Don’t let an algorithm decide what you read »

Niching Down Your Consulting Business with Alastair McDermott

April 30, 2021
Episode 1
The Recognized Authority Podcast Cover

The podcast that helps experts & consultants on the journey to becoming a recognized authority in your field, so you can increase your impact, command premium fees, work less hours, and never have to suffer a bad-fit client again!.

If you’re an expert, the vast majority of marketing advice you see online is simply not relevant for your business. It’s aimed at businesses that sell to consumers, tech companies that have budgets to burn, or small mom-and-pop retailers. And you know that the advice that works for them simply will not work for you.

In this episode, Alastair McDermott and Alistair McBride discuss lead generation for expert services businesses, why referrals dominate business development, and why niching down is so important.

They also discuss the importance of conducting original research, why selling consulting services is different, and how to become a recognized authority in your field.

Show Notes

You can find out more about The Recognized Authority here:

Guest Bio

Alastair McDermott

Alastair helps independent consultants to get more clients without having to beg for referrals or make soul-destroying cold calls. He does this by helping you create and execute a simple, effective marketing strategy that works for your business and client base.

He is a former software engineer who has converted to “The Dark Side” – becoming a marketing consultant. He built his first website in the before-time of 1996, and left a safe corporate job in early 2007 to start and grow his website & marketing business  during the worst recession in modern history. Along the way he co-founded several start-ups, some of which were mildly successful, and wrote a book called “Running a Website with WordPress: A Quick Guide for Business Owners”.

Alistair McBride (Guest Host)

Al is an experienced entrepreneur, coach and consultant and hosts the Dealing with Goliath podcast. For over 13 years he has started businesses in fields as diverse as art consultancy, history and tourism, online video production, e-learning and website development.

Following a foundation in psychotherapy and counselling, he moved into Strategic Intervention Coaching, a highly results directed synthesis of multiple psychological schools and approaches. The balance of empathy and creativity with practical, actionable, outcome focused strategies greatly suits his personality and philosophy.

Alistair works with Adaptas Training in corporate organisations and governmental bodies, such as Certified Public Accountants, Aon, Phorest, the Irish Management Institute, Insolvency Service of Ireland, Citizens Information Board and Maynooth University. He engages privately with business owners and creative professionals in both a coaching and consultancy capacity.

He enjoys working with groups and one-to-one, both in person and online. Stress Management and Negotiation and Influencing are two key areas of particular interest, as well as sustainable behaviour change and increased productivity through peak performance psychology.


Alastair McDermott 0:01
But once you’ve developed that expertise at that point, you’re an invisible expert. And there are millions of people out there who are invisible experts. What they need to do is become visible experts or authorities.

Hello, and welcome to Marketing for Consultants. This is the podcast that helps independent consultants and subject matter experts to get more clients without having to beg for referrals or make soul-destroying cold calls. I’m your host, Alastair McDermott, this is Episode One of the podcast. The Marketing for Consultants podcast is for consultants of all types, typically independent consultants or very small firms. It’s for you if you want to get more clients work with higher quality clients and create a reliable pipeline of well paid work. I’ll be interviewing three types of people, the successful the experts, and the brave. The successful are successful consultants who are willing to share the ups and downs of their story to inspire and educate our listeners. The experts are marketing and sales experts who have a message or lesson that is relevant for us and the brave are listeners who are willing to come in and take a public hotseat for a live coaching session with me. So if you’re listening to this rather started the podcast, there’s currently eight episodes in the first block episodes will publish every Monday will typically be around 45 minutes in length, plus or minus 10 minutes, we’ve had some great conversations already, I’m really looking forward to putting these episodes at for you.

One of the people I’ve been following for a long time is Jonathan Stark. He’s actually in Episode Two, which is coming next. And I’ve always been a bit envious of his tagline Hourly Billing is Not and his mission to rid the world of hourly billing, because it’s so simple and clear. And straight to the point. I’ve been thinking about my own mission over the last couple of years about if I have one. I think my mission is more traditional. It’s maybe an a universal mission, which is to help people like me with a problem that I experienced and overcame. And a few years ago, when I was running my own business, I was earning what I would call an uncomfortable living. And I had been in business a few years, and I was still having to take on bad faith clients, even when I saw the red flags in advance just because I needed the cash flow. And I think that’s an age old story. And a lot of independent consultants go through it. I was an expert, but I was frustrated because my level of expertise did not determine my income. And I could see the peers of mine, without any disrespect. But I knew that they didn’t have the same level of knowledge. And yet, I could see that they were surpassing me in terms of income and visibility. So I was doing something drastically wrong. And I needed to figure that out.

