I'm a big fan of being a nice guy. (I'm using "guy" in a gender-neutral way here. Feel free to read it as "gy" if that floats your boat.)
The kind of marketing I practice doesn't work too well for jerks. It relies on spending sustained quality time with your customers—and who wants to spend all that time with a jerk?
But sometimes nice guys don't project a sense of authority. Everyone wants to spend time with us, but they don't necessarily want to do what we tell them to.
And make no mistake, my friends, we want them to do what we tell them to.
Here are a few observations I've made recently by carefully watching and modeling supremely nice people who also have massive authority and credibility. As I'm using these techniques more consciously myself, I'm seeing a significant shift in how I'm perceived.
Combine these with a basic commitment to decency and you'll be on track to rule the world (nicely) by some time this summer.
Be incredibly good
True authority springs from true expertise. Become insanely good at what you do. If you're already very good at one or two things, become obsessive about perfecting them.
Unless you're Leonardo DaVinci, you're not going to be able to pull off being a generalist. Figure out what you do spectacularly well, then become otaku about getting to be the best in the world at it.
Does "best in the world" sound scary? Remember that "the world" probably means the micro-world you and your customers happen to swim in (the Internet; mid-sized ad agencies in your zip code; barbecue joints in Duluth).
Once you know the size of your world, keep narrowing your focus. Divide and refine what you do until you hit the point where no one can outclass you.
Know where you are going
You may know more than anyone about millefiori Fimo or seahorse wrangling, but if you can't articulate that knowledge in a helpful way, you aren't an authority.
Create maps and checklists for what you do. When someone approaches you for help, use those maps to show them you know exactly what to do, in exactly what order, and using exactly which tools.
Of course the first step is always "figure out what the hell this person needs." You know that and I know that. That step is on your map too, but don't dwell on it in the early days.
Show your customer what the overall map looks like, and that you can travel the territory with confidence and ease. They're already spending most of their time trying to figure out what the hell they need, they don't need you to increase their anxiety there.
(In fact, you almost certainly need a mini-map to "figuring out what they need." Get good at that and you'll be better than 90% of the folks you're competing with.)
You could get a little pompous and call this your methodology. If you do, the nice-guy rules require you to immediately snicker at yourself and point out your own pomposity.
Know your core
Nice guys are flexible. They listen. They take the other person's position into consideration.
Authority figures have a core set of values that simply doesn't move. It's not stubbornness, it's deep, confident knowledge. Think of the calm, centered energy of a mountain.
Remember, keep it relaxed, never cutting or defensive. You're going for the Dalai Lama, not Donald Rumsfeld.
Know what you're willing to bend on. And know what you will never bend on, because it's integral to who you are and what you have to offer.
Get your ego out of the way
You're here to facilitate solving someone's problem, not to look smart or cool or in control. Watch yourself carefully for signs that it's becoming about you and your ego, rather than about making things great for your customer.
Ego is such a gigantic force that there's an entire religion devoted to trying to dissolve it. Keep watching carefully, and keep asking yourself, "Is this about me?"
Keeping a watchful eye on your ego is the best defense to keeping it under control.
If you're three feet tall with a hair lip and long, flowing back hair, mention those facts frequently. Make fun of yourself as often as possible over something that isn't all that important. Your appearance is usually a good place to start. On the other hand, if you're stupidly good-looking, you might want to develop some really funny material about your vanity.
Confess to small flaws that people can relate to. For example, I'm a hypersensitive, cranky, politically correct, compulsive control freak with nearly disabling insomnia and a significant chocolate problem.
Weirdly enough, the more open I am about all of those, the more people trust that I'm also a smart, strategic, perceptive marketer and copywriter who uses content, relationship and community to create wildly successful marketing.
Tell us in the comments: what are you working on that you could become the best in the world? Is that how the world sees you, or are you still working on it?