John is a freelance web developer in Austin, Texas.
With 11 years experience and a strong work ethic, he’s good at what he does.
But there’s a problem…
- He’s not closing enough sales…
- His profit margins are way too thin…
- He’s getting argued down on his fees…
- His conversion rates are falling…
- He’s not mining enough leads, attracting enough prospects, generating enough traffic…
…and it’s costing him his time, his energy and his freedom.
John’s a hard-worker. And like most hard-workers, he’s tried everything to overcome his obstacle.
Facebook Ads. Blogging. Networking. Outreach. Referrals…
“I can’t sleep,” he confided over coffee one day. “I’ve tried everything. I don’t know what else to do.”
“I wish someone could just tell me what to do…”
The Authority Dilemma
Let’s be clear:
John’s hardship is common.
If you’re an entrepreneur, freelancer or business owner, you’ve probably encountered a similar roadblock yourself.
It’s so common, in fact, that it has a name…
‘The Authority Dilemma.’
You want to generate more traffic, attract more prospects, close more leads … but you don’t know what to do or where to begin.
And without leads to follow-up on, sales to close, or regular cash flow to keep you afloat, you feel frustrated, demoralized and stuck in a rut.
You feel your dream lifestyle slipping between your fingers and before long, you consider doing the “honorable” thing, something you prayed you would never have to do…
Closing up shop and getting a ‘regular old job’.
After all, that’s the right thing to do, right?
The falling sales, the low conversion rates, the non-existent pipeline … This is NOT your problem.
In fact, these issues are symptoms of a much bigger problem:
You’re not an authority in your field.
And without a system to indoctrinate, develop and continually build your authority, your days of working for yourself and living your dream are severely numbered.
Once you become an authority in your field, all of your ‘problems’—the recycled leads, the disrespectful prospects, the diminishing sales—disappear indefinitely.
Once you become an authority in your field, all of your ‘problems’—the recycled leads, the disrespectful prospects, the diminishing sales—disappear indefinitely.
When you become an authority business comes to you.
In other words:
- You choose who you want to work with (and charge what you know you’re worth)
- You become the preferred source of advice and service in your market
- You make a stellar living your competitors can only envy
And that’s just the beginning.
The reality, though, is becoming an authority isn’t an easy route.
It takes a lot of time and effort.
But it is possible—once you have the right guidance and the right systematic strategy.
And in this article, you’ll learn exactly how the biggest and brightest minds in business systematically position themselves as authorities—using a system called, ‘Authority Stacking’—and how you, too, can achieve similar results.
Let’s get started.
Introducing: Authority Stacking
Note: Before outlining the concept of Authority Stacking, be warned: This article will challenge many commonly held assumptions and beliefs you might have about building a profitable online business. You need to put whatever assumptions or beliefs you might have aside, at least until you’ve finished reading the article. Deal? Okay, let’s continue…
The Authority Stacking System is the result of five years of painstaking research on how the leading market authorities perpetuate their celebrity within a chosen marketplace to ensure a large consistent stream of high-value opportunities.
My biggest takeaway was this:
Authorities have a strategic plan in place to indoctrinate, develop and continually build their authority—which is exactly how they grow their businesses so rapidly.
In other words:
To become a recognized leader in your field, it isn’t enough to publish a book, appear on T.V., feature on a podcast, or give a keynote … you have to ‘stack’ and amplify multiple medias together, and funnel the attention generated into customer conversion, retention and acquisition systems.
Quite a mouthful, I know, but don’t worry, I’m going to simplify it in the next section
The 3 Phases of Authority
There are three distinct but important phases of growth en route to becoming an authority and you need to master each before moving onto the next.
- The foundational setup phase
- The accelerated growth phase
- The amplified scale phase
Let’s look at each phase in detail.
