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Whether you think the adulation many people lavish upon gurus and celebrities is justified is, frankly, irrelevant. That gurus and celebrities are looked up to is simply the reality of life, and this is a book about dealing with reality and being successful in the world as it is, not as you or others wish it would be. Recognizing that the business world is guru-driven and that guru status can be yours if you work at it is the first step to becoming recognized as a leading expert in your field.
"See yourself as a brand and learn techniques to distinguish yourself from others," writes Roz Usheroff in Speakers Gold (April 2000, p. 1). "Developing brand distinction builds your reputation and opens the door to future promotions, opportunities, and options."
A mini-guru is one of several recognized leading experts in a particular field, not necessarily the leading expert. And the mini-guru operates in a niche that is smaller in size and narrower in scope than the full-scale guru's arena.
My colleague Travis McFee is a mini-guru in the field of practice-building for dentists. Why do I put Travis, who knows an incredible amount about his subject, in the mini category? Two reasons. First, he is not alone; there are a number of speakers, authors, and consultants who teach dentists how to build lucrative practices. In fact, there is a speaker's bureau that handles only dental speakers! Second, interest in dental marketing is limited to about 100,000 dentists in the United States, compared with Peter Drucker's management advice being of interest to virtually every white-collar worker in America.
I definitely fall into the category of mini-guru probably very mini but that is good enough for me. My specialty, as I've mentioned, is direct mail copywriting. There are hundreds of direct mail copywriters and consultants, but by applying the method outlined shortly in this chapter, I was able to break out somewhat and position myself in the top tier.
Does this mean I am smarter or better than the hundreds who are relatively unknown or at least not as widely known as I am? No. It does mean I have a consistent flow of prospects ready and eager to hire me for work I want to do, at the full fees I want to charge without me having to prospect, market, cold call, sell, negotiate, network, or do many of the other things my competitors do to keep the work flow steady.
Does being a mini-guru, even at what is admittedly a very modest level, make a big difference in my life? Absolutely. A survey from Creative Business, an industry publication, indicates that the average freelance copywriter grosses around $50,000 a year. I make that much about every six to seven weeks. I am not super-rich, but I have become a self-made multi-millionaire in a field freelance writing where most practitioners struggle to get by.
I spend my time doing what I love writing and not schmoozing clients, going to meetings, or networking. We have a materially comfortable, financially secure, pleasant life, all made possible by the fact that I have achieved the status of a mini-guru in a specific niche market. That's what I wanted, although I didn't realize it when I started. If it's what you want too, the good news is that it is within your grasp and achievable sooner than you might think.
Do I dismiss all gurus? Not at all. The ones I like and there are quite a few I really like. I buy their books, eagerly mooch free content off their Web sites, subscribe to their e-zines and newsletters, attend their seminars, even hire some of them to consult with me on my business. It's just that, all else being equal, a guru has to quickly prove to me that there is substance behind the style, that he's not just smoke and mirrors. I prefer solid, authentic experts to the trendy and overblown any day of the week.
Having established that, how did I reconcile my inherent distrust of gurus with my own desire to become a mini-guru in my narrow niche field of direct mail copywriting? Below is the attitude I have. As you read this list, can you share this attitude? Do you feel comfortable thinking and saying these thoughts? If you do, you will be well-positioned to pursue your own attainment or guru status in an unconflicted manner.
1. I don't think the current societal obsession with gurus is right or wrong, good or bad. I just accept it as a fact.
2. I am a realist. I live in the world as it is. I might in my heart of hearts wish to change the world, but I don't think that is realistically going to happen. The best I can do is work within the system and create a successful life for me, my family, and my clients within those confines.
3. The system is difficult and a struggle if you are one of the pack, although a quality service provider or merchant with a sincere desire to help customers can succeed very nicely. The system readily gives wealth and success to those who are considered gurus by their customers and prospects.
4. Although I am not the smartest person in my field, the most educated, the most successful, or even the most talented, I'm at least as good as most people who are considered gurus in my field, and probably better than many. They are gurus not because of talent or achievement, but because they have done things to position themselves as gurus. I would like to get in on this action.
5. There is no mystery to what I have to do to position myself as a guru. It involves a simple list of tasks, shown in the following Action Plan. Most of the tasks are not that difficult, and even the most challenging are easily within my abilities and resources to complete. If I do what it takes to become a guru, I will become a guru, at least to some degree that is an improvement over my current position.
