How to Grow Your Consulting Business – Alastair McDermott and Alisa Meredith

November 15, 2021
The Recognized Authority Podcast Cover

The podcast that helps independent consultants & subject matter experts to get more clients without having to beg for referrals, or make soul-destroying cold calls!

There are different stages to growing a consulting business: the strategies you adopt when you’re getting established can be different to those you use to scale later.

Several weeks ago I attended a marketing conference called The Uprising, an event run by Mark Schaefer. I spoke with many of the attendees and speakers. One of the people I met was Alisa Meredith, and when we spoke, she invited me to come on to her live stream to talk about growing a consulting business.

This is our conversation, which covers topics from referrals and positioning, to pricing and product ladders.

My thanks to Alisa for having me on her show, and allowing me to use it as a podcast episode here!

Show Notes

Guest Bio

Alisa Meredith has been helping small businesses find their niche, build relationships with their customers, and market effectively and efficiently.

Recently at Tailwind, she has over 20 years of marketing experience, with extensive experience in product, content, and social media marketing.

She has a book on Pinterest advertising and has conducted trainings for Social Media Examiner and the Agents of Change.

Transcript

SUMMARY KEYWORDS
clients, people, consultants, specialization, podcast, referrals, called, bit, projects, marketing, problem, talk, authority, pinterest, business, specialized, price, alastair, pricing, create

SPEAKERS
Alastair McDermott, Voiceover, Alisa Meredith

 

Alastair McDermott  00:00

The initial times are different than after you’re more established. So when you’re starting out, you do have to hustle. You have to scramble. You have to do everything that you can to bring in clients and to bring in cash flow so that you get out of a place of scarcity.

 

Voiceover  00:16

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  00:32

So a couple of weeks ago, I was attending an event called The Uprising, which was a marketing event run by Mark Schaefer. And I met a lady called Alisa Meredith. And so as I was talking to her, she invited me to come on to her live stream. So she has a very popular live stream. She is a visual marketer, a Pinterest expert, she has 15,000 followers on Pinterest, she asked me to come on her show, to talk about consulting and marketing. I’ll hand you over to Lisa.

 

Alisa Meredith  01:01

Hello, hello, Elisa Meredith here, glad to have you for the show that I am calling visual marketing for all. That’s how you can find it. If you want to look on your podcast finder. Today, we are going to be talking about how to scale and productize your consulting business. And I have with me, a very special guest from Ireland, Alastair McDermott. Welcome.

 

Alastair McDermott  01:23

Thank you so much for having me on the show.

 

Alisa Meredith  01:26

I’m thrilled to. Now, okay, make sure I get this right that you are your marketing consultant, business coach, the host of The Recognized Authority podcast and a Specialization podcast. And what you do to help people is you help people become that recognize authority so that you can make impact but also command higher fees, which sounds good.

 

Alastair McDermott  01:48

Yeah, yeah, absolutely.

 

Alisa Meredith  01:49

Yeah.

 

Alastair McDermott  01:50

And work with better clients as well.

 

Alisa Meredith  01:51

Yeah. And Jeff has given us a little Texas greeting Howdy, everyone. Oh, it is.

 

Alastair McDermott  02:00

I have beard jealousy.

 

Alisa Meredith  02:01

Weird, I know. But anyway, we are here to pick your brain about how to grow a consulting business. And I admit that this is a little bit selfish, on my part, because that is something I’m working on. But I’m hoping that all of you wonderful people watching are curious about the same thing want to build your business want to charge like command higher prices, right? Let’s start with basics. What is the difference between a freelancer and a consultant?

 

Alastair McDermott  02:31

In partisan label, and in part, it’s a difference in mindset, you move up the value chain, when you start out your commodity, you’re replaceable with the next guy, you know, somebody else can just slot in and take your place. It’s like staff augmentation. You particularly get this when you see people working as freelancers. And they work with agencies who do the same thing that they do. And so they come in to like, help out an agency on a project where they, they’re kind of understaffed, the agency knows what you do. And they can easily find other people like you. So they just feel like a commodity. If you’re billing yourself as a freelancer, you’re effectively saying I’m a commodity. And so it’s just really hard to charge more because of that. Whereas if you say, I’m a consultant, that’s kind of a euphemism for saying, I’m an expert. So impart is just, you know, I’m taking myself more seriously. And I’m taking you more seriously as the client, and I’m going to provide you more value.

 

Alisa Meredith  03:26

Okay. Does that have anything to do with the services that you offer? So does a consultant necessarily offer like more advanced services or more consulting and strategy than execution? What’s the difference there?

 

Alastair McDermott  03:40

Yeah, that’s a big one. So typically, there’s, there’s a few different stages, there’s the initial diagnostic stage where somebody figures out, you know, what the actual problem is here. And then after diagnosis, there’s prescription, here’s that, here’s the solution. And then there’s implementation. And then after implementation, there’s usually maintenance. And as you go down that kind of progression, it becomes less valuable, it’s easier to bring somebody in to replace you, the higher up the food chain that you start, the higher up that ladder, the more value that you can provide.  A lot of people are brought in as consultants, they’re brought in, after the the project has been decided by somebody else says, here’s what we’re doing. And you’re just brought in to execute. And at that point, it’s very hard to get your ideas taken seriously, if you want to change something, because you’re not that person you’re just brought in to be a pair of hands to do the work, do the implementation. Whereas if you had entered the relationship, higher up that ladder, if you had entered at the diagnosis stage where you’re brought in Okay, can you can you help us figure this out and then prescribe a solution. And then you can decide what do you want to implement or not, you know, and that’s a separate project even. It really depends on where you enter that relationship. And it’s hard to go it’s hard to move up the ladder, it’s much easier to move down the ladder.

 

Alisa Meredith  04:58

And that makes a lot of sense. So is it. You’ve mentioned mindset. And I can see that right? It’s it’s about thinking about where you want to fit. Do you want to be that consultant? Or do you want to be the freelancer? Is it a matter of how you present yourself? Like, I don’t want to get too far ahead of us, but, but what will be the difference in the way I present myself as a consultant versus a freelancer say, let’s say I’m posting something on LinkedIn? Can you give us an example of what would be the difference to kind of put myself in one position rather than the other?

