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How to Stand Out As a Consultant with Luk Smeyers

August 16, 2021
Episode 26
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!.

Consultants are not in the business of selling methodologies – you’re in the business of solving a client’s problem. You need to be laser focused on your client and on solving their problem.

In this episode Luk Smeyers and Alastair McDermott discuss why consultants say that they don’t have time to do marketing, and how this is a fixable problem.

They also discuss what Luk terms the “vicious loop to hell”, which is if you don’t invest time, you will always be like struggling to survive, you will lose trust in yourself and confidence in growing your business. 



Show Notes

Mentioned in the Podcast:

Consulting Vicious Loop to Hell - Copyright © Luk Smeyers / The Visible Authority
Consulting Vicious Loop to Hell – Copyright © Luk Smeyers / The Visible Authority

Learn more about Luk here:

Books mentioned:

Guest Bio

Luk teaches consultants the strategies to stand out in a crowded market by transforming them into visible authorities. Having been in consulting for almost 20 years, he had the privilege of achieving global visibility and he never had to sell or persuade as a result. He has bundled all those experiences, successes, and struggles to help consultants to learn from what he learned.


client, consultants, positioning, writing, positioning statement, audience, consulting, people, business, problem, case studies, pain, build, leadership, value proposition, consultancy, expertise, thought, learnings, talking

Alastair McDermott, Luk Smeyers


Luk Smeyers  00:00

It’s not about Google. But this is the way Google looks at you and you know, 90% of the people possible buyers that get your name or finally land at your website or whatever or you get recommended. 90% checks you out. And what they will find is your birthday anniversary party.


Voiceover  00:21

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  00:37

Today, my guest is Luk Smeyers. Luk has been in consulting for over 20 years and he has been in different roles as the CHRO in a global consultancy. He has been a startup founder in an analytics consultancy and as a leader in one of the big four. And he has achieved global visibility and has never had to sell, persuade or negotiate as a result. And he is bundling his experiences and expertise in learning and failing successes and struggles into helping consultants grow their visibility.  So Luk, thank you so much for coming on the show. It’s really great to have you here because you specialized areas authority and that’s something I love to talk about. So the first thing I want to ask you about is something you mentioned to me earlier about people saying that they don’t have time to do marketing as a consultant, and how this is a fixable problem. Can we delve into that a little bit because I hear this all the time where people say, I don’t have time to do marketing, I don’t have time to write a book. I don’t have time to write blog posts, I don’t have time to do a podcast. Can you talk a little bit about that?


Luk Smeyers  01:40

Yeah, of course and and great to be here in in your show, Alastair. I when consultants tell me I don’t have time. My answer always is you don’t make time. And then they look at me and say, Well, how the heck can I make time. And then I start actually telling my story of the past decade where I consistently invest 30%, 25, 30% of my time in growing my business and growing my business was all about building visibility and growing the trust in what I and what the team was doing.  And when I start talking to the consultants, I always tell them look, having time is a side effect of all the things that you’re doing well.


Alastair McDermott  02:29



Luk Smeyers  02:29

And this side effect. If you look at time, as well, if you consider time as a time component, then you will never get there. If you look at time as a side effect of other things, then you can get there. And so during my career as a consultant, I always spent 25-30% of my time in building that visibility and growing the trust in in what we were doing. And that has never ever been an issue.  And it all starts and I guess we will be talking about that more in detail later on. It all starts with focus, focus on a specific audience with a specific pain that you can solve, transform or have an impact on with your deep expertise and providing confidence to that audience that you can do the job packaged in an attractive way with exceptional social proof with exceptional thought leadership where you inspire your prospects to shift their thinking about their problems, and so on, so on so forth.  So it’s all about building the business in the right way so that you can invest the necessary time in growing your business. And you can of course, build a beautiful website and then believe people will come to me as a consultant, but they won’t so you have to do something. Consultants don’t like selling but I’m trying to help them getting over that because selling in consultancy is all about building the trust in your expertise. And and of course, if you sit there and wait with a beautiful website, they won’t come so you need to invest time in getting them in.  I always call that the TLC from traffic to leads to clients. And of course you need to invest time. And when I’m working with consultants, I kind of always storing it in a kind of step by step approach. And I can maybe say something about it because I used to be more like black and white. So throw overboard everything you do and focus on one thing I don’t do that anymore. So it’s more like lean principles, iterate and iterate of fading out the old and fading in the new and then step by step building the necessary time to to get more visible and to build trust in your expertise.  So that that’s in a nutshell so from considering time as a time issue moving to time as a side effect of all the things that you’re doing well.


Alastair McDermott  05:06

Can you explain that a little bit more? How does time become a side effect for you?


