Move Into Advisory Services Work

I’d like to help you learn how to generate leads for advisory services

My Indie Experts email list is a place where I do that. If the transition from getting paid for implementation to getting paid for your advice is interesting to you, please join. Two ways to get this insight:

    [PMC] “Scaling up good ideas is really, really hard”

    This piece from Vox describes how and why promising programs meant to ease poverty or improve health work well as prototypes but fail at scale:’s really interesting! If you’re capable of seeing past surface specifics to the underlying principles, I think you’ll recognize some of the same patterns that cause software projects to suffer when scaled up beyond the prototype.This all reminds me of my saying: skill gets it done; expertise ensures it has the desired impact.The Vox article walks through 4 specific reasons why small pilot programs fail when they’re scaled up, and each of those 4 reasons is a second order effect.I believe but can’t (yet) prove that being aware of and understanding second order effects is one of the core components of the expertise that a consultant brings to an engagement. It’s one of the main differentiators between skill and expertise.It’s a little too soon for me to know for sure how many seats remain in the April19 cohort of The Expertise Incubator. 3 or 4 of the 5 seats are spoken for, but I haven’t collected payment yet so that could change.So if you want to be on the list of folks interested in starting this shockingly simple but brutally challenging program in April 2019, please hit REPLY here and let me know. There’s no commitment at this point, you’re just asking me to add your name to a spreadsheet that I use when sending out updates on the program, and throughout March there will be a few of these updates.-P

    [PMC] Mailbag: the “sea change” home page

    I got some really great feedback regarding last week’s “sea change home page” email.This, from Josh Brammer (shared with permission):

    Here’s a 9-step approach to build better homepage narratives.This uses the “sea of change” concept with the StoryBrand Framework. It also works really well for building slidedecks.

    1. Point to the big sweeping change. (Big Problem)
    2. Give a specific, irrefutable example. (Real World Problem)
    3. Explain why that matters to their business. (Their Problem)

    —By this time logic has snatched them up—

    1. Remind them how this feels and why you are positioned to understand how that feels. (Pain / Empathy)
    2. Show proof that you can help (Authority)
    3. Remind them what the bright future looks like if they take action (Success)
    4. Remind them what will happen if they don’t take action (Failure)
    5. Give them a Baby Step to take that will give them more clarity on how to face the “sea of change” (Transitional Call to Action)
    6. Give them a bigger step to work with you on a plan of attack. (Direct Call to Action)

    And this, from Darren Mather, also shared with permission:

    This is just the thing I was looking for! Over the past few weeks I have spent hours staring at a blank Pages document trying to write the text for the landing page of the website!Reading this was both a “eureka” moment and giant relief.My first attempt is:The rise of commercial companies such as SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic has completely changed the face of the space industry.It is no longer about just being the first, the fastest or the biggest. It is now about reusability, multi launch reliability and dependability, all with the aim of reducing costs.Rockets are no longer seen as single use, disposable pieces of hardware. They are valuable assets that can be re-used over and over again. Fairings are no longer expected to burn up and vanish into the sea, they are captured and re-used on the next mission.Now vital components need to work over multiple cycles and are no longer for single use, this requires a whole new testing mentality. Declaring a part “fit for purpose” is now about repeatability, quick replacement, using off the self components and standardising platforms.Aerospace testing has entered a new phase, find out how iNU solutions is helping the biggest names in the business compete.As I’m sure you have guessed, we design and develop testing platforms for the aerospace industry.

