Roadmap for Experts
1. Circuit Interview (26 October, 2014)
“Roadmap for Experts” is a new business venture created by Daniel Stouffer and Nigel Evans. Daniel is a well-educated online marketing expert, and Nigel has a lot of experience in staging PR events.
“Roadmap for Experts” is a fascinating concept. They offer a complete marketing and business back-end to subject-matter authorities, typically authors who are experts in their niche but who do not have any existing information marketing channels.
(Note, this is mostly me and Daniel, as Nigel was having technical issues connecting to this call.)
1.1 Overview (MP3 | 86 minutes)
2. Circuit Review
They have two parallel offerings, one for the commercial world, and another for the charity sector. While the propositions may appear to be similar in form, the markets are actually very different. We agreed that they should probably focus on the more profitable commercial market initially, and maybe return to the non-profit market later.
Here’s my high-level Circuit assessment:
The “Who we are” is pretty clear. The name is quite descriptive, although I would question whether “Roadmap” has any “What’s in it for me?” value. Do Experts want a “Roadmap”? Or do they want something else, i.e. “I want to get to that place.” What Daniel and Nigel ARE is a complete business and marketing solution (“Just add expert”). That is a lot more than just “roadmap” in my opinion, so I might want to explore further with them how they might more accurately – and more boldly – name their overall business and its implicit global proposition.
The Package (Product/Service) is fairly clear. There is a question over what evidence they can provide to back up their claims of being able to deliver on the promise. They have a good level of expertise in a range of important disciplines, and they are confident in their outsourcing skills, however they haven’t ever delivered this type of programme end-to-end. That could be a critical missing piece in their proposition.
The Proposition is great. “You’re an expert in your thing, but you suck at marketing yourself. That’s not unusual. We’re experts in marketing people like you. We have a complete, ready-to-roll business model for experts just like you. In fact, we promise to build a profitable information business around you and your niche.” All very powerful, except for the problem already identified: no real evidence of having done this for an expert already.
The Problem is, “I’m really great at my thing, but I just don’t know how to turn that into financial success.” What’s interesting here is that the degree to which their target experts may be feeling that problem is likely to vary widely.
The Market is potentially very big, and they only need a handful of great experts. In fact, applying the 80:20 principle, they really ought to be very discerning about the experts they take on (as personal hands-on projects at least). I advised that they should go counter to the natural instinct and deliberately target a narrow slice of their potential market: people who are feeling that problem acutely.
Do we know where the market congregates? Because it’s so broad, a horizontal slice that spans just about every possible subject, it’s impossible to target people by subject matter. They will have a profile of the type of person they’re looking for: well-respected, knowledgeable, dynamic and ambitious, but who clearly finds it very difficult to turn their obvious expertise into a business.
Summary of the Challenge
Clearly, this is a great overall proposition. One of the biggest challenges will be finding the market (although, because they could make large profits from the right clients and therefore don’t need a large customer base, I suspect this can be done through a combination of PR and then direct one-to-one sales).
But probably the most significant challenge is the lack of end-to-end proof that they can do this. That is the major gap in the overall business proposition, so filling or bridging that gap has to be our priority before going to market.
Kicking Around Ideas
For that reason, following the initial call, I was interested in putting myself forward as a potential first client for “Roadmap for Experts”. However, there may be a conflict with a similar programme that is also kicking off within my team, so we have shelved that idea.
The second idea I pitched to Nigel and Daniel was maybe to run a launch for the “Testimonials First” product that has been developed within the Pro Web Design Alliance group. That is not an ideal solution either, partly because the product has a relatively limited scope for generating profits, but also because it would not prove the entire end-to-end service.
2.1 Thinking Bigger (4 November, 2014)
We then had a follow-up call, initially to discuss the possibility of using Testimonials First as a case study. (I did not record this call.)
After it became clear that perhaps TF was not a great fit, we started to think bigger.