 

Alastair McDermott  05:29

it changes how you approach the conversation. So if you go in as a freelancer, you’re saying, Here’s what I can do for you tell me which of these things you need. Whereas if you go in as a consultant, you say, let’s have a conversation and figure out what your problem is. And let’s see if we can figure out what the best solution is for you. It’s just a different kind of mindset, in that you’re taking a step back, and you’re not saying, You’re not asking the client to direct you, you’re you’re taking charge of that conversation.  For example, if you go to your local doctor, when you go in there, they start asking questions, they don’t immediately say, Oh, looks like you’ve got a limp. Here’s some, you know, whatever drugs that they they prescribe, they start to ask you questions. So it’s that same type of relationship where they’re trying to figure things out, whereas a freelancer might go in and say, it looks like you need a logo. So here’s my pricing sheet for logos, and not really dig into the kind of the behind the scenes of what the issue is, you know.

 

Alisa Meredith  06:26

Alright, I think we got it. Let me know, if you if you guys are all clear on Freelancer versus consultants, I think pretty much want to be in the consultant space, right? He mentioned,

 

Alastair McDermott  06:37

I think it’s moving, it’s moving along that spectrum from being a commodity, um, you want to move away from being a commodity being like everybody else. If you’re like everybody else, then the only difference that they have to go on is price. And you really don’t want to be in a bad argument, because that’s just the worst place to be.

 

Alisa Meredith  06:53

Absolutely. Okay. So how do you find your first customers, as a consultant?

 

Alastair McDermott  07:01

That’s tough. The initial times are different than after you’re more established. So when you’re starting out, you do have to hustle, you have to scramble, you have to do everything that you can to bring in clients and to bring in cash flow, so that you get out of a place of scarcity, what happens at the start is you need cash, and you will take pretty much any job that comes along, you’ve got to move away from that as quickly as possible. This way, I think it’s a good idea.  If you have the choice, and you want to start a consulting business, is to stay and build up a nest egg of cash first, so that you have some runway for yourself, because that gives you the power to say no to bad projects. And that’s really important. So you’ve got to get yourself into the situation where you can say no to poor fit projects as quickly as possible.  But to answer your question, specifically, how do you get those first, it’s usually through networking, it’s usually by letting everybody know what you do. And having a really clear value proposition, a really clear positioning statement that people will understand, you know, this is who you help, and this is what you do. So it’s really clear what the value is that you can provide for somebody, and that they can very easily identify who it is you’re looking for. So if they know somebody that they can actually say, oh, yeah, there’s something I can refer you to.  At the start, you’ll be doing that through networking, but you want to move, you want to move past that initial scramble, you know, as quickly as you can. So to get yourself on to a more stable footing, where you’re able to say no to jobs that are bad fit clients, bad fit projects, low value, take up a lot of your time and energy and don’t give you the time and energy that you need to kind of work on the longer term, which is you know, building up your authority and expertise and things like that.

 

Alisa Meredith  08:49

Anybody out there had a bad fit customer that they regretted from the moment you signed? Me? Yes, absolutely. I think we all go through that learning stage, figuring out who’s a good fit or not.

 

Alastair McDermott  09:02

Been there done that, bought the T-shirt too many times. You know, I say all this with from a place of experience. So every every mistake that I mentioned on here, I have made it.

 

Alisa Meredith  09:18

Okay, fair enough. All right. Well, that makes you The Recognized Authority. Right, you’ve done it.

 

Alastair McDermott  09:23

Well, well, I’m not self-ordaining. That’s the name of the show. Because that that’s, that’s the place that I want to bring my clients to. That’s, that’s the place I want to help people to that I want to bring them from this place where they’re an invisible expert. They’re really good at what they do, but nobody really knows them. And I want to take them on that journey to where they become The Recognized Authority in their fields. And that journey is you know, it’s difficult. There’s some some really hard things to do along the way. But that’s what I want to help people with. So I’m not self-ordaining The Recognized Authority. Because I think one of the

 

Alisa Meredith  09:56

Someone else says that about you.

 

Alastair McDermott  09:58

Yeah, it is. Okay. Absolutely.

 

Alisa Meredith  10:02

Okay, so you mentioned networking, how do you figure out where your ideal clients are? Like, are they online in a specific place online or the local? Like, how do you figure this out?

 

Alastair McDermott  10:16

I think the first thing you got to do is you got to figure out, so who are the people I really love to work with, who are those ideal clients. And that’s not an easy thing to figure out. And you usually have to have done that hustle at the start where you do lots of different types of projects, including some bad fit clients, because you have to be able to decide who your ideal clients are, from a position where you have some experience of that.  So you can say, well, I don’t like working with those people, because this happens. But I do love working with these people. You know, sometimes it’s because you have a family history where they’re your all your family or dentist, so you love working with dentist. Because of that, you know, there’s some sometimes it’s things like that. Or sometimes you know, you were in college doing one thing, and then you change to doing something else. But you still have lots of contacts in that in that area. And so there might be some sort of connection. But you’ve got to figure out who that ideal client is. And then you’ve got to map out where they might be hanging around. And if you make certain choices in your, in your niching, down, which is something that you can do. But if you make certain choices, you can make it much easier for yourself.

 

Alisa Meredith  11:18

True. Yeah. And Brian, the same, the same principle applies to my business and how not to be seen as a commodity as a wedding photographer. That’s the work I feel I need to do at the moment. My former clients do a good job of this for me, but I need to do it to. Ryan says we need to the bad customers to help us figure out where the good ones are.

 

Alastair McDermott  11:37

Yeah.

 

Alisa Meredith  11:38

I mean, I feel like it’d be nice to learn the easy way. But I don’t think anyone does.

 

Alastair McDermott  11:45

It would be it would be experience makes you better.

 

Alisa Meredith  11:49

It does.

 

Alastair McDermott  11:50

You know, and that’s an experience is usually making mistakes. So how do you get better you make mistakes. It is great when, when you can read books, and watch live streams and things like this. So you can learn from other people’s mistakes as well and learn from other people’s experience that really is is good. But there is a certain element of you have to make some of those mistakes yourself.