So what I realised was my subject expertise was not the issue. It was my marketing and sales expertise that wasn’t right, that and having the right business model. So I started to try and break it down and figure things out. And books were a big resource, which is why I’m always interested in asking people about books on the podcast, and also getting coaching from Philip Morgan, Jonathan Stark, Aaron Wall and other people like that. And that’s where Marketing for Consultants comes from. My mission is to help people like me, independent consultants and subject matter experts to build a marketing and sales system that generates enough income for them so that they can live the life that they want. It’s not a very clean mission, I probably could wordsmith it a bit. And it’s certainly not as clear a clean cut as read the world of hourly billing. But that that is my mission. And that’s what this podcast is about. And that’s why why I’m doing this. So without further ado, let’s get on with the interview.

This is a special episode Episode One. And we have a guest host on today. The guest host is also called Alastair, it’s Alastair McBride. He is the host of the Dealing with Goliath podcast. And he’s going to be our guest host today to interview me. So welcome, Alistair.

Alistair McBride 4:00
Great to be here. Yeah, I’m very happy to be here. Because from what over a decade of conversation, I know the vast amounts of fascinating and useful information that you have in your head, both from from all sorts of angles around business, whether that’s direct consultancies to do with, you know, getting sales on the web, SEO, you name it, all of these sort of things, you’ve surprising depth and breadth to your expertise. So if I can take some of those little gems out for your audience, I consider today’s success. So Alastair McDermott Marketing for Consultants, so let’s dive into that to start with, because you weren’t always that so how did you get there? How did you evolve to that point?

Alastair McDermott 4:46
It’s been a long journey because I set up business in 2007. So it’s coming up on 14 years. And shortly after I started the business, I rebranded it to Website Doctor in 2008, in early 2008, and it has been Website Doctor from 2008 on until last year. And what I realised was that I wanted to change the business model. And I wanted to redefine a few things about how the business worked. And I wanted to get paid more, as well, for my time.

Alistair McBride 5:24
Very honest. Well, you did blight, you know, to be fair to you also wanted to help people in more profound ways. Also, I mean, that, you know, that that was a big part of at least as I understood it. What has changed that what were some of those, you mentioned about refocusing, and changing the business model that was a brave move, because you were very established and taking over very nicely as a Website Doctor. So you know, you’re you’re a bit nonchalant, they’re like, ‘Oh, yeah, we just changed the business.’ Well, you know, it was a brave decision. So what prompted that decision? Okay, what other and more fair enough, you wanted to give more value. But what else moved you toward that, toward that decision?

Alastair McDermott 6:05
Well, it first became clear to me that I needed to specialise. And that came when I found that I had great difficulty in doing something that I really enjoy doing, which is writing blog posts. And I found that I was trying to write for too wide an audience about too wide a an array of topics. And so that caused me to take a step back and look at the business. And I realised that basically, it was it was a full Services Agency type model, which meant that I was delivering multiple services to anybody with a wallet and a heartbeat.

Alistair McBride 6:45
Too general.

Alastair McDermott 6:47
Way too general. And so I was the ultimate general generalist. And I realised in order to develop my expertise, in order to make it easier for me to do things like write blog posts, I need to narrow down. And so I started to investigate the world of specialisation, which is fascinating. I worked with a business coach who specialises in specialisation with Philip Morgan, I read a huge amount about the topic, and I started to work on actually niching them or niching down as that the American say. So that’s what ultimately brought me to Marketing for Consultants, was this process of focusing down and figuring out? How can I provide the most value in a way that really interests me and that I’m that I’m interested in working a problem that I’m interested in working on, and people that I like working with.

Alistair McBride 7:35
The various important because, as a generalist, I remember you used to be an expert, and help and give value to a huge array of different people in different industries, which, in its own way, was informative of how you know different industries work and the norms and problems one group solve, and others don’t, and so on. But why then having all of that experience? Did you choose consultants, when you decided to specialise?

