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Alastair McDermott 00:00
This is episode 70 of The Recognized Authority podcast.
Welcome to The Recognized Authority, a podcast that helps specialized consultants and domain experts on your journey to become known as an authority in your field, so you can increase your reach, have more impact and work with great clients. Here’s your host, Alastair McDermott.
Alastair McDermott 00:20
So today to celebrate 70 episodes, I have a special bonus episode for you. I was recently on Tamara Howard’s podcast, the better way to strategic marketing. And we had a conversation about authority and specialization. And Tamara is a super interviewer. And she has graciously allowed me to repeat that interview. And so here is the episode in full.
Alastair McDermott 00:46
If you’re a generalist, everybody’s your competitor. When I was doing internet marketing and websites, I would never partner with another web designer or somebody who did any kind of online marketing, because you know, wouldn’t wouldn’t be a good fit because I also offer with the services that they knew. Whereas now it’s very easy for me to partner with somebody, because we all offer some slightly different variation, because we’re all quite quite tightly specialized. So yeah, I think there’s so many different things that you get from from niching down.
Tamara Howard 01:16
You’re listening to the better way to strategic marketing hosted by me, Tamara Howard! I am on a mission to demystify and simplify your marketing and communication planning. So you could be more impactful, efficient, and embrace a better freedom in your business. So if you’re hungry to learn better ways into business, on marketing, then you’ve come to the right place. So let’s get into it. Absolutely, let’s get into it. Hello. Welcome back. If you are a longtime listener, and welcome indeed, if this is your first time listening to the podcast, I’m absolutely thrilled that you have made it. And I am absolutely thrilled to be interviewing today’s guest let me tell you, I am so excited to speak to Alastair. Honestly where to start with this podcast with Alastair McDermott, to say that this guy gives value is just the understatement of the century. So Alastair helps invisible experts remove their cloak of invisibility and become The Recognized Authority in their field. So this means that they’re going to have more impact and command higher fees. Alastair is an author. He’s a consultant. He’s a business coach.
Tamara Howard 02:25
And he also hosts two wonderful podcasts called The Recognized Authority and The Specialization Podcast and boy, do we get into it today, we talk the journey that he’s been on to get to where he is today, what the impetus was, that drove him to realize that he actually needed to nestle down and to niche down in his field, Alastair is going to take you on the journey, okay, so if you’re feeling a little bit tense or a little bit stressed, or maybe a little bit fearful, that you don’t want to nestle down, or that you don’t know where to niche or how to begin with the process. Worry not, you’re in safe hands here today, get a pen, get a pen and a piece of paper and get ready to take notes. Because this is a quick fire podcast with so much information. I have homework coordinated. Today, I have to tell you, I have so much work to do to consider my own business and my own communications, my own content that I share with my audience. So let’s not waste any more time, let’s get straight into the interview because I know this is going to be an absolute doozy for you. So let’s get into it. Alastair, thank you so much for being here on the pod today. It’s great to see you.
Alastair McDermott 03:36
It is my pleasure. Thank you for having me.
Tamara Howard 03:38
Absolutely. And before we start, I actually have to start by saying, I reached out to you a little while ago, because I love your setup. I love your camera setup. I love your background, I love the whole thing with the lighting. And I reached out to you with a little question about what’s your kind of what’s your setup, what’s your camera? And it dawned on me that you’re nearly like the Led Zeppelin of content marketing, because you have this back catalogue of all of these documents and content and helpful tools and tips. And rather than just saying, Oh yeah, it’s a Canon model number here, you’re able to guide me towards this PDF document that you had developed, which is your full setup your full the everyday was so valuable. I think that’s amazing that you have so much content like that out there.
Alastair McDermott 04:24
Yeah. And I actually got that published by by an Irish publisher. Oak Tree press. Oh, yeah. Right. Brian a cane. He wrote the book, How to start a business in Ireland. But he’s, yeah, I was talking to him. And I’ve, I’ve known Brian for a long time. And he said, Hey, let’s put this out as an e book because I was developing it as a page on my website. And he’s like, No, this is this. Yeah. So so we just turned it into an ebook and he put it up on Kindle and all the other places you can get get ebooks. So yeah, so it’s out there. And I just, you know, I put a lot of effort into this. Trying to make myself look good and sound good, because I think it’s really important. And if we can digress a little bit from what I think you want to talk to me about, I was actually talking to a guy called Professor Norbert Schwarz, who is a Professor, a Provost Professor in University of Southern California. And I interviewed him because he had a study about audio quality. And his study with him and his colleague from Australia, their study showed that if you have better audio quality and video quality, then you will come across as smarter, more likeable, and that your work is more important.
Tamara Howard 05:35
Isn’t that interesting!
Alastair McDermott 05:37
If somebody is trying to build her authority. I think that’s really crucial. So I think you actually should put the effort into this.
Tamara Howard 05:42
Alastair McDermott 05:42
And that’s why I do that, you know, as as kind of a guide for people to to do that, because I think it’s really important. Oh, that’s
Tamara Howard 05:49
so fast. And I might even link it in the in the show notes underneath this, this pod. Because that’s really interesting. So it’s not just about the quality of what you’re doing. It’s how you’re projecting yourself. It’s, I suppose it makes absolute intuitive sense when you think about it.
Alastair McDermott 06:02
Yeah, I think there’s other applications as well. And maybe it depends on who’s listening to this. But like, if you turn up for a remote job interview, and you have better audio and video, people are going to be able to understand you better see, you better hear you better. And so I think all of that is going to tip people towards you. And then he also talked about, they did other studies where they mocked up this courtroom, where they had remote testimony, and the people with the better video were slightly tilted towards by the juries in this market. So like, it’s crazy, the implications of that, you know, I think it’s really important. Good audio good video is super important. Okay, so
Tamara Howard 06:39
we can get away with anything. As long as our audio video is good. That’s, that’s my takeaway from today. That is the takeaways
Tamara Howard 06:48
are like, No, I’m really excited to speak to you because we had a quick chat a few weeks ago, and we were talking about everything that we’re going to be talking about today, basically, that specialization and move towards becoming an authority figure in your field. And you gave me pause for thought, Alistair, it doesn’t happen often these days. But you gave me so much to kind of reflect upon and think about and how I can bring it into my own business and how I project myself and position myself. So I’m really excited to get into some of the content we’re going to talk about today.
