Martin Luther King said:
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”
And this is what I want to ask you now – What are you doing for others? What are you doing that no one else can? I know that this is a tricky question that many of us don’t even want to think about because it is a hard one, I admit. But the answer to this very question is also an answer to many of our struggles as professionals.
In my work with various professional service providers such as accountants, IT companies, solicitors, finance people, etc. I often see them struggle and feel lost, not knowing how to get more business in. Well, the first step to solving these problems is to know what it is that you can offer and focus on that.
If you find yourself going through the same struggles, here’s what you need to think about. And take your time figuring this out. Once you do, everything will fall into place.
Know who you are
I find that a lot of service providers fall into the same trap – whenever a customer makes an enquiry, asking them if they can do this or that, the answer is always ‘Yes’. It’s only after the client is on board that they think about how they will handle the job. Sound familiar?
Don’t try to be everything to everyone. It only dilutes your efforts and you never become particularly good or experienced in any one particular field. You want to stay focused on what you do best. Concentrate on your strengths; invest time and effort into developing them to the extent that you become an expert. Whether you are a solicitor, an accountant, an event manager, a web designer or whatever it is; the first thing your prospective clients are going to want to know is whether you know your stuff. You want to build a reputation for the go-to company when it comes to a particular requirement. The benefits of being an expert in a particular field are two-fold and this brings me to my next point….
Know who your clients are
Focusing on your strengths and only taking on jobs that you know you excel at makes it so much easier to identify who needs your services. In other words, it is easier to identify your target clients. Are these small organisations in certain industries or are they larger corporations working across different sectors; are they local or international, etc.?
Say you were an architect and you have a small architectural firm. You might have worked on buildings across a number of industries such as education, residential, commercial, healthcare, etc. But you know that what you are truly an expert in, is healthcare and commercial buildings. The more you focus on your expert areas the more success you will have. And if you went through your previous customers from these ‘expert’ sectors, you can identify what parts of the country they operate in, what size they are, what time of the year they typically enquire, and so on and so forth.
My point is, being an expert in only one or two fields, focusing on your strengths and having built a portfolio of these types of clients will help you first of all, know whom to target (where your clients are and who they are) and second of all, gain new clients from these sectors much more easily.
Know how to appeal to your target clients
Now that you know who your target clients are, it becomes much clearer how to appeal to them and how to approach them. This means that you can align all of your marketing efforts so that they are aimed at these, now very particular, groups of clients. You need to be consistent in your message and your marketing in terms of:
Your website: Your website is the face of your business, it is normally your clients’ first encounter with your company. Imagine you were a web design company, for example, that looks to work with solicitors, accountants & health care providers and you know that these companies generally require clean and strictly professional website design. Well then, you might want to have a portfolio of such websites up on your Home page. You might even have your own website designed that way so it appeals to your target group.
Your Social Media: With your Social Media you need to keep in mind what your target clients care about, what they look for, what problems they face that you can help them with. Once you put some thought into that, you can align your Social Media and blogs so that your posts are actually helpful to these clients in particular. It means that they can find you easier on the Internet but also it demonstrates that you understand their specific struggles and needs.
Your Networking: Last but not least, knowing whom you are targeting will help you identify what events to attend, what groups to join, what conferences to give speeches at, etc. Obviously, if you want to make an effort at networking, it is better to be at the right place, otherwise it is, more often than not, a waste of time.
Do Your Business Development
Many professionals get carried away working on their current projects and focusing on the problems at hand and don’t invest enough, if any, time in business development. However, until you build a strong reputation and become popular in your area of specialty, chances are you need to look for clients to keep a steady stream of revenue.
The thing is, people neglect business development because they don’t know where to start, and whom to approach. But if you are an expert in one or two fields and you’ve nailed down who your target clients are, then it is much easier. Decide on a day in the week when you or an employee of yours will dedicate a few hours sending out emails to potential clients and making follow up calls. You can either buy lists of potential customers in your target area of expertise or you can allocate a little bit of extra time every week to do the research yourself. Either way, don’t be afraid to approach people, business is there, you just need to knock on the right doors.
Invest in yourself and in your team
Remember, buying a service is completely different to buying a product. In order to buy your expertise, people need to buy into you as a person and as a professional. Their perception of you as a person and as a professional is what sells. This being said, invest in your own and that of your employees people’s soft skills, sales skills, presentation skills, etc. These are investments that pay off.
Think about how you communicate with clients, come up with an elevator pitch, come up with techniques to impress your clients, etc. Do you smile enough? Are you friendly enough?
Once you are an expert at what you do, with the right approach you can go a long way.
In conclusion: first of all, be focused, know what you are good at and concentrate on that. And second of all, discover what makes you unique. Even when two companies specialise in the very same field of expertise, each will be able to offer different solutions to the same problems. Find what it is that you are unique at and that you excel at naturally. It could be your personal approach to clients, it could be your positive attitude or creative, outside-the-box solutions. This would be the answer to Martin Luther King’s question
“What are you doing for others?”
And this is your competitive advantage – what nobody else can offer your clients the way you do.