Elizabeth Harr


Do you know how to leverage your star power?

Highly skilled experts are the foundation of any professional services firm that works with the U.S. government.

But while firms know they need top-notch professionals, few realize the advantages of having an expert who is also widely known and respected throughout the industry.

New research from the Hinge Research Institute  found that these high-visibility experts confer major benefits to their firms—resulting in the ability to become more recognized, attract leads, grow faster, and command higher fees. Let’s take a look at the findings.

What is a Visible Expert?

A visible expert is defined as “a professional with high marketplace visibility and a reputation for expertise.” These are the industry icons Washingtonians fight over for their annual conferences. They’re the problem solvers who immediately come to mind when the government hits a roadblock. Specifically, the study showed that buyers seek out high-visibility experts for two primary reasons:

  • To solve a critical problem
  • To build their brand and win new business
Why pick visible experts

The Advantages of Having a Visible Expert On Staff

For government contractors, highly visible experts act as force multipliers, generating leads and increasing brand awareness in the marketplace. The research shows that firms with these type of experts on staff stand to gain a lot, including:


Sixty-six percent of visible experts accelerate growth for their firms. The research shows visible experts increasing business development for their firms across a number of areas, with the biggest increases occurring in firm growth, lead generation, and audience reach. And with an often extensive network of personal connections, visible experts create opportunity to forge new business partnerships. On the human resources front, their high profile helps attract fresh talent.

Brand Building

Sixty-two percent of visible experts substantially help build their firm’s brand. For example, visible experts make a point to get noticed in print and online media, and as that expert becomes better known, so does their firm. This can help bolster brand development efforts throughout the corporation. Another bonus: the research shows that, as that expert continues to increase in visibility, so does their firm’s brand.

Higher Fees

Buyers expect to pay 200 percent over baseline for a Level 1 visible expert (the lowest level of visibility), and 13 times over baseline for a Level 5 visible expert (the highest level of visibility).

By interviewing over 1,000 buyers, Hinge found that clients see the value in having quality input from a recognized professional. Besides raising team confidence, visible experts can often solve problems quickly, reduce risk, and even assist with legal proceedings. When the lives of company and personnel are on the line, that’s the kind of advice buyers are willing to pay a premium price for.

Lead Generation

Visible experts boost lead generation for their firms, creating inbound leads through a variety of channels. By adding a visible expert to the team, companies can not only be more selective in vetting leads, they can close more leads later in the process, as well.

So how do I become a contracting superstar?

Although visible experts come from disparate backgrounds and industries, the research showed that they all use the same techniques to get to the top. Even better, the findings revealed certain experts who were able to get to the top five times faster. How did they do it? These “Fast Trackers” were doing three things differently from other visible experts.

speed of ascent

What the Fast Trackers do Differently

Tip #1: Focus on a Niche

You’re likely already an expert in the contracting industry, but now you want to really set yourself apart. Focusing on a narrow niche market might seem limiting, but findings reveal that those who identify a niche market or audience experience a faster rise in visibility than professionals who are generalists. Bottom line? It’s easier to be a big fish in a small pond.

Tip #2: Use Content Marketing

Fast Trackers also use content marketing—the practice of offering free, relevant information through a wide range of channels—to get ahead. Now that you’ve identified your target audience, think about what they care about, and how to reach them—via blogs, social media, industry articles, and speaking. 

Tip #3: Write a book

Eighty-five percent of fast trackers have written a strategically focused book. Books are a powerful way to build instance credibility and authority on an industry niche—after all, there’s nothing better than to be known as “the one who wrote the book” on a certain topic. As an added bonus, a book opens many other doors, leading to higher level speaking engagements, media interviews, and lots of free publicity.

Chasing the Dream

Deciding to become a visible expert isn’t a commitment to be taken lightly. In fact, passion and commitment are defining traits of visible experts in the study. But for those who want to take their career—or their firm—to the next level, strategically raising your visibility is a proven way to set yourself—and your firm—apart from the competition. 

About the Author

Elizabeth Harr is a partner at Hinge, [http://www.hingemarketing.com/] 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.

Reader Comments

Mon, Oct 20, 2014

Protecting your own ideas ~ that now ranks at the top of my list! Particularly when you're sharing original thinking.

Mon, Oct 13, 2014 Bob Davis

This article provides valuable insight how a firm may distinguish itself and generate leads in a shrinking market environment. The old marketing framework does not work in the Digital marketing era.

Thu, Oct 9, 2014 Lee Frederiksen

If you do not make you expertise visible you will indeed become a commodity and command no special rate or attention. It is sad,but true. The way I read the research even a little visibility has an impact. One of the big take aways is that many folks want to work with visible experts because they help draw new opportunities.

Thu, Oct 9, 2014

I don't know. The Feds just want to buy commodity labor. Most of the butts in seats are commodity butts. No more is needed. You need a distinctive, highly expert butt in only a small fraction of cases. Not only is the labor pool almost entirely in common for the contractors. It is also highly overlapped with the hiring pool for feds. You get what you pay for. The really pivotal people are the ones who make decisions on reqts, on SOWs, on who is on eval panels, and who have have veto rights in contractor selection. That is a very small number of people. The grist consists of the fabled butts in seats. How do you brand a butt, eh?

Thu, Oct 9, 2014 Elizabeth Harr

Good point. The idea behind expertise, and making it visible, is that you're informing/educating your client -- you're not so much branding the individual, rather, you're branding your expertise and its applicability to your audience. Thanks for the comment!

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