Luk Smeyers  05:10

Yes. So if I look back to the past years, I would say there were three things that provided me with enough time to reinvest in, in growing my business. And that was, of course, a laser sharp positioning. And I think that you’re also into this in your business of positioning, positioning, positioning.


Alastair McDermott  05:33



Luk Smeyers  05:33

But but it’s always difficult, a little bit difficult to explain. But what I say in about it is that you need to be laser sharp, laser specific about your audience. And it actually can only be like one audience with a prototypical pain that you can transform.  And so that that is, I would say, I would maybe call it pillar number one, to create time, because if you have a multiple audience, or if you have multiple audiences, or multiple target groups, you’re immediately underwater because if you have to cater to all those different people with all the different panes and and with all the assets that I will be explaining in a minute, then you will never have time, never you will always be underwater, which means I call that the vicious loop to hell, which is if you don’t invest time, you will always be like struggling to survive, you will lose trust in yourself and confidence in growing your business.  And you will always be very extremely careful, which then leads into saying yes to almost everything to protect your income, and saying yes to almost everything brings you back to, yeah, your multiple audiences. And and that’s the vicious loop to hell.  So that’s one, that’s the first thing if if your question was what what is then the side effect of its laser sharp positioning, it’s a very clear based, of course, on that audience where the prototypical pain with a transformation that you can bring is then to create a pain resolution value proposition that’s the way I always call it, which is exactly or a very specific pain resolving product that you create to help your audience to move from a which is the pain status to position B, which is the pain, resolve or pain, improved status.  So that’s the value proposition and that’s a huge struggle I’m having with with consultants is to develop such a value proposition because consoles are always very much focused on telling the the world how good they are, what unique expertise they have, how many years they have gathered in a particular area, but they don’t they always see it from their angle and their perspective, instead of the cons instead of looking at from the angle of their audience or their prospect or client and the pains that they are having. And you can solve so that’s pillar number two pillar one was the positioning pillar two, is this pain resolving or pain resolution value proposition?  And third, the the is then creating thought leadership around those, I would say around that pain resolving, how can I say it, value proposition that you have created. So in fact, you start writing about all your learnings, case studies. And in fact, what you do is creating pain resolution advice on paper, on video, whatever medium that you’re using, but it’s pain resolution advice, and that is the trust building component in your expertise.  And I’ve been incredibly narrow, always in the past decade on one audience with one pain. And it has also emerged over the years. So it’s not like you choose one day for a particular audience, no particular pain that you can solve or transform, it has evolved and if you wish, I can explain that a little bit later on. But so people always get scared. Yes, look, but when I focus, what what happens after two, three years, of course, you need to evolve all the time and iterate and iterate. I’m iterating. Like almost every day, but I’m still staying in the same lane. I’m still focusing on the same audience.  But step by step I’m of course also learning and people are having like with Corona and now maybe more again, in the post Corona they have new problems, new challenges, and you evolve all the time, but in the same I would say space. Yeah. So positioning, value proposition, thought leadership. And if you do that, well then that’s at least my personal experience. But that’s also what I’m seeing with my consultants. You only need like 70% of your, let’s say client facing time. And I will probably need to explain that to you later on. But we are always targeting, I’ve always been targeting 150% revenue, and that is a new balance that that people need to get into. Yeah. So when I start working with a consultant, and and, and of course, that’s what happened to me in the past is that we look at what they’re doing, let’s say that’s 100%. And then I help them reducing that, again, step by step, I used to be more black and white, like a few years ago. But today, what I’m saying is, be careful. Now, you, of course, you need to pay the bills, so you can’t like throw away everything you’re doing, and then all of a sudden be the new guy around the corner. So you can do that step by step, using lean principles, which is you test your new offering, your focused offering, you tested, you validate it, you iterate, and, and so on, so forth.  So what I’m trying to do with them is reduce their client facing time to and then help them to use that, let’s say in the beginning 510 15 20%, and then trying to build up to 25 30%, and use that new time slot to develop the business with the principles I just explained, so positioning and sharpening value proposition thought leadership.  And so step by step, what I’m doing with them is is bringing them more upstream, which is different than downstream downstream is doing like activities for your client. And most of those downstream consultants are working for one to three clients, and they do like employee like work or activities for them. And what I’m trying to reconstruct is, is an upstream positioning and an upstream value proposition which is more like strategic diagnostic advice at a higher level and at a higher price point.  And by doing so trying to have a better revenue, which gives you the let’s call it the protection or the buffer to reduce your client facing time. So that that’s the that’s the principle I’m using in my work with consultants reduce client facing time to build your business, and by building the business, of course, doing that in an upstream package productized ways so that you can ask for better prices and, and have a much more instead of doing activities with your client a much more like transformational high value offering.