    So great to see this idea spurring some action!Thanks for sharing, Josh and Darren!-P

    [PMC Weekend Edition] Sunday food for thought

    This moment in this interview with Daniel Kahneman spurred this thought:Imagine that you are the CEO of your business, even if you don’t use that title for yourself and even if you don’t have employees.If your business changed CEOs, what changes would the incoming CEO make?How would they change things to make the business better?Would they focus on a different type of customer?Kill off some service lines?Something else?If so, what’s stopping you from making those changes?Happy Sunday!-P

    [PMC Weekend Edition] Crickets, pitches, wickets, oh my

    This blew my mind:–the-trick-is-turning-it-into-info-players-can-useIt’s a conversation between a cricket data analyst and somebody else, and it’s fascinating.It really illustrates how expertise develops through self-directed curiosity, dedication, data collection, and iteration.I’m the furthest thing from a sports fan and I found every paragraph fascinating.-P

    [PMC] You should get a (second) job

    You should get a second job.Yes, this is a metaphor, and no I’m not talking to all of you.The “second job” is investing in your marketing, or more broadly investing in your business.I say this to folks who are feeling stuck, or pinned down, by the status quo of your business. If you’ve ever said, “I want to improve my business, but I’m too busy with client work to spend time on it and I’m breaking even so I can’t spend money”, then I’m talking to you.The only way out I know of this pinned down situation to get a “second job”. And in your case, that metaphorical second job is a focused, short-term sprint of investment in your business.Here are 8 ideas for that investment sprint:

    1. Join Indie Pentathlon. It’s free and only requires from you some time, courage, and flexibility.
    2. Join the next group of Jonathan Stark’s The Pricing Seminar. Not free, but worth many times what he charges for it. No kickbacks to me, just the satisfaction of sharing something good with y’all.
    3. Publish daily on the Internet about a specific topic of interest to you for 30 to 90 days. See how deep your interest in $TOPIC goes. You’ll probably “hit the wall” around 6 weeks in, so try to go for 90 days because the real insight (into either yourself, your topic, or both) lies beyond “the wall”. Tips on this here:
    4. Build a free gift of knowledge for a specific prospect you’d like to attract. Offer it to them and see what happens. Iterate based on what you learn, or persist if you know you’re right and the first few rejections are not informative. (J.K. Rowling’s 12 rejections were not informative RE: the potential of her manuscript.)
    5. Interview 10 people within some area of focus, like within a vertical you might want to or are already focused on. You’ll learn from the interviews, but you might actually learn more from the outreach, which is where you have to sift through hundreds of LinkedIn profiles to find the right people to reach out to–and oh by the way have to think about who is the right person to reach out to–and you have to figure out how to reach out to them and how to ask them for their time, all of which teaches you a lot. And it’s not “book learning” either–it’s experiential learning which is often way more valuable. If the interviews provide insight or utility, build a free gift of knowledge based on what you learned and see who wants it.
    6. Profile 5 to 10 of your competitors, figure out what they’re saying about themselves and what kinds of clients they work for, and then figure out how to one-up them somehow. See if you can interview a few of them. In my experience, 50% will agree to speak with you if you ask politely and with no stink of subterfuge on your request.
    7. Circle back to old clients and ask if your work moved the needle for them. Make it easy for them to say no or else you’ll make some of them uncomfortable. If they say yes, see if they’re open to a case study for the project.
    8. Write a short book. For your topic, think about the “missing manual” your clients need to get better results. Imagine that you’re going to retire in a year and you want to pass along all your wisdom (the useful parts, anyway ha!) to those clients who would have hired you but can’t because you’re retired. A well-written, well-organized group of 20,000 to 30,000 words qualifies as a book or manual or handbook, so don’t feel like it has to be an 80k-word monstrosity.

    If you do one of these investment sprints, treat it like a real project or job, where someone will get pissed if you show up late or half-ass it. Get your ass out of bed an hour or two earlier than you normally would. Or use moonlight hours after the kids are in bed when you’d normally watch grown-up TV. Or a full day every weekend. Something you can manage but won’t kill you over the next 3 months or so.Yes, all these ideas are all speculative. So, it turns out, is pretty much any high-yield investment!Investments don’t always produce a return, but the alternative is safe, predictable mediocrity.-P

    [PMC] The “sea change home page”

