A few days ago I became aware of someone offering a program very similar to one I recently launched.
Their sales page included some of the same copy and stock photos I had used to promote my program. The program outline was very similar and the language used to describe the program was the same language I use.
In looking further I discovered this program appears to be outside this person’s core expertise (based on reading about their experience and looking at their websites and their other services). Needless to say it didn’t sit well with me.
I suppose it could be a coincidence. After all, there is the notion there are no new ideas. Although the consensus when I posted the question “Copy or Coincidence?” on Facebook was overwhelming: Copy!
And, I have been copied before (a few years ago a program and sales page of mine were copied almost verbatim), so while I want to give people the benefit of the doubt, this latest experience prompted me to step back and consider what may be going on.
Tough times often bring out the worst in people.
Good people in bad situations may not always make the best decisions. The economy has been tough on a lot of people in the past few years, and many are reaching to find a way to support themselves. Or, to sustain a business they started that may have fallen off. They may be looking for the magic formula or product or service to resurrect their business. Perhaps they see someone else doing something and it looks promising, so they decide to “model” it, but they model a little too closely because it’s outside their primary area of expertise, and they end up copying.
While I feel for anyone who is struggling in business, THIS is not the way out of struggle and into success.
Following blanket advice.
Something else that may be contributing to this…over the past few years there’s been some fairly common advice given out by mentors and coaches that to be an expert you just have to proclaim yourself one. As long as you know just a little bit more than the people you’re advising, you’re fine; you don’t have to know everything.
While I agree with the last part, because it’s impossible for anyone to know everything (and as long as you admit what you don’t know that’s fair), I think this blanket advice can be dangerous. It has the potential to give license to unqualified people, and have them thinking it’s okay to portray themselves as an expert, even when they’re not.
In fact, one person even posted on my Facebook page that there was a mentor in a particular industry who was teaching his clients to claim expertise they clearly didn’t have. While for the most part I want to believe this kind of outright lack of integrity is not the norm, even the most well-intentioned advice given a little bit too carelessly can lead to problems.
Combining this blanket advice that ANYONE can be an expert, along with the idea that ANYONE can start a business as a coach or mentor (again, something I don’t believe is true – business is not for everyone…some folks just don’t have what it takes, nothing against them, there ARE other ways to express yourself, fulfill your purpose and live your passion besides a business – but that’s another blog post!), has in my humble opinion created a problem in the personal development industry. There are too many people selling services outside their true area of expertise.
That may sound harsh, but I believe it needs to be said.
I believe it’s time to clean house. It’s time for a shakeout in the industry. Just as the bubble burst in the real estate industry after everyone and anyone was led to believe they could make a mint as a real estate investor, and speculation over-inflated the market to a point that was not sustainable, I believe we’ve come to the same place in the personal development industry.
Too many Experts, Systems, and Blueprints without substance.
When the economy is strong, and people are spending money easily, it’s easy for an industry to get inflated. It’s easy for anyone to think, “hey I can jump in and make money doing this!” And when they’re being encouraged to do exactly that by mentors who are making a small fortune training people to “do what they’ve done” it can get out of control.
And I believe that’s where we are. A personal development industry bloated with too many “experts” who are not, information products without substance, and systems and blueprints based on unproven processes. Because it’s been so easy to proclaim yourself an expert, and whip out an info product based on a system you’ve done once, and sell it to people hungry for shortcuts to success.
Time for the Bubble to Burst.
There are many qualified experts in the industry who are doing a great job, and we need these people to help us grow and learn. Unfortunately, I also believe there are many people who are not qualified to be selling the advice they’re selling. I spoke to a woman one day on a free consultation (she was seeking help for her struggling business), who on the web and social media looked to be VERY successful. Her platform and business were about teaching people how to be happy and successful, and to my surprise her business was anything but successful. She was barely making a few hundred dollars a month and was struggling to get clients and get her business off the ground. I felt for her. She needed help. She had the potential to be successful. But frankly, she had no right offering to teach others how to be successful when she couldn’t even do it for herself. And there are others like her out there.
What’s the cliche? Those who can’t do, teach?