Alastair McDermott  12:57

Absolutely. Okay. And and so can you talk to me then about the 150% revenue? How does that work? What do you mean by 150% there?


Luk Smeyers  13:05

Yeah, so you move actually your your pricing up from 100, which, which used to be your pricing in the past, and so index 100, and you move it up to index 150, it can be 200 or 300, or it can be under 20 or under 30. It’s, it’s just the idea that I’m trying to bring to them is that you need to get to an higher index from a pricing standpoint.


Alastair McDermott  13:29

Yeah. Okay, so so let me just try and recap some of what you’re talking about here. So you’re talking about reducing the client facing time so that you’re making time to work on the business not in the business as as they say sometimes see reducing client facing time, you’re increasing prices, you’re moving to more maybe more productized services, which is increasing your efficiency which is giving you back some more time as well. You’re using that time to create thought leadership content like case studies, pain resolution advice specifically you talk about and you are changing your positioning or your value proposition away from how good we are and how many years experience we have and you know, you know all this kind of stuff to be more focused on the client and how you resolve their pain so you’re calling that the pain resolution value proposition so yeah, is that have I got everything there? Have I missed anything important?


Luk Smeyers  14:21

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Allister so maybe the one and only missing thing was the the positioning where you really focus on one particular audience that,


Voiceover  14:32



Luk Smeyers  14:32

You of course learn to understand in all possible layers


Alastair McDermott  14:37



Luk Smeyers  14:37

Of understanding.


Alastair McDermott  14:38

So that laser sharp position you call that.


Luk Smeyers  14:40

And and a one audience one pain one transformational approach.


Alastair McDermott  14:46

Super and I love your vicious loop to hell have multiple groups.


Luk Smeyers  14:51

Yeah, I have a I have a short a small diagram that I’m always showing through them. And you know what, when I’m talking about that the vicious loop to hell that That always relates to them because they either have been there or they still are there. But But that is the biggest struggle in consulting is that you don’t have time to build your business. And because you don’t have time to build your business, you’re in the in the employee like hamster wheel,


Alastair McDermott  15:18



Luk Smeyers  15:18

Of doing things doing activities. So you feel unsafe unsecure. You think you’re using the feast and famine kind of cycle?


Alastair McDermott  15:28



Luk Smeyers  15:28

So you lose your confidence and at the end of the day, you say yes to almost everything to protect your income, which then brings you to multiple audiences with multiple problems with multiple approaches, and you won’t have time to build your business. And so that’s the vicious loop to help.


Alastair McDermott  15:47

Yeah, yeah, absolutely.


Luk Smeyers  15:48

And it’s very difficult to leave that loop. So it’s not that easy. And that’s actually if you would, like narrowed down what I’m doing. And we could also you could also say, or one could say, Luk helps consultants leaving the vicious loop to hell.


Alastair McDermott  16:05

I love it.


Luk Smeyers  16:06

And I always say, and we move to the glorious loop to heaven.


Alastair McDermott  16:10

Glorious loop to heaven. I think we might have the podcast sad title.


Luk Smeyers  16:16

The glorious loop? Yeah.


Alastair McDermott  16:18

Awesome. So let’s see. There’s a lot of things I could dig into here. So I tell you what, I want to go to your backstory for a moment, because you talked about growing your consulting firm to to 20 people, and then you sold it. So can you just tell us the story of that consulting firm? How you started, why you started? How did you grow it to a 20 headcount? And then why did you sell it?


Luk Smeyers  16:40

Yeah. So to cut a long story, before I got into consulting, I used to be CHRO, European chro in a consulting firm. So that was Nielsen, which is a global consulting firm market research. And I was the CHRO. And that was in the just around the millennium, the first time I got into consulting,


Alastair McDermott  17:00

CHRO is Chief Human Resources Officer, yep.


Luk Smeyers  17:03



Alastair McDermott  17:04



Luk Smeyers  17:05

So my dream had always been to be in consulting, when I graduated, my dream was to get in consulting, but that was in the early 80s. And it was very difficult in those days to find the job, so I landed in HR, which was okay, because I did psychology, and I had a whole career in HR. But consulting was always like, in the back of my head, like, one day, I will get into consulting.  And then I actually landed in consulting, but in the, in the HR officer role, which was kind of great, because I was member of a team of a fast growing, consulting, global consulting group in full transformation. And, and that learned me all the principles of managing a consulting firm. So that that was really great.  After a while, though, and I think it was 25 years of incredibly hard working all those years in corporate life. I yeah, it started itching again, I need to get into consulting myself. So I decided to leave corporate. I took off a sabbatical, one year sabbatical when studying and I did several tests and and validation studies. And I got into consulting, I stayed quite close, because that’s also something that when I look at consultancy profiles, I always look like what what is the flow of such a career. And like the flow in my case was I moved from HR into HR consulting well, HR related consulting.