Alastair McDermott 8:01
What I really wanted to do was I wanted to choose a market who are b2b professional service providers that kind of describes my ideal customer. From my perspective, the problem is b2b, professional service providers don’t refer to themselves that way.

Alistair McBride 8:18
I have a business card.

Alastair McDermott 8:19
No, it’s not in a business card. If I said, Hey, do you know any b2b professional service providers that you’re going to turn up a blank because it’s not a label that works, what I needed to do was, I needed to translate my personally an internal description of an ideal customer into something that people call themselves. And so I looked at a few different options of doing that. And you’ll see quite often people talk about coaches and consultants, I help coaches and consultants this, I help authors, speakers, and consultants. And I looked at various different options like that. And ultimately, I decided that just going with the single market of consultants, and specifically independent consultants, that also is the type of person who I am, I consider myself an independent consultant. And that has always been the business model that I wanted, not an agency model. So I kind of I feel like I’m in that world and I understand it.

Alistair McBride 9:13
Okay, so when you decided, Okay, it looks like consultants are where you’re specialising a nation down to what was the next step because you didn’t dive straight in and start marketing away to them.

Alastair McDermott 9:24
The first thing I did was I looked at all of the different types of consultants. And I listed literally every type of consultant in the spreadsheet. And I went through one by one. I, what I was trying to consider was can I actually niche down further here? Can I say that I work specifically with engineering consultants, or software consultants or media consultants, or management consultants. And what I found was, I was quite happy to specialise in independent consultants, but I didn’t want to go that next step of getting even more specific. Possibly I should have done so.

Alistair McBride 10:01
Let’s just just dive in. Why? So like how does one know when specialising how specialised they need to be? Because some people can be over specialised, you know, it’s often said of, of a lot of very niche PhDs that, you know, actually specialise themselves out of a load of work, because they’re too specialised. So how do you get that balance? About right?

Alastair McDermott 10:25
Well, I think that I certainly could go another, another level down, it would be very easy to say that I specialise in engineering consultants, for example, and there would still be enough, enough people out there who I can help, you know, the size of the market is vast. So yeah, I think that I could go another level down. But this is where this is where my comfort level when you’re specialising a big part of it is about fear. And a lot of people are afraid of specialisation, because part of what specialisation is, is turning away opportunity. And you were saying no, to everybody who is not, in what you’ve specialised in, be that in that a problem area, or be that in a in a an industry vertical. So for example, if you specialised horizontally in a problem, like let’s say, in social media advertising, or SEO or video production, I’ve tried to go both ways. So so it’s marketing is pretty broad. And then for consultants is pretty, it’s it’s getting narrower. So I’m happy with the kind of, I probably could have focused in a bit more, but I think I’m happy enough where that’s

Alistair McBride 11:42
When you decided, right consultants, you started to do a whole research project. And it really was a project, it wasn’t just an off the cuff type of quick questionnaire to tell us more about and the results that you got from it.

Alastair McDermott 11:58
I wanted to understand the market. I wanted to really understand the people who I’m talking to and whom I’m trying to help. And I wanted to really understand what their problems were, how they viewed the world, I wanted to just totally get inside their heads, so that I can understand it in a positive way. And so what I did was I did a series of surveys, which I conducted using LinkedIn. And so I surveyed over at this point over 1000, consultants, independent consultants of all types.

Alistair McBride 12:36
Now, a lot of people are kind of a bit wary of LinkedIn in the last year or two, because, you know, with COVID, and lots more stuff coming online, a lot of people feel a bit a little bit spammed on LinkedIn, and treated like a commodity by new introductions want to sell. Yeah. So but you actually managed to get a surprisingly high percentage rate of response. So talk us a little bit more about how you did that.

