because it’s something professionals need in order to advance their careers — especially those who need ongoing education to keep their licenses.
For content marketers who make the commitment to the work, it can be a great model.
3. The identity authority
Another serious authority in art education is Bob Davies — a wry, soft-spoken watercolor teacher who built a following on YouTube, then sold his home-filmed DVD series in massive numbers.
Bob and his son Phil founded an art education website similar to ArtistsNetwork.tv — with one key difference that they don’t actually mention in their marketing.
Davies is British. Specifically, Davies is Northern, with a Welsh background. My top analyst for British accents figures him for northwest England, probably somewhere near Liverpool.
Davies’s accent, his delivery, his self-deprecation, and his sense of humor all quietly point back to a strong sense of identity … something Robert Cialdini would identify as Unity.
And beyond a question of accents or subject matter for paintings, there’s a point of view that’s highly consistent on ArtTutor — among the founders, the teachers, and the member comments in their forums.
It comes back to that personality of Bob’s … understated, self-deprecating, a bit dry.
I don’t think it’s about geography. It’s about a particular set of outlooks, attitudes, and expressions that art lovers from Northern Britain tend to share.
4. The category of one authority
The sites I’ve mentioned have all been big. Well-known teachers, lots of content, lots of money and time to set up.
But big isn’t the only way to go.
Artist Eni Oken has niched down her topic in multiple ways.
She’s a certified Zentangle teacher — a form of meditative drawing that is a tribe unto itself. But even within that specific niche, Eni narrows down her focus to specific subtopics, like shading drawings or specific compositional approaches.
Eni runs a popular group on Facebook, where she invests a lot of time and energy. She’s also smart about SEO and ranks for some keyword terms for popular drawing techniques within the Zentangle format.
When you’re willing to make yourself a “star” of your business, differentiation becomes fairly simple.
You don’t have to build your whole business around your personality — that doesn’t have to be your only differentiator. But for those who are willing, adding an element of individual personality — a founder’s newsletter, a blog, a podcast, a vlog — can make a winning difference.