Alastair McDermott  18:39



Luk Smeyers  18:39

And we won’t go into all the details, but it was very close to what I’ve been doing in the past. So from a Why did you go there Look, that was always easy to explain. And from, from a, let’s say, trust building standpoint, that has helped me incredibly or incredibly helped me in positioning myself now.  We were in the ahm, quickly, we got four or five people, because we were in a space, it’s the space of people analytics, or Advanced Data Analytics. And in the early days, that was 2009, 10. That was that were like the famous days of big data. Everybody was talking about big data. And in the slipstream of that wave, we became visible immediately. And so what I started doing was writing case studies about what we were doing all the time.  So my learnings, my failures, the challenges, the struggles, and of course, client case studies, and that was the flywheel that started turning and that’s, of course, where if I look back, and I talk to consultants today, that’s where I kind of go back to to help them understand the effect the incredible flywheel effect that that we went through. So we were called in by a large enterprise organizations, we were pretty small consultancy boutique.  So I think before we were taken over, I think we had like seven people. So it still small, but we won pitch after pitch after pitch against the big consultancy firms. And I always checked it out afterwards say, what why did you choose for us and and so what they were saying is, you guys are the experts, because you write about the stuff that we are interested in these, the pains that you write about are the pains that we are suffering from and that we are challenged with. And so that was an of course, that was also in the, in the pre Corona era where I have been speaking probably at 100-150 conferences all over the world. And of course, that that I was extremely visible. That was the the,


Alastair McDermott  20:59

Sorry to interrupt. But can I ask you just about your focus and specialization? As a firm back then. Like, did you have a vertical specialization in one industry? Or was it just focused on the HR big data problem? Or, you know, in a kind of a horizontal role, or did you cross section those? How specialized were you?


Luk Smeyers  21:19

Yeah, we were extremely specialized, it has evolved over the times over the years. So I can also explain that in a minute. But it was specialized in the in the early days. We call it the big data in HR. And of course it moved step by step into people analytics, first HR on it exam people analytics. So it was the Advanced Data Analysis, data science was the new name then and today. It’s artificial intelligence. So that was a space but it was cross industry. So we had an infection, in fact, and a horizontal positioning from an industry standpoint. Vertical, deep expertise.


Alastair McDermott  22:00

Yeah. Very, very niche. Yeah. Okay.


Luk Smeyers  22:02

Very, very, very, very niche.


Alastair McDermott  22:05

Let me ask you, because you mentioned that you were spending a lot of time writing thought leadership content. And you were the principal of the firm at this point, right?


Luk Smeyers  22:13

Yes. I was.


Alastair McDermott  22:14

And you had always been a principal, you were the founder. Yeah.


Luk Smeyers  22:16

Yeah. Yeah.


Alastair McDermott  22:17

And so so how much of your time like what percentage of your time were you spending on thought leadership versus actual client facing consultancy?


Luk Smeyers  22:28

So yeah, back then, my target has always been 70-30. And of course, there were periods where we had a lot of projects where it was a little bit less, but let’s say in conference season, which is like September, October, November, and then February, March, April, that was conference season, it was maybe 50-50 or 40-60. So but but let’s say on an annual basis, it was always something around 70-30 or 30 being my thought leadership,


Alastair McDermott  23:01



Luk Smeyers  23:01

And and all the activities to build visibility for the for the business.


Alastair McDermott  23:05

Yeah. And so what were those other activities, you say, to build visibility, apart from, you know, writing and publishing white papers and case studies, you were going to conferences and speaking, what else are you doing?


Luk Smeyers  23:18

That was pretty much it. So I wrote, I think it was over 200 articles. And that was a mix of case studies. And and let’s say more thought leadership kind of articles. And then as I said, I’ve been traveling, I was in the late years in Deloitte, which which was I was based in Deloitte, Brussels. They were I don’t know, I’d probably trade 3000 I was I had the second biggest expense in traveling. Wow. Which which, so after one of the leaders of Deloitte and but that was fine, because that was the the visibility that that created that as I always say, this organic pipeline, we never ever had to sell, persuade or negotiate.  I written an article about it, it’s on my blog, so and I explained why why that wasn’t how that game but it’s yeah, that was the the tremendous effect or output or impact that that visibility had. And that was also because we were talking about my story. That was because we won pitch after pitch after pitch and one day, Deloitte came to us and a few others but Deloitte was like the big consultancy firm.  And they asked us to join because we had, I think we had one three or four pitches against them at multinational organizations, and they couldn’t understand why that was, but they quickly of course, discover that my personal online footprint was was so strong and so important for my prospects and clubs. And they couldn’t really be that they didn’t have the thought leadership, there was nothing visible.