    I’m always on the lookout for ways to help you avoid looking dumb.Yes, I’m being intentionally snarky. Here’s what I mean: Your website exists somewhere on a continuum running from awkward & ineffective on one end to engaging & effective on the other. If it happens to live close to the awkward & ineffective end of this continuum, I’d like to help you change that.Awkward and ineffective sites have one thing in common: they’re weirdly focused on *you*, and they fail to connect with what your prospects need.I think what makes a you-focused site weird is that it ignores context. It’s almost certainly true that you are smart, quirky, hardworking, creative, experienced, professional, and full of potential value. But if you don’t wrap all those qualities in a relevant context, then you’re just bragging about yourself, which comes across like… well, bragging. And your momma taught you better than that, right?I’ve pointed y’all to Hanno’s website before, but now’s a good time to do it again because it’s a great example of what I sometimes call the “sea change home page”: hanno.coA sea change is a big, sweeping change. It’s somewhere between a significant trend and an industry-wide disruption.Many, many industries and horizontal practice areas are undergoing sea changes right now. Right this very moment! If retailers are not having literal nightmares about Amazon dot com, they have their head in the sand or are one of the rare few doing a good job of responding to the Amazon-driven sea change. Management consulting is being disrupted, apparently. The list goes on.If you contextualize information about your business within the larger context of a sea change, you’ve accomplished several important things:

    • You’ve focused on what’s important to your buyers.
    • You’ve taken the primary focus off you and put it on how you help your clients at a strategy level. This might seem to be a small distinction, but it’s actually super important. It’s not that you avoid talking about yourself at all, it’s just that you place yourself within a context that’s relevant to your prospects.
    • You’ve signaled that you are focused on strategy, not just on implementation. Implementors talk about tools and technique. Strategists talk about decision-making, risk, opportunity, and what changes/stays the same over time.
    • It has polarization potential because it takes a stand, saying: “We see $THIS, consider it a significant threat/opportunity, and have forsaken other opportunities to focus on helping in this specific area.” It takes courage to take a position like that on an issue. Some might disagree! Gasp!! Those who agree, however, are already on their way to trusting you because you share a viewpoint.

    Here’s another good example. This is from The Expertise Incubator participant Tobie Langel (I mentioned his list yesterday, and his website also provides a great example for today’s email). The site is not done yet but it still illustrates well how you write an “industry sea change” story: unlockopen.comA few hat-tips are in order here:

    The “sea change home page” is not the only approach, but it’s a darn good one if you can use it.-P

    [PMC] It’s like Aggregation Theory

    Ben Thompson, who writes the excellent Stratechery analysis-as-daily-newsletter, has this thing he calls Aggregation Theory.Aggregation Theory is an idea he’s developed over time, and while I wasn’t tuned in to his newsletter in 2015, he post-facto explains the development of this idea on this page.Ben essentially says a theme kept surfacing across several articles, and that theme was what he turned into Aggregation Theory.I love this kind of story, and I’ll claim it as a victory for Team Working in Public. :)Ben is not modest about his sense of the importance of Aggregation Theory. He says, “Looking forward, I believe that Aggregation Theory will be the proper framework to both understand opportunities for startups as well as threats for incumbents.” I love this kind of confidence (and I think he’s right about the importance of his idea).The Expertise Incubator participant Tobie Langel is working in public on an idea I think will be similarly profound and impactful. Tobie’s not as far along with his version of Aggregation Theory (Ben Thompson’s got a several-year head start here), so you have an opportunity to “get in on the ground floor” of seeing Tobie develop this idea into the robust framework it will eventually be.Tobie’s idea is that open source methods are an outsized source of competitive advantage for companies that can deeply embrace these methods. With many tech companies, this embrace is second nature, but with many non-tech enterprises, this embrace feels risky, but the real risk is them not embracing open source methods.Tobie is talking about an idea that–in terms of its importance and potential impact–reminds me of the lean methodology or Blue Ocean Strategy.Check out Tobie’s email list here. It’s the form at the bottom of the home page.-P

    [PMC] Some interesting specialization examples

    It’s time to clear out my backlog of list member-submitted specialization examples.We shoot bottles. Stephen Lewis sent this one in. Thanks, Stephen!It’s a photography studio that has created a productized service focused on bottles. Booze, cleaning products, and sugar-water, among other things you might have in a bottle of some kind.I’m not sure this business is a going concern as their website has a few dead links, but it’s a nice example of several things:

    • Specialization. There’s just no question who this company’s services are for and what they accomplish. It’s all very clear and obvious.
    • Microsite-as-brand. The site uses a memorable 3-word domain name, and the microsite does it all: describes who the services are for, describes what you get when you engage with them, shows a portfolio of work and thereby creates a feeling, and describes the next step a prospective client would need to take.
    • “Lobster trap”. Way at the end of the (horizontal) scroll on this site is a link to another site the same studio has published. That site is not currently available, but it appears to be a similar microsite but focused on product photography for cans rather than bottles. The domain name resolves to that site, but again, it’s down at the moment. I’ve heard this multiple-microsite-approach referred to as setting out “lobster traps”. There are situations where this makes sense, and I think this is one of those. Photography writ large is not a legit specialization, but product photography does have some specialized requirements, both in terms of equipment and skill, but also in terms of the expertise of making an inanimate object into something that feels alive, or sexy, or something special.

    Jim Thornton sent this one, which is sort of equivalent to a platform specialization in that it’s focused on exercise but using hula hoops. Thanks for this, Jim!William Cobb sent this one, which is a company that manufactures and sells tops. You know, those things you spin with your fingers and then they spin for a while on their own? The cheapest one in this store is $34 (aluminum) and the most expensive one is $195 (tungsten). My friend Jonathan Stark is often talking about price as the differentiator-of-last-resort, so if the idea of a $195 top baffles or outrages you, then join Jonathan’s email list to understand why some people would gladly pay for a $195 top.Speaking of Jonathan, he sent me this specialization example, for the Zoological Lighting Institute, which “advocates and sustains scientific photobiology research for wildlife conservation and improved animal care. By coining and pursuing a concept of ‘PhotoDiversity’, linking the enormous variation in natural light quality to biodiversity as well as the social and cultural diversity necessary to pursue science, The Zoological Lighting Institute is committed to advancing public health, safety and welfare around the globe.” Notice how their specialization seems to have positioning them such that they can create new terminology, which is a powerful position to be in.Zaid sent this one over, which is a really interesting personal brand for this guy who focuses on helping lawyers with depression.Antonis pointed me to this company, which focused on logistics specifically for beverages. Interesting!Thanks to all who contributed these interesting examples!-P

    [PMC Weekend Edition] Back yard ~swimming pool~ roller coaster

    Back yard swimming pool roller coasterI’ve always had a DIY streak in me. Chalk it up, I suppose, to growing up with a combination of modest economic means and immodest imagination.So this, about a guy who built a roller coaster in his back yard, is like crack for me.I suppose this DIY streak is why I’m so much more interested in self-made expertise than any other kind.Red Right HandIf you’re not acquainted with the music of Nick Cave… I’m immediately motivated to try to do something about that. Even if you don’t want me to.It’s like XKCD 386, but for music:I mentioned to my friend Jonathan Stark something about Nick Cave, and he admitted he’s not familiar with his music.BIG MISTAKE, JONATHAN!If you want me to start meddling in your life, trying to forcibly introduce you to a new artist, all you have to do is mention you’ve never heard Nick Cave’s music and, game over, I’m all up in your business trying to make you into a Nick Cave superfan.Yes, I know it’s a personality flaw. This is one of many such personality flaws. I’ve got so many they have their own yearly convention. :)Anyway, here’s me giving in to this particular personality flaw in front of all ~2000 of you.How to get started with Nick Cave:Abattoir Blues/Lyre of Orpheus double album, but only if you can commit to several listens through. The Boatman’s Call is another accessible starting point. Or, if you want a single song entry point, listen to the song (not the whole album) From Her to Eternity as loud as you possibly can.Or alternately, read his writing at, fall in love with his mind first, then with his music later. Hat tip to Elliot for introducing me to this gift from Nick to his fans.Or finally, watch Wings of Desire, get intrigued by his cameo there, and then surf the wave of that curiosity into an exploration of his music. I’m pretty sure that’s how I did it.Have a great Sunday, y’all!-P