Alastair McDermott 07:16
Awesome. I love to hear Yeah, but look, before we get into it, before
Tamara Howard 07:20
we get deep into the into the authority side of things, let’s, let’s just hear a little bit about kind of your journey, a little bit of what was your lightning bolt moment when you realized it was time to maybe niche down or become specialists in your specific area.
Alastair McDermott 07:35
Okay, so I’ll try and summarize 15 years of business really quickly, if you could. So, first off, I started out as a software engineer, corporate software engineer, realized I was a terrible employee. I apologized afterwards, to my former colleagues, you know, I just probably wasn’t a really good person to work with, I was just smart enough not to get fired. But I really didn’t like what I was doing. So I probably wasn’t very pleasant to be with, you know, I’d be the smartest in the meeting, you know, essentially, went out on my own, I realized that I didn’t have a so I quit my job, because I had to start my own business. And I realized I didn’t really have anything valuable to sell as a skill. So I reached back to my past when I had been in college, and I’d been building websites back in 1996 97. And back in the days of geo cities, why build websites? That’s kind of old school. And so I started building websites and doing this thing called Search Engine Optimization. So that’s where I started out in business. That was the first thing that I did the first thing that I sold, and I really hated doing search engine optimization. I just didn’t like it as a as a business model. And it’s just, it’s a difficult thing to sell. And so I got more into the website things. And so I rebranded the business to website, doctor. And so for the next probably 10 years, I mean website is dr is still going now, although it’s less of a focus for me. But so I had this business called WebsiteDoctor for a long time where I was building websites, and it was kind of more in a consulting model rather than an agency model. So yeah, I wanted to be an expert consultant, not be a not have a big team. So that’s, that’s where I had this business. And I wanted this kind of expert model. But the problem that I started encountering was, I was having difficulty creating content. I love writing. I love podcasting. And I was trying to plan a podcast, and I was trying to write blog posts. And what I found was that the blog posts that I was writing, they were just terrible. So they had times yeah. Like say they had all the blandness, of wallpaper paste, but none of the stickiness. So they were they were just these kind of tepid pieces of content that I was putting out. And the reason for that was because I was trying to make them so general so generic that they would fit all the different types of customers that I had. And just to give you an example, one of my customers at the time was a mining company that, you know, dug rocks out of ground and had trucks. And then another was a dentist, another was a magician for children’s birthday parties. Another was an E commerce company that sold women’s clothes. And so I was trying to write these blog posts to give all of these different people advice. Yeah. And it’s impossible to do that. And I eventually realized, hey, I need to niche down and specialize. And so that was kind of how I found that
Tamara Howard 10:33
amazing, there’s so much in that I love that you’re speaking to a minor speaking to, you know, a magician that that’s, it’s really, really tough. And as a marketer, I can certainly appreciate where you must have been coming from to try and find a unified voice and something that’s going to resonate with all these disparate groups who have got different challenges and different needs and different expectations from you. And you try to become all things to all people. And it’s really, really challenging. So you moved then towards recognizing that you needed to niche down you need to specialize?
Alastair McDermott 11:07
Yeah, absolutely. And it took me a long time to do it as well. So first off, it took me a couple of years to commit to the idea. And then it took me another couple years to commit to getting a business coach to help me with it. Okay, because for the first while I was trying to do it on my own. Yeah. And it’s really difficult. It’s one of these things that you just need to get some external perspective on it. Yeah. There’s an author who I’ve interviewed with on my podcast called David T. Baker, he’s written a book called The business of expertise. And he says, and I don’t know if this is if he’s the original source the quote, but he says, it’s difficult, it’s impossible to read the label from inside the jar. And that’s, that’s what it’s like, sometimes when you’re working on your own business, you need somebody outside to help you with it. That’s fantastic,
Tamara Howard 11:55
isn’t that you? You can’t read the label from inside the jar?
Alastair McDermott 11:59
Yeah, you need, you need somebody to give you that external perspective.
Tamara Howard 12:04
So you then you recognize that you had a need to niche down you recognize that there was maybe a lacking in kind of specialist direction or laser focus. And so you obviously branched out then and got the input from a from a business coach, or someone who could guide you on that journey, essentially.
Alastair McDermott 12:23
Yeah, so I found a guy who’d written a book about specialization. So he was a specialist in specialization, called Philip Morgan. And so I started working with Philips, and we’ve become friends as well as kind of coach and mentee. And he’s, we’re actually going to collaborate on a podcast in the near future. So it’s great because he’s, he’s kind of training me up as a as like a mini me for him. Because I’m, I’m such a fanboy of this specialization concept, I will shut up about it. So that’s why I’m here talking to you.
Tamara Howard 12:54
Well, it’s fantastic. Because as you as you spoke to me originally, we had a chat a few weeks ago, and I’ve been keeping an eye on some of the content that you put out through your, your LinkedIn and through your different channels. And you, like I said, Before, you provide this huge amount of value. But one of the things that jumped out at me is that you recognize that there’s these steps to specialization, and you can actually map the process. So it’s not as overwhelming as suddenly Okay, now I have to go and do this one thing. There’s, there’s kind of a journey. So So take us through the steps of specialization.
Alastair McDermott 13:27
Yeah, so. So there’s a couple of different things. So So first off, I, I was thinking about, how do people become so first off, I started out thinking, I want to build websites for people who are consultants and experts at what they do. And so I did a whole bunch of research, I surveyed over 1000 consultants about various different aspects of their marketing. And that was really, really useful. But what I found was that they didn’t care about their websites at all. And that was fascinating and worrying. And so I started to dig into that a bit more. And what I found was that they didn’t care about their website, because their website was not important in the way that they sold or marketed. And that was because they got most of their business through word of mouth and through referrals. Yeah. And in that context, a website just isn’t really crucial, because what happens is, you’re getting all of this trust passed with the referral. So people might might check, go check out their website, but it was only kind of like to, to dot the i’s and cross the T’s. It was just to kind of like this. Olay needs to have a some sort of brochure or something like that, and that would be sufficient to show that they’re legitimate. And that would that was all they needed. And so I was thinking about this, and I think well, what about the other people who aren’t doing business through word of mouth, what up? What are they doing? And this was something that I had been frustrated with myself previously was, I was getting results for my clients who you know, equal commerce shops and various local businesses and things like that. I was getting them results with doing online marketing, we’re doing Facebook ads, and Google ads and SEO and all of these kinds of things. But it wasn’t able to do that same thing for myself. And so all of this was in the mix, and was trying to figure out what what’s going on here. Like, I don’t really understand this. So what I realized was that in these expert businesses, what they need to do, if you want to do online marketing, as an expert business, you need to do this content marketing, or some people call it authority marketing, or education, marketing, or inbound marketing, it’s all really the same thing. What you need to do is you need to build up your authority and personal brand, and become seen as an expert in your field, or, as I say, The Recognized Authority in your field. And so that was that was kind of what led me to that it was like, okay, so most people in this area, these consultants and experts are getting most of their business from referrals. And some of them are going and taking this other option of building their own authority, and getting and then ultimately getting inbound referrals, or inbound leads. And this authority marketing option is really fascinating. Because this was, this was the way I always wanted to go with the business, but I hadn’t really understood it or realized. So yeah, so So that’s, that’s kind of where how I found that whole concept.