Phase 1. The Foundational Setup Phase
The objective of the foundational setup phase is to ascertain (1) who you’re serving and (2) what problem you’re solving using the following four stacks:
- The hypothesis stack
- The market research stack
- The customer persona stack
- The message stack
- The Hypothesis Stack
Before you do anything—before you publish a blog post, before you email an influencer, before you sell your product or service—you need to develop a hypothesis.
According to Small Business Chron,
“A hypothesis is simply a statement making a prediction based on a set of observations.”
In other words, you need to predict whether there’s a good market fit for your product or service.
The mistake most people make is they start with what (the product or service they’re providing) rather than who (the customer they’re serving).
When you start with who, you can work backwards to identify your target market’s unmet needs, pain points and desires.
This forms the basis for your hypothesis and research, and will eventually lead you to what (the product or service you know there is a demand for.)
The biggest thing to remember is this:
Authorities focus on who they’re serving. Struggling business owners focus on the what they’re providing.
Your hypothesis can be summarized as:
“I believe [CAUSE], will [EFFECT].”
For example, if you’re a realtor and you’ve observed the best-performing realtors close their deals online, you might hypothesize, “I believe teaching realtors email marketing will help them close more sales.”
This will serve as a roadmap to your testing and research methods.
- “What problem am I trying to solve?”
- “Who am I trying to solve the problem for?”
- “How acute, unmet or underserved is their problem?”
To become an authority in your field, you need to go where the unmet needs are (which, incidentally, is where the money is, too).
- The Market Research Stack
In today’s business world, market research isn’t just helpful—it’s essential to building a profitable business.
Entrepreneur.com defines market research as,
In other words, you need to collect information about your prospective clients and customers, the potential competition and the industry in general.
You might conduct research by identifying any needs your competitors aren’t meeting or interviewing ‘early adopters’—people who are already trying to solve their own problem.
Your research will provide you with feedback and you’ll either need to:
- Pivot. Where you’ll need to adjust your hypothesis, or…
- Persevere. Which means you’re onto something but you need to research further
If it’s that latter, you can move onto…
- The Customer Persona Stack
After you’ve conducted your market research, you need to specify who your customer is in as much detail as possible.
This will ensure you launch a product or service that will meet all your target market’s needs.
To do this, you can create what’s called a ‘customer avatar’.
This will help you identify your target market’s goals, motivations and more important, pain points.
Digital Marketer recommends four key components when creating a customer persona:
- Goals and values
- Challenges and pain points
- Sources of information
- Objections & role in purchase process
Continuing with the earlier realtor example, your customer persona might look like this:
- Goals and values. Ric wants to close more sales
- Challenges and pain points. Ric isn’t closing enough sales to hit his monthly KPIs
- Sources of information. http://www.realtor.com/news/
- Objections & role in purchase process. How long does it take to learn email marketing?
The more specific you are, the better you can serve your customer and the more targeted you can make the next stack…
- The Message Stack
Once you’ve identified who you’re serving, you need to communicate to your target market the transformation you’re offering.
This is known as your ‘message’ and it’s a way of communicating the purpose of your business.
- “What’s important to me and my customers and how do I intend to serve them?”
- “What makes my product or service unique, so that the client would choose my?”
- “Where is my customer now and who are they going to be after they have bought my product or service?”
Coca Cola communicate their message via a company mission statement:
Your message is crucial.
In today’s digital age, your target market is inundated with information but starved for understanding…
…and without a clear message to define the solution you’re offering, you’re going to struggle to stand out in the crowd.
To do that, you need to think of your ‘man in the chair’:
You target market doesn’t know anything about you, your business, or the solution you’re offering—and it’s your responsibility to inform them before moving onto the next phase of your journey.
Stage 2. Accelerated Growth Phase
This is where you really begin implementing your authority action plan.
You go from a nobody to a heavily in-demand go-to person (and eventually, the go to person.)
The accelerated growth phase comprises:
- The product & service stack
- The marketing stack
- The funnel & automation stack
- The advertising stack
Let’s look at each stack in detail.
- The Product & Service Stack
This is where you introduce the solution to your customer persona’s biggest problem.
