A marketing consultant shares his accumulated wisdom about developing and selling expertise.
Baker (Managing (Right) for the First Time, 2010, etc.) targets an audience inhabiting the “narrow overlap between entrepreneurship and expertise,” that is, individuals and firms providing insight and advice to others for pay. He opens with three “foundational” chapters that summarize how expertise flows from focus, how greater proficiency makes a consultant less interchangeable with others, and how precise positioning can achieve a “price premium.” Sixteen short but information-packed chapters follow, fleshing out these themes in detail. Baker explores many issues that confront advisers, from self-confidence and work fulfillment to managing client relationships and maintaining relevance over the long term. Each chapter advances his argument that proper positioning is the key to success. He draws relevant illustrations from his decades of experience and offers pointed questions and concrete metrics that readers can use to assess their situations. Throughout, he urges consultants to make “courageous” decisions to narrow and deepen their knowledge rather than holding themselves out as capable of tackling any assignment. He emphasizes the power of saying “no” and recommends keeping a “getting to ‘know’ ” list of subject matter gaps to research and master. Baker’s writing reflects the approach he counsels. His tone is confident and authoritative yet tempered with self-deprecating humor. He projects an insouciant command of numerous topics without sounding like a know-it-all. His deep thinking on the subject manifests in clear, succinct prose and measured wit that make the reading easy and enjoyable (“Charge your batteries so that you can do the hard work…and put a hard hat on because some of this work is painful”). Chapters move briskly, and he is particularly nimble with transitions that orient the reader and enhance orderly flow. Despite the book’s focus on consulting agencies, other professionals who provide expertise or whose livelihoods rely on it—physicians, scientists, writers, etc.—should find relevant and useful ideas. Since Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung appeared in 1964, numerous authors and designers have emulated its color and small format in hopes of becoming “the little red book” in their categories. This compact, illustrated volume makes a strong bid to become the standard-bearer on selling expertise.
A must-read for entrepreneurial experts that also will have a broad appeal for other professionals.