Ian Brodie

Ian Brodie teaches consultants, coaches and other professionals to attract and win their ideal clients by becoming seen as authorities in their field.



Why We Need More Experts, Not Fewer

Posted on 12th June 2012.

More ExpertsExpert.

It's an overused term for sure.

Over on Danny Brown's blog, Ryan Hanley recently railed against The Commoditization of Expertise.

His argument was twofold. Partly that so many people now call themselves a “guru”, “expert” or “thought leader” that the term's become meaningless.

And partly that most of these folks were just regurgitating what others have already said. They weren't creating new insights themselves.

Well, I'd certainly agree with the first sentiment. If you have to call yourself a guru, or “the king of so-and-so” or “the queen of wotsit” you probably aren't. And you're being embarassing. Stop it.

But I'm going to disagree with the second point.

There's a great need for people who are “local experts”. Only Rosser Reeves invented the USP – but the world needs plenty of experts in it to help businesses create one (if they do it right, of course – most don't).

There was only one Peter Drucker – but millons of organisations needed help in management by objectives, customer focus, decentralisation and all the other stuff he pioneered.

There's only one Michael Porter, but…well, you get the picture.

Ironically, Ryan illustrated his point by saying “ his book Outliers, Malcom Gladwell theorizes that it takes a person 10,000 hours of practice to master a task”.

Of course, the 10,000 hour principle doesn't come from Gladwell. It comes from Professor Anders Ericsson via Geoff Colvin and a bunch of others. Thus perfectly illustrating the point: Gladwell's not an ideas guy. He's a populariser. He's a type of expert in his own right – he finds out the new and interesting stuff that scientists and other “deep experts” are coming up with and makes it accessible to a broad public.

And similarly, a small business in Norwich doesn't need (and can't afford) Seth Godin to come over to show them how to make their business remarkable. But they can hire a local guy who's expert enough in Godin's ideas (and others) to put them into practice.

Now the local expert isn't going to earn quite as much as Seth Godin. But the world needs him too. And he'll be much better rewarded than the local guy who's not so expert.

So whether they're completely original or they're popularisers, or their local implementors – the world needs plenty of experts.



Accelerating Expertise – Part 1

Posted on 16th January 2011.

Kid Playing ChessIn my posts about Authority Marketing I talk about the power of establishing yourself as authority in your field.

It's common sense really: when you're viewed as an authority, you're the default “go to” person for the difficult, challenging problems your clients have. You're the benchmark. And you'll command the high fees that being the leader in your field delivers.

One of the key components (along with enhancing your influence) of Authority Marketing is positioning yourself as an expert.

But being recognised as an expert is no easy task.

Please don't believe all the “how to instantly become an expert in your field” hype you might read on the internet.

Doing a handful of interviews with real experts doesn't make you one yourself. That gives you a valuable product to sell and some useful knowledge. But it doesn't make you an expert. Not yet at least.

Nor does endless self promotion and chatter on social media sites.

According to Professor Anders Ericsson – probably the worlds leading researcher on expertise and elite performance – becoming a true expert in a field takes around 10,000 hours of deliberate (goal-directed, feedback guided) practice.

Wow. That's 5 hours of practice every working day for 10 years.

Is that really necessary to become an expert in your specialism in consulting, coaching or other profession.

The answer is both yes and no.

Ericsson's definition of expertise is based on elite performance. An international-level concert violinist, a chess grandmaster, or one of the top athletes in a sport.

If you want to achieve those levels of expertise in your own field then yes – you do have to put in 10,000 hours of practice.

But if you're not “competing” at that level. If you're a marketing consultant who wants to be seen as the go-to expert for retail businesses in California, for example. Or you're a leadership coach focused on the public sector in the UK. In those cases, the level of expertise needed is not quite so high.