The product might be digital (where delivery can be automated), or physical (where distribution can be outsourced, depending on budget and demand) so a platform (ideally a website) is needed.
It’s worth noting here that it is possible to become an authority from a product or service alone.
Take Noah Kagan, for example.
Before launching Appsumo and Sumome, Noah was known as “Facebook’s #30 employee.”
Today, it’s a totally different story.
With over 448,600 websites using Sumome, Noah’s become a go-to person on list building and business process validation, and is often featured on other authority platforms like Ramit Sethi’s Brain Trust.
Other examples of business owners who become authorities from their products or services include:
- Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook
- Phil Libin from Evernote
- Clay Collins from Leadpages
Becoming known as the ‘face’ of a product or service perfectly illustrates The Law of Focus from The 22 Laws of Immutable Marketing:
“A company can become incredibly successful if it can find a way to own a word in the mind of the prospect.”
If your product or service solves a problem better than anyone else’s, it becomes associated with the associated word in the prospect’s mind, and that relates back to you.
As you become a sought-after authority, demand for your products and services will grow—as will your prices.
- The Marketing Stack
Many people confuse marketing and advertising because their difference is so subtle.
So let’s clear up the confusion:
Marketing, in our context, is indoctrinating and pre-selling your target market on your ‘big idea’: the transformation, features, benefits and outcomes you’re offering.
This is achieved using webinars, free reports, 3-part video series, etc.
Advertising is directing your target market’s attention to your marketing using paid advertisements (more on this shortly.)
A good example of an authority who’s mastered the marketing stack is John Lee Dumas from Entrepreneur on Fire:
John uses multiple marketing channels to indoctrinate and presell his target market on his core offer, ‘Podcasters’ Paradise.’
He achieves this using several marketing pieces including a free email course…
…a second email course through his book, The Fire Path (another marketing piece in and of itself)…
…and a free webinar training through his other book, Podcast Launch (you guessed it—another marketing piece)…
With multiple channels at play, he’s able to consistently market to new prospects on a weekly webinar, pitch ‘Podcaster’s Paradise’ and enjoy a steady stream of business.
This strategy, as reported by his monthly income reports, results in one of his biggest revenue streams:
There’s an important distinction to make here between the authority and the struggling business owner. Authorities use direct response marketing because it’s measurable and can be improved consistently to maximise profits.
Authorities like John can consistently track opt-in rates, open-rates, click-through-rates, cost per lead, cost per sale, visitor value and other metrics, and adjust accordingly if improvements need to be made.
This is incredibly powerful because it allows them to consistently improve every facet of their business, after all, the things we measure are the things we improve.
Struggling business owners, on the other hand, focus on more ‘spray and pray’ marketing approaches such as buying one time ads, and seeing who shows up.
The will buy media from whichever silver-tongued salesperson arrives at their door and fail to commit to any one method long enough to maximise its results.
While an authority will spend years mastering one specific marketing channel, a struggling business owner will put their 3-6 months in and wonder why they’re not getting a return on investment.
Keeping that in mind will put you ahead of the curve when you’re marketing your brand.
- The Funnel & Automation Stack
Once you have your marketing in place, you need to ‘plug’ it into a funnel so you can move your audience through different stages of your marketing and eventually to a place where they can make a purchasing decision.
This brings us to the funnel & automation stack and it includes three components:
- List building
- Funnel optimization
I. List Building
You probably already know how important list building is.
“If you’re not building an email list, you’re an idiot.”
The question is:
Are you building yours?
If not, you’re not…well…let’s move on, shall we?
Authorities make list building their number one priority.
And for good reason:
With a list of raving followers who’ve given you permission to market to them, you have an opportunity to built trust, indoctrinate them in your message—and meet any needs your competitors overlooked.
Make no mistake:
The potential for growth is huge—if you choose to capitalize on it.
