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Chapter 5: The Visibility Part of the Visibility Model

I've discussed the specialization part of the visibility model. It's also important to understand the visibility part. We've all seen companies create plans that omit a critical part of a process; testing as an afterthought to a software project, marketing as an afterthought to a product, and so on.

Specialization is a lever to help you get more out of your investment in visibility. The question of how you specialize and how you earn visibility are really two parts of the same thing. That's why they both exist within the same model.

To save you a little bit of page-flipping, here's our visibility model again:

You'll notice there are three methods  for earning visibility:

  • Outreach : Contacting a stranger (via email, phone, mail, social media, etc.) to increase their visibility of your services. Can be automated and scaled using paid advertising or other methods. You initiate.

  • Presence : Mingling and connecting with prospects. In other words, you show up  in their world, physically or digitally. Often a bidirectional exchange that both increases your visibility and provides you deeper insight into their world.

  • Attraction : A variety of methods that help interested prospects become aware of you. Usually, this happens by integrating somehow into their search for something—a solution to a problem, an answer to a question—although sometimes a random encounter creates new desire in a prospect. The prospect initiates.

These are actually categories  of methods, and they are listed in descending order of how quickly they can earn you visibility; Outreach works the quickest and Attraction the slowest.

You'll also notice the lines connecting visibility methods with the three basic ways of specializing. Only one visibility method is incompatible with a way of specializing—visibility through outreach and horizontal specialization. Those two are largely incompatible.


13: Of course, there are exceptions to this. A smart, motivated, horizontally specialized consultant can find ways to make outreach work, but they will have to work at overcoming the fundamental incompatibility between the two. The other exception is certain platforms that are  externally visible (CMS and CRM platforms are two such types), and as a result, outreach can be a viable way to earn visibility.

Horizontally specialized companies are usually focused on problems or opportunities that are not externally visible. Consider Maritz, which helps their clients with employee motivation. While it's reasonable to assume that almost every company would like their employees to be more motivated, an outreach campaign (direct unsolicited email, mail, phone calls, or LinkedIn messaging) from Maritz that assumes a problematic  level of employee motivation would come across as insulting spam. This is why I generally consider outreach and horizontal specialization to be incompatible. [13]

Timeline Considerations

If you need to earn more visibility for your services very quickly, you'll think about the five forms of specialization primarily through the lens of how fast-acting these three forms of earning visibility are, and perhaps choose a specialization approach based on its ability to leverage a fast-acting visibility mechanism. This means if you need to quickly earn more visibility for your services, you will avoid a horizontal specialization.

If fast-actingness were all there was to it, decision-making around specialization would be quite easy. But there is more to it. Notice the detail I've added to each visibility method.

Fundamental Marketing Labor


14: As indie consultants, our personalities have an oversized influence on our businesses. In many cases, we can get assistance with things we hate doing. Bookkeeping comes to mind. But delegating emotional labor is nearly impossible, so any marketing approach that requires emotional labor is almost certainly going to have to be done by you.

Each category of visibility methods requires different types of fundamental marketing labor  to make it work. For example, what makes Outreach effective is the emotional labor of caring about those you are reaching out to combined with offering a structured solution to an urgent—or at least, relevant—problem. If your personality does not afford you sufficient ability for emotional labor while earning visibility, you will want to avoid using the Outreach and Presence methods. If you tried to use Outreach anyway, you might get some quick wins, you might see others using Outreach effectively, or you might have some other short-term reason to do it, but it will be unsustainable because it requires something that is at odds with your personality. [14]


15: Though paid advertising is a form of scaled Outreach without the requirement for emotional labor.

A lot of marketing advice is focused on the choice of channel or platform. Email versus social media versus other stuff. The choice of channel/platform is secondary (and ephemeral over time), while the type of fundamental marketing labor is primary and more likely to be the same over time. Can't consistently perform emotional labor? That's fine, just don't choose Presence or Outreach, even if someone tells you one of those is the best thing since sliced bread. [15]  Got a knack for demonstrating ability, perhaps through public speaking? You'll gravitate toward Attraction and endure the slower acting-ness of this category of tools.


16: Most  of the marketing advice you'll find on the internet is tactical in nature.

It's helpful, however, to link a few examples of channels or platforms with these three categories so that you can translate tactical marketing advice [16]  into strategic thinking about what might actually work for you.

  • Attraction

  • Content marketing

  • Search engine optimization (SEO)

  • Blogging

  • Podcasting

  • Presence

  • Networking

  • Hosting a community

  • Social media interaction

  • Outreach

  • LinkedIn messaging

  • Physical mail

  • Paid advertising

If you take only one thing away from this chapter, please let it be that while you can "mix and match" your method(s) for earning visibility and your way of specializing, they do form an integrated whole and need to be thought of in that way.