Tamara Howard 16:26
Interesting. And then you’ve you’ve broken it out into into really clear steps. Now there’s kind of experienced, specialize and then polish. So take us through that kind of journey from going from being a generalist through to a specialized specialist, and then being the the authority.
Alastair McDermott 16:46
Yeah, sure. So so this is all in the context of experts and consultants, in the professional services. I know, I know, this won’t apply to other people outside of that area. But yeah, but for people in that area who wants to do this, there is a typical journey or typical pattern to the journey to authorities, we call it. And that is everybody starts out as a novice, and the novice doesn’t have a lot of experience. And so what they need to do is they need to go and get broad experience at that point. And so you go get lots of broad experience and figure out what you like doing. And you start to develop, you know, your preferences, your own voice and things like that. And at some point, and the lines here are all blurred. But at some point, you end up as this expert, this invisible expert generalist who’s really good at what you do. The problem at that point is you don’t have much visibility at all. And typically, what you will do is you will have shifted from outbound, when you when you start kind of outbound lead generation, you’ll have shifted over to referrals and word of mouth. Now at this point, most people will stop. So like probably over 95%, I don’t have exact numbers on this, but probably over 95% of consultants and experts will stop here. And they’ll continue to build their network. And they’re really good at what they do. They’re experts, and but they have this dependency on referrals. And some people will find that they don’t have a big network or they don’t like networking, or they don’t like asking for referrals, they don’t have a system for asking for referrals. And they see this other option of inbound, and they want to make that work for them. And most people kind of don’t usually break it down and analyze it to the to the level that I’ve done here. But a lot of people kind of naturally know how to do this. And so the option to move on is to become an authority. And the phrase goes, she’s The Recognized Authority in her field. Yes, he’s The Recognized Authority in his field. To be an authority, you actually have to choose a field. Yes. specialize. Yeah. And that’s the key thing. And so, if you don’t specialize, if you don’t niche down, then you can’t become an authority. There’s no authority in everything. Yeah. And I know that there are people like Tim Ferriss and Gary Vee, and people like that who seem to be but they’re not actually really authorities and everything. If you if you dig into it, you’ll see that they’re actually authorities and very specific things.
Tamara Howard 19:18
Yes. And they were so ahead of the curve as well that they were there before anyone else. Now, if
Alastair McDermott 19:23
there is there is there is a big part of being early. Yeah. And I’ve seen that as well. I talked with another guy called Alan Weiss and both of those were very early. And so and so for them. Specialization was not as important as it is now for for people who are now competing with everybody else.
Tamara Howard 19:44
Yes. Yeah. So if you can’t be early, you need to pick a field you need to pick with the area that you’re going to actually niche down and and bed into a little bit.
Alastair McDermott 19:52
Yeah, and that’s that’s the that’s the key. So this specialization step is is really key. And so good. Going from this invisible expert generalist, really, really good at what you do very, you can be very, very smart, you can be earning a lot of money, you can be earning seven figures at that point. But to be a recognized authority, you still need to niche down a bit further for most people. And the problem is that part is terrifying. Yeah. Because there are so many fears involved in this specialization step because what you’re doing is you’re cutting down the potential of the entire market of all of humanity, and all businesses, yeah, to just focusing on this narrow group and saying, Okay, I’m not serving those people anymore. I’m just serving these people. Yeah. And
Tamara Howard 20:39
you had it on your difficult on the podcasts on the specialization podcast, you said that specialization is a way of turret is a way to turn away opportunities and as entrepreneurs, as people who are always hungry for opportunities, that’s got to strike fear into their hearts sometimes to actually be intentionally saying, Not today, not you not right now, you know, that’s scary. So
Alastair McDermott 21:02
yeah. Yeah, that’s, that’s the thing. And you. And ironically, you know, that, the thing is, when you actually niche down and choose a much smaller market, things become so much easier. But but it’s very difficult to push through that fear. If you think about, like, if you imagine you got in a boat, and you had your fishing rod, and you sat out into the Atlantic Ocean, and trying to catch fit fish out there. And if you went and you turned up to, you know, a swimming pool full of fish, and you have a fishing rod there, yeah, which is going to be easier to catch fish. And, you know, yes, there’s a lot more fish in the ocean. But you know, in this small pond, it’s going to be so much easier. And it’s literally you know, it becomes this thing where you’re the you can become the number one in your niche. If you niche down enough, you can become the number one person in that niche.