Over the past few days, I have been developing ideas around how to improve things (whether businesses or personal brands) by going back to the root of “Who Are You?” as being the source of everything else, as we’re seeing with using the Circuit.
One of the major ideas I’ve been playing with is the idea that it is actually easier to go to market with an outrageous, bold, superlative identity than it is with an ordinary, average one.
For example, I had been thinking about the Circuit for this course! Work through the logic with me…
- The “Ultimate Web Design” proposition is, “That old way of doing web design is going extinct… Come and master the right way!”
- The gap in the Circuit for that proposition is that the people who have the problem don’t necessarily know it. (i.e. They’re at Step Zero on the awareness ladder.)
- When we find an awareness gap like that (usually between Proposition-and-Problem or Problem-and-Market, as in this case) we must ensure we address bridging that gap in our Campaign.
- So the campaign for the “Ultimate Web Design” proposition must bridge between the Market (web designers) and the Problem (“Look! your market is drying up! You all need to retrain NOW!”)
- Next we must ask, “What’s the best way to fill that gap?”
- My starting point was the usual… Let’s publish a series of videos that educate the viewer… A free course called “Web Design Is Dead”.
- But then I had to think, “OK, what if we dialled that up to eleven? What would it look like if we MAXed that idea?”
- One way of MAXing something is to turn it into more of an event. (That’s one of the reasons why Jeff Walker’s “Product Launch Formula” works… because it creates an event. Daniel Levis also argues for making things events in his excellent “Effortless Influence” course, because events are meaningful to our brains, they have cultural significance and can be something we feel we belong to.)
- So why publish inert videos if we could do it as live webinars?
- But then… “webinars” are ten-a-penny these days too. So what’s next? What happens to a webinar if you put it through Doctor Hunt’s Patent Maxifier?
- What if “Web Design Is Dead” was an online conference, not “webinars”. A “conference” is even MORE of an event than a webinar, right? Even though the technology may be identical. But this is the power of WORD at work.
- Plus, a conference is a one-off event. You can say, “I was there in 2015 when we announced that web design was dead”, in the same way people talk about seeing The Beatles play at the Cavern Club, or the Sex Pistols at Manchester’s Lesser Free Trade Hall in 1976.
- Furthermore, a conference typically costs around $1000 to attend. It has perceived value. Sure, some people make some money with paid webinars, but how much more valuable is an online conference than a webinar (perceived)?
- Then, webinars have “presenters” (yawn), but conferences have “hosts” and “panelists” and “speakers”. That sounds bigger, bolder, and more confident, doesn’t it? And being a speaker at an event confers a certain level of authority.
- And, if you’re the organiser of a conference, you get to name those people. So we can put ourselves up as the experts.
There’s an element of “Be-Do-Have” at play here.
Instead of waiting until you have the breaks, the cash, the opportunity, which lets you do what you really what you want to do, which will then let you be what you really want (like acknowledged as an expert in a field)…
“Be-Do-Have” says it’s much more powerful to start with the “Be”. If you want to BE an expert, BE an expert!
Okay, so what does an expert do? Well, they speak at interesting-sounding conferences. Great, so lets stage a conference! See how it works?
This is all about thinking bigger, asking what it would look like if we took it to the limit, and then asking, “So why don’t we do that?”
Remember, the technology is so powerful today, we are more limited by our imaginations than by the tech! So, using Google’s Hangouts on Air, anyone can publish an online conference to an unlimited number of participants. Think about how you would have done that three years ago, and how much it would have cost!
So, by thinking bigger, and taking advantage of today’s cheap, powerful technology, we could actually create one of the mechanisms we have identified we need to help bridge a marketing gap.
One of the things the guys have mentioned in passing in our conversations is “stacking” product or service offerings for their expert clients. (Also see my article on Web Design From Scratch.)
This might take the form of something like Ken McCarthy’s football game metaphor: You can spend nothing, a 2-figure sum, a 3-figure sum, or even a 4-figure sum to watch the same football game. What you’re paying for is the product to be packaged in a way that suits your needs and your budget.