Alastair McDermott 13:01
Okay, so first of all, I apologise I probably did contribute a bit to that spam. And I was trying not to. But but at the same time, if you do anything automated, I think that it does. Yeah, so the way it worked was I sent it a LinkedIn connection request in an automated fashion. So there were sent out automatically to people who were consultants. And the automated connection request, included some text like Hi, I’m Alastair, I’m conducting some research to get to know the world of consulting a bit better. I wonder, would you be able to take a 60-seconds survey, and I would link to it. And it literally was a 60-seconds survey, it was a usually a three, four or five questions survey. Multi-choice, that would be very quick and easy. And there was a short link there to it. And then I also put in no spammy LinkedIn messages, well, you know, look, no spammy sales messages to follow something along those lines. And so what happened was 1000 people who got that actually took the surveys. And the way that I worked it, because I wanted to get information on a lot of different topics. And it’s hard to do that with, with a three or four question survey. So every time I got about 100, results, or 100, survey completions, what I would do is I would change to another survey, usually, the second, the next survey was based on things that I had learned in the previous one, which allowed me to kind of develop my understanding. Well, you know, a lot of these people accept the connection requests. And so I also built my LinkedIn network of people who were interested in this. And also some of them sign up for my email list. So that’s the so I grew my email list as well.

Alistair McBride 14:45
Just say, over 1000 you swapped around the survey about every 100 so he did you do actually but over 10 different surveys.

Alastair McDermott 14:52
Yeah, I think I have 10 or 11 surveys. Yeah.

Alistair McBride 14:55
Okay. And they evolved largely from one from the other, as you said, from what you learn.

Alastair McDermott 14:59
Absolutely, yeah.

Alistair McBride 15:00
Okay, so I managed to go deeper on certain things that were,

Alastair McDermott 15:03
I was able to go deeper on different topics. Yeah. And what’s also interesting is another friend and colleague of mine called Tom Miller actually surveyed the same audience in a completely different way. At the same time, he surveyed 42 independent consultants through telephone interviews, I think he spent an hour and on a call with with 42 of them. When he wrote up his survey, we got Nicole afterwards, it was amazing. We came to identical conclusions. So it’s like we’ve crossed independently cross validated each other’s research, because yeah, our conclusions are pretty much identical across the board.

Alistair McBride 15:37
What were some of those conclusions and some of those insights?

Alastair McDermott 15:40
Well, the big one for me is about how important vertical specialisation is for consulting, if I pull it back, because I want to I want to explain the logic chain, did you get to that? Yeah, if you’re trying to sell a consulting service, it’s difficult, particularly the more valuable the service, the more transformative usually that it is. And a transformative service is something that literally changes the recipient in some way. So their organisation them as a person, them as a business however, so if you’re doing something that that if you’re trying to hire somebody to come in, and and fundamentally change what you do, or how you do, that is very risky, because it’s a big change. And so hiring a consultant is risky, it’s also usually expensive. And quite often what they’re doing is, it’s a very intangible thing. It’s not like, you know, it’s not like an iPhone that you can pick up and look at, it’s not like a pair of Nike, you know, it’s, it’s this intangible thing.

And then the other part of it is a consulting relationship is usually a relationship, it’s not like you’re going to buy a bar of chocolate. So when you bring in all of those things together, it is a transformative service, that it embodies a lot of risk. And so trust is crucial. Trust is the most important thing, the client has to have massive amounts of trust, before they will hire a consultant. And, and, you know, this could be for something like rebranding the kind of the visual identity of a brand. Or it could be something like digital transformation from, for an old manufacturing company, who, who wants to get with robotics and things, you know, there’s all sorts, but this scenario still exists. For all of those, the trust needs to be massive to bring somebody in to do something like that. So when you need that huge amount of trust, and as a consultant, you’re trying to sell these services, and you’re trying to generate leads from people who are ideal clients to come in and purchase those types of services, you’ve got a limited number of options in how you actually generate those leads with met trust.

Alistair McBride 17:47
This is precisely why you often hear of people in these massive, you know, management consultancy firms, who are being built out of huge money. And they think, sure we’re bringing into this, we should go out on our own. And we’ll just take that full billing. And of course, it’s incredibly difficult, because the reason they were brought in was the brand because of that trust in the brand, as you said, who was the phrase, nobody gets fired for buying IBM or

Alastair McDermott 18:14

Alistair McBride 18:15
Or whatever, you know, it’s it. That’s the equivalent, right? So as an independent consultant when you don’t have that brand awareness to signify the trust, what do you do? Yeah, interesting question.

Alastair McDermott 18:27
When I look at the options for lead generation, for a consultant, I see three big options. And, um, the first is referrals. And that is where probably 99% of business comes from in the world of consulting is from word of mouth referrals,

Alistair McBride 18:49
As in your research.