 

Alisa Meredith  12:11

Yeah. Okay. So let’s say we figured out that our ideal customer is conveniently on LinkedIn. How would you recommend someone who is unknown but wants to become more known, interact, once they get there?

 

Alastair McDermott  12:29

I talked to people by exposing their expertise, taking them from being that invisible expert, to being recognized, being visible. So in part, it’s got to be about publishing. If we take a step back to you know who the ideal client is, it’s really difficult. And this is where I, I got into this whole world of expertise and authority and specialization. I got into this because I was trying to write blog posts, and I was trying to plan a podcast back in 2014, 2015, 2016. I failed miserably. And I couldn’t understand what the problem was. And I dug into it more and more.  And then I realized that the big problem was, I was trying to write blog posts, that was online marketing and website advice for every type of business. And it was just impossible to do that. Because it’s like, one of my clients was a quarry. You know, they they had trucks that do get rocking. Another client was a retirement planning company. Another client was a society for dentistry for children. Another client was, was a magician that did birthday parties, you know. So how do you how do you write blog posts for all of these people that gives them advice that that’s on point? If the answer is you don’t, what I realized was I had a lack of specialization problem. So I needed to specialize there to niche down as I dug more and more into that. As I dug more into the the problem, and I realized this specialization thing seems to be a key that unlocks a lot of different things. And I started to niche down and I picked consultants as my favorite type of client to work with. And so I initially called it Marketing for Consultants. And the reason I call it that rather than Websites for Consultants, because I found that a lot of these consultants didn’t value their websites.  So I started to do some research, I started to talk talk to a lot of them. And I did surveys, I surveyed over 1000 consultants about their websites, by their online marketing, but lots of different things about their business development. What that showed me was that gave me this deep understanding of their problems, their marketing, how they view business development. And it just gave me like, this level of insight that was totally different to what I would have had before even when I was serving the same clients. It was just like a much deeper level. And that’s what specialization gives you.  So I think the first step is to actually specialize to niche down. And actually, I created a whole audio course on this. I just made it into a podcast and put it up. It’s an evergreen podcast. It’s called “The Specialization Podcast”, I made that because specialization is the thing that I think more people need to use, it’s a tool that can really help. But also I think a lot of people are afraid of it for for good reason. Because there’s a lot of fears involved with specialization, this fear of turning away business with the fear that maybe I’m going to get bored, the fear that you’re going to pick the wrong thing.  So there’s a lot of that there’s a lot of fears with it. But if you do specialize and niche down, suddenly, everything else becomes easier. Because then if I can go back to your question about what do you post on LinkedIn? What do you post about your clients problem that you that you know about, and you post, you know, you you post continually about different ways of solving that problem and digging into that problem and explaining that problem. And those clients will see that that you understand it, in the same way that like somebody watching this or even even you, when you’re listening to me talking now you know that I get get the problem. If you’re experiencing this problem, is anybody watching this, like, you know that I understand that because you hear me talking about it. And it’s the same way, it’s like you, when you create some content, put it up on LinkedIn, if it’s digging into your clients problem, they will resonate with that, and they will want to talk to you about it. That’s how it is. But it’s not easy because it it does have this dependency on niching. Down and specializing that’s that’s the real difficulty, I think.

 

Alisa Meredith  16:34

Yeah, we had a great show on that with Rich Brooks last week. If you missed it, go back and check that out. Okay, so you’re talking about then just kind of really basically like content marketing, right? Just putting that content out to attract your ideal customer? Is there anything that you do that or recommend that is a little bit more? I don’t know more like taking the initiative to reach out like a little more outbound?

 

Alastair McDermott  17:02

No, actually, I’m not going to outband at all. Okay, what, what I will say is, there is a place for our band, which is those first few years when you’re scrambling, and you gotta you got to make stuff happen. I do believe in it then. But I do a training course with a sales trainer one time. And he told us at the start that his job was to get 79 nos and one yes, every day. And like,

 

Alisa Meredith  17:25

Every day?

 

Alastair McDermott  17:26

Every day. Yeah. And I read another stat recently that like the average band sales person leaves 300 voicemails every week, you know, oh my god, like, Can you can you just imagine like, That’s sounds like nightmare.

 

Alisa Meredith  17:42

Crushing. Yes.

 

Alastair McDermott  17:43

I would much rather be writing blog posts doing LinkedIn lives or you know, coming on live streams like this. But that’s just so much feels like such a much better use of my time. And a much better way to do marketing. So yeah, like, I like to think of content marketing, as education marketing, because you’re educating the clients, or even authority marketing, because basically, you’re demonstrating your authority, your expertise, if you think of them in those ways that they get makes a bit more. Like in our business, typically, we don’t do content marketing to entertain. It’s great if we can add some entertainment value into it. But I think that it’s not primarily about entertainment, it’s primarily about educating the client so that, you know, they learn a bit more and they say, okay, that’s the person we want to work with.

 

Alisa Meredith  18:29

Okay. Total sense. Okay. Now, I stopped your blog and your podcast notes to get some of these questions. So. So this one made me real curious. Right. So how can we work with competitors to get more business?

 