If you want to learn how to build your email list, have a look at The Definitive Guide to Getting Clients with Cold Email by Hubstaff where it explains how I send out 3,000 emails each day, have a response rate between 5 and 10%, and generate 300 leads every month.
List building is only one component, though.
A .csv file with a list of email addresses isn’t going to help you join the ranks of the elite.
What will, is…
II. Funnel Optimization
A funnel describes the journey your prospective client or customer takes after they’ve opted in.
The really important part of the funnel is the marketing sequence that the prospect goes through.
This combination of the indoctrination email, the slide deck in a webinar, video or free report, and the rest of your marketing pieces compounds to produce a powerful relationship between you and the reader.
A common example of a funnel might be someone opts in your website, receive a 7-day email course on your topic and then is upsold a $49 product in the last email.
This can generate sales, but the problem is not everyone will be interested in your introductory offer.
This is where automation comes into play.
Have you ever wondered why authorities use advanced email marketing services like Infusionsoft?
They’re able to build multi-level marketing funnels with advanced tagging and segmentation systems which turns subscribers into buyers—and buyers into evangelists for their brand.
Ramit Sethi is a perfect illustration of this.
His flagship product Zero to Launch has generated millions of dollars through mastering the funnel and automation stack:
In fact, Ramit was able to generate $400,000 with 5 emails for one launch.
Whatsmore, the sophistication of your funnel can demonstrate your authority.
In other words, if you have a robust funnel that converts well, you’ll have people going through your funnel just to learn about how you run your business (and perhaps even hire you to consult them on how they can do it, too.)
While email is only one aspect of the funnel and automation stack, it’s still a testament to the effectiveness of having advanced automation in place.
- The Advertising Stack
Once you have a product or service, a marketing strategy and a funnel in place, you need to drive more traffic to that funnel.
While this can be achieved using the marketing stack alone, it can be amplified further using the advertising stack.
You can retarget potential clients and customers who previously visited your website but didn’t opt-in or purchase your product or service.
This is known in as ‘retargeting’ and you see many of authorities implementing it using Facebook ads, Bing Ads, Google ads, etc.
No one utilises this stack better than Jeff Walker:
Jeff exploded onto the Internet marketing scene in 2011 with his flagship product, The Product Launch Formula, which has gone on to generate millions of dollars in revenue.
If you’ve ever visited Jeff’s website but didn’t opt in, you’ll often see him retargeting you on Facebook with an ad like the following:
This allows Jeff to continuously drive traffic to his funnel all-year round and ensure he has a successful launch when he reopens enrollment.
To master the funnel and automation stack, you need to introduce liquidation offers at the top of the funnel to recoup your ad costs and core products and services at the bottom to make the biggest financial gains.
Phase 3. Amplified Scale Stack
So far, we’ve covered the foundational setup phase and the accelerated growth phase.
The amplified scale stack is the final phase of Authority Stacking.
Here, you go from a go-to person to the go-to person.
This phases includes:
- The content & publishing stack
- The influencer & media stack
- The positioning stack
- The collaboration stack
You don’t have to follow the order we’ve outlined for the amplified scale phase—but it will help.
Let’s look at each stack in detail.
- The Content & Publishing stack
Contrary to popular belief, you do NOT need to begin your journey to becoming an authority with the content stack.
You do NOT need to write a blog post, publish a YouTube video, record a podcast … until you have the the foundational setup phase and accelerated growth phase in place.
Granted, you can follow that route, but it’s not the most effective.
What’s disillusioned most people is the, “content is king” myth.
Yes, content is important, but only if:
- You’ve already implemented the Authority Stacks in the foundational setup and accelerated growth phase or…
- You have exceptional content
(And by exceptional, I mean…exceptional.)
No one knows this better than Brian Dean from Backlinko:
How was Brian able to take a blank WordPress installation and turn it into a site that generates 119,000 monthly visitors—with only 33 blog posts?
He published content so unique, so helpful and so valuable—people couldn’t help but engage with it.