Alastair McDermott 18:52
Absolutely. Yeah. And and referrals works great. Because what it does is it passes the trust, because we need this trust that that’s, that’s the problem is where does this trust come from? And I’ll come back and talk more about referrals. referrals are great, except when they don’t work. And that’s when, you know, you need some other options. Now, another option is some form of outbound. And that could be like cold calling, or cold emailing or even LinkedIn messages. And so first of all, this is not for me. I view it as a horrible numbers game. I talked to somebody in outbound call training, and they said, Look, my job is to get 79 noes every day and one yes. I just couldn’t do that. I couldn’t spend you know, I couldn’t spend the majority of my working life on the phone, doing outbound calls. That said, I know there are ways and I know that technology has made it easier and all that. But for me, the problem is with outbound is you’re starting off with zero trust or possibly even in negative of trust, because you’re interrupting somebody. And what you’re doing is you’re hoping to catch them at the right time when they’re experiencing the problem. And you can do things like prospecting, to kind of target people and and to get much more focused about who you target. And there are ways to make it work. Personally, the outbound world is not for me, it is unknown, but it is a real method.

Alistair McBride 20:23
There’s also more and more gatekeepers that aren’t there. So, you know, in the States, I think aren’t through all these things, you can have to block unwanted callers on their saying on LinkedIn, or slowly bringing in little things to stop people feeling spammed?

Alastair McDermott 20:40

Alistair McBride 20:40
That’s ruining the experience of being on LinkedIn. So they don’t want to ruin that experience. So they’re, they’re making it more and more difficult. It’s the same with email years ago with spam. You know, that’s why you have a spam folder by this paper. If you didn’t,

Alastair McDermott 20:54
A spam folder in, in, in Google Apps, and I see how many cold emails are being captured by that it’s insane. So yeah, so like, I can see evidence of it not working when I when I go. But the other option, then the third option in for lead generation for consultants. So we have referrals, we have a band, and then we have inbound and inbound is having people come to you. And people will come to you only if they believe that you’re an authority in your field. And so becoming an authority in your fields, and creating this kind of inbound gravity where you pull in leads, that for me is the ultimate.

Alistair McBride 21:42
It is the ultimate because it said you have the reputation. In theory, you have the trust, just by that reputation. I’m talking about trust being such a key factor earlier. And you’re not even having to go too far out of your way, if people are coming to you, but by being in bed, but I said that’s the ultimate, do you want to go into a little bit about how to establish that?

Alastair McDermott 22:04
Yeah, so what you need to do is you need to establish yourself as an authority in some way. First of all, you must be an expert. And then you must show that you’re an expert. So the first part of being an expert in parse doing things like the research project that I did, this is very useful and having a lot of years of experience, you know, you genuinely you can’t do the the Tim Ferriss thing of of buying three books on the topic that you’re close to, and and then just, you know, pitching your tanton saying, ‘Hey, I’m an expert in this,’ I don’t think that genuine is gonna work, you have to really have an in depth knowledge of a topic.

But once you’ve developed that expertise, you are you are, I think, as hinge marketing calls that you’re at that point, you’re an invisible expert. And and this was where I found myself for a long time was I was this invisible experts, where people didn’t know that I was an expert in a particular topic. And there are millions of people out there who are invisible experts. And what they need to do is become visible experts or authorities. And so one simple way we both have bookshelves behind us, one simple way to do that is to write a book on a topic. And there are lots of other ways, including having a podcast, basically demonstrating your expertise to people, what you’re doing is literally showing people that you are an expert in the problem that they have. So they already know that you can solve the problem when they come to you. And that’s the ultimate trust.

Alistair McBride 23:35
That’s an interesting one. So they’re they’re aware of what you do, the value you bring. And to a certain extent, how you do it, usually probably slightly differentiated or very differentiated from other options that they have. They don’t need to imagine what it would be like working with you. They’ve had a flavour of it that have a sampler taste. That’s very interesting. So how can people go about them establishing that further? So you mentioned potentially running a book you mentioned during the podcast you mentioned or another path, as you know, being a podcast guest as a lot of people are often with the book?

