Authority Positioning to Strengthen Your Brand
May 22, 2019

Notes from the Show

In this episode, we join Mike Saunders, The Authority Positioning Coach, in a discussion about using authority positioning to differentiate your brand from your competitors’:

  • Making sure you are the educator and advocate for your target audience
  • How caring and confidence convey authority that people intrinsically recognize
  • Developing a strong personal brand through strategic authority positioning assets



Intro: You’re listening to Dare to Differentiate, a podcast for business owners in crowded industries who want to learn how to rise above the noise. In this show, we focus not on doing everything for everybody, but on doing a few things for the right people with excellence. So, if you’re ready to leave the herd, then you’ve come to the right place. Let’s get into the show.Intro: You’re listening to Dare to Differentiate, a podcast for business owners in crowded industries who want to learn how to rise above the noise. In this show, we focus not on doing everything for everybody, but on doing a few things for the right people with excellence. So, if you’re ready to leave the herd, then you’ve come to the right place. Let’s get into the show.

Susan: Hello. This is Susan Tatum, and I’m here now with Mike Saunders, the Authority Positioning Coach. Welcome, Mike.

Mike: Hey, Susan. Thank you for having me on.

Susan: I’m glad to have you here. I’m really interested in talking with you for a number of reasons, one of which is that, in my work with LinkedIn, I do LinkedIn base development programs, and I found that a really strong personal brand that appeals to the target audience is a key component of a successful program. Without that, it’s just really difficult to overcome the noise, and your work seems to be helping to create that strong personal brand and that authority position. Do you want to just start by telling us a little bit about what you do for anybody who’s not familiar with you?

Mike: Yeah, you know, it’s kind of like about – I don’t know – five, seven years ago. You remember the phrase “content marketing?”

Susan: Uh-huh.

Mike: Well, now, content marketing’s no longer a thing, and it’s not because it went away, it’s because you better darned well focus on content marketing in your marketing plan because that’s just the way that people need to be spoken to and worked with, not yelled at: “Coupon, coupon, deadline, scarcity, and buy from me.” Right? So, content marketing was like this new-fangled thing and now it’s like folded into just marketing and baked into where it is part of the ethos of what marketing is.

Authority positioning and authority marketing is where content marketing used to be at that point when I mentioned because now, people are like, “Hmm. Wait a minute here. I started doing this content marketing thing and teaching my target audience, but so are my competitors. Now, what’s the next step to level up my game and to be seen as that obvious choice?”

I’ve owned my marketing agency for 10 years and about four years ago now, I refocused everything to just be the authority positioning coach because I used to do it all. “Hey, you want SEO? I can do it. You want social media? I can do it.” And you were jack of all trades, master of none. Now, I focus on this authority positioning, which, in a brief sentence, what it is, is making sure that you are that educator and advocate for your target audience and teaching them what you do to solve their problems so that they see you as the obvious choice and it’s not just Tweeting this or Facebook messaging that or creating a blog post. Those are small, small, small elements of it, but if you can create your authority position so that you are pre-framed before you even reach out and connect with someone, that’s what it’s all about.

Susan: Interesting that you said that four years ago you decided this is where you’re going to focus, and that’s a good story, too, because what you described was, “I see so much of this in marketing agencies. We’re a full-service digital marketing agency and we’re doing all this sort of stuff.” Well, so if everybody else.

Mike: Yup.

Susan: I read your book, which I highly recommend because it’s got a process that you can follow in it, and I love that kind of stuff. Over the last four or five years, I would say we’ve seen this approach, this authority approach being used and being widely successful. One of the questions that I was going to ask you is are there industries now where it’s becoming overused or would it be difficult to stand out? Sales and marketing are two areas that come to my mind. Or do you just dig deeper to find something that’s really different when a tactic or an approach gets used that much?

Mike: Well, I think that any time you do something different, it sets you apart and the trick is what is that piece of differentiation? So, if you’re asking what industries does this work best in –

Susan: Yeah.

Mike: Any industry. But I will tell you this: the go-to ones, like, “Oh, well, you know, coaches, consultants, speakers,” all those normal types, those are the ones that are out there anyway. So, that’s the natural first step, you would think, that those niches and industries would start with because they’re already doing talks, online videos, podcasts. But I think, if you think about red ocean and blue ocean, you know, the red ocean is being all things to all people or the red ocean is doing the same thing as your competitors. The blue ocean is doing something different. Well, I feel like the blue ocean is for the industries that typically are not doing this type of thing.