Alastair McDermott  25:05



Luk Smeyers  25:06

So they pitched with an idea or a proposal. And I sat there. And of course, people do their homework. And they had been reading all my cases. And they were, of course, all almost like by doing their homework 80-90% convinced that Luk was the guy to hire to solve their problem, you know. So that’s


Alastair McDermott  25:26

Yeah, this, this is the same story that I heard from Wolfram Morowitz, on an earlier episode, where they beat a massive global consultant consulting firm, the same scale as Deloitte. And this firm had I looked it up afterwards 296,000 staff, and his firm had six, but they were so specialized, such deep subject knowledge that it was a no brainer to go with the small firm. So it just shows you that the focus and the thought leadership content.  Can we dig into the thought leadership content? What is different between thought leadership content, and other content that’s out there?


Luk Smeyers  26:01

Yeah. So how can I say this?


Alastair McDermott  26:03

Is it just smarter people writing it? Or is there something more than that?


Luk Smeyers  26:06

No, no, no, it’s not about smart people writing it or good writers writing it. That’s where I’m, I must say that I’m struggling a lot with content that I’m seeing. Because for me, of course, at the end of the day, thought leadership is a is a business development methodology. And of course, for me in the past, it has always been extremely important that I always remembered the story of sitting in front of over an HR leader, who had printed all my case studies and had put them in a binder and was in front of her when we had our first discussion. And we talked 10 minutes. And I had the deal, which was one of the biggest contracts I ever got. Well, that was like 10-15 minutes. But she said, Luk, here are all your case studies. That’s what we need.


Alastair McDermott  27:00

Yeah. So and they didn’t haggle on price.


Luk Smeyers  27:03

No, they didn’t. They didn’t even ask for a proposal. They said, let’s let’s start working together. And so we plan another meeting to discuss what the problem and and the and, and the issues were. And then, of course, we go back and and we send them a proposal.  So thought leadership, as such, of course, is a business development tool. But if I, if I look at content that there is, of course, millions of things there. But for me, it is way too generic. If I look at it from technical firms, or technical consultancies, or even startups, it’s all about their technology, their features. And that’s what they talk about. And I always say to my consultants, you are not in the business of selling technology. And you’re not in the business of selling methodologies, you’re in the business of solving a client problem.  And that’s what you need to focus on. And your content has to focus on your clients problems. And what you write is pain resolution advice. And I got challenged a lot, and especially also within, of course, the big consultancy firm, because they are very sensitive about IP. And, and because they’re also doing audit, and so you can’t say everything. So I had to be more careful. But I always I got challenged many times.  So you actually try to inspire them to think differently, to look at their problems in a different way in yeah, in the way that that in my case, I can help them I can change the output, the result, the impact of an intervention. So that’s this inspirational thing. This this picturing of the Promised Land is what I’m missing. And so it’s a lot of blah, blah. It’s a lot of talking about themselves and their expertise and but it’s not really going deep into the pain resolution of the client. And so, so important. So Luk, why are you sharing all your expertise? And I said, Well, if I wouldn’t share my expertise, I wouldn’t have this kind of organic pipeline. That is the side effect of my case study writing that I’m doing all the time. And so the challenge I’m seeing, and also when I start working with consultants is that they write and write, but it’s not very specific. It’s not specific enough. It’s not this, like value proposition, supporting pain resolution advice. It’s a long sentence. But and for me, one thing that I really focused on in the past and still focus on a lot is that you’re trying to picture what what I always call the promised land for your prospect.


Alastair McDermott  29:49

So what you’re talking about is thought leadership content that is not generic that is about the client’s pain and solving that pain and that is inspirational and giving them a picture of the future. Have I capsulated that or is there anything?


Luk Smeyers  30:02

Absolutely, absolutely. Yeah, yeah, absolutely.


Alastair McDermott  30:05

Okay. And that Yep, sorry. Go ahead.


Luk Smeyers  30:07

Yeah. And so that’s why I’m also telling the consultants, you need to document your learnings you need to constantly document everything you learn. Because if you document that you can also write about it. I sometimes use the word cross pollination, because it’s like bringing your work and your writing about or your thought leadership in sync so that you don’t have to, like in the 30% of the time that that you’re trying to build, you have to sit there and think, Hmm, what am I writing now.  Today, it’s a much more organic process of what you are already doing. And you keep track of your learnings like I’m doing now. So I restarted with what I’m doing now. Last year in March, my first client was in June, and I already have right now it’s 160 pages of learnings that I have documented.


Alastair McDermott  31:05

Wow. Okay.


