The Doyle Report: Getting Big by Going Small
Ever feel lost amid a sea of information and communications technology (ICT) business consultants who offer similar services, prices and expertise? Then maybe you need a market niche, which is somewhat different than a specialization created by a vendor for a set of partners.
A niche is something that you develop and hone on your own.
Where to start? How about healthcare? It’s a growing sector that accounts for nearly one of every five dollars generated by the U.S. economy. That’s $3.35 trillion dollars annuallyor roughly the GDP of Germany, the world’s 4th-largest economy. It’s a big number in other words.
What is more, healthcare is undergoing a digital revolution that will create an abundance of opportunities for third-party experts like you. There are billions of medical records to digitize, hundreds of millions of medical devices to connect and trillions of data points to analyze. What is more, every one of them needs to secured, backed-up and optimized.
A perfect business opportunity, right?
Well, maybe. The reality is that “healthcare” is a tricky market to pursue due to regulatory, technological and even cultural challenges. Many solution providers over the years have jumped into the market only to pull back after realizing mixed results.
One company that has made headway into the market is World Synergy Enterprises of Beachwood, Ohio. Rather than take on the entire whole of the healthcare industry, the Cleveland-area company carved out a very specific niche in healthcare that is turning out to be a significant revenue generator: selling marketing services to healthcare benefits brokers and agencies.
“With two decades worth experience working with healthcare and benefits agencies, we understand what it takes to grow and manage consumer wellness companies, hospitals, health insurers and pharmacies to drive long-term engagement that improves both health and business outcomes,” says World Synergy President and COO Michael Mack.
Selling marketing services to healthcare benefits brokers is just one of the niches that World Synergy has developed. It also offers marketing, applications and technology services (managed services, co-location, mobile device management, etc.) to manufacturing, distribution and professional services clients throughout the industrial Midwest. While it hasn’t always been easy, the company is one of the few that offers both technological and creative services to clients. Doing so allows World Synergy to address a greater range of customers needs but requires the company to stay disciplined when it comes to developing service offerings.
Michael Mack, President and COO, World Synergy
“We’ve seen many companies stumble after trying to be all things to all people. We do better with a broad portfolio and a target focus,” says Mack.
So do plenty of other digital services providers. It may sound paradoxical, but some of the most successful technology business consultants are getting bigger by going smaller. They are narrowing their target customer profiles, developing niche specialties and otherwise honing their business strategies. Where possible World Synergy, for one, tries to develop a distinct niche that resonates with customers and can be repeated, optimized and scaled. In late 2016, the company introduced its newest set of niche services called “Essence Marketing.”
Essence Marketing provides customers with a complete go-to-market plan right down to the thought strategy, planning, creation, execution and testing of digital campaigns. The company will also provide customers with a technology roadmap to support any of its marketing recommendations. In addition, Mack says World Synergy is perfecting another niche service for customers, software recommendation.
As more and more of its customers avail themselves of SaaS applications, they have questions about the sheer number of choices available to them. World Synergy is thus developing discrete services to help customers who buy SaaS apps directly from developers but who still want help with their selections.
These efforts are having a positive impact on the company, which expects to double its headcount and office space in the next year.
Here’re some tips to help you develop a niche.
- Think Vertical: According to CompTIA’s “5th Annual Trends in Managed Services Study” published in July 2016, more than half of MSPs plan to focus on one or more vertical markets. The most popular ones today are information technology, professional services, manufacturing, financial services and retail. Given the sheer number of channel companies trying to develop a specialty in a vertical market, you’re going to need something more distinctive to set your organization apart. Best to pick a specific innovation, customer set or skillset to start. And hire or contract with an expect who can make introductions and educate you on what you don’t know about a target vertical market.
- Hone Your Defined Customer: One successful Denver-area MSP has grown by limiting who he sells to. His target market used to be everyone. Now it’s small businesses with between 5-99 employees that do not have an internal IT department. “I am able to provide the most value for the buck to these customers time and again,” he says. “They are my most satisfied clients and my most profitable.” For these customers, he has developed a set of proven and repeatable processes. He has also learned what he can and cannot do for them. While others are profiting from it, custom applications development is something his company struggles to monetize. So he’s learned to say “no.” It has cost him some sales but protected his business.
- Lighten Your Burden: Chances are you have customers or revenue streams that are draining your resources. This includes your physical ones (your time, technology, etc.) and your mental ones, too. To hone a niche or specialty, you need to be able to think clearly and devote time to it. You cannot do these things if you’re bogged down by a set of overly-demanding customers or wedded to a draining business model. Though it might feel difficult, you’ll be better of eliminating activities that harsh scrutiny will reveal are wasted or unproductive efforts. Penton Xpert and Comcast channel chief Craig Schlagbaum likens this to “sharpening your saw.”
If you’re going to make your mark in this crowded market, you’re going to need a sharp tool and focus to achieve your aim. A distinct niche will serve you well.