Let’s say that you work with someone – and I’ll give you this interesting example. There are people that are published authors and they are heating and air conditioning contractors. Or a realtor. Well, you have a realtor come to your house and say, “We’d love to list your home. Here’s what we do,” and they leave you a copy of their Amazon bestselling book, and now, all of a sudden, you’ve dropped the mic and it’s like, “Wait a minute. That other realtor came in with gum on his shoe and –”

Susan: And a calendar.

Mike: Yeah, you’re right. So, there is not one specific industry, but it really is something that you have to dig into your – because sometimes people go, “Here’s a fear. Here’s a worry. I ain’t no expert. So, how can I be an authority in whatever?” Well, no matter what job you have or industry you’re in, you’re an expert compared to your prospects and your clients because when you get that phone call, that email, or you visit with them and they’re asking you questions, you know, I could say to anybody, “Hey, tell me the last couple, three questions you got from a prospect before they hired you.” “Oh, well, they typically are asking this or that.” “Okay, well, go a little bit deeper, past the general frequently asked questions. What’s a question or two that maybe someone should be asking but they really don’t know to ask, but if they ask that question of you, boy, their eyes light up and the lightbulb goes off. Give me a couple of those. Okay, you’re the expert.”

People don’t realize, because you’re kind of acclimated to all the things you know and do in your daily work, but you really are an expert given your knowledge and then, really, it’s polished up and optimized when you deliver it with that empathy and authenticity because when you come off as someone caring and confident, people intrinsically know that, “Okay, this guy or this gal knows what they’re talking about and they care.”

Susan: That’s really interesting because I would have never thought of it in use by an HVAC contractor or something like that. My mind just never went there, but that makes so much sense. In a local market, boy, that could really set you aside from everybody who’s driving around town with their logos on their cars or something.

Mike: Yeah, because, you know, think about HVAC or chiropractors. It doesn’t really matter what industry you think of. What do they typically do? “Hey, here’s this flyer. Let’s do a Facebook ad campaign.” Well, so do your competitors. So does every other person who you are competing against. They’re doing the same old thing: ad in the newspaper or whatever these days that they’re doing.

Susan: Yeah.

Mike: But what if you took this approach of having some really specific what I call authority positioning assets? And if you think about something, have you ever seen like on the TV shows the fashion designers or you think of even a website designer? What do they have to show their work? A portfolio. “Oh, let me show you my portfolio of my dress designs or my website designs.” Well, I created this phrase and actually filed for a federal trademark called “Authority Positioning Portfolio.” What is in the portfolio is a variety of authority positioning assets? And why do I call them assets? Because if you think about something, how long does a Facebook ad campaign last and work for you?

Susan: As long as you run it, I guess.

Mike: Yes. Yeah, you’re one of the first people that got that because sometimes people are like, “Uh, I don’t know.” Yeah, as long as you keep paying the machine and paying Facebook, it runs as long as you are feeding the beast. But guess what happens when you turn that off? Well, all those ads you ran aren’t just out there for people to still find. Poof, they are gone.

But what would happen if someone Googles your name and/or your name and your company name? Don’t kid yourself. Before you get that referral – people go, “Oh, I get my business by referral. I don’t need Facebook ads.” Good. Well, unfortunately, you are not getting phone calls and you are not getting emails and appointments by phone or in person because there is a large amount of people who are Googling you and your business and not seeing what they should be seeing. And I’m not talking about reviews. That’s a piece of authority and reputation because that’s social proof. But what would happen if they Googled your name and your business and all they saw was your LinkedIn profile, Facebook, and your website? Those are the things they expect to see. Those are the things that they see about your competitor. And what kinds of things are on your website. “Look at me, look at me, look at me,” right?

But what would happen if they Googled your name and your business and they saw those things and they kind of gloss right over them, and then right there on page one of Google is this link that goes, “So and so entrepreneur interviewed on this podcast talking about boom.” Well, what if the topic that they were talking about was a problem that your target audience has and they’re like, “Shoot, I’m not ready to go to their website and download something that they’re going to email me a lot about,” or, “I’m not ready to schedule a phone call or visit, but I’m going to listen to that interview podcast, yeah.” Or they saw a YouTube video or they saw you mentioned in the media.

I’m not even talking about the book. I think that that scares a lot of people, you know, although I’ve got a way that I help people become an Amazon bestselling author without writing a word in 90 days. But think about the search for a second. If your perfect target audience did that search and they then saw website, LinkedIn, Facebook, and then they saw that, “Ooh, podcast, that’s interesting,” and then they click to listen to that. They probably are not going to listen to every syllable and call you up and go, “You have sold me. Please send me your info,” but what they’re going to do is they’re going to go, “All right, cool. I’m going to have that playing in the background while I multitask and do something else, but, boy, that person, they’ve got some good points they made,” or, “The air of competence they have, that’s pretty good.”