Alastair McDermott  18:48

Okay, so, okay, yeah, so, so the first thing is, if you’re specialized, if you’re properly specialized, you probably don’t have any true competitors. You have people who are working in the same area, but they’re probably not direct competitors. And it’s much easier to have people who you work with. So I’ll give you an example from my past. When I was doing web design and online marketing, I was doing for every type of business that that that came across my door. So I was doing Facebook ads, websites, Google AdWords, if I met somebody who was a consultant in say, Google AdWords, I would have viewed them as a competitor. Whereas now when I’m not doing that, if I meet that same person, they’re now a potential ally. They’re a potential referral. There’s somebody I can work with, we might collaborate to make a training course together or to, you know, do do a live like this or something like that, you know, you don’t see them as a competitor because you’re not competing anymore.  And even then, in the very rare occasions where there is somebody who is an absolute direct competitor, I’ve even had some of them on my podcast. I’ve had Jonathan Stark Phillip Morgan, Luke Smeyers, Brad Farris and all of those could some to some degree, Rochelle Moulton, all of those could, to some degree, be seen as direct competitors. On the other hand, we’re all kind of talking to slightly different people, the people who are out there listening to us, some of them, if somebody wants to work on specialization, and they have a choice between me and Philip Morgan, it’s going to be very clear to them, either they like Alastair style, or they’re like Philip style, because we’re talking cheese, we have a very different approach to it. And so they’re going to, like, what are they gonna like the other? You know, I think it’s gonna be pretty clear. You know, I’m a bit more boisterous, and Philip is is kind of very calm and relaxed. And, you know, just I’m not saying he’s not as hard as he is. And I would like to thank the lamb coming across that way, too. But it’s just a different style.  And so I think that people will make that choice based on that, you know, so yeah, so if, if you look at your competitors as allies, with the same mission, it makes things makes life a bit bit more pleasant, you also need to not be coming from that place of scarcity. So that’s a bad mindset as well. And I like to use the example of in terms of the number of clients that I need, I’m standing under the Niagara Falls, and I have a small glass I need to fill up. And so to somebody else standing under the Falls will be as well, they’re filling their glass, it’s not gonna hurt me.

 

Alisa Meredith  21:22

Right.

 

Alastair McDermott  21:22

There’s plenty, plenty business out there. You know, it’s just, I think a lot of it is about mindset as well.

 

Alisa Meredith  21:29

Completely agree, I have to say in the space that I’m in most of the time, which is Pinterest marketing, people are incredibly generous. I was just in a private zoom call with Megan Williamson this morning, she has a paid group. And she brought me in to just kind of partner with and do a session, which I don’t know if that happens in every industry. But I think having an understanding of like how social works is really helpful to know that, yeah, there really is no competition or just all.

 

Alastair McDermott  21:57

Yeah, well, I’ve noticed because I came from the world of web design. And I’ve noticed that in web design in the creative space, it there’s much more collaboration than there is in the world of consultants. It doesn’t seem to have the same level of, of kind of, we’re all in this together. I don’t know what it is about the creative industries. But there is a bit more that, I really like that actually, it’s something that I that I want to keep. And I want to continue to work in, you know.

 

Alisa Meredith  22:23

Okay. All right. So you’ve had a couple of clients, you figured out who you like, how do you get referrals? I feel a little bit funny sometime asking people.

 

Alastair McDermott  22:33

Yeah. So I think that, I mean, there are ways to ask for referrals, you can tell your clients look at, you know, I get most of my business from referrals. So what I want to do is, I want to do a great job for you. So much, so that you will tell all your friends about by working with me, and you tell them that from the outset. And then when you get to the end of the project, it’s much easier to say, hey, remember what I told you this, I hope, I hope that you feel that it’s getting great projects, and that you would be willing to tell a few people about working with it with me. So that’s one way that I would go about it.  But personally, I’m not a fan of referrals in general, I think that too many people are dependent on them as the primary means. I mean, in my research between 95 and 90-99% of consultants depend on referrals for their business. The problem with referrals is if your network dries out, you’re in trouble. Because you don’t have any other system. Sometimes people refer you and they referring you the wrong the wrong types of clients. And I’ve had that in the past where I’ve been referred. And just like I really do appreciate that they think of me, but they’re just not good for clients and I can’t take on the project.  And sometimes that can even result in somebody being a little bit offended and awkward. Yeah. So So yeah, there are things you can do to try and like educate them about the type of referrals but yeah, I don’t like I think it’s it’s dangerous to to rely just totally on referrals. So what I prefer to do is the the authority building authority, marketing, content marketing, whatever way you want to describe it, in our space, it’s definitely about authority. It’s about building your authority being seen as the go to person in you know, one specific area. There are those those three big buckets, there’s outbound there’s referrals, which is the biggest then there’s outbound like cold calling email, LinkedIn messages, all that kind of stuff. And then there’s inbound. And inbound is my tool of choice for for this.

 

Alisa Meredith  24:28

Yeah, me too. I would rather do something that is helpful and that people want and actually come looking for then something that may interrupt and annoy.

 

Alastair McDermott  24:38

Yeah. I mean, if if you have a choice in terms of your your marketing, if your marketing is going to a meeting every Friday morning at 6am, which some people do that’s like BNI is typically like that. If that’s your the way that you like to do marketing, then that’s fine. Like go for it. I my preferred way of doing marketing his opening up Google Docs, or my phone notes or my dictation, and talking to myself and making notes and trying to figure things out and, and having conversations like this one, that feels to me like a much nicer way to do marketing, it doesn’t really feel like marketing to me to be honest, it’s, it’s yeah, it’s just much more pleasant.

 

Alisa Meredith  25:21

Okay, so we all know, in all business, it’s much less expensive and much easier to get repeat business and to go out and find a new customer, new client. But I don’t always feel like that happens organically. So how can we make it happen that we we keep working with our best clients over and over?

 

Alastair McDermott  25:41

Well, if you can create a product or service that has an ongoing component, that’s what you really need to do I mean, monthly recurring revenue, it’s kind of the the, it’s like the Holy Grail. Yes. Is there something? Or is there a way for you to continuously provide a lot of value to your clients to help them with with their problem. Now, I will link you to an article by David C. Baker, who writes a lot about expertise and creative businesses, but he talks about, you know, sometimes recurring revenue can be dangerous, because over time, what can happen is your relationship with your client, it starts to get more and more familiar. And familiarity breeds contempt as the phrase goes. But you know, they start to treat you as more like an employee. And you know, so that can happen over time.  So it isn’t always ideal not to say, I mean, like, I know that he talks on his podcast 2Bobs with Blair Enns, he talks a lot about, there’s a typical amount of client turnover that you should have, you know, you should lose, you know, X amount of X percent of your clients every year. And there should be, you know, as, as your business grows and changes develops over time, you know, I can’t remember that number is might be 8%, or something like that. But you know, like, and so forth. So if you’ve got, you know, 10 to 12 clients, that might mean that you lose one or two clients every year, and that’s typical turnover.

 

Alisa Meredith  27:08

Yeah.