Luk Smeyers  31:07

And so I’m all the time when I write a mail to a client, because they have like email support from me. So they asked me a question and I reply to that mail, I immediately take the answer into my documents, where I use it later on for either other consoles or for my thought leadership.  And so that’s what I call the cross pollination. You don’t have to rewrite stuff because it was in a mail to a client or in a leapfrog reply, or in my newsletter. And so I repurpose, that’s the probably the word that the content people are using, but I always call it like document your learnings. And I do that, like seven days a week, 24 hours, seven 365. That’s, that’s what I keep telling my consulting clients.


Alastair McDermott  31:57

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Let’s talk about the pain resolution value proposition. And I want to actually get into detail here, because I’m super interested this, I think it’s a really important thing. And I tend to call this the positioning statement. But the terms tend to be, you know, tend to be reasonable. You call it the pain resolution value proposition. Can you give us any examples of what that looks like, compared to the other type of self promotional value proposition or lack of?


Luk Smeyers  32:26

Yeah, so, yeah, absolutely. So in fact, I’m using that positioning statement also, Alastair, so I think the the XYZed statement is one possibility that that comes from the startup community in the early days. Oh, that guy, Steve Blank, one day said, You need to be able to explain in 20 seconds, what you’re doing, and that is talking about, what is your audience? What is the problem that you solve? And what is your secret sauce? So to say how you solve that problem? So what is the output that you are the transformation that you get to so I’m using that and then


Alastair McDermott  33:06

Who, what and how, the audience, the problems and the sauce.


Luk Smeyers  33:09



Alastair McDermott  33:09

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Cool.


Luk Smeyers  33:10

Yeah. So in fact, it’s not very different than all the others, the XYZed statement, there are different ways of doing it. But the positioning statement, but I can only do that after I’ve been like working with the with the consultant for five, six weeks, because the first thing we need to think about is Yeah, who am I? What is my background? What are my credentials in the market? What is the audience that can benefit from that? And how do we translate that into a value proposition? And then the one sentence and the positioning statement is kind of the culmination or the, say the conclusion of all that work.


Alastair McDermott  33:52

Can you give a couple of examples of those statements?


Luk Smeyers  33:55

I can?


Alastair McDermott  33:56

Sorry, I’m putting you on the spot here. Oh,


Luk Smeyers  33:58

Yeah. Putting me on the spot.


Alastair McDermott  34:00

Just for the audience, I didn’t tell you, I was gonna ask this beforehand. So


Luk Smeyers  34:03

Yeah, no, I do have like, I do have a very long list of, of these.


Alastair McDermott  34:11

I think I saw this already, which is why I asked you.


Luk Smeyers  34:13

Yeah, so yeah, no, I’m using that also in my training program, and then I’m showing it to,


Alastair McDermott  34:21

And let me just say, I’m going to if I can, if it’s if you have it online and got a link to this document, if it’s online, I’m gonna link to it in the show notes. And also, I’m going to link to the diagram that you mentioned earlier, the vicious loop to hell, and I’m gonna see, can I stick that on the on the show notes, as well, because I think people be interested. But um, yeah, back back to the value proposition options. Can you give us a couple just just so we kind of get a flavor for what they’re like?


Luk Smeyers  34:45

Yeah. So I let me I have my list in front of me here now. So one consultant that I’ve been working with last year was, this is the positioning statement. I help tech startups build the ideal scaling sequence with our IT capability modeling roadmap. So it’s the audience is tech startups, the output is ideal scaling sequence. And the way they are doing it is with their IT capability modeling roadmap. So they have a special roadmap modeling that that they have built.


Alastair McDermott  35:22



Luk Smeyers  35:23

I have. Let me look at this. I have another one in the startup world consoles, I have technology startups and scaleups acquire new customers by advertising their services using social media. That was another one. Let me see. Aria, that was the Salesforce club here. I help large media. So it was focused on one industry, large media companies to protect for digital disruption. I always struggled a little bit because it was not 100% clear, but okay to protect for digital disruption with Salesforce as a transformational platform.


Alastair McDermott  36:01

Yeah, what I like about that, I mean, the key thing for me is that when the potential ideal client hears it, they know what it means to them. So maybe they what what, what that means the digital disruption, because that means something to people in traditional media. I’m pretty sure they they know exactly what that means right now.  But yeah, but it is calling it the other thing that you’ve got there is you’ve got what Jonathan Stark refers to as the Rolodex moment. So that’s where when they hear the positioning statement, and you call it specifically who it is, so so people in big media, the person who you’re talking to when you tell them your positioning statement, they say, Okay, do I know anybody in big media? No, I don’t, or Yes, I do. Okay, cool, big media, maybe I can put you in touch with my friend, David, you know, and it triggers that. That’s the really cool thing. I think about that very specific positioning statement and calling them out like that.


