“Wanna get big? You might consider going small…” —Carolyn April, Sr. Director, Industry Research, CompTIA
Though it might sound paradoxical, some companies are finding success narrowing their focus. They do so in several ways. Some reduce their target market to specific technologies only. Others look for customers in the throes of transition or of a certain size.
If you’re wondering if a “niche” or market specialty can better define your proposition or accelerate your sales, then you’ve come to the right place. I’ve seen first hand that they can. Really.
Here’re some answers to key question that you may have about “going small.”
Why would an IT company consider going niche specific?
Being niche-specific is a huge differentiator when you’re prospecting. What makes you different from a guy that called last week? The better you are able to answer that question, the more likely you are to win new business.
The more you understand the unique challenges of a specific niche, the more you sound like an expert. Take us, for example. We were a cold calling company before becoming a “Managed Services Prospecting Specialists.” Who would you be more inclined to work with? A company that engages any company that pays it, or the company that took the time to learn your industry and build an entire practice around it? The answer is obvious.
What are niches a small company like mine can embrace?
There are many actually. A niche can be a technology specialty, a service capability and even a customer intimacy, be it sized-oriented or industry specific. The more you know about a vertical market, for example, the more you will learn to speak the language of its practitioners. Language, of course, varies by vertical. If you’ve ever asked to speak to the CEO of a law firm, for example, you probably found out quickly that they don’t exist in that niche. Asking for the CEO is going to highlight your lack of knowledge in that area; instead, look for the “Managing Partner.”
What are some additional benefits to building a niche practice?
Choosing a vertical helps you staff more effectively. When you go niche specific, you begin to build the team that is appropriate for that niche. But before doing so, you’ll need to ask some questions of your own. Does your company need a HIPAA expert or a FINRA expert? Can you support manufacturing companies? Will you need to hire someone who understands facility management or asset performance management? If you’re going to sell to government customers, what security clearances will your team need? If you to sell to everyone, you’ll have fewer specialized team members. This makes you a less desirable provider than a competitor who may be able to boast niche-specific experts.
What benefits can be derived from joining referral networks?
Instead of attending every trade show or joining every organization, you can join targeted groups and associations. The contacts you make in these groups will slowly become your friends, peers, and references. Building a brand or reputation goes much faster when you’re doing it in one circle. It really is a small world. You’ll quickly become known as the “go-to” for companies in that niche if you’re doing great work and maintaining a presence in the group. Sponsor their golf tournaments, host their events, network and network some more.
How will my Internet SEO ranking change as I develop a niche and/or target a vertical market?
If someone searches for “Best IT Support accountants Chicago” vs “IT support Chicago,” you have a better opportunity of getting that inbound lead than a more generic competitor. And your web copy will speak to their unique challenges. This can be accomplished with landing pages, so you don’t have to worry about ripping out your entire website and starting over.
What about a specific size of company? Or companies experiencing a certain type of challenge?
They’re niche, too! Do you want to work with companies that have between 20-50 users exclusively? Can you build a practice around supporting small businesses who are making their first investment in IT infrastructure? (Yes! and you can start by sponsoring your local start-up community organizations.) Companies that are moving offices? (Yes again. Start by getting to know moving companies, commercial realtors, design firms, office furniture stores.) Companies that have remote employees? (Yes, yes, yes.) Anything you can “specialize in” can differentiate you from your competitors. And that differentiator will be the thing that more often than not gets you a first sales meeting.
Will I miss other opportunities if I go niche specific?
Duh! But if you’re worried that getting laser focused on one vertical will cause you to miss out on other kinds of business, don’t be. Building your practice one niche at a time can lead to a client roster that you can support in a way that wins you even more business. Your first dental office support contract will not go as well as your twentieth law firm. Make an effort to expand your portfolio once you’re confidently servicing the first niche you’ve chosen. You can support more than one niche. Once you’ve learned how to engage with and support a new type of business, you can begin to rinse and repeat in other niche markets.
That’s how going small turns into getting big—without tangles.