This is a principle we’ll apply quite often in marketing strategies. Package “what you do” (i.e. the products or services element of the Circuit) in a variety of Propositions, priced at different points.
A stack of offerings might take a form like this…
- A free (or low-cost) “introduction” series
- Could take the form of ebook, email sequence, videos, or webinars.
- The ultimate goal is to generate qualified, warm leads, which it does through in three ways:
- To qualify the target market (anyone who is interested in this offering would naturally be in the target market for paid offerings too);
- To deliver some value, thereby demonstrating what you can deliver;
- And thirdly also to educate the prospect about a problem or opportunity they didn’t know they had, or to present a solution that they didn’t know existed.
- For Roadmap for Experts, this might be ebooks on subjects like, “The 5 Steps to Monetizing Your Expertise”, “Why You Should Get Paid For Your Expert Knowledge”, or “The 5 Most Common Mistakes That Throttle Experts’ Earning Potential.”
- The free/low-cost offering should always up-sell the prospect to premium alternatives.
- Generally, think in terms of “This is what you need to do… But not exactly how to do it.”)
- A “DIY” offering,
- Often a book or video course.
- This is for clients who think they need the benefits you promise, and who probably think they don’t have the budget to spend more, so they’re happy to try to do it themselves.
- This should always be some kind of information product, which means it will have a high profit margin (so profitable at any price).
- It might include worksheets, online spreadsheets, and other resources that might help the DIY customer.
- In the case of Roadmap for Experts, this might be a “Roadmap for Experts” product. If there is a generic, one-size-fits-all model that would work for most experts, why not package that as a DIY offering?
- “This is how to do it, if you can!”
- A Group-Access Membership product
- Now we get into providing some service time (which is costly). But we want to get the most benefit for time spent, so we’re dealing with a group.
- The market is more able to pay, or keener, than the DIY market.
- This might be a subscription product, where the provider (the Roadmap for Experts guys) personally coach a group of experts on how to take their expertise to the market. This product might use popular technology like forums, Google Hangouts, Skype, and even Google Docs to provide access to materials, together with one of the many membership site platforms (such as Rainmaker or Kajabi).
- If done right, these membership offerings can often provide the raw materials for other products lower down the stack (free lead-gen or DIY courses).
- “We’ll tell you how to do this, together.”
- Direct Coaching
- More of the bosses’ time, so more costly.
- This is for people who want quicker or better results, and have the ability to pay the fee.
- “We’ll tell you exactly what you need to be doing.”
- Done For You
- This is the ultimate offering, where you become a client and get everything done for you.
3. Campaign Design (04 December 2014)
Following on from my earlier thoughts around how we might MAX the Roadmap for Experts overall proposition to the market, including stacking their offerings, I started the Campaign Design with the standard whiteboard. (It’s not very readable, but you don’t need to read it all.)
I’m doing two things here…
- Figuring out how we might deliver on each of the major Objectives in a forthcoming campaign (in blue).
- And seeing if there are any of those Objectives where we may struggle (in red).
All the blue writing is pretty straightforward. I’m making notes on ideas and copy we might use to back up each point that needs to be made. The details are not highly important at this time, because we can pull out those notes when it comes to building an actual campaign. What really matters is that we’re confident we’ve got those areas covered.
However, if you look for the red marks on the board, you’ll see that I’ve highlighted the Objectives “REACH” and “EVIDENCE” as problematic.
We’re talking to a horizontal market, i.e. experts in something who are failing to capitalise financially on their skills. The challenge there is that they don’t really congregate anywhere. There are no organisations, publications, or events for people who are like that.
Secondly, as already identified in my Circuit Review, we face a challenge with the fact that the client has never delivered this exact end-to-end suite of services for a single partner. They have great experience in all the components, but cannot demonstrate the package’s success.
I’ll deal with each of these challenges in turn.
