Find your focus, share your knowledge, and write to win your place as a consulting expert.
Self-described “recovering consultant” Blair Enns is the CEO of Win Without Pitching, a sales training organization for creative professionals in the design, advertising, and public relations fields. When he wasn’t satisfied with his $400,000 business, he decided to expand it into an organization that now makes exponentially more money that he once thought possible. In this episode, we are talking about ways that you can effectively position yourself as an expert in your field, how to get your expertise recognized, and the danger of productizing your work, as well as what you should be doing instead. Blair has achieved a level of success that many consultants only dream of, and he’s here to share practical ideas on how you, too, can take your consulting business to the next level. Join us to hear solid advice for increasing your revenue from Blair Enns in this episode of The Consulting Success Podcast.
Finding Consulting Success in the Wilderness
After finding himself expelled from university, Blair’s lucky break came when he stumbled upon advertising. His boss recognized he had a knack for new business, and just six months into the work, at age 22, Blair was put in charge of business development. He began working with some of the largest ad agencies and some of the smallest design firms in the world. Well-experienced and thick in the work of account management and business development, Blair realized that he wanted something entirely different from the advertising world. In order to realize his dream of raising his family in the backwoods of British Columbia, something had to change.
At that point Win Without Pitching was born, and Blair’s success has been realized in a wilderness town of just 900 people. He tells the story of how he decided to relocate to such a remote location, and how he was able to successfully turn his consulting dream into his new reality. Many people believe that success can’t be achieved in a remote location without direct access to clients, but Blair’s success proves them wrong.
When he started out, Blair didn’t have access to any clients within hundreds of miles of his remote location. This unique situation forced him to expand his reach. Once he narrowed in on the markets that he was going to serve and strategically positioned himself in their path, the physical distance between them became less of an issue. For Blair, these moves have actually contributed to greater success than he would have experienced otherwise. With the groundwork for his career path laid, we dive into the details of Blair’s success, starting with his collaboration with fellow consultant David Baker.
Should You Share Your Knowledge With Your Competition?
It may seem counterintuitive, but sharing your knowledge with other consultants can actually be one of the smartest career moves you can make. Blair and David Baker are both successful creative entrepreneurs who have joined forces to produce the 2Bobs Podcast, in which you can hear conversations on the art of creative entrepreneurship. Although Blair and David are competitors, their collaborations have actually brought them both greater success.
Blair lays out the benefits and drawbacks of working with your competition. But before you can consider teaming up with another consultant, you need to examine your own work. If there appears to be very little difference from the work that you offer and the work that your competition offers, you have a significant business problem. Teaming up with another consultant is not going to be helpful for you at all. Positioning and strategy can both set you apart and keep you securely positioned within your area of expertise. While it isn’t a good idea to eliminate all competition, it is in your favor to strategically place yourself separate and above most of your competition.
The number one key to deciding whether to collaborate with your competition is whether or not your philosophical ideas line up with them. Blair admits that he doesn’t play quite as nicely with all of his competitors as he does with David Baker, but he also recognizes that they both benefit from their working relationship. Sharing knowledge with each other and collaborating on projects has been mutually beneficial for both of them, as well as for their clients.
However, there is a fine line to be drawn when it comes to collaborating with your competition. If you’ve ever wondered whether it’s a good idea or one that will bring your business down, be sure to listen to Blair’s take on it. What’s worked for him will most likely work for you as well, so you won’t want to miss his ideas and checkpoints for the best approach to sharing your knowledge with your competition.
Finding Your Consulting Focus
In the Win Without Pitching business model, clientele can be won without doing a “dog and pony” show to prove your worth. There are steps that you can take to differentiate yourself and position yourself in a place where a greater chance of winning consulting business.
First — you have to find your focus. Who do you want to be a consultant for? What area are you going to be a consultant on? What are the issues that you want to focus on? If you promise to do everything for everyone, there is no way that you can become an expert in any one given area. In order to become a subject matter expert, it is essential that you narrow your focus.
Once your focus is narrowed, your expertise will grow as you are repeatedly faced with similar problems that can be solved with similar solutions. Patterns will emerge and become the basis for your expertise. As you force yourself to narrow your expertise, you will be able to dig deeper and truly set yourself apart from — and above — your competition.