Selecting The Right Niche is One of the Keys to Becoming an Expert Quickly

By focusing on a very specific sector, geographic area or other factor, you don't have to be the leader in your field globally. What you need as a minimum is to have the expertise needed to provide significant help to your clients. And expertise at a level which puts you well above your competitors.

If you focus on leadership in the public sector in the UK, you'll rarely be competing for work against a Warren Bennis or John Kotter, for example.

So by focusing on a very specific niche, it's easier to become the recognised expert. Of course, you have to find a niche where there is still strong demand for your services. There's no point in being the recognised expert in a field where no one is buying.

It's also easier to become the recognised expert in a relatively new field. Where few people have any expertise at all, you can steal a march and become a recognised expert fairly quickly. Rather than standing on the sidelines waiting to see if the new technology or trend becomes mainstream, taking a gamble and investing your time to learn and experience the field can put you well ahead of others. Of course, the risk is that the new field doesn't become mainstream and your investment is wasted.

And selecting a niche where you already have considerable expertise helps too. If you look below the surface of the sort of work you've done, you can often find common themes and threads which you can use as a foundation for your niche.

When I initially looked at professional services marketing and sales as a potential niche, for example, at first I thought I hadn't done that much work in the field. But then I realised that for over a decade I'd been marketing and selling my professional services and the services of the consulting firms I'd been working for. So do look beyond the obvious.

Finally, and in my view, most importantly of all, find a niche you're passionate about.

If you choose a niche that you're not really interested in – then no matter how lucrative it initially looks – you'll struggle to build the enthusiasm to really “get into” it.

If you're going to invest thousands of hours into continually building your expertise over the years and strengthening your expert positioning – then you really need to love what you do.

Think of the best and highest paid sportspeople and performers in their field. How often have we heard them say that they'd do what they do for free, they love it so much?

Time and time again.

Ironically, it's that love of their subject, that willingness to “do it for free”, that drives them do the hours and hours of practice when others fall by the wayside. And that's what's given them such a high degree of skill and has earnt them so much money.

Now sure, it's certainly possible to become an expert in a field you don't love. But it ain't easy. And it's certainly not a life I'd want to condemn myself to.

So in summary – if you want to accelerate your path to expertise – find a niche that you love, that you already have some experience in, and that isn't already filled with experts.

And stay tuned for the next article on Accelerating Expertise where I'm going to take a look at the practical steps you can take to build your expertise once you've defined your niche.



Authority Marketing: The Essentials

Posted on 10th July 2010.

Authority MarketingIn recent posts I’ve been musing over the concept of Authority Marketing. After my last post where I talked about the benefits of establishing authority, one reader rightly posed the question: “what’s the difference between authority and expertise?”

It’s a good question. We all feel intuitively that authority implies something more than expertise – but it’s sometimes difficult to put your finger on exactly what it is. Is authority just the upper echelons of expertise? Or is there something more to it?

Authority is Expertise + Influence

For me, the key is that while an expert is defined by what they know; an authority is defined by who listens to them.

In other words, you can be an expert by knowing a lot. But to be an authority, people have to listen to your expertise and act upon it.

An authority is the expert people turn to for guidance. When they speak, people listen.

So to become an authority, you must not only build your expertise, you must build your influence.

I’m very tempted to do a 2×2 matrix here with expertise on one axis and influence on the other. But I’ll refrain from consulting cliches on this occasion.

To be influential, you must communicate, and you must be persuasive.

And this is where many professionals fall down. They have a high degree of expertise, but they're unable to communicate it in a persuasive manner to their target clients.

Some don't communicate at all. They're either uncomfortable marketing – or they've fallen into that terrible psychological trap of believeing they're entitled to be respected and listened to because they're experts.

Others communicate badly – they stumble, or confuse and complicate.

Others communicate, but don't persuade. Their communication is informative – but it doesn't guide listeners to action.

Authorities simplify (without oversimplifying) the complex. They give clear recommendations and courses of action to take. They communicate frequently and effectively. And they're listened to.

What will it take for you to become an authority in your field?