That’s the point. It pre-frames your authority and expertise before someone even contacts you. But if you have those assets, those authority positioning assets strategically designed, and that’s a thing we ought to put a pin on, and if you want to go deeper on that, that’s something people don’t realize how to strategically design building these assets – but if you have those things, yes, people can see them before they even contact you, but more importantly, don’t sit back and expect that to happen. That’s a one-off or that’s few and far between, but you have these assets that you now can use in your business development. Have you ever heard of the phrase “buyer’s journey?”

Susan: Oh yeah. I have. I’m not sure that everyone who’s listening will have heard of that.

Mike: So, in inbound marketing or any kind of marketing, everybody who buys from you goes through their own buyer’s journey, and a lot of times, it’s very consistent. You know, like I mentioned about asking questions, like, “Hey, what are your biggest concerns about…” whatever. Well, your prospects and your clients – and you can figure this out by asking your clients, “Hey, why did you choose us and what were some of the fears and concerns you had?” you pick up like three or four main themes that run through peoples’ minds before they hire you and they are going through that buyer’s journey. They’re wondering about this, they’re worried about that, and they have to check that box in their mind before they hire you. Many times, that’s because you sell them on the phone or in person.

But what would happen if you strategically designed some of these authority positioning assets like podcast interviews or your book or mentions in the media so that when you use those proactively by saying to someone, “Oh, hey, it was great to meet you at that chamber function last week. We ought to grab a cup of coffee. Hey, before we do, thought I’d send you this interview that I recently did where I talk about that very struggle that you mentioned that you had. Here’s the interview. Let me know what you think.”

What happens then is they’re like, “Oh, well, they’re not trying to push, push, push, buy, buy, buy. They’re like giving me some interest – that’s pretty cool. I’ve not been interviewed on a podcast before.” And their mind kind of goes there and then, now, here comes this interview that they’re listening to and it’s not this sales pitch; it’s a learning experience.

But if you can cover in the series of interviews and don’t just think, “Yay, I got interviewed on a podcast. I’m done.” Uh-uh. It’s got to be consistent, and if you can structure those consistent interviews or media mentions or your book, you know, think of chapter one through four as the four steps that people go through when they decide to hire me, well, if you have those interviews and you’re just talking, you don’t need to prep for that. Anybody listening to this can go, “Oh, someone interviewed me on the phone in 10 minutes. I could talk for an hour and a half, so, you’d have to hold me back.”

So, that’s how you – I mean, it really is. And I’ve said for years that there’s a disconnect between your head and your hands. If I said to you, “Susan, I want you to write me a four-page expose on whatever topic that you specialize in,” and you’d go, “Okay.” You might be a prolific writer and be great, but most people would go, “Oh, I can’t even write an email, much less four pages.” But if I said, “Let’s turn the recorder on and let’s talk about that one or two main points you help your clients with, you could talk until the cows come home.

So, when you think about developing that authority, it’s teaching, it’s getting it out there, but when you have this portfolio begin developed, which is really a folder on your computer with, you know, “Here’s the link to my interview about this. Here’s the link to this media mention about that,” and you start using those in your email series, your business development, your social media. Now, all of a sudden, people are learning about you without you pitching you.

Susan: I like that concept of strategically designed assets because we probably don’t think it through well enough, and when you do that, you probably don’t need to have as much of it, right? You just need the right pieces.

Mike: Yes and no. you do need the right pieces, but you do need much of it from the point of view that needs to be consistently done. In other words, think of it like this: “Oh, great. There’s that great interview that I did back four or five years ago.”

Susan: Right.

Mike: You know what I’m saying. you go to someone’s Facebook business page and you see a post from 19 months ago and you’re like, “Oh, wow.” So, yeah, you hit all the bases, but you’ve got to do it again and again and again. And guess what? It’s not being redundant because if you were interviewed on the top three things that you solve for your clients and then you did another three interviews a month later and then another three interviews a month later and then compare transcripts of those interviews, you’d be saying the same main points, but you would’ve thought of a different case study example or a different quote that makes a point, so it’s never going to be redundant and like, “I feel like the best thing to do is…” You’re always going to have something fresh about it. It’s got to be done consistently, but yeah, it doesn’t need to be like, “I’ve got to create new content every other day.”