6. When I begin to attain guru status, rewards and kudos will come my way. I will not agonize over the fairness of this fact or question it unduly. I will accept the success, money, fame, and praise; after all, I deserve it as much as anyone else. Someone is going to be the guru in my field. It might as well be me.
Some gurus are merely hype all self-promotion, with no substance to back it up. They deliver little or no value. They either know this, or else they are so self-deluded by their own PR that they can no longer see it clearly. I dislike these phonies, so I refuse to be one even if it would make me much richer than I am.
That's my choice. You might be thinking, "Hey, if I can make up the next management theory trend and make $50,000 a speech even if it's totally B.S., that's what I want to do." Fine. Do it and go in peace. Other gurus the kind I like and emulate are the real thing. Yes, they've positioned themselves as gurus. But they have the knowledge, experience, and credentials to back it up. They may be selling sizzle, but they're cooking good steak.
Don Libey direct marketer, futurist, catalog expert, and valued friend is a good example. Don, though a brilliant author and successful speaker, is not in the top celebrity tier of futurists. His books are from a small press, not the major New York publishers. He does not have the fame of the big-name futurists, such as John Naisbitt or Faith Popcorn.
Don focuses on the niche market of the direct response industry, and specifically within that, on catalog marketing. And there his knowledge is unequaled. He has a long history as a successful catalog marketer, consultant, and investment banker specializing in catalog acquisitions. He even wrote an entire book on square-inch analysis, which is a method of determining the profitability of each item in a catalog.
If I owned a catalog company and wanted guidance on the future of my business, Don is the only person I would call; I wouldn't even think of giving Faith Popcorn a ring, as good as she may be as a general futurist. Don owns the catalog niche and no one can take it away from him. Confucius said, "The superior man understands what is right. The inferior man understands what will sell." My position as a guru is to do both well. Do what is right master your niche and offer unique value your competitors cannot. But also do what will sell take the steps, outlined below, to secure your position as a guru in your domain.
As the following plan outlines in detail, the basic method of becoming a guru is to research and gain through experience, organize, and disseminate information on your topic frequently and in a variety of formats to your target market.
To distill this to its simplest level: If you want to position yourself as a marketing consultant to audio retailers, write how-to marketing articles for their trade publication, as Roger Parker did (recall his story from Chapter 1, "What Is a Guru?"). But that's just phase one. To truly establish yourself as a guru and set yourself ahead of the pack, you have to conduct an ongoing program of self-promotion in which information dissemination is the primary vehicle.
You can and should do a lot of other things to market and promote yourself, of course for instance, running ads, networking, making cold calls, or sending out direct mail. But, while these generate leads, they don't do much to build your reputation. That goal is reached through the program outlined below....
* CIO, June 1, 2001, p. 32
1. What Is a Guru?
Defining “Guru”. Do People Like or Hate Gurus? Are Gurus B.S. Artists? Benefits of Becoming a Guru. Who Qualifies for Guruship? Case Study: Roger Parker Reinvents Himself as a Guru. Why Our Society Is Enamored of Gurus.
2. How to Join the Guru Elite.
Philosophy. Guru vs. Mini-Guru. Attitude. Ethics. Methodology. Knowledge Base. Market Niche. The Invented Term Strategy vs. the Fit-a-Category Strategy. Action Plan. The Four Phases of Guru Development. The Rule of Seven. Case Study: Jeff Davidson. To Sum It All Up.
The Secret of the Trade Journal Trade. What Magazine Should You Write For? The Type of Article You Should Write. Get to Know the Publication. Making the Initial Contact. Exclusivity. Length and Deadline. Writing Articles for the Web.
Why Every Guru or Would-Be Guru Should Write a Book. Which Publishing Option Is Best for the Wanna-Be Guru? Selling Your Book Idea to a Major Publishing House. Agents and Publishers. Writing Your Book. Self-Publishing. E-Books.
5. Information Products.
What Are “Information Products”? Reasons Why Gurus Should Produce Information Products. Tips for Producing Specific Types of Information Products. How to Design a Catalog Featuring Your Information Products. How to Sell Your Products Profitably to Clients and Prospects. How to Use Direct Marketing to Boost Your Product Sales. Using Small Ads to Sell Information Products.
6. Newsletters and E-Zines.
The Company Newsletter. Size and Frequency. Building Your Subscriber List. Promoting the Newsletter. Designing Your Company Newsletter. Charging a Fee for Your Newsletter. Writing Your Newsletter. What Will It Cost? Paid Subscription Newsletters. E-Zines.