Alastair McDermott 24:11
Yeah. Okay. So you will see this cold By the way, you’ll see it called inbound marketing. Sometimes you’ll see it called content marketing. Search Engine Optimization is part of us. I like the phrase authority marketing, or education marketing, because that’s what you’re trying to do is you’re trying to educate people around the topic.

Alistair McBride 24:28
Just ask a question on that, because people who are aware of inbound marketing, do you feel this? There are distinct differences between those terms? I know there’s a huge amount of overlap. But are they very distinct as well? Or are they actually just the same name for much the same thing?

Alastair McDermott 24:45
For me, I think that they’re useful labels to get you to think about what you’re doing. So if you think about it as education marketing, I find that one’s very useful, because your job is to go out and teach what you know, and to teach everything that you know about a topic. Like including your secrets, people will come back to you and want to hire you for those things.

Alistair McBride 25:04
That’s an interesting point. Because a lot of people are very defensive about what they think because they’re, they’re sort of not quite there their trick but their unique value that they are and they want to hurt others shrouded in secrecy like a magician, you know, protecting his favourite few tricks? Why? What would you say to someone who is being very defensive, I can’t give the whole method away, you know, what, what would you say to them?

Alastair McDermott 25:31
I understand your fear. But I think that you should go past it and go through it. So like one simple example, I know the type of oil that my car engine has, I know that I need to get, you know, six and a half litres of zero, Wd 40, or whatever it is, I know where the sump Nadi is something not under the engine where I can drain the oil, I know the type of man filter that I need to get to for the oil, I know how to raise the the engine, you know, raise the front of the car up. So I know everything I need to know to service my car. I’m still gonna drive it down and get it serviced by people who are professionals, even though I know all the things that I need to do. Because well, first of all, I don’t want to have to figure out how to dispose of six and a half litres of old engine oil. I don’t want to get dirty, I don’t want to possibly hurt myself. I just don’t want to hustle. I’d rather read a book or work on a new blog post or something while somebody else is doing that.

And so there’s lots of occasions where people don’t want to actually do the work, but they want to know that you know how to do the work. And Alan Weiss actually talks about this in one of his books, where he met Alan Weiss as he wrote The Million Dollar Consultants very, very famous in the world of consulting and marketing. And he wrote The Million Dollar Consultant and some other book where he actually described how to solve a particular problem. And he said that he walked into to a boardroom, he met the CEO, and the CFO. And he realised they already had his book. And yet they hired him to come in paid him half a million dollars or whatever to do the job. And he said, Afterwards, he said, Look, I know you read my book, where I describe in depth how to do all of this yourself. And he said, why did you hire me? And they said, because we wanted the guy that wrote the book.

Alistair McBride 27:24
Make sense, but I can see what you’re saying because, okay, it’s the guy who wrote the book and does a detailed plan. But what happens when things don’t quite fit the plan. When you’re the expert, you know how to adapt and be flexible to that.

Alastair McDermott 27:35
You’ve got that wealth of expertise.

Alistair McBride 27:38
As I said, You’re helping people build this authority through becoming that known expert by being generous with their knowledge by not trying to be too defensive with it. What does types of specialisation, let’s dive into that? Because you have to be known for something rather than just a coach. I’m a conciliation coach, which is narrows down the field quite a lot.

Alastair McDermott 28:02

Alistair McBride 28:02
So let’s talk about that.

Alastair McDermott 28:03
There’s a whole bunch of different aspects to this, which makes it fascinating. One of the things about differentiating yourself or positioning is in being known for something. And if you want to be known for something, that category can’t be too wide. You can’t be a generalist and be an expert, you can be extremely good at many different things. But I don’t think that you can be truly expert level because a true expert is focusing just on that one thing, whereas you’re trying to do other things at the same time. It’s nigh on impossible. I guess four types of specialisation. There’s the generalist which is no specialisation is just jack of all trades, which is a horrible term. Then there is horizontal and vertical specialisationand then

Alistair McBride 28:52
What you mentioned to me before it was platform of course wasn’t so what is platform, exactly?

Alastair McDermott 28:57
Platform, platform or tool. And that is where you specialise in one particular thing. Like if you’re a software engineer, you specialise in Java, or you specialise in Ruby on Rails. Let’s say you’re an enterprise resource, e RP person, and you specialise in the sap software, for example,

Alistair McBride 29:17
For years and WordPress, for example.

