Alan Weiss: Creating a Personal Brand

At Hinge we have been studying Visible Experts℠, people who have attained high visibility and expertise in their industry, creating a personal brand that is recognizable industry-wide. We study them because we want to understand how they attained that status and what we can learn from them. This profile focuses on Alan Weiss, the quintessential Visible Expert for the consulting industry.

In 1986, Alan Weiss set up shop as a solo consultant focusing on organizational development. Four years later, he had grown his practice into a million dollar business with a client list of Fortune 1000 companies, including Merck, Hewlett-Packard, GE, Mercedes-Benz, and The New York Times Corporation. Today, Weiss is a recognized authority, earning $3 million a year as an author, a public speaker, and a consultant to consultants, helping others become successful solo practitioners. We caught up with Alan Weiss to learn more about how he became a Visible Expert.

Give Away Your Intellectual Property

According to Weiss, a key factor to becoming a Visible Expert is spreading your message. Consultants are often reluctant to give anything away for free, but Weiss discovered that giving away intellectual property was key to creating a personal brand. According to Weiss, “you have to spread your message to establish credibility. Try to appear in as many channels as you can; it’s great publicity.”

Weiss believes that giving away free information expands your reputation and visibility, making your paid services more valuable. He says, “Someone will read your book and then they will want to pay more to talk to the real person.” Those who have been following Hinge’s research into high growth companies will recognize the similarity in Weiss’s approach to our own findings on the benefits of content marketing.

Use Multiple Channels

As a consultant, Alan Weiss began writing books as a way of establishing his credibility and building his visibility. In 1992, after Weiss had been rejected by 16 publishers, McGraw-Hill agreed to publish his third book, Million Dollar Consulting. The book was an instant success, accelerating Weiss’s emergence as a Visible Expert.

In addition to writing books, Weiss recommends using a variety of channels to spread your knowledge. “You never know what will appeal to different people,” Weiss says, “so spread it out. Try using video, blogs, real books, white papers, and webinars.” Although Weiss believes strongly in giving away knowledge as a way to expand his reputation and visibility, he points out that some of his intellectual property has strings attached. “Not all of my stuff is free,” he says. “For some of it, you have to register your email, and I run a monthly teleconference in which you have to pay to participate.” By using multiple channels and having multiple levels of engagement, Weiss has created a system of self-selective lead generation where highly interested clients seek out the Visible Expert, rather than the other way around. 

Choose Your Target Audience

When Weiss started his own consulting firm, he focused on Fortune 1000 companies and governmental organizations. But as he became more of a Visible Expert, his target audience shifted. He has deliberately moved away from consulting work for big firms, choosing a new target audience of the “retail consumer,” other consultants who want to emulate his model. Weiss has found that carefully choosing his target audience and focusing his message on topics related to that audience allows him to concentrate his efforts and maximize his results. If you want to be a Visible Expert, it’s easier to be a big fish in a small pond, so choose your pond carefully.

Remember to Think “Big Picture”

To become a Visible Expert, it helps to think “big picture” about your value and your career goals, rather than getting caught up in the details of any particular job or project. Weiss’s ability to think big picture about his offerings helped him focus less on deliverables and more on expanding his message. When Weiss started solo consulting, one of his first moves was to abolish the typical system of billable hours in favor of value-based fees.

He also noticed that many consultants wrongly focused on tangible deliverables—reports, presentations, and meetings—rather than actual results, which were often less tangible. “To set your value,” Weiss says, “ask yourself: What are the tangible outcomes I’m producing? What are the intangible values I’m providing? What are the peripherals?” Identifying their real value helps Visible Experts focus on what’s important, communicate ROI to the client, and become masters of their own time.

Know Thyself, Believe in Thyself

Becoming a Visible Expert should be a deliberate decision, and Alan Weiss attributes part of his success to having the self-confidence to succeed. “The biggest obstacle is poor self-esteem,” he says. “It’s a chronic problem.” Weiss recommends undergoing a self-evaluation that will be the backbone of your Visible Expert strategy. If you take the time to figure out your worth and what makes your value proposition different, you will have the confidence to deliver that message to clients and prospective clients. “At the end of the day,” Weiss says, “you need to believe: the client chose me because I’m the best at what I do.”

Learn more about becoming a Visible Expert in your industry niche by downloading our complimentary book, The Visible Expert.