 

Alastair McDermott  27:08

So I think there is something that natural there, but if we’re doing high value projects, then that’s okay. The worst is if you’re doing one off low value projects, that’s that’s the real problem. And that’s where I look at productized services and packaging, particularly for for Brian, for the photographer, anybody in photography, I think having fixed price packages, is the way to go custom stuff is that’s when people will start to fight back on pricing a lot.

 

Alisa Meredith  27:31

Yeah, absolutely. I think, as I’ve gotten back into consulting, that’s been a goal of mine is to not ever write a custom proposal ever again.

 

Alastair McDermott  27:42

Oh, yeah. And if you do, I would suggest that you get Blair Enns book “Pricing Creativity”, which will cost you a minimum $100. Because that’s the cheapest, he has it for what it’s worth. Yeah, he has actually priced it. But as in, they’re just giving it like preview, in their talks by always offer three options, offer them the basics, that they want something in the middle, and then the bells and whistles, if you win the lottery, here’s what we would do. He talked about how to actually you know how to have the conversations, the value conversation.  There is a thing called value pricing, I spoke with a guy called Ron Baker who’s kind of the godfather of value pricing. And that’s where you link your price to, to the value that the client will actually get from the project being complete. And so you’ll take a percentage of that. And usually the value price projects are significantly more in terms of pricing than if you’d had quoted them without doing value pricing, you know, if you if you based on you know, time and materials basis, but if you can, if you can make it work, and it’s difficult to to to actually have those conversations, the value conversation. But if you can make that work that can be very lucrative.

 

Alisa Meredith  28:53

That’s a great episode and The Recognized Authority podcast, if anyone’s looking for new podcasts, that will be a great one to start with. You know, it’s the same principle though as like a like a SaaS company, like a software company with subscriptions. Right? They always have that basic. And then they have the mid tier that’s usually called out as like the best deal and then they have the super expensive one that you can’t afford.

 

Alastair McDermott  29:15

Yeah.

 

Alisa Meredith  29:17

Yeah, so same thing for

 

Alastair McDermott  29:18

Yeah. And the purpose of that one of the of the high level one is to make the other ones look cheaper, you know, and when you when you offer three options, quite often people will go for the middle option. You know, nobody ever buys the cheapest bottle of wine in the restaurant. They always buy the second cheapest, you know, so,

 

Alisa Meredith  29:33

That’s great. Okay, so we talked to her there’s a lot in there. I’m still intrigued by the expression chalk and cheese.

 

Alastair McDermott  29:45

Okay. I thought that was a well known phrase.

 

Alisa Meredith  29:49

I don’t think I’ve heard it before but I love it. Okay, so thinking about recurring services recurring like, Okay, I think we can all agree that usually it’s a good idea, right? So get that.

 

Alastair McDermott  30:01

Yeah.

 

Alisa Meredith  30:02

Great customer coming back. So what kind of examples have you seen, where people have figured out how to do this, that we might kind of get some ideas from?

 

Alastair McDermott  30:10

Productized recurring services might be like, so in your world, I guess it could be something like, you know, we will post, you know, 20, 20 Pinterest every every month for you, and that’s going to cost you x. Or we will, we’ll be available to do you know, to do strategy, consulting, over email, and that will cost you, you know, $500 a month, you know, we guarantee to reply within 24 hours to your emails, or, you know, some sort of some sort of ongoing retainer type relationship, there has to be a clear value for the client. And, you know, it has to it has to be something, ideally, that is higher up the food chain. So it’s up in the strategy area, rather than implementation, that that that’s better if you can do that. For for all the reasons that it’s just better to be, it’s better to be in that area than, than to be down, right.

 

Alisa Meredith  31:08

Maybe exception to that might be if you’re looking to build an agency model. Right?

 

Alastair McDermott  31:12

Yeah. Yeah.

 

Alisa Meredith  31:13

That in and then you have someone else do it.

 

Alastair McDermott  31:16

Absolutely. And I just want to say, like everything that I’ve been talking about is purely from the point of view of consultants and experts who want to be authorities. And I think that agencies will will take a slightly different approach that that was never the the approach that I personally wanted to take. But But sure, yeah, like, you would probably take a different approach with that, that that wasn’t something I wanted to do in my business, I always wanted to go down the kind of the expert model route.

 

Alisa Meredith  31:40

Okay.

 

Alastair McDermott  31:40

So, ahm,

 

Alisa Meredith  31:42

That makes sense. So we’ve talked a little bit about mindset. But I think there’s one that especially new consultants, and some of us never get over it, is that feast or famine pattern where you either so much work, you can’t handle it, or you’re panicking, that you’re never going to have any work ever again. So how do you get out of that?

 

Alastair McDermott  32:00

You first need to get out of the scarcity mindset. And that can sometimes be just a mindset thing. Or sometimes it means that you actually need to do those you need, you need to somehow build up that nest egg. But once you’re able to, you’ve got to turn down bad fit projects, you absolutely have to, and ideally, start to increase your prices, start to every time we give a quote 10% more on keep doing that. Or if you’re if you’re not charging enough, I have never met a consultant or designer or freelancer or anybody who I felt that they couldn’t immediately double the prices. Almost everybody is under charging.

 

Alisa Meredith  32:42

And I’ll argue with you say I can’t do that.

 

Alastair McDermott  32:44

Oh, yeah, cause there’s such a fear based thing. You know, it’s like double my price. Oh, my God, I lose half my clients. It’s like, yeah, it’s exactly if you lose half your clients. And you get half your half your time back. That’s it. So, so increasing your prices just gives you this power to do other things. And then once you once you can increase your prices, you have more time, because you know, you’re not scrambling around doing lower value projects, you’re able to sit back and say, Okay, now I can do something that is on the important not urgent quadrant, because that’s the quadrant that we always forget about. That’s the quadrant that always gets put aside, you know, do you want to create a YouTube series? Do you want to create a podcast? Do you want to write a book, you never have time for any of those things, if you’re running around doing those lower value projects in when you’re in that kind of feast or famine cycle?  So you have to and I know it’s hard to build up that that initial first nest egg so that you can afford to say no, but you have to get yourself to the position where you can say no, once you once you get to that position, you’re in a you’re in a totally different kind of state, and that will allow you to move on.