Blair shares the classic example of the client who will approach you with no idea of how they should solve a problem that they have never had before. Because of your focus, you will have seen similar problems many times over again and the solution they are seeking will be an easy one for you to identify. This is the essential key to becoming a focused expert in your field — it’s worked for Blair and he guarantees it will work for you, too.
The Challenges of Productizing Your Business
If you’ve been in the consulting business for any amount of time, chances are that you have been faced with the challenges of accurately and competitively pricing your work. Blair spent 13 years of his career as a consultant, and more recently, the last five years as a training company, and there is one common mistake that he has seen over and over again. Every consultant struggles to find the best way to price their services. There are two basic approaches to pricing your work — you can either productize or customize the work that you do for each client, and he details both.
By productizing your work, you have a fixed set of solutions that you can offer to clients, regardless of what their individual needs are, similar to ordering off of a menu. Customized consulting work offers greater value to your clients and allows you to remain more deeply involved in both the work and the solutions.
Your pricing may have shifted in one direction or the other, and you need to ask yourself — are you productizing your services when you really should be customizing the work that you are doing for each client? Most consultants should be in the customized business service. If you find that you’re creeping toward offering your clients a one-size-fits-all product as the solution to their problems, it’s time to correct your business model.
For Blair, the decision to switch over to productizing his work came when he realized he was value-pricing most of his highly customized offerings to his clients. He shares the impact that that switch has made on his business, and the success he now enjoys may make you want to consider altering your business model as well.
Secure New Clients Through Your Writing
The last step Blair shares to gain greater success in your consulting field, after finding your focus and deciding whether to share your knowledge in collaboration with other consultants, is to become an expert writer. The most successful consultants are also writers. In order to get your ideas heard, you need to write from a point of view that is beneficially polarizing in your market. Although it’s a harsh truth, there is simply no use for you in a field in which you can’t find a novel way to tackle the problems within it. By finding a point of view that is less common but more beneficial, you will position yourself as the expert that clients need to get their problems solved.
The reactions that readers have to your work will increase their trust in you and your ability to help them find the solutions they are seeking. The content in your blog posts, emails, newsletters, and articles will draw potential clients to you. Even more important though, is the fact that the point of view that you share with them will convince them to hire you. Once your perspective separates you from your competition, you have the foundation of a business that will be successful.
When you are just starting out, finding clients and getting your ideas out there can seem like a daunting task. In order to get your ideas and content out to new clients, Blair recommends starting with putting all of your marketing chips into one area. Whether it be podcasts, writing books, or social media, find one area that you can focus on, and soon you will be dominating it as the lead expert.
For Blair, the area of greatest focus has been his writing. The Win Without Pitching Manifesto was written nearly eight years ago, but he is still seeing the rewards from producing the book today. He offers ideas on how to effectively promote a book and reflects on ways that a book written eight years ago is still benefitting his work today.
Blair shares a glimpse into his forthcoming book, Pricing Creativity: A Guide to Profit Beyond the Billable Hour. The book is available in several formats, including as an ebook and in manual format. You can learn more about the book on his website, as well as sign up for his free newsletter, and learn more about his business philosophies and approach. This episode of The Consulting Success Podcast with Blair Enns is filled with practical ideas on how you can improve your status as an industry expert, starting today.
[:17] Welcoming Blair Enns, CEO of Win Without Pitching.
[4:47] Growing a business from a remote location.
[6:20] The benefits of sharing your knowledge with the competition.
[10:50] How finding your focus will increase the demand for your expertise.
[14:03] Customizing or productizing your business — which model is best for you?
[24:10] You can get new clients by writing from a new point-of-view.
[28:47] Ways to effectively share your content.
[33:28] All about Blair’s new book, and how you can connect with him.
Mentioned in This Episode:
Win Without Pitching
2Bobs Podcast with Blair Enns and David Baker
The Win Without Pitching Manifesto, by Blair Enns
Pricing Creativity: A Guide to Profit Beyond the Billable Hour, by Blair Enns
@BlairEnns on Twitter
Blair Enns on LinkedIn
“If you want to expand your geographic reach, you need to narrow your focus.” — Blair Enns
“We’re not trying to eliminate all competition, but we are trying to eliminate most competition.” — Blair Enns
“Most consultants should be in the customized business service.” — Blair Enns
“People will come for the content … but they’ll hire you for your point of view.” — Blair Enns
Doubling a $400,000 Revenue Model With Business Trainer Blair Enns: Podcast #22 is a post from: Consulting Success
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