Tamara Howard 22:01
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Alastair McDermott 24:09
Sure. So okay, well, the first one is you can become a recognized authority in your field, because you have a field. So you can actually do authority marketing, which is a really pleasant type of marketing to do, because it’s me turning up and coming on your podcast and just talking to you for an hour about something that I love talking about. And so your marketing becomes teaching and learning. So you’re doing research, and then you’re teaching other people you’re writing about it. And that’s a really nice type of marketing to do. It’s much more pleasant than like, for example, I was talking to somebody yesterday about going to be in meetings. So BNI for me is the is this meeting and where you go at 630 in the morning, you go to some some hotel and have this horrible greasy spoon breakfast. Yes. And you meet the same people every week and you say the same things to them every week. And then you know, I know some some friends of mine were saying oh You know, we meet up with somebody the day before so that we can fake these referrals to give to each other because we didn’t actually know go and get referrals. And I was like, oh my god, wow, horrible. Oh my god, you know, you don’t have to do any of that. Yeah, yeah. And so your marketing becomes different. Like you get invited to speak at things that you just come on podcast to speak at events. You can build an audience, because you actually have something to say about to a specific group of people about a specific problem. If you don’t niche down, you’re probably writing to a different audience every time. Yeah. And you’re probably skipping around on topics as well. And so your latest post isn’t relevant to your earlier followers. And so you don’t, you don’t have that. You don’t get the pattern matching, you get a deep expertise, when you when you work on a specific problem for a tightly focused group of people. And you work on project after project or with person after person, you find that you do you pattern match, and you see all of these kind of deeper insights and things. And, you know, you really do like it is it’s a total world difference when you’re doing the same thing over and over again, which a lot of people think sounds horrible, but actually, it opens up a different world to you. So yeah, so I think there’s, there’s some really great benefits there. And then creating content, because it’s so much easier, like writing blog posts and creating podcasts and, and then you also have the opportunity for relationships with people who have services that are complementary to yours, because if you’re a generalist, everybody’s your competitor, when I was doing internet marketing on websites, I would never partner with another web designer, or somebody who did any kind of online marketing, because you know, wouldn’t wouldn’t be a good fit, because I also offer with the services that they knew. Whereas now it’s very easy for me to partner with somebody, because we all offer some slightly different variation, because we’re all quite quite tightly specialized. So yeah, I think there’s so many different things that you get from from niching down.
Tamara Howard 27:02
And let’s level on is because get very practical. As soon as you become an authority in a field, and you’re the you’re the go to person, I’m assuming that means you can command a different fee, a different kind of speaking fee, because you are the one and only and the one that is renowned or known for this specific topic or this specific niche, it just means that you can do
Tamara Howard 27:26
less work, get paid better for us, which is what everyone wants to hear.
Alastair McDermott 27:32
Yeah, I mean, like, we also have this phrase, you know, he’s the one who wrote the book on us. And like, this is a big part of authority, you know, author isn’t the word authority. And think that writing, writing and speaking are the two kind of key pillars to this. Yeah. And, and actually, personally, I think that podcasting, and and having a book, I think those are really complementary, great ways to approach this. But yeah, so So you know, when when you’ve written the book on something, you automatically command higher fees. You can charge a premium, and you have more inbound leads, but But I think, something that people don’t realize about inbound leads, when somebody contacts me, they say, Oh, I found your podcast last week, and then I listened to 60 episodes. That’s like, whoa, okay. And so, if the conversation you have with them was totally different, because they already understand your worldview. Yeah. And they’re already sold and work with you, they were already trust you. They know, they know what you do. And they know how you do it. And they just say, Look, I’m a good fit to work with you, I’d love to work with you. And then it’s a totally different thing than somebody who’s coming to you with some kind of really, really, like, like this kind of mild referral that, hey, I know a guy who might do this, and, and they turn up and they say, Hey, sell me on what you do. Like, I hear you do this, but you know, tell me more and tell me why I should pick you. Yeah, and you know, you get that and, and you don’t have to deal with that anymore. You don’t have to deal with with really, you know, bad fit clients, you can say no to a lot of people. In fact, you probably will say no to a lot more people. Or you can also choose to do something else, which is you can change your business model. So you can change your business model. I was talking to a guy Christo from the future last night. He has 2 million followers on YouTube now. Which is insane. But he had an agency called Blind in Los Angeles. And he switched from this agency model to this educational model where he is helping designers to get better at business. And so he’s he’s got this massive, massive audience. And this machine now we’re he’s creating content putting stuff out in YouTube and Instagram and everywhere. And it’s, what it’s doing is he has changed his business model completely. So he no longer does client work. So you’re not doing client projects. And this is a choice you can make. You don’t have to do that. You can continue to do client work. If you want to, but the thing is you actually have the choice, whereas you wouldn’t have that choice otherwise.
Tamara Howard 30:05
And that’s the that’s the next thing that my head is kind of going into is that like entrepreneurs are particularly generalists. They be cool, they’ve become quite good at everything that they’re doing. And they’ve got a lot of fingers in different pies. And I can imagine that it would be quite difficult to pick, pick a speciality to actually select from one of this vast ocean of topics that they have at their fingertips to actually go, okay, that’s the thing that I’m going to lean into, how can someone tell where they should be putting their focus or where they should be putting their energy.
Alastair McDermott 30:41
So there’s a couple of tools that I use for this. And one of those is to do an audit of your past clients. And so I have a spreadsheet, and I’ll share it with you. And you can share it in the in the show notes. Brilliant. And actually, I have a whole podcast about this called a specialization podcast, which is available for free to people to listen to. And it, what you can do is you can audit all of the clients that you had in the past, put them all in the spreadsheet, rank, how much you would like to work with them, again, how much the projects were valued. I like to put in their headcount, their sector, what sector were they in, maybe you can put in like any kind of notes you want about, like what kind of people they were. And then what you do is you add as many of these as you can, and then you start looking for patterns. So you look for okay, I noticed and for me, it was I liked working with people who were solo, independent, rather than larger companies, where I was dealing with an employee I was dealing with, with the with the solo person. And I think that was in part because that’s what I was, that’s my experience and the type of of business that I had. And so I understood them better. And I had better rapport with them. But I also looked for other patterns, you know, and I noticed, okay, they’re, they’re in b2b, rather than b2c. The people who I like working with tend to be experts, and consultants. And you know, and I had everything in there from the the like, there was a pharmacy, there was the mining company, I mentioned, the magician, all of those was a company that manufactured furniture for hotels, and restaurants, you know. And so all of these were in there. And I just realized that the ones that I liked working with the most were these particular people, after I put put them all into this spreadsheet, and I kind of did this audit went through it. And then then what what I did was, I started to dig into, okay, what is the thing that I can help these people with? Where can I give them the most value, and that would be most interesting for me. And I started looking at the kind of the problem side of it as well. Another tool that I use is just a kind of a skills and interests and opportunities. And I’m sure you’ve seen this Venn diagram, where you’ve got three or four circles, and you’re looking to see where all the overlaps are. One way of thinking of that is or one way I remember this is good love pays world. So what are you good at? What do you love doing? What pays well, and what does the world need? And there is a Japanese word for this, I think it’s a key guy, I don’t know exactly if I’ve got that pronounced pronounced, right. But the and what you can do is you can put that out on a large sheet of paper, and, you know, draw draw in, you can even in fact, map your existing client projects onto that as well, that can be interesting to see, you know, do something you love doing or that you’re good at, or that pays well, or that the world needs. And you can map onto that. And look at that. And again, look for the patterns and look for the stuff that’s in the middle.