Susan: I just made a note here in this conversation. I was thinking of this authority position as a means of differentiation, which it certainly is. But what you’re talking about also I think is that you’re getting third party credibility out of it, which is a risk reduction kind of a thing: “Now, I’m feeling a little better that this person really does know what they’re doing. Let me back up a minute. It’s different. It may be easier for me to make a choice because you’re not like everybody else. You’re different. I see you as an authority, I believe you, so there’s not as much risk in choosing to do business with you.” I think that’s really important

I don’t know about all markets, but in the business to business markets that I deal in, that can lead to higher prices if you have that position.

Mike: Yeah. It can lead to two things. Number one, you become way more referable, which is your point about, “Other people have trusted you, so should I,” and you don’t need to then launch into your pitch, you know, like, someone’s referred me and they email you and you say, “Can we connect on the phone?” You’re like, “Yeah, yeah. Let’s talk next week.” And then you don’t need to get on the phone and go, “Well, I’ve done…” I mean, you could kind of give the 30,000- or 60,000-foot view so referrals increase.

But, yes, to your point, you can feel more confident that your revenue and your fees could be a touch more, but kind of like when you see these copywriting courses and they do this kind of fake caution: “Use this wisely. Don’t abuse the privilege you have with this power of copywriting, and use it for good.”

So, don’t use the power of authority positioning to go, “Yahoo, people see me as the expert, so I’ll just quadruple my fees for no reason.” You know, if you’ve been hesitant of increasing your fees and you give massive value and your clients are explaining about how wonderful you are to work with, then the authority positioning will give you the boost to raise your fees. And I’ll tell you something else. This is something I touched on in my book, like you mentioned. One of the things that people don’t realize when you start working on authority positioning is do you realize that the first person you need to sell on your services is yourself?

Susan: Confidence.

Mike: You know what I’m saying? So, all of a sudden, it’s like, “Oh, yeah. I’m good. I’m confident.” But hold up. When you start seeing this stuff come out and you hear your interview’s on or you see a media mention or you have a series of interviews you’ve done on a podcast show and now this is like, “Oh my word, this is my greatest buyer’s – every single point that I ever wanted to make to a client, if they would just listen to all of these, that is the bomb and I’m going to turn that into a book. Man, I’ve got my authority positioning portfolio.”

You start seeing this and then get some of those accolades back and you just see how that is turning out for you, your own confidence increases which then does something else. It doesn’t make you close 100% of the time. It doesn’t let you quadruple your prices. But you know what it does? You’ll boost up your closing ratio because you have that air of confidence. You’ll boost up your fees a little bit because you go, “You know what? My clients are getting wonderful results and I’m worth it.”

Now, that is a thing that a lot of people don’t realize. They think, “I need to have this done so that I can increase my business, and that’s true, but one of the internal things is that your own mindset shifts in a positive way.

Susan: Yeah. You’ve mentioned different kinds of content. Really, I think, there still has to be content. And I agree with you that content marketing is kind of table stakes at this point. You’ve got to have that content, and you’ve mentioned different kinds. When you’re working with your clients, do you base what kind of content they do on their personalities or what they’re comfortable with? Like, somebody who writes would be different from somebody who wants to just talk?

Mike: Myself, no, because I don’t teach my clients how to go out and create content; I deliver an authority positioning portfolio to them that they spend 20 minutes on the phone with me in a podcast interview and they’re done. Then, I don’t then go, “Oh, well, you’re good at video, so let’s go ahead and do a YouTube series.” No, because those are the things that you can do after you’ve got the ball rolling.

What I mean by that is a lot of people would say to me, “You know what? I know I need to do this development. My marketing just isn’t working.” Well, it’s not your marketing. It’s your authority positioning that is letting your lackluster results come to fruition.

What I deliver is I say, “Here is what we have to do. We have to reach out to your target audience, make sure you’re the obvious choice. We need to pick these three or four or five main topics that you just know inside and out that you target audience must understand so that if they did, and when they do, they go, ‘When do we start?’” Then I get them set up in my authority positioning assets and I develop that portfolio and it entails bringing them on my podcast and really drilling in deep on each one of those points individually, not a four-hour interview on the whole thing because that confuses people.

There’s a wonderful book. Have you ever read Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller?

Susan: Yes. I have.

