You can remain an "invisible expert", unknown to all but your referral network, and have a successful business. But apparently the riches are in the niches, or the cash is in the pigeon holes according Alastair McDermott. Alastair McDermott explains how to lose that reliance on referrals which is the handicap of over 90% of small businesses. Host of The Recognised Authority podcast, McDermott also gives a link to an equipment list in the episode which he is giving away for free.
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Welcome to this episode of the UnNoticed show today. I'm delighted to have Alastair McDermott. Who's joining us all the way from Galway in, Ireland, Alastair, how are you?Alastair McDermott:
Jim lovely to be here. Thank you.Jim James:
Good. Now you are helping invisible experts to become visible. Can you help? Understand Alastair, how do you help experts to become visible?Alastair McDermott:
Yeah, sure. So, um, this is a problem that I encountered myself. And so it's near and dear to my heart because I realized I had this problem, that I wanted to, to kind of build my authority, become more, well-known become recognized in my field. I realized, well, you know, it's like I'm wearing this cloak of invisibility, like from Harry Potter. So I needed to remove that cloak of invisibility in some way. And, and, I, I kind of hear this advice, you know, put yourself out there. but it's not so easy. And, there's, I think that there's a process that you've got to go through. And, and so I started figuring that out and, the one thing. That that I think is really important is if, if you take the phrase recognized authority in your field, is that last part in your field, you actually have to niche down , you have to specialize. I think that's the really difficult part for a lot of people, because a lot of people I talked to were very smart consultants. They're experts. They're generalists. They're really good at doing lots of different types of problem. Solving was very difficult to actually niche down.Jim James:
Well, you know, I think you're absolutely right. There's this old issue about the riches are in the niches, but the anxiety is that you're leaving money on the the table, and that it's not possible to get enough money. If you like from an individual niche, I'm going to call it a niche rather than a niche so how does that work Alastair, because if you're, you know, an authority in one field, how can you get enough recognition to get enough business, to be sustainable?Alastair McDermott:
Well, you've got to pick a field a big enough. You got it. There has to be enough business in that niche, you can't niche down too much. but. It's basically, you're, you're a big fish in a small pond. That's the way it works. the way that the world works now with, with search and things like that, it's only the top people in, in a particular field are going to come up top of the search results. The top people are going to get the most recommendations. You know, there is an advantage in being top of the pile. You've if, if you're not top of the pile, then go find a smaller pile and be top of that, you know, that's that's the way it works, you know, and, and I'm not saying this is just for Google search. So this is, you know, this applies to the whole concept of, of being recognized as an authority. It, it, you know, you become known as a go-to person for that one problem for that one area.Jim James:
So obviously about this the other day, I'm wondering to what degree are you really just having a job description then? Because see on LinkedIn. Now people say, you know, I do this and they become the authority in podcast creation, example, or lead gen, you know, how, how are they able to broad enough to get in new business not be just pigeonholed into one area? Do you think Alastair?Alastair McDermott:
Okay. So first thing is I have to, I have to take up when you say the word a pigeonhole, because that's one of those trigger words for me. pigeonhole is people use it in such a negative way. And, and, I, I was listening to Blair ends talking to David C. Baker has his co-hosts on the two Bob's podcast. And he was saying, you know, the pigeonholes are stuffed with cash. Why are people always giving out of pigeonholes? And so, that's kinda my view on it is it's pigeonhole is, it's such a negative kind of concept or term. But, it's because like, we're usually multitalented smart people and we don't like this idea that, you know, we're going to be constrained in some way, but the reality is that if you niche down, usually it opened up a lot of opportunities for you and. the problem area is much deeper than initially realize that the, the scope of the problems, the, the depth of the problems, it's just, there's a lot more, there's a lot more, There's a lot more there that will fascinate you then, then you think may be there from, from a kind of a surface visit to the, to the area, you know? yeah, so, so that's the first thing I think, you know, when you go deep on any kind of specializations, a few different ways that you can niche down computer from where you can specialize, when you start to go deep, deep, you realize, Hey, this is actually fascinating. And there's a lot more here for.Jim James:
And do you think that applies to companies as well as individuals?Alastair McDermott:
Oh, yeah. I mean, I, it depends on the size and scale, so, and it also depends on, on, like there's a few different factors, like, for example, I think that if you're right at the very start of your career, that you can't niche down, because you need to build a certain breadth of, of experience so that you can make a good specialization decision later because you do need to have a bit of a broad experience in order to niche down, because you need to be able to say, well, I do like this and I don't like that. I like these kind of people. I don't like working with those kinds of know? So you, you, you do need some of that. and then, on the other end of the spectrum, you know, you take somebody like Seth Godin or Mark Schaefer, somebody about who like these, these, these kind of, let's say industry, experts where we're in a where they're very broad, They are so big at that point, they've built such a massive audience that they don't need to be niched down because they're just so big at that point. And I think the same applies to companies that, reaches a certain size, they don't need to niche down. but for a lot of us, particularly for solo consultants, for independent consultants and, and very small businesses and very small firms, niching down can, can give us this tremendous advantage when we're competing with somebody and they have a general experience and we have this specialist experience. It's almost no comparison. It's, it's, it's apples to oranges. It's it's not the same. And it just makes you, it makes you stand out.Jim James:
So you've sort of chosen your pigeonhole stuff with cash. I love that idea that there's this sort of pigeonhole there. RMB now, I guess it would be. what about letting people know that you're in that pigeonhole? Because I guess that's the anxiety is you think that if you're in that niche, you can be invisible and I guess, hence to your podcast, for example,Alastair McDermott:
Yeah, so, okay. Well, well, the way I look at it is, so to, to start, first of all, we need to get some broad experience so that we can actually end up in a position where we have enough expertise to be an expert, because you have to be an expert to become an authority. So you have to, you have to have truly developed some expertise and it's usually quite broad. And then what you need to do at that point. And when I say you need to do, if you want to choose this journey of authority, you need to do this. You don't need to do this if you don't want to become an authority, but if you do want to become an authority, then you do have to pick a field. It just goes along with it. I don't think it's possible to be an authority without being an authority in a specific area. it just doesn't, it doesn't make sense. Yeah. And there are these people, you know, you see, you see people who seem to be generalists,, but usually they're not really generalists that they are specialists in some particular area like, Gary Vaynerchuk as an example. and he, he will answer questions in a very authoritative manner on any, on a whole range of, of topics. But actually when you dig into it, he does have expertise in, he's got a huge deep expertise in wine. He's got a huge deep expertise in video production and in social media, and, and absolutely an expert in those areas. and probably in growing a business and growing a media team and those kinds of things as well, but they're in specific areas and not kind of this broad, I don't think there's, there's a generalist it's, it's always in multiple areas, you know? so, so, but to go back to answer your question, I think that we start off with this broad knowledge and, and develop some expertise, and then we get to a point where we want to. To do, to have more impact, we want to be able to charge more, to command higher fees. We want to work with better clients, bigger clients, help more people. And, and for some people that journey to authority is the road forward for other people. They go different ways. other people. Build out their referral network and they go to, you know, they do a lot of networking and things like that and that's their, their route forward. and in fact, I did some research. I surveyed over a thousand consultants and what I found was that referrals were the number one source of business For about 90 to night for about 95 to 99% of, of consulting businesses and B2B businesses. and that wasn't just at the small consulting firm stage. That was from one to 10 size 11 to 50 and firms size 51 to 200. When I surveyed, they all said that referrals networking was the number one source. So that really fascinated me when I saw that.Jim James:
That that's a bit alarming, isn't it? That so many people rely actually just on points of contact rather than inbound marketing, for example,Alastair McDermott:
It will, this was what led me down this road of examining this in more detail, because I found that so fascinating. And so like, there's a certain point for networking doesn't scale anymore. And in particular, like now when it's hard to run networking events and go to networking events and to travel, you know, you want to have something else. So this, so my preferred route forward, is that I'm a little bit more of an introvert. I like to create content. I like to write, I like to, you know, record YouTube videos , and podcasts and things like that. this is as extroverted as I guess. And so that's what this kind of route to authority gives you is, is the ability to do this inbound marketing. so inbound marketing is content marketing or authority marketing or education marketing, and that's what you're doing. You're educating your clients about the problem and the solution to their problem and building your authority with that.Jim James:
So I think that's a great way to start to look at how you do that Alastair. So you make that sound kind of easy. how can an entrepreneur then build that out from a practical point of view? And, and I know you've also done some research into how people sound and look and that a difference to. Can woe just talk about how you get to being from, being home on zoom, to sounding and looking like an authority, because they're not, it's not a simple path, is it.Alastair McDermott:
Yeah. Okay. So I may make that sound easy or make it sound simple, but it's not easy. And I'm speaking to you. I just put up a video on LinkedIn yesterday, where I looked back over. over about 15 years of my LinkedIn, or sorry, over my YouTube video history. And I look back at some of the older videos and it's, so cringe-worthy, I don't actually recognize myself. It's so bad. and, it's, you can have a look at that. If you check out my LinkedIn or my YouTube, and that video is called putting in the reps and it's about. Getting some experience. You have to start that you don't learn to swim by reading books about swimming. You actually have to get the pool. And so you have to start and particularly like the, the route with authority, when part of that is you have to demonstrate your expertise, which, which effectively means publishing, which means talking, speaking, and writing in public.. You have to, you have to expose your ideas and your thoughts to the public. And you have to do that in, in, in there's lots of different modes and methods that you can use. we like podcasts, the two of us, I'm, I'm starting to get more into YouTube and into video. and some people would prefer to write blog posts. Seth Godin has been writing a blog post every day, for, for decades, you know? So, there's lots of different ways to do it, but you do have to start. And, if you look back at anybody, start there first stuff, if it is, you know, if you look back and you go, okay, that, that didn't look great, they kept doing it. For example, if I go back to Gary Vaynerchuk, if you look at some of his videos from wine library, TV, from, you know, the, the first year or two that he did it, you know, it's, it's still amateur looking, but he's still worth 200 million today, you know? So, It it's it's, it's not easy. It is simple. You, you have to start, you have to start somewhere, pick a niche and start. you know, one thing I would suggest is start to do some deep research into that niche, into that specialization. to dig more into the problem. talk to. Clients in that area start to look for patterns and start to learn more about that problem than anybody else, because this is the thing that the specialization will give you. It will give you a deeper understanding than other people have. go back to the David C. Baker. he, he wrote the book called the business expertise. he, he is the co-host of the two Bob's, podcasts, which is a great podcast, listen to one thing that. talks about is, is drop and give me 20, is this concept that if he's sitting beside somebody on a plane and they're a true experts in their niche, they should be able to tell him 20 things that would surprise him about that area that he wouldn't have known, you know, being outside it.. So can you, so the concept is, can you tell me 20 things and by the way, I'm nowhere near 20 yet, but, are there, are there things that you have learned about your niche, about your specialization, that other people who are generalists might not know because they just haven't spent enough time in that area. So that's a good way of kind of benchmarking your progress.Jim James:
Yeah. I mean, perhaps we could even just start with 10, would, would be a good start wouldn't it.I think it'd would like with any long journey, right? You have to start, with the beginning. Now, one of the things that you have written about also is about sounding good on your latest, LinkedIn post. Alastair do you want to just talk about that? I've had Jimmy cannon on the show. Who's wonderful talking about, you know, voice and projection and breathing and so on. And I, I'm still trying to implement what he's taught. Can you share with us what you've learned about sounding authoritative?Alastair McDermott:
Right. Well, so I haven't done any of that kind of work and maybe I should. but w what I have done is I heard about a guy called professor Norbert Schwartz from the university of Southern California. And I, I came across a study that he had done with some colleagues and some colleagues from, from Australia as well. But what they did was they took some. High quality audio of some scientists and researchers speaking, and they took the original high quality, and then they downgraded it several levels as well. And so they took the original and then they took the downgraded version and they asked people to race the quality of the researcher's work. They asked them to rate how likable they were, how intelligent they were. And what they found was that you are more likable, more intelligent sounding, and your work sounds more important when you have higher quality audio, they did the same test with video, the same results. And so what that says to me is that if you want to come across as an authority, you know, you don't want to sound like you're kind of dialing in from, uh, a bathtub or something, you know, you don't want to sound. terrible audio quality. You want to work on that? And so I bar that you should meet, and I think it's really important and more important now for people when we're working remotely, you know, it's a bit the same, you know, I'm sure if we walk into a room wearing a nice suit, you know, you've got a certain level of respect, you know, you're seen in a certain way, and I'm sure there's some, some part of that. Now I didn't ask, professor