Tamara Howard 33:47
Yeah, so you look for the bits that are overlapping between all of the pieces of the Venn diagram, essentially.
Alastair McDermott 33:54
Yeah, so you’re looking for for, I mean, we’re looking for an ability to pay, you know, you want clients and, and there are ways to, to change your business model so that if you are working with clients who have a lower ability to pay, then maybe you can do something that scales more, you know, there are ways around that problem. But ideally, you’re working with a client who has the ability to pay, who has a problem that you enjoy doing. The problem is is urgent for them. guy called Perry Marshall talks about the bleeding neck he wants, he wants a client who has a bleeding neck, which is a rather kind of startling image. I know. Yeah. Would you want them to care about what you’re doing for them? Yeah, no, it has to be important for them otherwise, they’re not going to value it. So you’re looking for all of these things. And so you’re looking for like were you looking for the pattern and where does all of that lineup and it does take some time you know, you’ve got to you’ve got to sit with these decisions and you’ve got to test it and but, but eventually you will come up with one or two or three three different options or hypotheses that you can take. And then what I suggest that you do is you test it as a campaign. You say, All right, we’re gonna test this for two months. Yeah. And, and you do, and you’ll see how that goes. And if it works great. And if you’re not comfortable with it, you know, you go back and you say, Okay, here’s what I’ve learned. Let’s try something else. And I know people who have niche down or specialized, chosen the wrong thing, discovered that they didn’t like it, and just on the U turn and pick something else. And that’s not the end of the world. That was
Tamara Howard 35:29
my next question, actually. Because that’s the that’s another I guess it’s another part of the fear or the thing that could hold you back. What if I pick the wrong area? What if I niche down and something that I’m just not comfortable with? Or the perception is strange? And so you think that you can make a U turn, you can give it a little while and then say, okay, no, it didn’t quite work out in that area. And you can switch your niche?
Alastair McDermott 35:53
Yeah, absolutely. I had a lady called Sara Dunn on the podcast when the earliest episodes. And she does SEO for people in the wedding industry now. And so she has become the number one person to do SEO in the wedding planning industry. And her initial pick was Facebook ads for chiropractors. And so that was her first specialization. And she realized, hey, I don’t like this. And so she changed. She just changed what she was doing. There’s another lady called case, she’s copywriter, and I’ve episode with with with her, and she was doing copywriting. For, I think it was health food stores and businesses like that. And she didn’t enjoy what she was doing there. So she switched to doing case studies for the b2b SaaS industry. Interesting. And she just she realized, Hey, this is not working for me, okay, let’s just change it, you know. So it’s not the end of the world. And none of these things are permanent decisions. But the you have to get over that initial resistance. That’s the hardest part. Yeah, that initial resistance will kill the whole thing that it’ll just stop you making progress with this. And so you’ve got to, you’ve got to just push through that. And, and so what I like to do is talk about those fears beforehand. And, you know, acknowledge them because I think that it’s really important to know that they’re going to come and as soon as you make a decision, you’re instantly going to think that it’s the wrong decision. That’s just how it works. Yes, yeah. And, you know, just just be aware of that and say, Okay, now I’m here, I’m gonna sit with this anyway, I’m gonna, I’m gonna just test this. Yeah. And, you know, Jonathan Stark says, it’s not a face tattoo, you know, you can change your mind. And think of it as a as a test campaign. You know, that’s so funny,
Tamara Howard 37:44
because there are, you know, as you’re talking, there’s, there’s so many parts of me that are going oh, God, but what if but what if, and those fears I’m presuming can change shape, they can be one thing one day, and then you’ll wake up the next day and go, No, can’t possibly specialize. Now, it’s not the right time, or, you know, you’ve got all of these different internal objections that will rear their ugly head. So you’re just saying, recognize them, see them for what they are. But keep maintain your focus, test it, give it a go? Because you’ll never never know, unless you actually put the head down? And, and just give it a give it a try?
Alastair McDermott 38:19
Yeah, I mean, you can be the number one person in the world at something, if you niche down far enough. Yeah. And so can you do that, you know, you can be you know, you can be the x person, and you pick x. And, and so, yeah, I think that the value of doing that people start to look for you by name. Yeah. And they don’t, you know, they don’t look for these broad, these broad searches that they’re specifically asking for you. And there’s just such a value in that.
Tamara Howard 38:48
Absolutely. One of the things you even mentioned in your podcast was that if you, if you niche down to a specific trade or industry, you suddenly find that identifying those core clients or your core audience becomes so much more clear, because they’re all attending the same trade shows, they’re all reading the same publications, you don’t have to try and be at all networking events to all at all places at all times, you can just show up at these very intentional trade shows, and begin to build meaningful relationships, because that’s what it’s all about, at the end of the day is, is being recognized and being respected.
Alastair McDermott 39:24
Yeah. And so I think that that particular type of specialization is a superpower, I think it’s a silver bullet. And that’s vertical specialization. So that is where you pick one industry to work with. And when you do that, and and this again, this just sounds absolutely terrifying, because you’re turning away all of the other industries. But when you pick one industry to work with, there’s so many benefits that you can get from it. So first off, you start to learn their language and you can use their language in your marketing. And I’ll give you a very simple example of that. If you are talking to people in the hotel industry, they refer to their customers as guests, yes, you’re talking to people in in the medical, they call them patients. And if you were talking to people in the consulting industry, they’ll call them clients. And so when you’re writing your marketing, depending on who you’re talking to, you will use one of those different words for customer. And that’s a very simple thing. But when they’re reading that they know you’re talking to them. And there’s all of this other industry jargon, and insight and language that you learn when you work in an industry. And so you’re literally speaking their language. And then the other benefits. When you work in one industry, industry, people in an industry, they tend to congregate, they go to the same trade shows and events and conferences. There’s, there’s, it’s a smaller group of people, so you can get to know who the really important people are to know. And you can start to network with them. And you know, and even then actually getting referrals and word of mouth becomes easier. Which is not something that personally I was trying to do, but it is something that I’ve noticed. And so you know, and then they’ve got these industry associations, you can join as an associate member, usually, if you want to. And you know, you can go to their conferences, and so you can hang around with these people. And what that allows you to do is what one of the guys who had the podcast world for markets, his company was, I think, between six and eight people. And they were in the industry sector in Germany. And they beat out one of the huge global consulting firms who I checked, they had 280,000 staff, and this team of six or seven or eight, beat them for a project. And so you’re competing against the very biggest, like, this is the absolute David and Goliath. Yeah, like 50,000 times bigger. Like it’s insane. And yet they still beat them for these projects, because they were so specialists and they you know, and they started out by actually working with the industry association. So so the Industry Association was the was the first line in that industry. And that was a great way to get in, because then obviously, they knew everybody, they knew everybody in the in the industry. So you know, there’s all of these kinds of amazing network effects that you get from this.
