The Art and Science of Becoming “Known”


Known by Mark Schaefer

Today, I’m going to conduct a real-time experiment, right before your eyes, with your Neuromarketing host, Roger Dooley, as our guinea pig. Let’s begin!

Every good experiment begins with a hypothesis. Here is what we want to test:

Over the past two years, I have conducted research on how successful people have become “known” in their industry.

Being known is not the same as being famous. It’s not about having millions of fans and red carpet appearances. Being known is about approaching your web presence with an intent that creates the proper authority, reputation, and audience to realize your potential and achieve your goals … whatever they might be.

And what I found is that every person, in every field, in every region of the world, did the same four things to be known.

Roger is certainly known in his field! Let’s see if the path I found to becoming known applies to Roger as well.

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The Roger Dooley story

Roger did not leap from the womb as a neuromarketing expert (although that is a pretty funny picture to imagine!). Roger’s early career was spent building businesses in the emerging tech industry, with an emphasis on web and SEO.

Roger’s interest in the intersection of neuroscience and marketing was sparked by an unexpected turn of events. His daughter completed her neuroscience degree but decided to go into marketing. At the same time, a few startups were testing technologies like fMRI and EEG to see if they could predict advertising effectiveness.

He discovered that nobody else he could find was writing about idea of “neuromarketing,” as this field was called by some. He bought a couple of related domain names and got to work by diving into the subject. Roger started blogging consistently – at least one post a week. At first, he was unsure of his impact. Was anybody out there reading? Did anybody care?

But he kept going. He started to see signs of interest in his work. Readers commented or emailed him. Journalists sought his comments on consumer neuroscience. Speaking engagements became more frequent. Eventually, the traction from the blog resulted in a book deal from John Wiley & Sons.

The book led to more speaking engagements and a rapidly-increasing fan base. After patiently building a large audience on his blog, he brought that audience over to a new podcast on the subject and his reputation was further amplified.

The fact that he is “known” for something today provides Roger a permanent and sustainable advantage that opens new doors, creates exciting new business opportunities, and establishes a “buffer” against industry changes that may sweep away the people who are not known in his field.

The path and the test

In the research that led up to my new book KNOWN: The handbook for building and unleashing your personal brand in the digital age, I found that there were four steps on the path to becoming known. Let’s see if Roger’s journey mirrored this standard path.

STEP ONE – The sustainable interest: Successful people don’t necessarily follow their “passion.” In this case, Roger didn’t start with an innate passion for neuromarketing. It was an interesting topic, to be sure, and he established a business around it. Now, he loves the subject. He didn’t follow his passion… his passion followed him!

This is a characteristic of successful people. They love what they do, but more important, the topic they choose is “sustainable” – there is an audience big enough to matter, big enough to help you achieve your goals. Roger found a unique topic that that he could be known for, and an audience willing to pay him for what he does.

STEP TWO – The space: Roger identified a potential sustainable interest, but a key to his success is that his niche was mostly un-contested. In a world filled with marketing experts and neuroscience enthusiasts, few people were paying attention to the intersection of the two fields. Nobody else was becoming known about neuromarketing! This was a “space” that he could own. If he created content consistently over a period of time, it is a space he could even dominate.

STEP THREE – The fuel: Becoming known in the digital age is fueled by content, specifically written content like a blog, audio content like a podcast, or video content. Roger started blogging because he loved writing and his passion for his subject and personality shined through.

Most important, he created content consistently. For most people, it takes between two and three years for a personal brand to “tip.” So Roger’s “grit” and determination paid off.

STEP FOUR – The audience: The value of your content is zero, unless people see it and share it. Roger’s business success depended on building an audience big enough to make his dreams come true. It had to be an actionable audience beyond the unreliable, weak relational links of social media.

Roger worked tirelessly to connect to people, help them, and support their own goals. The positive support from his audience reinforced for Roger that he had a “purpose.” He was teaching people, inspiring them, and having an impact.

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The classic case

So yes – Roger’s path was identical to the many people featured in my book. In fact, Roger represents the classic case of how people become known today. He found his place (what he wanted to be known for), his space (an un-contested niche), his fuel (this blog, and later a book and podcast), and an audience that mattered.

Roger was consistent and kept working, even when he was unsure of his impact. He was patient and didn’t try to be on every platform. He’s driven by more than merely selling stuff – he has a purpose that keeps him going every week. He succeeded because he had something more than a passion — he had a plan and stuck to it.

Being known today can provide an advantage in so many ways. What do you want to do with your life? Start or grow a business? Get more leads? Write a book or start a speaking career? Attract more donations for your charity? All of these goals, and many more, can be ignited by becoming known.

The prospect of establishing a meaningful internet presence may seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. It really does follow these four steps, consistently applied.

The internet is just beginning. There’s room for you, too. Perhaps it’s your turn… to become known!

The Art and Science of Becoming KNOWN by @MarkWSchaefer #Neuromarketing Click To Tweet

  1. Stan Faryna says

    Among place, space, fuel and audience, audience (specifically audience acceptance) seems to be king. Which brings up charming questions about chickens, eggs and traffic. But I wonder where valuable knowledge, competitive and advanced skills and moral character fit into the recipe for success. I would like to think so. But maybe they don’t and I’m willing to consider their absence is not problematic for the world.

    What do you think?

    1. Roger Dooley says

      Hi, Stan. I think that knowledge, skill, etc. are the table stakes for building a reputation in a field. There may be many competent people in a particular area, but not all will be known to the same degree. Of course, skills and knowledge vary. Malcolm Gladwell is far better known than any of the scientists he writes about. He doesn’t know as much about science as them, but he has great skill in translating that science into content that people find interesting and informative.

    2. Mark Schaefer says

      Stan, I think in the long-term these things are important to win in business. However they are not necessarily required to be known, or even famous. There are many famous idiots. I know that might sound weird, but a survey of our popular culture is all you need to see that this is true.

      1. Roger Dooley says

        Ha, good point, Mark. Becoming a “recognized expert” implies some level of expertise to begin with. But, there are plenty of examples of high recognition with low competence.

  2. Ubile ogulu says

    I think “famous idiots” are valuable in themselves and should not be entirely dismissed as irrelevant and useless. I am of the opinion that EVERY single thing has a place and is of importance. Perhaps the famous idiots are magnets that attract the crowds you can poach an “idiot-awareness and idiot-neutralising” service to. The smartest minds are those who see value in EVERYTHING including contrasts. In other words if we want to be different; we must practise seeing beyond the obvious; we must learn important life lessons even from the most “unlikely” places 🙂

  3. Graham Forbes says

    Well done on putting neuroscience together with yet another area normally full of the latest unproven, unscientific theory.

    I have been exploring how to connect the science behind health and the benefits of exercise and fitness training as a motivation for over fifty-year-olds to make a lifetime commitment to regular exercise.

  4. Adele says

    Such an interesting post, and now it’s broken down, quite obvious too. It’s strange as I’ve done this in my employed career for over 20 year and not thought much about it, yet now that I’ve started a business of my own, I felt I didn’t have the skills to accomplish the same thing here. I never look for validation of my Authirity in my career, I just become one over time, as people knew and interacted with me, time scale didn’t matter. I now see that the same patients (or not thinking about it) is what’s needed now and time will make me become an authority again. Thanks, you’ve just helped me overcome a barrier

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