Luk Smeyers  36:51

Yeah, absolutely. That is a discussion that I’m having with consultants all the time is that they need to be very specific, not just because I’m telling them more, but also to enable recommendations in a fast and furious way, I’m so,


Alastair McDermott  37:08



Luk Smeyers  37:08

If like in my my positioning statement is I teach consultants the strategy to grow their revenue by standing out in a crowded market, it’s probably not easy to explain for somebody, but at least they know that I’m helping consultants to grow their business.


Alastair McDermott  37:23



Luk Smeyers  37:24

And so I think a lot of consultants underestimate the power of a sharp positioning from a recommendation standpoint, if you have a troubled or multiple audience kind of thing, and nobody really knows what you’re doing or understands what the result or the output is that you can deliver, then they also more hesitating to recommend you to other people.


Alastair McDermott  37:48

Absolutely, absolutely. Yeah, I’ve seen that in the past, or somebody was trying to refer me and they say, I’m not really sure what he does. It’s something to do with marketing. But who knows, you know, and that’s the problem with vague positioning is when you have that that laser sharp positioning, as you call it, and it’s pain resolution, and focused on on the pain and resolving their pain for them. Yeah, I love that. I love that.  Okay, cool. I want to pull you back to one other thing that you mentioned, you mentioned TLC for traffic leads and clients, can you just tell me what you mean by that, and how that fits into your process or how you use that concept.


Luk Smeyers  38:23

Let me start from Google then, of course, what we are doing and and all the stuff that that we have been discussing, and and of course, the thought leadership, which is like one of your lead generating activities. What I always do when I meet with a new consultant or consultancy, because in my clients or consultancies to, the first thing I do is I use an SEO tool software, I dropped their domain name into the software, and I look at the keywords that Google finds about them.  And of course, it’s not about keywords. When I first meet, I don’t start talking about keywords. But there is a big correlation between how Google sees them and how the world sees them. And that’s what I’m trying to explain to them. You are you are, who Google thinks you are or how Google considers you.  And so I just did another exercise yesterday with a new client. So I dropped them. I dropped the consultancy name into the Google tool. And Google finds 120 keywords that have no meaning at all in the context of their expertise. So it’s about a bug that they were reading or an anniversary body that they had and they wrote something about, but is nothing that is related to the expertise that they are trying to sell in the market.  So what I’m telling them is, look, it’s not about Google, but this is the way Google looks at you and you know, 90% of the people possible buyers that get your name, or finally land at your website or whatever, or you get recommended 90% checks you out. And what they will find is your birthday anniversary party that they won’t find, as Seth Godin always says, an abundance of trust stuff about you.


Alastair McDermott  40:27

An abundance of trust of you. I love that phrase.


Luk Smeyers  40:29

And so it’s Google uses this, this EAT algorithm to assess experts or EAT stands for Expertise, Authority, Trust. Our trustworthiness is I think, the English word. And, again, it’s not about Google only, of course, in the later stadium of collaboration with my clients, we also start thinking about that, but in the beginning, it’s more like a high level scan, who are they, and what’s out there about them, and that is always quite shocking for them to understand, whoa, there is not that kind of trust stuff that Seth Godin talks about.  So that means that when people search, or they check you out, they won’t find it, which means that automatically, the trust level is going down, and is probably an issue or an a challenge to get the deal. And of course, that translates also on the online side. It’s it’s in the in the real world like Earth life, but it’s also in the online world in the online space, that if you are not having this trust stuff available, then nobody will come across you. Nobody will ever find you, you won’t get visible. And if you don’t get visible, you can build a trust so that at the end of the day, we’ll make it extremely difficult. And digital today is the way that new clients get with you or get signed your contract.  So if I look at it, people sometimes can’t believe that I am 100% online. I started last year in March, and I’m fully booked. But that’s because I spent enormous amount of time in getting that deal. See, right. So visibility, trust building, but of course, in real life, because half of my clients are coming from recommendations. And the other half is coming to me online. I have clients from America, from Paris, from Germany from Scandinavia, I don’t know where they come from the UK a few and I have no clue where they’re coming from, but they kind of got across came across of my stuff, my trust and trust that I’m building.


Alastair McDermott  42:47



Luk Smeyers  42:47

And so then that’s the that’s the deal. See?


Alastair McDermott  42:50

Yeah. Okay, I want to start a wrap up. Because we’re running running close to time, I want to just ask you, is there any particular business failure that you can tell us about that, that you encountered that you learn from, and that you can tell us about what you learn from it?