 

Alisa Meredith  33:53

Okay, great. Alright, you did something a year ago that I don’t think I would ever do. You created a live show every single day.

 

Alastair McDermott  34:05

Yeah.

 

Alisa Meredith  34:06

What did you learn from it? Would you ever do it again?

 

Alastair McDermott  34:09

Okay, I did it because I was really pissed off at myself.

 

Alisa Meredith  34:12

Okay.

 

Alastair McDermott  34:13

So I was really annoyed. So I don’t know if you guys use that word in that same way as we do over here. But I was really annoyed at myself. Because I had been planning podcasts and stuff for a long time. And I finally got myself at 2019 I finally got myself to the place where, okay, now I can start to do lots of content. I now have a clear vision of who my ideal client is. I’ve specialized down. I know what I want to talk about. I’ve done lots of work on this. So now’s the time.  And then COVID happened, and suddenly I was crazy busy. And so I like there were some days where I had 18 calls a day. And that would be like a regular thing like three days, four days in a week. Wow. Because I was working with my local enterprise office, which is like the, like the state enterprise support agency here. So is working with them. And they support small businesses. And of course, everybody here realized in March 2020 Oh, you know, we need to get online.  Suddenly, you know, after, after the internet being around for 25-30 years, suddenly now we need to get online. So they, they had me help out with a lot with that. And so I did a lot of a lot of work where I was working basically 10-12 hours a day, from March to October. And I totally burned out. And I, I said, at the start of September, I gave them a month’s notice I said, from the first of October, I’m gonna stop doing all of this, all of this enterprise support stuff, I’m gonna take a break from it. I’m just totally burned out now. So, so I did that in October, I took a rest for a bit. And then I said, Okay, what, what am I not be doing? Well, I’ve not been creating any kind of content. So I need to get back on this wagon.  Can you point to any tangible benefits for your business from that effort, particularly? So what I decided to do was, I said, Okay, I’m going to live stream every single day for the month of November, or at least every weekday, and just see, see how that goes. And, and so I did so and it was it was hard, because for the first while I had content planned, I had old blog posts and things that I said, Okay, I can, I can turn this into a live stream. And then like, I started to run out of those. And then I started to have to kind of, you know, go to the well and dig up some, like, create new content. And these were all solo episodes. So me speaking directly to camera like this. But yeah, it was a really great exercise to have to do it. It really upped my game I, I improved my, my video setup a bit. Still not amazing, but I improved it a bit. And I’ve worked on that a lot more since then. But it was really useful just because like I needed to challenge myself, I needed to start creating content. Like the only way to improve is to do, you know, if you want to get better writing blog posts, write more blog posts, you want to get better doing video, do more video. So that was that was that was what that was about? I did find it really useful though. I don’t know if I got any clients from it. I may have. I certainly got a lot of support from people saying, Hey, listen, we see what you’re doing. That’s really cool, keep keep it up. It’s good work. And that was that was good. I got a lot of you know, kudos and claps and that kind of stuff. And that was nice to get because sometimes you feel like you’re, you’re kind of shouting into the void when you’re online.  Yeah, I think it just, it spurred me on to do other things, then. Like, for example, the next thing I wanted to do was actually start the podcast. And I think that that, you know, was was what got me to the point is okay, now I’ve done this, I can now do the podcast. So it kind of that was the next step.

 

Alisa Meredith  37:47

Warm up. Love it.

 

Alastair McDermott  37:48

Yeah.

 

Alisa Meredith  37:49

Okay. Why is it? I may just be speaking for myself here. So if I’m the only one tell me in the comments, but why is it so hard to sell ourselves? Like, maybe we can sell everything else? But when it comes to ourselves is just painful?

 

Alastair McDermott  38:06

Well, we don’t blow our own trumpet, right?

 

Alisa Meredith  38:08

No.

 

Alastair McDermott  38:10

I think that’s the that’s the big thing. It’s like, you know, and I think there’s an, for a certain type of people, like, we’re not natural salespeople, there are the natural salespeople, and the people who will talk your ear off. And, you know, like, I’m not an actual extrovert, I have trained myself to fake extrovert very good. But I’d much rather be in a dark room, or reading a book or something on my own.  But there are other reasons why selling the specific things that we’re selling is harder, for example. And when we’re selling consulting services, in particular, what we’re selling is invisible. So people can pick it up and kind of knock on it to check the quality. Our clients don’t want to talk about it, you know, the work that we did for them, because we you know, they were in a place where they have like a problem might have been an embarrassing problem might be something they don’t want to talk about. They want to present themselves well to the world. So they don’t want to talk about the the insides of the problems that they had. And so what we’re selling is actually invisible. And it’s hard. It’s it’s complex. And it needs some explanation. And so that makes it difficult for people to compare.  And so in there, like people are, our clients are trying to make purchase decisions about consulting and, you know, any kind of consulting service. They’re trying to make complex comparisons in their head and they’re trying to use shortcuts to make that easier for themselves. Another thing that people often forget, is you’re not selling a bar of chocolate, you’re selling a relationships, when you’re when you’re entering into a consulting engagement. It’s literally called an engagement. So like it’s not a quick transaction, you’re not buying something off the vending machine. So and clients know that so they want to test it and they want to make sure that they know like and trust you. So there’s that part as well particularly, you know, for stuff like Business Coaching and things like that. There’s, there’s more reasons, by the way, consulting projects are quite often transformative. So you’re taking some somebody from, from one place to another place, and that transformation is sometimes quite complex is quite a big transformation. And that usually involves risk. If you’re working with an employee in a company, maybe their jobs on the line, or if you’re working with the business owner, maybe their business is on the line.  I mean, that’s the way people feel when I’m working with them on specialization, you know, they feel their entire business is potentially at risk if they make the wrong decisions. So they need a lot of trust before they work with me on that. So, you know, other things, you know, everybody believes their project is different. And that makes it a bit more difficult. Pricing is difficult in the world consulting because it’s it’s not like it’s not a commodity is much, much harder to figure out what the value of this is. And I think a big part of it comes back to you know, you’re selling yourself and that’s hard.