Take a look at the responses to one of his recent posts:
While it’s easy to argue Brian began with the content stack, what most people don’t realise is Brian spent years of trial and error building authority blogs before he began Backlinko.
This thing is:
It’ not enough to publish exceptional blogs posts, YouTube videos, podcasts … to build serious traffic in today’s age, you need make people aware of it.
One way to achieve this is using The Skyscraper Technique.
This is when you find the best, link-worthy content on your topic—and improve it.
Once you’ve done that, you can reach out to influencers who linked to similar content and ask them to link to your content instead.
This not only builds your platform’s authority from an SEO standpoint—it also nurtures important relationships that become critical in the next stack.
- The Influencer & Media Stack
Have you ever wondered why authorities add where they’ve been featured on their landing pages?
Getting featured on major media outlets, TV, iTunes Top 100 podcasts and radio, proves you’re a trusted expert in your field.
And if you’re trusted expert in your field, people are more likely to buy your products and services.
This stack can rapidly accelerate your status as an authority.
Don’t believe me?
Just ask James Clear:
In less than 36 months, James has built an email list of 240,000 subscribers and 700,000 monthly visitors.
In his own words,
James is everywhere:
By syndicating his content, James has been able to position himself as an authority on his topic (behavior change), improve his domain authority through backlinking and leverage his status into keynote speaking using…
- The Positioning Stack
With connections with book agents, TV moguls and other authorities, you can continue to build and leverage your authority into other platforms such as book publishing, keynote speaking, event creation, etc.
Chris Ducker is a perfect illustration of the positioning stack:
By leveraging his existing authority as the go-to person for outsourcing, Chris was able to publish a bestselling book…
…reposition himself as a sought-after keynote speaker…
…and launch his own flagship event:
By leveraging this stack, you’re able to connect with influencers and implement the final stack…
- The Collaboration Stack
Have you ever wondered how product launches are able to generate 6-or-even 7-figures in less than 14 days?
The answer is the collaboration stack.
With it, you’re often able to rapidly generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue in a very limited amount of time.
You rely on other authorities to promote your products and services to their audiences, as well as your own.
This introduces hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of people to you and your brand.
A recent example of the collaboration stack in practice is Bryan Harris’ Get 10,000 Subscribers launch:
Bryan asked other authorities like Grant Baldwin (an authority on getting paid to speak)…
…and Jeff Goins (an authority on writing) to promote his product for him…
…and the results speak for themselves:
It’s worth mentioning here that Brian also brought in Tom to manage his launch.
Was it because Tom’s the go-to authority on product launches?
But he is an authority on the collaboration stack (having even written a book on the subject.)
In other words:
You can become a sought-after authority—by other authorities—by mastering one stack alone.
The effectiveness of the collaboration stack lays in its scalability.
Think about it:
The more authorities you recruit as JVs, the more potential client and customers are introduced to your product or service—and the more revenue you can generate.
The reason the collaboration stack comes last in the Authority Stacking system is because you need enough authority currency in order to implement it effectively.
Unlike money, authority currency is how much value you can provide other authorities. In order to get your foot in the door with the biggest movers and shaker, you need to be able to demonstrate you’re reputable, have produced results in your audience and can do the same for theirs.
This is achieved using the size of your email list, your sales history, your conversation statistic, your testimonials and reviews, etc. The better a fit, the better bartering position you’re going to be in to get your foot in the door and make a valuable connection.
‘What Do I Do Now?’
Before we wrap up, let’s recap.
- If you’re a struggling entrepreneur, freelancer, or business owner, it’s because you’re not an authority in your field
- To become a go-to person, you need a system to indoctrinate, develop and continually build your authority
- That system, is the Authority Stacking system
- There are three phases to becoming an authority: (1) the foundational setup phase, (2) the accelerated growth phase and the amplified scale phase, and each phases comprises four stacks
- With each stack, you move further from a go-to person to the go-to person
- When implemented correctly, it is possible to become an authority by mastering one stack alone