Luk Smeyers  43:02

Yeah, if I look back, I’ve been writing about that, because I think it’s extremely important also, that consultants write about their failures and and the things that they would do in a different way or better, or whatever that was that in the early days of the consultancy, I didn’t really build my voice quickly enough. And what I mean by that is that the voice is like your point of view about the stuff that you’re doing.  So my point of view today is on section number three on my website, and I’m really working hard with my clients that again, after a day of flight decided to who is my client and pain and so on, so forth. So the narrowing of their positioning that they immediately start building their point of view. And that point of view then also leads into writing and speaking about that point of view. So now I’m saying that it’s extremely difficult today to get find to found and you need trust building stuff, blah, blah, to stand out in a crowded market. So I explained that.  And, of course, my voice is then all about that point of view. And so I didn’t really do that I, we were more into doing projects and writing about the project without really having in the early years, a point of view about where we were going. We were narrow, we were well positioned. We had one audience with a specific pain, but we didn’t really care enough about the point of view. And that’s I think, if that’s why last year when I started again, that was like number two priority to build that voice.


Alastair McDermott  44:38

Yeah, absolutely. And I don’t think we have enough time to get into because I’d love to go deep on this, maybe. Maybe I can talk to you again about this, but I’d really love to go deep on building voice and point of view at some time. Yeah, that’s important. But yeah, I thought it’s gonna wrap up. Do you have any particular business book that you love that you recommend that everybody should read? Is there anything that jumps out at you?


Luk Smeyers  44:58

Yeah, there are. Of course, there are many And I do a lot of podcasting, but I’ll keep it short. I recently read a book called “Dedicated”. It’s a new book from a guy called Pete Davis. And he actually wrote that book as a as an outcome or a result of a graduation speech that he did in 2018.  And the speech was about, Hey, guys, we are too much into keeping all the options open. And one day we will get frustrated about that, and we’ll crash and we get burned out, because we always keep our options open. And the whole book is about how to look at it from because the especially the younger generation, but also consoles that they look at specializing or narrowing as a, there is a risk of getting bored.  And so he writes a book about not getting bored and how not to get bored, because it’s so exciting when you can go deep. So he calls that the deadly commitment to us yet dedicated and commitment to your craft and the love of your craft. That’s what he talked about. I was really excited about what what he was writing in a book.


Alastair McDermott  46:10

I love this guy, I’m definitely gonna check that out. Because I am big into specialization. And I think that anybody who fears getting bored when they specialize, don’t, because once you start to specialize, you get to know the problem much deeper. And suddenly, you realize that there’s a whole world of depth in the problem in solving people. And yeah, it’s much bigger, it’s usually much bigger. Once you go deep, you realize, hey, actually, this isn’t quite as simplistic as as we thought. You’re not doing the same boring thing over and over again, which is now some people also fear. So yeah,


Luk Smeyers  46:46

That the depth is your superpower. That’s what he says in the book.


Alastair McDermott  46:51

Okay, I definitely have to get this book. Cool. Okay. And we’ll also link to that in the show notes. What about fiction? Are you a fiction reader?


Luk Smeyers  46:58

Yeah, I I actually love reading biographies that that is summertime stuff.


Alastair McDermott  47:05



Luk Smeyers  47:07

Last year and the year before, because I was starting my new business. I didn’t do anything. But yeah, biographies. The most exciting one was the biography of Jim Morrison. Oh, yeah, I really loved that was so unique. And so all the best song text lyrics were written when he was completely stoned. So it’s an amazing story of how LSD in those days and the 60s helped him to write unique lyrics. And so the guys from the band were saying to him, hey a, Jim, why don’t do do another trip? Because we need. Yeah. So the biographies,


Alastair McDermott  47:49

Right. So this is a, an approach you recommend to consultants working on thought leadership? Now?


Luk Smeyers  47:54

Who knows?


Alastair McDermott  47:56

Who knows? I think, I think on that note, we shall wrap.


Luk Smeyers  47:59



Alastair McDermott  47:59

Luk, where can people find you online? Where’s the best place to go?


Luk Smeyers  48:02

Yeah, so my, my website is


Alastair McDermott  48:07



Luk Smeyers  48:07

And I think that’s the best place all the information. Is there. My blog is there all my content? And yes,


Alastair McDermott  48:13

Which which social channels do you like the most to use them? Yeah,


Luk Smeyers  48:17

My my main channel is LinkedIn. I do publish on the other channels, Facebook, Twitter, and so on. But that’s automated. So it copy pastes from LinkedIn. But LinkedIn is more like my home. Yeah.


Alastair McDermott  48:30

Cool. Okay, well, I will link to all of those in the show notes. And thank you so much for being with us today. It’s been great to go a little bit deep on authority and positioning and things like that. I love this conversation. So yeah, I will have all of the links everything that we mentioned, including the diagrams of the vicious loop to hell, and everything else will be on the show notes soon. Thank you, Luk.


Luk Smeyers  48:52

Great. You’re very welcome.


Voiceover  48:56

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