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Chronicles from a Caribbean Cubicle

5/15/2006

The Dual Income Profession

In 1991 I was exposed to a fact that I have never forgotten.

In a training course that I have long forgotten, I learned that the profession I was about to enter full-time (I was an AT&T employee back then) had a bi-modal distribution of incomes.

What it simply meant was that consultants fell into two distinct groups -- one group that earned a lot (median US$75k at the time) and another that earned much less (median $US45k.) The study went on to describe the difference in marketing techniques between the two groups.

Given that this was a time before the internet truly existed as we know it, the marketing techniques did not include an on-line component. However, the difference basically came down to consultants that used content-based approaches that reached a mass audience, and those that did not.

"Content-based approaches?"

Basically, it was saying that the more successful group relied on speeches, public seminars and other relatively high-risk, high-reward approaches to get the messages in which they believed, into the listening ears of large groups. They also wrote books, articles and other pieces for publication, once again for mass consumption.

The less successful group, from the research, relied on cold calls, free workshops, letters and paid advertisement to try to reach a relatively small number of prospects with little more than a shout of "here I am!" These were all very low risk techniques.

It is not too hard to extrapolate these findings to the world we live in 15 years later. Now, there are just more tools to use, most of them involving new technology.

However, the basics are the same -- the market rewards those in the profession who develop a unique point of view, and then are willing to develop the speaking and writing skills to get their point of view in front of audiences in high-risk, high reward ways.

Nowadays, we have more avenues available to us through internet technology.
  • A book can be self-published for US$2000.
  • A website can be launched for free.
  • A blog can be created and updated for free.
  • Digital videography and pictures can be created for US$200 or less.
  • Newsgroups can be created to address any subject matter of interest.
  • Voice recordings can be made available to the world at the flick of a few buttons.
A consultant said to me a few weeks ago that he basically "did not believe in the internet" and thought that clients had no interest in viewing web pages. I didn't have the heart to tell him that I have not had a paper brochure for more than eight years or so, and do not plan to ever have one again, and that no-one had ever had a problem visiting my site to download over 30 articles or 40 blogs with content that spoke to them in ways that a brochure could not.

The truth is, it is not the website that makes the difference, but just as it was in 1991 -- what separates the higher earners from the others is courage. In 1991 and also in 2006 it is the high-risk, long-term payoff activities that have the best return. Some examples include:
  • Speaking in front of large groups and risking rejection.
  • Writing and risking never seeing it published.
  • Putting ideas out in public, risking that others will take them and make better use of them.
  • Investing in a website and risking it being ignored.
I have taken the cowardly route in all of these at different times, and have to work hard to keep on taking risks. And then I come back to that old article, and looking at that bimodal distribution gives me faith that it all might work out one day if I continually give up any fear of looking foolish!

P.S. I recommend the book "Creating a Unique Brand in the Consulting Profession" by Allan Weiss as the best and only book of its kind that I have ever read, and even though it was written a mere five years ago, it is already stale (no mention of blogging, which was in its infancy).

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2 Comments:

  • Consultants can also publish E-Books for free. I can relate to the struggle between comfortable safety and the more risky niching that your post reflects. I think however that the Caribbean will become a graveyard for "commodity consultants," as there will be price wars that push the issue of quality work onto the back burner.

    By Blogger galba bright, at 5/17/2006  

  • Galba, I could not agree more.

    I am reading an excellent ebook on the topic published by someone called the Info Guru: http://www.clientmagnet.com/infoguru/

    The material is top notch, and has almost convinced me to get back into the newsletter business.

    By Blogger fwade, at 6/13/2006  

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