Thanks to everyone who sends me notes! Every once in a while, I get a flurry of emails about this newsletter (or something else I do). I really appreciate these notes.
I am a generally positive person. But I am also a human. So I sometimes wonder whether I'm still adding value to the world of IT professionals. As a result, I *really* appreciate your feedback and notes.
What are your challenges. Where do you need help today?
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Who Do You Serve?
I am now actively into the writing stage for a new book. One of the fundamental themes is that you can build or rebuild every element of you business based on your chosen "ideal" client or clientele. I know this works because YOU are my ideal client.
Recently, I was thinking about how much freedom I have in my business. I get to choose what I do each day, and how I approach each project. Some of this freedom comes from the fact that I never have to think about who I serve.
The primary goal of Small Biz Thoughts, and my coaching, and my membership community, and my books, and blogs, and videos is very straight forward: I want to help as many IT consultants as possible to be as successful as possible.
I serve IT consultants. Which means, I don't serve dentists, manufacturers, accountants, grocery stores, or a million other professions.
For me, this is a matter of focus. I focus on technology consultants. If I were to write a generic business blog post without this focus, it would be very different. For example, when I give marketing advice, I can simply give marketing advice for IT service providers. I never have to think about how this advice might be different for attorneys, restaurants, etc.
I am often given (and mostly ignore) the advice to write for a larger audience. Rather than focus on a small niche market, I could focus on professional services companies. Instead of addressing one group of service businesses, I could address them all. That dramatically increases my audience - and decreases my focus.
Even more, I could focus on small business generally. That would make my audience almost all businesses in the world. The market would be gargantuan. But there is essentially no focus at all.
. . . those of you who've followed me for very long know where I'm going.
Focus on a niche market is good for me and my clients. I give better advice because I am focused. You get better advice because it's not designed for everyone on earth: It's specifically for you!
I haven't done the research, but I'll bet anything that the most ignored advice I've been giving for the last two decades is this: Find a niche! Find some group or vertical that you can serve effectively.
No: "Small Business" is not a vertical. Business size is a horizontal measure (ten users, fifty users, 500 users). That's not a vertical.
Most people have now checked out. I understand that. There's a great deal of fear around this subject. They don't believe that they can build a business by specializing on a specific clientele. And so, they continue to take anyone who comes along. And in the meantime, a wise handful of consultants is making twice as much money targeting a specialized market.
The terminology of specialization is often subtle. Very often, it's focused on the problem being solved. For example, "We secure tough-to-secure networks," or "We help doctors to implement technologies that reduce friction with insurance companies."
In addition to identifying specific clients, these statements also address the second-most-ignored advice in our industry: They make the conversation about the client and not the IT service provider.
I won't belabor the point, but I want to leave you with two bullet points to consider.
You CAN build a business based on a vertical market. It might take a long time. It might be difficult. But it will ultimately be far more profitable. You will have less or no competition. Clients will be stickier.
You can build your specialization slowly. You do not have to fire all your clients. You might pick a specialty where you already have a clients. Or gradually add them one at a time. As your specialization grows, you can gradually hand off less-profitable non-specialty clients.
Maybe I'll write a book about this some day. In the meantime, please think about the power of focusing your business. Everything gets easier when you have an answer to the question, "Who do you serve?"