If You’re in the Advice Business

A factory worker goes to a psychic and pays $25 (or $2.99 a minute by phone). A corporate CEO calls in a Faith Popcorn, Harry Dent, or highfalutin consulting firm and pays $25,000 or $250,000. Both of them are paying for predictions about the future. Everybody wants advice.

The reasons are both rational and irrational, defensible and unexplainable, and – even at opposite ends of any demographic continuum – quite similar. There are “consultants” in an endless variety of categories, far beyond the obvious advertising, marketing, sales, management, and finance.

There are jury consultants, racehorse-buying consultants, restaurant-decorating consultants, foreign-bride-finding consultants. There’s a woman in Hollywood who’s paid large sums by celebrities to empty out their refrigerators and cupboards and tell them what to eat. There’s a consultant who gets $50,000 fees to advise executives forced into early retirement on coping skills and what to do next.

If you know or (frankly) appear to know much of anything about something, you can package yourself as a consultant and get money from somebody. You need not have or wait for any other authority to anoint, appoint, or certify you. In fact, today, this is perhaps the fastest and easiest way to enter the highly lucrative world of Information Marketing.

I’ve been in the advice business for more than 30 years. At present, I get $8,600 to $9,200 to sit with someone privately for seven hours and “consult.” When marital counselors, psychologists, lawyers, or doctors hear of this, they feel underpaid. When they see my project fees, typically $30,000 to $100,000 and more, they faint.

They want to know how such an hourly rate is possible – and the answer is surprisingly simple. It has three basic parts: a market, a platform to reach that market, and the “guts” to ask for the money. A fourth part is expertise – as I alluded to above.

What is “consulting,” anyway?

A consultant can be (like me) parked there, listening, asking pointed and provocative questions, forcing people to question and defend their assumptions, seeing what they don’t see because of close familiarity (the “scotoma” effect), and ultimately dispensing advice.

Diagnosis, prescription. Consulting can include research and investigation. It can include providing “work product,” such as manuals, materials, procedures, scripts, or (as in my case) advertising. It can be billed by the hour, day, project, or relationship.

To consult, you need a client.

Clients come out of markets. Mine are mostly entrepreneurs. They come from diverse industries, but have the ability to use (and an interest in using) direct-response advertising and direct marketing as their common ground.

In recent years, I’ve narrowed my market area, so 80% of my clients come from only a handful of different fields. This eliminates the learning curve for me. A market might be an industry or profession, like dentistry or automobile manufacturing. It might be a broader type of business, but with one type of person throughout.

For example, I have a client with a consulting practice that spans all types of manufacturers but deals only with “real-time manufacturing and inventory control.” So all of his clients are plant managers. A market might be even broader, but tied to a very, very specific deliverable. Another client of mine consults only with top executives of large corporations involved in stockholder lawsuits and proxy fights. His market is comprised of all publicly held corporations. (There is, incidentally, a consultant who advises corporate honchos sentenced to prison. It seems his market is growing.)

To get clients, you need a platform.

While not impossible, it is extremely difficult and generally unpleasant to seek out, advertise for, or “prospect” for clients. You want clients to seek you out – or at least feel like they are seeking you out, and not being solicited or pursued.

The way to do that is with a platform in which you attempt to say certain things that are “magnetic” to the type of client you want to attract. Good platforms are:

  • books you write, get published, and promote like the dickens
  • speeches to the right audiences
  • guest spots on teleseminars
  • articles (like this one)
  • your own seminars
  • media interviews

To get, keep, satisfy, and get results with clients, you need “guts.”

Clients want and respond well only to certainty, not ambiguity. To strength, not weakness. Over 85% of all the clients who’ve ever used my services once have done so repeatedly or remained with me continuously, at least for many years. Some have grown exponentially during the tenure.

I keep clients in part because I “deliver the goods” – and in larger part because I position myself firmly and unwaveringly as a stern authority figure and supremely confident advisor. My posture is at least as important as my deliverables.

Specific to this, I suggest reading the following:

Robert Ringer’s original book Winning Through Intimidation? or its updated edition.

The section on “Takeaway Selling” in my book No B.S. Sales Success and my No B.S. Time Management book.

After that, if you want something advanced, get a book titled Thick Face, Black Heart.

One of the least-understood things about consulting is how to maintain long-term relationships with clients and keep them coming back for more. To do that, you simply must be interesting. That means, in part, being very well-read, so you are continuously bringing them new, different, interesting information, anecdotes, or examples. You strengthen your importance to your clientele by being a clearinghouse for and conduit of information. That requires you to take it in, in great quantity, process the bulk, and spit out a synthesized, concise, easily digestible end product.

One other thing about the advice business: It’s useful to be right a good percentage of the time.

“In every society some men are born to rule, and some to advise.”– Ralph Waldo Emerson

[Ed. Note: Dan Kennedy has enjoyed great success as a professional speaker, consultant, information marketer, and published author.

Dan has been called the “Professor of Harsh Reality,” because he’s provocative, irreverent, sarcastic, and tells it like it is in a disarmingly humorous way. His faithful followers also refer to him as the “Millionaire-Maker.” He moves with remarkable ease from one field to another, working with clients in dozens of different businesses, industries, and professions, and helping them earn as much as $400,000 in a single month.]

If you’re interested in starting your own consulting business, you may be interested in the American Consultants League Program. Often called the consultants bible, How To Guarantee Your Consulting Success gives you everything you need to know to earn $250,000 a year or more as an independent consultant.