Alastair McDermott 29:19
Yeah, absolutely. Now, so there are some platforms specialisation is interesting, because if it’s a new platform and you get in early, you can be very high value. And if it becomes widely adopted, what happens is it becomes a commodity. And if it doesn’t become widely adopted, it tends to die off, then you probably need to go and get a new specialisation. So platform specialisation can can come work and you can be the go to person for something. There’s teachable, for example, as an online training software, and somebody can be an expert in teachable and I’m sure that they can set up teachable courses for people and they can make quite a good living from that. So that is one option is the platform of specialisation. Another option is just to be generalist, and then there is horizontal, and vertical which talk with. There is one other specialisation people talk about sometimes, which is just being really, really big. And when you are really really big when your fortune 500, or fortune 100 the kind of specialisation stuff doesn’t matter so much. If you if you can, chuck $200 million out an advertising campaigns launch new products, your your positioning isn’t quite so crucial, you know,

Alistair McBride 30:36
True but then you look at people like wasn’t a Jack Welsh, who’s the famous GE CEO, what did he do? He said anywhere where we’re not the leading the leader in that niche, or able to make good go up becoming the leader in that niche was dropped or sold. When he was a huge believer in specialisation to no point just playing around in a niche area, you want to actually dominate it, or be trying to carve out a new niche.

Alastair McDermott 31:03
Yeah, absolutely.

Alistair McBride 31:05
And that was the biggest corporations on the planet. He was a believer in what you’re saying.

Alastair McDermott 31:11
So those are the kind of the options and and the one that ones I didn’t really go into in depth are vertical and horizontal. And so horizontal is a problem area. And the horizontal specialisation is saying we focus on helping our clients with SEO. And we just do SEO, Search Engine Optimization, or we help our clients with Facebook ads. We are the go to Facebook ads people doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, we’re the go to Facebook ads people, or we help you get on a TED talk. For example, if you’re a consultant, we can help you get it get on TED. And that’s all we do. It’s focusing on a particular problem for everybody. The other of the specialisations, there is vertical specialisation and this is the one that I find really interesting, which is where you pick an actual industry vertical. So you’re picking, for example, I’ve picked consultants, you could pick manufacturing companies, you can get even more narrowed down, you can say we work with furniture manufacturers, or we work with food manufacturers. So you can pick a specific vertical, we build websites for dentists, for example, when you do the cross when you cross horizontal and vertical, for me, that’s when you’re actually getting very specific. And you’re becoming you’re becoming unique in the minds of the potential audience. Because you’ve you have narrowed down, you’ve picked a very specific B chat.

Alistair McBride 32:44
When we say B chat, normally, you know in entrepreneurial circles when one chooses a beachhead for any product or service or whatever it’s delivery, that it the beachhead that you land on, secure that dominate that, if you will, and then expand from there. Yeah, that’s an interesting point. Are you advocating that say you’re you’re working with management, you’re working with marketing for consultants? So well, is that a beachhead? Or is that all you? Do? I have people come from outside of that. Or what sort of filtering mechanism did you go, Okay, I will work with you. Okay. You’re not appropriate for me to work?

Alastair McDermott 33:24
Well, the interesting thing is, specialisation is part of your positioning. It’s part of how you present yourself to the outside world. It doesn’t actually reflect your in what you’re doing internally. And so if you want to take if somebody comes to you, and they say, Look, I know that we’re outside your specialisation, but we think that you can help us and we have a $10 million budget, then you do not have to there’s no specialisation. Police are gonna come along and tell you, you have to turn that away. You don’t have to get very militant about that. But what I would suggest is that you make sure that they fit your criteria for a good client.

Alistair McBride 34:05
Okay. So they have to take certain boxes to balance up maybe the lack of specificity and others. All right.

Alastair McDermott 34:14
And, of course, like, if you’re an expert, and you’ve been doing things for a long time, you probably already recognise red flags for bad clients. So you probably already have a good idea of what to watch out for.

Alistair McBride 34:24
Very interesting.

You mentioned in that authority building process that you can have a book, which you have about at least one, if not do. You mentioned having a podcast and I believe you were indeed starting a podcast, which will be very interesting. So tell us more about that. What, how is that taking shape? What’s the philosophy behind it? Talk to us about that.