 

Alisa Meredith  40:57

Yeah.

 

Alastair McDermott  40:58

Yeah. So there’s a lot of different reasons bundled up as to why it’s really difficult.

 

Alisa Meredith  41:03

Yeah, I can see that. I’m Brian, who is from the UK said human nature, like why is it hard to sell ourselves human nature? And probably more if you’re English, or in a similar culture?

 

Alastair McDermott  41:13

Yeah. I think, I think the English, all of the Brits, I think the Irish I think even in Australia, they have a thing called Tall Poppy Syndrome. You know, you don’t want to be the tall poppy, you got put down.

 

Alisa Meredith  41:27

The very New England thing as well. I grew up in Maine, and is a very…

 

Alastair McDermott  41:30

Yeah. So yeah, there is that. Like, you have to sell yourself ultimately, like and, and so for me, it’s much easier way to sell yourself was to write a blog post or create a podcast or, you know, do that kind of stuff, then then, you know, send a cold email or send a cold LinkedIn message or, you know, go to networking meetings at 6am and some horrible hotel. I have gone I have gone to a few of those things and oh, my god, yeah. Just just not for me. If I if I joined any of those networks, I would be kicked out because, you know, I couldn’t follow those rules.

 

Alisa Meredith  42:05

Yeah, me too. Okay. All right.

 

Alastair McDermott  42:08

Yeah.

 

Alisa Meredith  42:09

I’d love that answer that how do you get over selling yourself? You don’t have to write your instead you’re kind of giving of yourself and let,

 

Alastair McDermott  42:17

Yeah.

 

Alisa Meredith  42:17

Make that connection.

 

Alastair McDermott  42:18

Liston Witherill renamed his brand to serve, don’t sell and I love that. It’s just such a great way of summarizing the whole thing. You know, you’re and ultimately I did a I think I did a YouTube video last week on this. And when somebody was talking to me, they asked me, you know, I, they were saying, Oh, I don’t want to be salesy, and I heard this this phrase salesy, and I hate that word. And it’s so the issue was salesy is this kind of aggressive sales approach that you see in Hollywood, like you see him Glengarry Glen Ross and stuff like that. And it’s like, that’s not sales in the real world. And in the world that we’re in mostly, sales is really easy.  If you’re doing it the way that I would like to do it, which is your marketing is you educating the client and putting content out there for, for your potential clients to read and educate themselves about the problem. And then when they approach you, the sales meeting is really simple. It’s just checking to see are they a good fit for the solution that you have? And if they are a good fit, then yes, work with them. And if they’re not a good fit, refer them to the best person who you can to help them with the problem that they have. And that’s it, it’s just checking to see if they’re a good fit, and that there’s nothing salesy about that, you know, it’s just, am I able to help you with this? Yeah, I think I can, here’s what I have. Or if it’s not a good fit, I don’t think I can help you with this. But, you know, go talk to Brian or Lisa or whoever, you know. So I think that’s such a much easier way to sell. And, you know, it’s better for everybody that way.

 

Alisa Meredith  43:49

Yeah, I agree. Holly says that Canadians are too polite. I mean, I think what we’re learning is it’s okay to be polite.

 

Alastair McDermott  43:59

Yeah, yeah.

 

Alisa Meredith  44:00

Yeah. Okay. Brian says it works better to say this will solve your problem. And not just saying, I’m amazing.

 

Alastair McDermott  44:07

Yeah. If you say, I’m amazing, nobody’s gonna believe it anyway. If somebody else says You’re amazing, then that’s a different story. I think it all comes back to trust. And that’s the most important thing. There’s a heavy dependency in the world of consulting, on trust in the relationship, because there’s so much risk. And that’s why referrals are so important in consulting, because if you, if you don’t know somebody, then trust is passed with a referral. When somebody recommend somebody else, that’s that they’re passing their trust, your reputation is on the line. They know that that you know you did a good job for John so you can do a good job for me. And that’s really important when there’s risk.  And so what we’re doing is we’re replacing that trust of the referral with our content with our authority to educate education content that that teaches them about it and, and the content also like this or like podcasts where somebody’s got, you know, they’ve got your voice and literary in their ear. And that that creates a lot of trust to have the thing go parasocial relationship, this, this kind of thing where people trust you because they’ve heard you over and over again. So I think that, you know, if that’s what it boils down to, really, is building trust.

 

Alisa Meredith  45:25

Right, I’m glad that you circle back around to that, because I was gonna say, I’ve always said that referrals aren’t always that great. But yes, yeah, I totally agree. And is there a way to make referrals better? Like, is there a way to say, hey, client number one, I really want to work with client number two, would you mind writing something specific for this job? Like, can you do that? Or how does that work?

 

Alastair McDermott  45:53

Okay, so, yes, and I’m not the right person to help you with that. So it definitely is possible. I know, it isn’t. I know there are people out there who do this. I think Steve Gordon is a guy who talks about that a lot. And Steve Gordon has a podcast, I can’t remember the name of his podcast right now. But I think he does talk about, you know, asking for more referrals and doing, you know, getting better referrals. And and there are ways to do that.  But you know, if you’ve got a small network, or if you’ve topped out your network already, or if you like, like, what I had is I had a large network of the wrong people. Because I have a large network of small business owners in the west of Ireland. And they would have been great if I wanted to continue working and creating websites for small businesses in the web in the west of Ireland, but that’s not what I wanted to do. So they were referring me the wrong types of clients. But there are people who are naturally introverts or have, you know, there’s people out there who have social anxiety, and they don’t want to do the referral things, they want to do something else. And also, you just, it’s very difficult to control when you’re getting those referrals. I understand why they’re so important. And I understand that it can work for a lot of people, but it can also be terrifying to depend on them. If that’s like you’re just practicing hope, marketing, you know?

 

Alisa Meredith  47:12

Yeah. Okay. All right. That makes sense. Okay. We talked about how everyone needs to raise their prices, and I love that math. Well, I have my clients will quit. Great if you’ve double your prices, same amount of money for a lot less work. I love that. When you and I talked earlier, weeks ago, we talked about determining pricing and getting away from money for time, or productizing.