Well, maybe that’s what this is about. If you can’t make a living doing it, maybe you can make a living teaching others how to do it. But I ask, if you can’t do it yourself, how does that qualify you to teach others how? You may have studied something or taken a how-to course, or created a “system” but if you haven’t proven that your system or what you’ve learned works consistently and repeatedly, you have no business teaching it.
Claim your expertise carefully.
Now before you think I’m poo-pooing the entire personal development industry and all experts, I’m not. However, I think we all need to claim our expertise very carefully. While I view myself as an expert in marketing and branding (I have 20+ years of experience in both), I would never proclaim to be an expert in social media or even Internet Marketing. Do I know a few things about both? Yes. But I’m not an expert and I’ll be the first to tell you that. However, I don’t have to be an expert in those things to help people design and market a successful and fulfilling business. I just have to claim my little piece of business real estate and OWN that.
If we all did this, what a difference it would make.
It certainly takes the pressure off. You don’t have to be good at everything. It’s also the best way to carve out your niche and build your brand around something specific and meaningful.
I encourage you to look at your unique collection of life and professional experience, training, education, gifts and talents. What does all of it uniquely qualify you to do? What do you have a solid track record in? What can you promise and deliver on? If you are true to yourself, there is something. And the great thing is, when you claim THAT, it’s much more powerful than trying to be like someone else.
This uniqueness is what you should be packaging, branding, and putting out into the world.
It’s not about copying what someone else is doing. It’s not about going to one course and deciding to make that your area of expertise. It’s not about letting a coach or mentor talk you into building your business around something just because it worked for them (if it doesn’t “fit” you it won’t work for you!)
It’s about honestly owning YOUR expertise.
Because it’s unregulated, it’s up to us as the buyers of expertise, coaching, training and mentoring to investigate those we’re looking to for advice and make sure they’re actually qualified to help us.
I’ve done a lot of things in my life, admittedly some quite successfully. I think I’ve raised two pretty good kids. I’ve completed several marathons. But I would NEVER pretend to be an expert in those areas just because I’ve done it myself. I don’t have training or education or experience helping others be successful in those endeavors.
My business is based on what I studied in college, what I had a successful 13-year corporate career doing, and what I have done successfully on my own for another 13 years. I also have invested consistently in continuing my education to stay current, and I have lots of practical experience doing what I do, over and over and over again, in my business and for many clients. I would never even think of trying to build a business around anything less.
Yes, I had to start somewhere. But even when I first started my own business, it was in an area I had expertise in and had practiced in the real world for 13 years prior.
What to do if you’re starting a new career?
Build it based around your expertise, your life experience, and what you can truly serve people with. Make sure you’re practicing what you preach. Walk the walk. Start small, or in an area you know you know. After your expertise and experience expands, expand your business. But only AFTER.
Two ways we can weed out the Faux Experts.
First, by only claiming expertise we really deserve to claim and building our own business, products, and services around that.
Second, by making sure the people we’re thinking of buying from, or the people we’re considering hiring as a mentor or coach are truly qualified.
By doing a little due diligence and making sure they have the qualifications, the education, and the experience to do what they’re doing. And, by making sure they’re walking the walk, and not just talking about it.
That means if they’re a social media expert, they better be using all the latest and greatest social media tools in their own business, or at least be knowledgeable about them. If they’re a branding expert, they better have a great brand themselves and have proven experience creating brands for other businesses or professionals. If they’re a wellness coach, they better have the appropriate education and/or some type of credential or certification, and be living a healthy lifestyle.
NO, they don’t have to be perfect, and neither do we. But there needs to be substance behind the proclaimed expertise.
Find your true expertise.
If you want to serve others through coaching, consulting, mentoring or training, your first step is identifying your true expertise. Then, it’s about owning it, branding it, and building your business around it. It’s easy to look at other people and want to be like them. To think that if I just follow in their footsteps I can have the success they’re having. Or to glom onto the latest trend and think we can make a quick buck by following that trend. But that’s not the way to build a solid, sustainable business. Or to create a reputable industry.
That’s my opinion. What’s yours?
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