Alastair McDermott 34:52
One of the reasons why I wanted to have a podcast is because I listened to podcasts and I’ve been listened to podcasts since I think by 2003-2004. When I used to cycle from the north side of Dublin over Tim Leary to go sailing, and I used to line up a podcast to listen to about web design when I was doing that, so I listen to podcasts for a long time, and I really loved them. I listen them all the time when I’m driving, I quite often binge listen. So I know that podcasts connect with people I know that people like podcasts to listen to. And I also see podcasts as a great way to get to know people and to build a network. And so for example, I have an and we’re recording today, we’re recording an episode an early episode for the podcast, which has not yet been launched, but will be launched, obviously, when people are listening to this. But I’ve been invited about, I think 16 or 17 people on the podcast so far. And I’ve got eight or 10 of those already lined up and scheduled. And it’s it’s allowing me to connect with those people, and to have great conversations to learn from them, and to share that knowledge with my audience, to help my audience with the problem that they have, which is marketing and lead generation for consultants. And so it’s helping me to help them while it’s also building my network. And it’s, and it’s building my position as an authority as well.

Alistair McBride 36:20
So who were some of the guests that you’re going to bring on the show?

Alastair McDermott 36:25
I’m planning to bring on three types of people. Anybody who’s successful consultants, and is willing to share the their story, the ups and downs and any of the details to help inspire and educate anybody who’s a marketing or sales expert in something that’s relevant to a b2b professional services audience. And then anybody who is willing to take a public hotseat and do a live coaching session, but I think that could be a bit of fun and could be very useful for people as well. So if somebody is interested in doing a public hotseat type coaching session, and kind of breaking down their marketing and getting getting into detail on that with me, I’d love to have them on the show as well.

Alistair McBride 37:05
Absolutely. So you’re actually taking some applications for interested people to do that. Yeah, cuz it’s a great opportunity. If people are willing for us to entertain a little bit of the of uncertainty, shall I say? a huge opportunity. So how can I find out more?

Alastair McDermott 37:24
I’m a big believer, by the way in, in taking a bit of risk and showing a bit of vulnerability, and doing work in public. I think doing all of that will help you to move forward as a as a person as a as a business, help you connect better where people I just believe that’s that’s kind of one of my philosophies.

Alistair McBride 37:46
Yeah, it’s very much one of the values of solution. So where can they get this podcast? Where can they get more information.

Alastair McDermott 37:53
If you’re listening to this, then you probably already have it in front of you somewhere, but check out If you scroll down that page somewhere, you will see an information page, Information link for the podcast, and also where to apply to be on the show. And I’d love to if you’re in any of those three categories. I’d love for you to come on and talk with me.

Alistair McBride 38:14
Best of luck with that.

Alastair McDermott 38:15
Thank you so much for being my guest host today up. Can you tell us a little bit about the Dealing with Goliath podcast, who it’s for, what it’s about.

Alistair McBride 38:24
The Dealing with Goliath podcast helps people sharpen the psychological edge in business leaders with skin in the game. So basically, that they have a direct reflection of the work they do it going better, doing a better, more valuable contract or valuable sales has a direct impact on their life. And I help them become more effective under pressure, uncover hidden value in every deal and engagement and increase profitability. And that’s really in a nutshell what it’s about.

Alastair McDermott 38:52
Super, and I highly recommend that you check out the Dealing with Goliath podcast. Where can they find that?

Alistair McBride 38:58
They can find it quite simply as slash podcast. And that will bring them to the link page with the last and more recent episodes.

Alastair McDermott 39:09
Super, thank you very much.

Alistair McBride 39:10
Thanks very much.

Alastair McDermott 39:16
So if you want to hear some more like this, I already have some great conversations recorded, they’re already there for you to download. You can subscribe wherever you found the podcast. And in particular, if you’re interested in specialisation, check out the conversations with Sarah Dunn, Wolfram Moritz and Philip Morgan. And we cover specialisation in more detail. Because I think it’s such a core topic for Marketing for Consultants and professional services. I think it’s probably one of the single most important things that you can do in your in your business. And so it’s going to be a topic that we come back to time and time again. But definitely check those out. There’s some really great stories and examples there. Thanks for tuning in. See you next time.