Tamara Howard 42:12
Yeah, it’s really it. The more you’re talking about it, the more this is what I said, at the outset of the podcast, our conversation a few weeks ago really gave me pause for thought really made me sit back and actually reflect on the content that I’m developing, or what I share with my audience. And and it’s, it’s, it’s a, when you talk about the wins, when you talk about the reasons why people should be doing this, they should be nasally. And down, they should be niching down, it’s really hard to argue with because I know that sense of exhaustion of trying to compete with everyone else who’s in the ocean or trying to stand out, but not really being sure about what you’re trying to stand out for, you know, so it’s, it’s, it’s it’s a it’s kind of a no brainer, but it’s it’s about getting over those blockers, those mental blockers, that kind of will stand in your way.
Alastair McDermott 43:02
Yeah, the fear is a big thing. And like, I don’t want to underplay like, I think it’s really important to understand that. And to say, Okay, I’m gonna test this anyway, I’m just going to use this, I’m going to experiment with this. And, and there are some things that you can, that you can think about it to help get through that fear. So one of them is, look, if this doesn’t work, I’m going to think of it as a test campaign. And we’ll just go back to how it was you, some people will set up a second website and put their new branding on there. And so their original website is still there. In fact, I still have my WebsiteDoctor.com website is still still running, it’s still there, I do still have some maintenance clients and things on that. But but but for the most part, you know, once once you switch over, one thing that you can do, is if you get inbound leads, people asking you about something that is not in your specialist area, you don’t have to turn them away. There’s no specialization, police are going to come along and and arrest you because you took on something that’s outside of your specialization. So you can still continue to do all of the other work that you did. But what people tend to find is that, as they get more and more into this specialization, that they don’t want to work on those other projects anymore. Yeah, because they’ve got better systems and processes, they’ve got these kinds of economies of inefficiencies. Because they’re, they’re focusing on focusing down. And so they start to turn away that other work that that more generalists work these different types of projects, because they no longer want to do that. But you can continue to do that for as long as you want to. So I think that’s important to kind of internalize, hey, you know, there are, you know, there’s a safety there’s a safety net here, there’s parachute here, you know, it’s not like jumping out of an airplane with no parachute. You
Tamara Howard 44:46
know, it’s really, really fascinating. I think it’s absolutely going to give me some some massive pause for thought. So I’m trying to think so if someone’s listening to this now and totally asking for a friend, by the way, but if someone’s listening to this now, I They’re kind of curious, and they think they have an area that they could lean into, what are the kind of three things that someone could go and do over the next week while because what I’m hearing is it’s about considering your your, your that spreadsheet that you’ve talked about considering your past clients, considering your content, what are their kind of three or four really key actions that you could recommend someone to take today?
Alastair McDermott 45:21
Yeah, sure. And what I’ll do is I have a workbook that I’ll share with you, of course you do. I’ll share that with you. It’s specialization workbook. And what what I say is go and audit your existing clients. So put, you know, as many as you can in there. So first off, if you don’t yet have a broad experience, you probably won’t be in a place to make that specialization decision yet. And I think that it’s good to go and get that broad experience. So it depends on where you are in your journey. And, and that’s something actually I’m working on is an assessment tool, it’s going to be live on the website soon, to allow people to kind of assess where they are
Tamara Howard 46:01
amazing, great idea.
Alastair McDermott 46:02
But when you don’t have that broad experience, it’s very hard to make a good specialization decision. So So I’d say, you know, at the start, you may need to get more experience. But if you’re, if you’re at that expert level, you know, you’ve been, you’ve been working in your career for, you know, maybe 10 years since you graduated, or whatever, you know, you’ve been working for around the so at that point, you’re probably ready to specialize. And that’s when you can, you can make that specialization decision. And so what I’d say is start to start to work through some options start to think through some options. I like to use the positioning statement as a framework. So I help these people solve this problem. And you can go as wide or as narrow as you want. And so like a really bad positioning would be like what I used to have, would be I help small businesses with online marketing. And that’s just so broad, that it means nothing. Yeah, yeah. Whereas if I say, I help consultants who don’t have a lot of visibility, to increase their visibility by building authority, yep. Suddenly, that’s much more specific, because it’s focusing on that one problem. Yeah. And so you know, and, and you can test all of these, like, I have spreadsheets worth of different variations on this. So. And by the way, I initially, like the first 20 episodes of my podcast were called Marketing for Consultants. Yes, yes, recognize authority, because I actually course corrected, and I, and I realized, okay, this is the, this is the one part of the problem that I want to be known for. And so you can still continue to course correct afterwards. Sorry, that’s a bit of a digression. But yeah, so So audit, your audit your existing clients, look at your skills, interest, and opportunities are good love plays world, as I like to remember. And then one last exercise that other I like, is, is a podcast title, or a book title. So imagine that in five years time, you’re being introduced as a keynote speaker at a conference. And they’re introducing you as the author of this best selling book, oh, what would the title or if it was going to be a podcast, you know, what would the title of the podcast be? And that just might give you some insights into the things that you’re really interested in. And so if you do a combination of all of that, and get some external, help get some external eyes on this, so work with a business coach, or join a mastermind group, or just have a group of peers who you talk to, but find some way to talk to somebody who you trust in business, probably not family, family are either overly protective, and they’re either overly negative or overly positive. But find a way to get somebody to give you some perspective and their thoughts on this as well. And if you do all of that, you should come up with a hypothesis, something to test and you’ll say, Okay, I’m gonna, I’m gonna go with this, I’m going to test this for 60 days. And so commit to that. And you know, either if you want to build a new website, or you don’t even have to have a website for it, but you just start putting it out there, you know, you change your, your profile on LinkedIn, or on Twitter and your socials and you start talking to people about this. And you start talking to people very specifically about that one problem and test it and see how it goes.
