As business or management consultants, many of us have something unique to offer to potential clients, and most of us deliver significant value as part of what we do. Outside of this mainstream cohort, there are others – sometimes referred to as Gurus – that offer solutions to individuals and businesses in what has become a more complex market for knowledge and professional services. This is not to say that we as consultants can be arrogant about what we offer and denigrate what is offered by Gurus. There is a place for most professionals in this space but the lines are becoming blurred as to who should offer what.

Rather than dismiss Gurus out of hand, I have made it my business to engage with many of them over a number of years, I have sampled what they have to offer first hand. Some of them have consulting backgrounds and others have barely graduated from high school. But again, I cannot be judgmental about their histories and academic credentials. To me, it is all about the value that is delivered. Some I admire greatly and attend their events and consume their programs, and there are others running events, which I would not attend for free.

So what is the common factor that we see with all of the Gurus? Yes, you’ve got it in one – they are all selling something. And in many cases, they are selling each other’s stuff. Collaboration works way better than competition and many Gurus make as much money selling for affiliate partners, as they do selling their own stuff. This is a vibrant community of people that have been able to leverage the Internet to create market reach and develop substantial incomes. This is all perfectly fine so far.

Where I begin to question the authenticity of what some of the Gurus have to offer is where I see them selling the premise that the systems they used to make themselves into multi-millionaires can also work for the average person. To be fair, they are usually smart enough not to breach FTC regulations and make outright and outrageous claims that anyone can get the same results as they do. Instead, they claim that the rewards that they enjoy are not typical and that the average person cannot expect to achieve similar results. They have met their legal obligations.

But it does not stop there. Many imply that anyone can take their systems and generate significant incomes from replication of their business models. This leads to a situation where the Gurus now make most of their money from teaching their frameworks and business models to people who are anxious to save years of work in building up their own successful frameworks. The issue, as I see it, is that the framework developers fail to properly address the reality compared to the promise.

Unfortunately, most systems and frameworks do not work in isolation of the market. The Gurus make their millions not from their clever systems and frameworks but from developing market access for their products. Over time, they have built up significant lists of followers to whom they are able to sell, upsell, down sell and entertain with free content, which makes their paid offerings impossible to resist. Tens of thousands of people go through their programs each year in the vain hope that they can replicate the success of the Gurus. A small percentage may make it and these undoubtedly have market access already or they are in a position to leverage affiliate relationships that will deliver for them.

The problem lies in the fact that the average punter attending these expensive seminars does not have the market access of the Gurus and most punters never will. This magic ingredient of market access is normally the difference between success and failure and John Doe does not typically have this access.

The picture is often painted that anyone can create valuable content and publish it online and the masses will come. Wrong. Nobody will come unless your content and message can be amplified. And you know what? It can be really expensive and somewhat hit-and-miss to do this effectively, if you are not an expert in this space. Free organic traffic, in my opinion, is a thing of the past as the large online players accelerate the monetization of their platforms, and those with big SEO budgets continuously jockey for position. The small guy is finding it increasingly difficult to feature prominently in organic search and he cannot compete with the big guys for paid search.

To be fair, a lot of the people that attend seminars or consume Guru offerings online are from the quick-fix brigade. Many are looking for a quick fix for a business that is not performing adequately as well as seeking instant wealth. In fact, I met one seminar Junkie in California a couple of years ago who was destitute from attending event after event and was never able to turn his new found knowledge into a viable income that would support him. The only winners here were the string of Gurus he followed.

Niall Strickland