 

Alastair McDermott  47:39

Yeah.

 

Alisa Meredith  47:40

Do you have any suggestions for getting started with that?

 

Alastair McDermott  47:44

Yes, so. So productizing is really interesting. And I’ve only, I’ve only kind of dipped my toe in the privatization waters a little bit. But basically, what it’s about is, it’s about creating this fixed price product, where you can actually list your price on your website. And it’s fixed scope, there’s no, there’s no movement on the scope. And so you say to people, Look, this is what it is, take it or leave it. And and if the if the value is good enough, then people will go for it. Because it’s clearly outlined, this is what you’re going to get this is what the price is. And it makes for a very, it makes for very simple decision for the client. That yeah, that looks like it’ll work for us. We like the look of of, of the of the provider. So let’s just make make the decision now. And you know, they can actually even pay there and then on the website, sometimes, you know, it could actually be like an E-commerce site. So it’s great.  So I’ve seen this work. I did it with a website, where I had a “Website in a Day” product. And it was basically where somebody, you know, I felt, you know, there’s an option here for certain types of businesses, which are lead generation businesses, expert businesses. It doesn’t cover e-commerce websites,

 

Alisa Meredith  49:06

Okay.

 

Alastair McDermott  49:07

It doesn’t cover elearning websites, it’s just purely lead generation website for experts, where they have an option for people to go in and download a lead magnet PDF, something like that.

 

Alisa Meredith  49:19

Yeah.

 

Alastair McDermott  49:20

And get hooked up with ConvertKit. And they get a WordPress website with X number of pages. And we would provide a logo for additional cost of x if they have if they don’t have a logo. And there you go, and you take it or leave it and it’s all done one day, you know, and here’s here’s the homework you need to do. And if you don’t do the homework, we can’t we canceled the day of the booking, you know, so it’s very simple. And it just makes I think it makes for a nice offering. I think there is a thing where you where you have custom projects, and then you have these productized services these packages and you go. And when you’re when you’re starting out you, you need to do the customs services, so that you can figure out what the pricing should be for the for the package services. You can kind of graduate into those once you kind of get some experience with that. So I think it’s something that you don’t do straightaway, but you can do it a bit later.

 

Alisa Meredith  50:18

That makes a lot of sense. Yeah, I have, I have one couple on my site, and one of them is Pinterest audit and strategy. And it’s 1497. And here’s what it involves. And like, like you said, Do you want to? Or, you know, you know.

 

Alastair McDermott  50:31

Yeah, it works great for those diagnostic type packages, because a lot of people don’t want to do diagnosis. And what happens is that they want, they want you to come in and commit to doing implementation. And, and in, you don’t know what the scenario is. So you say, Well, look, before we do implementation, I have a diagnostic, this is how much it costs. And the result of that will be, you know, will be a strategy. And you can then take that strategy, anybody get them to build it for you. Hopefully, you’ll still want to work with us on the strategy. But you know, you don’t have to, but this is how much the diagnostic costs, you know, and add something in there, you know, somewhere between one, five or 6000 is typically, what you’ll see for those kinds of diagnostics. I think it’s a great one for productized service.

 

Alisa Meredith  51:20

Yeah, yeah, it’s worked out really well. I have one customer in particular, and we did the diagnostic, but then it was like, Well, will you come back and check and see how we’re doing? Well, that’s a great idea. So I do every month, I look and see, are they doing what I suggested? If they are Is it working? What else can they learn? What trends can we pull in? So that’s, that’s a recurring offering for me, which is great.

 

Alastair McDermott  51:46

Cool.

 

Alisa Meredith  51:46

Yeah, yeah. Okay, well, we only have a couple minutes here, I want to mention that I am up to something. I’m doing a live workshop on Pinterest advertising. Because people made me. Go to my site, AlisaMeredith.com, there’s a banner on the right, you can sign up for that it’s $47. It’s an hour, plus half an hour of q&a. So bring your questions. And at the end, I will give you the option to email me with your plan. And I will give you some feedback on that. But it’s a it’s pretty comprehensive. But if you’ve never done ads on Pinterest or anywhere else, you can absolutely use this and you’ll be able to create a great campaign when we’re done.  So we know we can find Alastair, at his website, TheRecognizedAuthority.com or SpecializationPodcast.com. What else are you working on these days?

 

Alastair McDermott  52:45

Right now I’m doing a training course on YouTube with company called Video Creators. So I’m gonna be doing more YouTube video releases. So I’m starting just starting to make a bit of progress with with that this, it’s gonna be it’s going to be something I’m, I think I’m going to enjoy. I’m starting to work with an editor to add a little bit more because most of my previous videos were very boring, just be talking to the camera like this. So I think some B roll and some, you know, some other stuff like that and trying to, to add a little bit more story to the you know, in terms of the kind of the script rather than just making a purely informational because that’s I tend to go into that kind of engineering. Here’s the facts.

 

Alisa Meredith  53:30

Yes.

 

Alastair McDermott  53:31

So trying to make out a bit more interesting and tension and stuff like that to it. So yeah, that’s what I’ve been working on next.

 

Alisa Meredith  53:37

Fantastic. Well, like I said, if you’re listening, looking for new podcasts, The Recognized Authority is fantastic. Alastair is a great host, and he has fantastic guests, I highly recommend it. So thank you very much for being here with us today.

 

Alastair McDermott  53:50

It’s been a pleasure. Thank you.

 

Alisa Meredith  53:51

And thanks for everyone for tuning in. And your comments. Always enjoy having you here live. It makes it a lot of fun. So we’ll see you again next week.

 

Alastair McDermott  54:01

So I want to say a big thank you to Alisa Meredith for having me on her show. So you can find her at AlisaMeredith calm, and it’s spelled just like it sounds. And I just want to remind you about the specialization podcast we mentioned that in the conversation. It’s free audio course, on specialization on how to niche down your consulting business. I created it for people like you go check it out. It should be in your podcast player if you just search for specialization podcast or you can go to SpecializationPodcast.com. Please check that out and give me your feedback and I’d love to hear what you think. Thanks for listening. See you next time.