Why Gurus Give Speeches. Finding Speaking Opportunities. Be Selective When Accepting Speaking Invitations. Negotiating Your “Promotional Deal”. Planning an Effective Presentation. The Three Parts of a Speech. Ending Your Talk. Length and Timing. Handouts. Getting People to Take Your Handout Home with Them. The PowerPoint Question.
Why Every Guru and Would-Be Guru Should Consider Giving Seminars. Will Seminars Work for You? Setting the Seminar Fee. Fees and Scheduling. Choosing a Seminar Title. Obtaining the Mailing List. Controlling Costs. Self-Promotion at the Seminar.
9. Public Relations.
How PR Works. Develop a Hook. Letters to the Editors. Press Releases. Pitch Letters. Syndicated Columns. Radio Talk Shows. TV Appearances.
10. The Internet.
Do You Need a Web Site? What's in a (Domain) Name? Guru-Focused vs. Topic-Focused Web Sites. Building Your E-List. E-Mail Promotion to Your Web Site Visitors. Publishing on Your Web Site: The E-Zine. Publishing on Your Web Site: Articles. Publishing on Your Web Site: Reports and E-Books. Your Online Bookstore. You Ought to Be in Pictures (and Audios and Videos). Online Polls and Surveys. Building a Community of Interest on Your Site. Third-Party Endorsement Postings. Networking Online (and Offline, Too). Search Engines.
11. Profiting from Your Guru Status.
Referrals. Repeat Orders. Resales. Investing Your Guru Income. How to Calculate Your Earning Potential. Financial Planning for Self-Employed Professionals. Be a Saver, Not a Spender. Invest for Return. Be Frugal. Time vs. Money. Retirement Plans and Other Retirement Investments for Self-Employed Professionals. Tax Deductions. Health Insurance Is the Number-One Financial Problem of Self-Employment. Life Insurance—How Much Do You Need? What Type Is Best? Disability Insurance.
Appendix A. Bibliography.
Appendix B. Recommended Vendors.
Appendix C. Sample Documents.
Posted January 3, 2002
Mr. Bly argues that gurus (¿recognized authorities in their fields¿) have an easier time of it. People seek them out, so they don¿t have to spend much time marketing their services. Because there is so much demand for their services, they can charge more and be selective about their clients. Extra money comes in from selling intellectual property products (books, videos, and so forth). Sound good? Most people would answer yes. Mr. Bly feels that gurus are all made ¿through self-promotion and publicity.¿ The book then goes on to describe the ten areas that are most productive for this image and awareness building (articles, books, information products, newsletters or e-zines, speeches, seminars, public relations, the Internet, sustaining the flow of attention, and maintaining the status that has been achieved). Your target is to make 7 positive impressions with your target audience every 18 months. I thought that the advice was pretty good, based on having done all of these things at one time or another. The best part was that Mr. Bly emphasizes how to do these things at the lowest possible cost, with the least effort, and most quickly. He correctly points out that what is needed is to describe your field of expertise in a ¿clear, understandable, and useful manner¿ which need not have any innovative point to it. If you do not have any expertise now, he tells you how to quickly acquire some that could be profitable to you. There is a solid section on how to choose the area for gaining your expertise. If you are like me, you will be helped by seeing the list of gurus and fields. Think of sex as a subject and Dr. Ruth pops into most minds. One of the great discussions is that as many people dislike gurus as like them, and many people are neutral. But that should not matter to the guru. So what? As long as lots of people are interested. Can¿t become a big guru? Well, there¿s lots of room for mini gurus (people who are specialists on subjects that overlay onto a subset of limited areas, such as writing advertising copy for Internet entrepreneurs who use direct mail). My main complaint about the book is that it is unrealistic concerning how long it takes to establish one of these programs. I don¿t think anyone has ever done it in 60 days or less, unless they had already spent decades developing the knowledge foundation first. My secondary complaint is that picking a subject area is too focused on who wants to buy for how much, and not enough on what is entailed for you. Do you really want to do all of these things? How would your life be harmed if you did? Tellingly, many of the examples are based on people having been fired unexpectedly, who felt the need to vindicate their self-worth. Finally, I would have liked more examples from different people who have done this quickly and profitably. I think it¿s harder than this books suggests. May you attain celebrity and notoriety commensurate with your contribution to humanity! Donald Mitchell, co-author of The 2,000 Percent Solution and The Irresistible Growth EnterpriseWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.