Schwartz about that, but I, I, you know, I would imagine this there's part of that to it as well, but some of it is from the cognitive of having to process and the difficulty in trying to hear what people are saying. So, for example, we're both wearing headphones right now, and that gives us better audio quality here on zoom. just a minute advantage overs over zoom, if we're not wearing headphones, but that's one thing that podcasts just might do for example, to get better quality. So, there are little things that you can do to make your audio and video. And then there are big things. You can spend more money on equipment. You can see that I've got a really nice picture and that's from, from spending a lot of money on camera and things like that and having good lighting. but can be as simple as, you know, sit so you're facing the window rather than have the window behind you. So the windows lighting your face rather than not. So people can see you, you know, put putting in, Get a, get a, a 20 or $30, led light that will light you up. And that will make more difference than spending money on an expensive camera. if you don't have good lighting, you know, and then I would suggest spending, you know, a hundred quid, 200 quid on a good microphone. I think that makes a massive difference.Jim James:
Yeah, I think you're right. And I can turn off mine. There you go. I just bought some lights, um, the other day, cause I was kind of shocked at a video that I did with somebody and I thought, oh crikey, I sound and look like I'm in a dingy room, uh, which is fine for the podcast, but terrible for the video. So as you say, as we would have in the past, invested in a nice suit or a nice watch in Asia people judge you by the watch that you wear. So minimum investment in the technology that you use to relate to people through the internet is really key isn't it Alastair, that really interesting survey that.Alastair McDermott:
Yeah. Yeah. And I think it probably, and I don't have evidence to back this up, but my guess is that this probably applies to people who are in jobs as well. Who are. Doing remote calls with their team. You know, your boss might, might rank you as a better employee or your, or a potential employer might rate you as a better interviewer, a better interviewee than the next person. So you might get a job because you've got a better setup. You know, I can imagine that that's going to be, become really important in the future.Jim James:
Yeah, no, I think that's also really, really important too, to get people to think about they appear online. do you think that is also then for businesses Alaistair cause we'd be talking about the sort of invisible entrepreneur or expert. How do you think that translates when it's not a solo preneur, but an entrepreneur running a business with 10 20, maybe 30 staff.Alastair McDermott:
Well, I think that if you've got staff who are making video sales calls, that they should have really good video. I think you should, should seriously think about investing in that. I think that if you're making videos for YouTube and places like that, that you put a bit, bit of effort into looking good. I think it just makes sense.Jim James:
Yeah, it's a bit like, do you remember the Jetsons? Do you remember? She used to not answer the door the phone until she had her phone face. They were sort of 30 years ahead of the game. And how do you Alastair to get yourself noticed my final question for you as an entrepreneur, yourselfAlastair McDermott:
well, so what I'm doing is first of all, I started a podcast about eight months ago. So we're, we're now at episode 40. So, and that's, that's released weekly, it's called the Recognized Authority and it's about helping people on that journey to authority. So, so that's one thing I'm doing. I'm actually just finishing up on a training course and I'm doing with a company called video creators on YouTube, which is interesting because, one aspect of, of creating videos for YouTube you know, the actual recording of the video and the editing and all that part. But the other part is what are YouTube? What, what do they want? And incorporating things like story intention and things like that your videos. And that's been really interesting. I'm kind of thinking about three act structures and tension and things like that. so, Blogging for the longest time, but that blogging wasn't effective until I niched down. That was, that was actually the real problem that brought me to this whole area was I was, trying to create a podcast and I was writing lots of blog posts and I was trying to plan a podcast. And so I started playing my podcasts in 2014.. So when you go back to, it seems very simple. It seems very easy. Yeah. It took me six years to, to get this right. So I hope to accelerate people on that. So you can maybe do it in six months instead. do, do what I say enough, do what I do so.Jim James:
but Alastair, if people want to hear more about you and find out more about your podcast, how can they find you?Alastair McDermott:
Yeah, sure. If you, if you go to therecognizedauthority.com, spell it any way you like UK or USA versions, the recognizedauthority.com and you'll find the podcast, you'll find all the links there you'll even find. If you look on the homepage, you'll even find a guide called that sounds good, which is a free guide to audio and video equipment. You might find useful.Jim James:
Alastair McDermott. Joining me all the way from Ireland? Thank you so much for joining me as an increasingly visible, expert and authority that you are on the subject. Thank you.Alastair McDermott:
Thank you, Jim.