At the Roadshow, I’ve been going over a three-page list of questions you ought to be able to answer about your customers and/or selected target market if you’re going to have any hope of successfully selling services to them at premium prices. Naturally, most are stumped by the first three on the list, with one being “How big is your target market?” Most haven’t even given it a look EVEN THOUGH we have more tools and access to such information easier than ever before. GOOGLE IT for goodness’ sakes!
Not too long ago a member came to me overly excited, asking for a private consultation with me to discuss an idea they had that would “revolutionize” the IT services industry. He even went so far as to “demand” I sign an NDA, to which I told him go find someone else to tell his big idea to. He conceded and I’m glad I stuck to my guns on never signing an NDA. The big reveal? Managed services. I kid you not. He’d “come up” with a way to remotely log in and manage desktops. Seriously, folks, you can’t make this stuff up.
Point is, this is a lot of people’s approach to building and growing their business: in isolation, coming up with everything from scratch or via the school of hard knocks. Eventually they’ll come up with an idea that’s already been figured out a million times before, by others, that could have been implemented a lot faster if they had been looking for it. This is WHY it’s important to get out to industry events and stay connected – it offers shortcuts, inspiration, resources and fresh solutions to problems that you’d never otherwise figure out quickly by staring at the same four walls every day.
If you want to dominate – or even play in – a niche, here’s a short list of things you need to be doing on a weekly, if not daily, basis:
- Study the history of your field. Almost everything successful has a pattern to it. Most blockbuster movies are recycles of the same plot and theme. In IT, we’re coming back into the era of “systems integration,” but instead of with hardware, it’s integrating software applications to a unified system.
- Study your clients. Go to the events they go to. Read the publications they read. Follow the people they follow. I’m dumbfounded how anyone can tout themselves a “consultant” to any niche without having the most basic fundamental information about how their customers think, make decisions and get paid, as well as industry trends, lingo, vendors, etc.
- Study comparable industries. Sure, you sell IT services, but if you can study how successful attorneys, CPAs, HR companies, etc., get, bill, service and keep clients, you’ll find a new breakthrough that is not the “norm” for IT services, but could change everything. All too often business owners walk around in automatic dismissal mode: That won’t work for me because I sell ________ and they sell _______. Look – loosen up your underwear, slap your face and try thinking clearly – the best ideas you’re going to come up with are often not in your own industry. They could be completely commonplace somewhere else. The idea of using a network audit to sell managed services, which I’ve single-handedly made the “norm” in our industry for marketing IT services, came from an HVAC company that used an “air quality assessment” to sell me a home air purification system.
- Study non-competitive companies selling other products and services to your same clients. If I were selling IT services to medical firms, I’d be studying how the most successful drug manufacturers and medical supply companies are winning new accounts. I’d also study how software firms are selling their services. A LOT can be learned here and, if nothing else, you might see another opportunity for you to resell a service for a profit, secure a JV partner or open a new profit center in your current business.