Challenge 1: Broad, Undefined Market
When there’s no reason for a target audience to congregate, you only have a few options:
- Broadcast to everyone (which could be very expensive).
- Access a mailing list (hard to do without a proven affiliate offer).
- Use the crowd.
- Hunt them down individually.
Using the Crowd?
I’m initially drawn to the third option: using the crowd. That means creating an offer that’s so interesting that people WANT to pass it on to their friends. If you can get something to go viral on e.g. Facebook, it’s possible to reach a lot of people very quickly.
That raises another question, though. We really want experts who have a high degree of skill, for example who may be published authors. These people are not likely to be on Facebook in great numbers.
For something to go properly viral, it needs to have general appeal. Put another way, it only works if each person who sees the message passes that on to an average of at least one other person. So, taking into account that many people who see the message will not act, it means that each person who does act needs to know many people who might be interested.
Could Roadmap for Experts come up with a Facebook campaign along the lines of, “Who do you know who has a special skill that others would pay to master?” and see how many people tag their friends?
It certainly wouldn’t be very costly to test.
However, a broad or mass-market offering would probably need to be a digital product. The guys couldn’t afford to coach every pedestrian kind-of-expert personally. So we’d need to be looking at a product that sits lower in the stack (see my article!). And that would require a “broad-base” stack, i.e. one that has more high-volume/lower-cost information products at its base.
Hunting Prospects Individually?
This may seem like a labour-intensive method, and it is, so you have to think carefully about the size of the prize, to know whether any practice is worth pursuing.
Clearly it wouldn’t make sense to do this for high-volume/low-cost products. But, the RfE guys know they can potentially make good profits from just a few of the right experts. (That matches the 80:20 principle.)
How might we discover these prospects individually?
- I would probably start by focusing on niches where Daniel and Nigel already have experience and a good story to tell.
- If they’re right that having a good book on the market is a common factor among their target market, Amazon might be a good place to start. Simply spend a few evenings browsing Amazon and looking for books that were published in the past few years and are well reviewed, but where a quick search for the author reveals no other significant activity.
- I would then reach out and try to contact those authors individually, maybe via LinkedIn, email, or even phone. We could arrange a later meeting to go over the offer. It could be worth making dozens of calls to get one really good partner on board.
Or maybe it’s possible to do both, by clever stacking of propositions?
Example of the RfE Stack
The stack applies the idea, based on the 80:20 principle, of stacking products to suit prospects at all levels in the market.
Imagine a pyramid that builds from the low-investment-high-volume broad base up to a pinnacle
We might picture a broad-base RfE stack to be something like this…
- (Free) YouTube videos that explain the problem and promise a free (or low-cost) course. These could be promoted on Facebook etc. (So this might apply the “Use the Crowd” technique mentioned above.)
- (Low-cost) Webinar series. The advantage of using webinars is that you can run it the first time using a just-in-time method, i.e. you don’t have to create all the content before you start taking payment. This gets people engaged, gets their contact details, and highlights the problem. Then it would take the viewers through what they need to do to sell their skills as information products. Note we’re not necessarily showing them exactly how to do it. That’s an important distinction. What content can be useful to someone with enough motivation and time to figure out the details. But some of the people who view that will want more help, so they’ll qualify themselves for the next level.
- (Medium-cost) Coached program. This is for people with maybe less time and more money (or more desire/motivation). The webinar series will end with an up-sell to a new (also just-in-time “JIT”) coaching program. Some attendees will want to join this, and really it shouldn’t take too much time, using Google Hangouts or webinars. Again, using JIT, the material can be crafted as you go along.
- Hand-picked Partner Program. Finally, the RfE guys can hand-pick the most promising (and most motivated) candidates directly from their coached program. The stack can then be seen as a way of filtering the best prospects, not only on raw potential and willingness to pay, but also on factors like commitment and strength of will. The ones who really want to commit and to go the distance will naturally rise through the stack.