Tamara Howard 49:14
I’m gonna add to that Alastair, I’m gonna say that people should head over to your LinkedIn page and follow you over there as well, because you, like I’ve said so many times already today that you provide so much value there. And it’s always adding on to to increase curiosity for people or to encourage them in the right direction or give really valuable advice and guidance. So I’m going to add that on as as an approach that people can take today as well, because it’s Thank you huge value, huge value there. Absolutely. Awesome. One of the other things. One of the other things you’ve spoken about, and I think it’s really important is to not come at this from a kind of scarcity mindset that people don’t start off straightaway with with nearly no money in the bank and goes straight into Indonesia. That You have to, you have to have a bit of a foundation, isn’t that right?
Alastair McDermott 50:03
Yeah. So I think that and so the concept of of being in a scarcity mindset, you know, when you’re struggling for money a little bit, or you’re, some people call it an abundance mindset, I’m not sure if that’s because I don’t think it’s so much a choice rather than this situation that you’re in. But I think when you’re in that place where you are struggling for money and cash flow a bit, I think that you have to get out of that first, before you make a specialization decision. Because I think that most often people will tend to, the mistake they make with specialization is to go too broad, even even when they niche down. And so, and you will instinctively do that, if you’re in this kind of scarcity mindset, because you’ll you will instinctively want that bigger ocean. And so I think that in order to make a good specialization decision, that’s gonna work for you, then I think that you’ve got to not be in that place, I think that you’ve got to be coming to us from this place where you’re not afraid of taking a little bit of risk, you have to have a little bit of risk tolerance there. Yeah.
Tamara Howard 51:07
And and in that vein, as well, what what advice would you give to people who have maybe multiple different revenue streams, that it’s really actually quite tricky for them to think about niching down because they’d have to say no to X, Y, Zed form of income that they’re reliant on at this stage.
Alastair McDermott 51:26
Okay, so it depends on if it’s this recurring maintenance type revenue, just keep those going. Yeah. If it’s active, then you’re going to have to make some time. And so what I’d say is start to increase your prices and increase your prices. And, you know, the old saying, if I, if I doubled my prices, oh, my god, I’d lose half my clients.
Alastair McDermott 51:48
Yeah. And so yeah, so do that, you know, increase your prices and make yourself more time. Like one of the things about this is, is, in particular, I find at the start, you, you won’t save time at the start, because you’d be so busy doing things like content production kind of creation, yeah, you will have more time later. In particular, when all of this kind of content machine and you know, you’ve got this, you’ve just got this kind of body of work out there generating leads for you. And you can charge more money, you can charge a premium, you can do value based pricing, all of that kind of thing. And so you can do privatize services, for example. So you can do all of that. And and life is easier for you at that point. But right away after you make those decisions, typically, you don’t have a lot, a lot more time right, then. But does that answer the question?
Tamara Howard 52:43
Yeah, I think you I think you’ve answered the question for me. Yeah, it’s, it’s about balance, isn’t it, it’s about just finding the right moment, and maybe making the room you need to make a little bit of room for, for the content content that you’re going to need to develop and, and having a like, I say that you need to have a strategy, rather than just hitting the ground and being reactive and not really thinking it clearly. It takes time to sit down and map things out and, and be really intentional about the actions that you’re going to take.
Alastair McDermott 53:13
Yeah, it’s a long term game. And it’s hard work, particularly at the start. But the payoffs are so massive, and that’s the thing. So are you committed to doing that? And maybe like you’d like most people don’t do this. Most people stay as a generalist, and grow their network and do better networking, and do better at asking for referrals. And that is absolutely fine. If that’s your choice, you know, what you don’t get as easy, you don’t get to go to a place where your marketing ultimately becomes writing and speaking, or teaching and learning. Yeah, and that for me, that was the goal. That was what I really wanted to get to. And I think that that that is an amazing reward if you’re prepared to do the work for that.
Tamara Howard 53:58
I love it. Alyssa, you’ve given me so much the you’ve given my listeners. An MRI, of course, totally asking for a friend. You’ve given just so much value
Tamara Howard 54:07
today, it’s been absolutely phenomenal. And the other thing that I would say is is to check out to check out the podcast that The Recognized Authority, because I’ve checked out a few of those episodes at this stage. And it is actually really interesting, because you do speak to people who are recognized authorities in their fields. And it gives you a good sense of their journey. You know, how they’ve gone about what they’ve done, you know, to get to where they are the actions that they’ve taken the, you know, the specialization that they’ve done. It’s a really interesting source of a bit of inspiration and a bit of courage as well because like you say, most people don’t do this.
Alastair McDermott 54:50
Yeah. And with that, with that podcast, we talked a little bit beforehand about podcasting. And I think that I think podcasting is this really important pillar of Have contents and if you can do it, go and get yourself on other people’s podcast to build your authority and start your own podcast to build an audience. Yeah. And I think it’s really important that you get better at speaking about what you do. Like, I’ve done maybe 2030 podcasts as a guest now. And so I speak better about what I do now. Yeah, than if I had come on your show. Without having done that. So you get better at explaining you’d find different ways of and so this is all of this experience, you know, you’ve got to put the work in and do that. But again, the rewards are huge from with the podcast, what I try and do is to try and keep it really actionable. And a little bit inspiring, but also really actionable. Because I want that I want people’s listened to an episode and actually be able to go and take the take advice based on it, you know, yeah.
Tamara Howard 55:49
And I might have to have your back, Alistair, to do a dedicated session on podcasting. Because your, your approach, you’ve got this logical approach to everything that you do, everything is so clearly mapped out and defined and understood and analyzed. And and I love the way that you think about your structure and your processes. So I think we might, we might have to have you back and have a dedicated session on those. Yeah, because even in our short conversation, once again, you provided your so much value to me starting out on my on my early days in podcasting, so you know whom I might have to recruit you again. My pleasure. But coming here, before we go, you’ve given so much food for thought today, and I really appreciate your time. But I have my five to finish questions before we wrap it here today. So our five, top of mind, so don’t think about it too long. Just whatever comes to your mind first. On these five questions. Are you ready? Hit me. Okay, good. Okay, number one, what does success mean to you?