Mike: Wonderful book, and one of their mantras is, “If you confuse, you lose,” and that totally is true. You cannot go, “Here’s everything that I know that, if some prospect saw this, heard this, read this, they would choose me.” You can’t do that in one interview. So, what I do is I sequence this out strategically to draw the prospects through the buyer’s journey, I do these individual interviews that really go deep, really spotlight my clients so that their prospects see them as the obvious choice, get that done, get that syndicated out through all of the iTunes and iHeartRadio and all of the syndications and that becomes visible out there on Google when they Google their business and their name.

And then I run that interview up to my press release team and they write up a professional press release to go. You know, “Susan Tatum interviewed on Influential Entrepreneurs,” and it’s like, “Hey, cool. Here’s this press release,” and now that gets out to NBC, CBS, Fox News affiliates and that’s a nice boost that Google picks up and indexes and you can use in your business development.

And then, from there, we just talk about different things like what else could we do? What are some of the next steps with this one interview? Because there’s a big thing that I think people have to realize. If I tell you all these things and you’re like, “Oh, my word. I don’t have time to grab lunch every day. I can’t do all this.” Everything I’m talking about here is myself doing a 20-minute interview on the phone and you’re done. You’re out doing the rest of your job and myself and my team are delivering this and sending it to you for approval and doing everything else.

So, when you hear about podcast and syndication and press release and syndication and being featured in an Amazon bestselling book, oh my goodness. You’re not doing anything. All of this is being done and handed to you on a silver platter. So, it’s repurposing one specific thing. And, you know, there are some advanced things, like, “Hey, boy, I sure would like to get interviewed more often on podcasts because that’s an awesome thing. I could talk myself silly.” Well, then you can flip the switch and go, boy, there’s an advanced ninja tactic that I could get you in front of major influencers and major targeted prospects for your company and have them just, boom, get on the phone with you without any problem and going through gatekeepers, and people are like, “Okay, tell me, tell me, tell me.”

The secret is having you own custom-branded podcast show that you don’t need to work or learn or do any technical anything. I do it all for you, but more than that, I teach you how to go, “Oh, hey. Here comes this CEO of this one company that you would love to do business with because you…” whatever. You do whatever services, right? And you can’t ever get the CEOs on the phone or the Vice Presidents of Marketing or whatever division on the phone. Their gatekeeper shoots you down.

But you email them or LinkedIn message them and go, “Hey, I’ve got my podcast called XYZ and I noticed your recent LinkedIn article and, man, that was really awesome. I love where you said this. I’d love to bring you on my podcast and just chat through that. Would you have some time for a 20-minute phone interview in the next few weeks?” One sentence. Boom. They’re like, “Of course. Let’s do that.” Now, you’re interviewing them, you’re talking, you’re chatting, you’re getting to know them, and you end the interview and you send it to them and you send a little graphic to go, “Hey, you can promote this on your social media. Thank you so much. Hey, by the way, I would love to circle back on the phone in the next few days and just kind of run an idea by you. What do you think?” “Oh, yeah. Of course. Yeah, yeah,” because now you know each other and you developed a rapport and you gave first.

So, I mean, this authority positioning is such a massive opportunity that it literally should be your one, only blue ocean marketing strategy because it’s not just one thing, “Okay, I did that.” It just takes on a whole life of its own.

Susan: Very interesting. So, if somebody comes to you and they haven’t been doing anything, how long in general does it take to go from zero to authority?

Mike: The package that I mentioned, building that authority position portfolio, I would say is as short as two to four weeks, depending on how soon you get on the schedule, how soon that you [prove the press release ? 24:56] and things, but two to four weeks, you’ve got that first batch done. And then, if we take it to the next step and then do some of the other things I mentioned, definitely in six to eight weeks, you’ve got a vibrant, massive authority positioning portfolio.

And then, rather than me just going, “Okay, have a nice day,” I set up a coaching call once it’s all delivered and done and go, “Okay. Let’s talk through this and let’s make sure you see every single asset that you have and let’s talk through how you can use this in your business development so that you can maximize everything that we’ve just put together for you.

Susan: Sounds awesome. Mike, I could talk to you for hours, but I only booked a certain amount of time with you, so let’s do this again. How does somebody get in touch with you if they’re interested, and I’m sure they will be?

Mike: Yeah, my website is and my book, like you mentioned, you can see that on the site. There’s a direct site where you can just get a free copy and just pay $7 for shipping, and that’s But either one of those websites you can grab some information. I just finished a 52-page authority positioning manifesto. It’s a wonderful read and you can get that on the website as well. That’s totally free.

Susan: And I read it, so I agree and recommend people should read it. Well, great talking to you. Thank you so much, and have a wonderful day.

Mike: Thank you so much.

Susan: Bye-bye.

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