Alastair McDermott 56:51
Success means being able to control my own time and choose what I want to do.
Tamara Howard 56:56
Yeah, yeah, that’s a big one. I hear that a lot. Actually. Yeah, I love us. And I can completely relate. Number two second question. What are you consuming now that nourishes you. And that can be it can be food if you want, or it can be a podcast, or a book or a film or TV show whatever.
Alastair McDermott 57:16
I consume books are dangerous. We’re eight. Oh, cooled. I read a lot. So I read like two or three books a week normally. Yeah. Oh, well. I love books. What
Tamara Howard 57:26
are you reading at the minute?
Alastair McDermott 57:29
So right now I’m reading a business book. Let me see I’ve got I’ve got a couple here. I’ve got the authority code from Rochelle Moulton, who’s somebody I had on the podcast. I have be the go to, which is a book about becoming the go to person in your field. And I’m also reading a book about business storytelling, and I’m kind of flicking back and forth between those.
Tamara Howard 57:51
Oh, lovely. God can check them out. They sound great. Yes. consumer of books. I love it. Okay, number 3/3. Question. What are you feeling excited about right now?
Alastair McDermott 58:02
Right now, I’m feeling excited. I’m, I’m just in a place where I’m launching new programs, new coaching programs, and I’m creating some videos for that. And one of the things actually this, this is this, okay, this is sorry, I know, this might sound a bit self serving. But one of the things I’m doing right now, as I’m recording a video, to tell people, whether they’re a good fit, or why I might not be the right fit for them, and telling them who else they could go talk to, which is a really powerful place to be I love it. So I’m telling people, Hey, you know, you probably should go talk to this other person instead. And yes, I’m where I’m doing a kind of a series of videos on, you know, their kind of intake videos. And so what that does is that means that when somebody goes through that and and arrives at my door, I know that they’ve already they’ve already made those decisions. Yeah. So it actually makes it’s kind of setting up systems. So that when people arrive, they’re ready to go. Yes, yeah. And, like, one of the one of the things about Inbound Marketing, and generating all of these leads, is, you get you, you create this abundance of lead flow, so you get more leads than you can handle. But it means you can get really specific about who you help. But it also means that you can send the people who aren’t good fit, you can send them somewhere else. Amazing. That’s important as well. Oh, that’s really interesting. God, I’m excited to hear we were we’re not right for you. Yeah. So yeah.
Tamara Howard 59:28
You’re kind of automating your intake.
Alastair McDermott 59:31
Yeah, exactly. That’s what it’s about. It’s about it’s about creating, creating this content, that and there’s a book called Content content fortress, which is all about this. It’s by a couple of web designers in the UK. And it’s about creating this content that actually turns away people who are not a good fit. Yeah, and inviting people who are a good fit, which is kind of what specialization is about as well. Yes, absolutely. So yeah, so at the moment, I’m recording videos about that. So sorry, that was a much Longer.
Tamara Howard 1:00:00
That’s the answer. No, I’m really excited about those videos as well. I can’t wait to hear more vapor whenever they’re ready. Interesting answer. Thank you Alastair. Okay, cool. Question number four. Go right back to the start of your journey. Right back to the beginning. What advice would you give yourself?
Alastair McDermott 1:00:20
Don’t get on that slide. metaphorical practical. I’m kind of kidding. But what advice would I give myself? Oh, geez, I would honestly, I wish that I had gotten on the specialization train a lot earlier. Yes. I kind of regret that I didn’t come to that realization about 10 years earlier. Yes. Yeah. That and maybe back when I was in college, and you might be shocked to hear live a software engineering background? That was what I did. But, yeah, so back then I kind of I kind of looked down my nose a little bit at the whole business world. And just like I, you know, the tech industry was nice and clean and shiny. And I wish I think that I had a better understanding of, of, of business and, you know, helping people and things like that through business. So, yeah, that maybe maybe one of those two things probably would be would be my choice.
Tamara Howard 1:01:20
Okay. Okay. Interesting. Very good. And then your final question, Alastair? What is one non negotiable for you when it comes to self preservation?
Alastair McDermott 1:01:31
Oh, that’s an interesting question. self preservation. I guess, having access to books,
I knew you were gonna say books actually have to run your books through the podcast. Yeah, I had a feeling it was gonna be a total
Alastair McDermott 1:01:48
sci fi nerd as well. Like I read. You know, like Dune, for example. That’s my favorite book. Oh, very good. Yeah. And they make they’ve made a great film. Yes. Yeah. Yeah. And so yeah, like Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Frank Herbert and all that kind of stuff. Yeah, I love I love all that. So yeah, I think that I would need to have access to that. Yeah. Okay. Cool. It keeps me sane. Yeah.
Tamara Howard 1:02:11
Okay, cool. That’s a great answer as well. Really good answers. Alistair. Thank you so much. And look really good value here today. I can’t like encourage people more to go and check out your two podcasts The Recognized Authority on this specialization podcast. Where else can people find you?
Alastair McDermott 1:02:27
Yeah, so I’m on all the socials. And so I’m on. I like Twitter. Got to help me. I like Twitter. I’ve recently rebooted our Instagram. So got that up and running a bit. And, and I make YouTube videos every so often, but but really, LinkedIn and Twitter are the two places I hang out at the most. Okay. And here, you can find me at the recognized authority.com
Tamara Howard 1:02:50
deadly. I’ll put all of those links in the show notes. Alistair, thank you so much for your time today. And thanks, everyone, for listening. My pleasure. Thank you. Thanks for listening to the better way to strategic marketing with Tamra Howard. Remember, if you like what you hear, why not tell a friend, share today’s show with someone who you think would really love it. Music On today’s show comes from red to D two. And don’t forget to check them out on Spotify. And as always a huge thanks to studio 92 in the mill enterprise hub and draw to the newest home of audio excellence.
Alastair McDermott 1:03:27
So thanks again to Tamra for having me on her podcast. If you enjoyed the episode. Check out the better way to strategic marketing, which is linked in the show notes. And if you’re looking for help with niching down and building your authority, check out all of the free resources at the recognized authority.com. There’s a button there that says Start here. And that will bring you to a whole range of free resources. So thanks for listening. See you next time.