Archive for September, 2006

Do you enjoy the benefits of a focused target market?

September 29, 2006

You can increase your odds of success by limiting the number of prospects you have.

For many professionals, this advice is heresy. After all, it is so comforting to know that your target market is made up of the 14 million US businesses, or the 71 million baby boomers.

But this is a dangerous illusion. Only a tiny fraction of a general target market will ever become your clients. At the same time:

– It is costly to reach a general target market.

– Your more focused competitors have a leg up because they tailor their solutions to a targeted audience. Your solutions come across as generic and superficial compared to their solutions.
– You have to keep customizing your solutions in order to respond to a broad group of clients.

In contrast, by focusing you have fewer prospects but generate a much higher percentage of clients. Other benefits include:

– You spend less to reach your target market, since they tend to read the same publications and congregate at the same events.

– People in the same target market talk to each other, so that word about you spreads quickly.

– You can develop tailored solutions that you can sell over and over again, without reinventing the wheel.

– Your clients will be more likely to pay you higher fees, since you speak their language and understand their problems.

I suggest that you focus 65-75% of your business development efforts on a highly focused target market. You can spend the rest of your time on more general clients, as these types of engagements often lead you into new niches.

What makes a good target market? The following:

– A specific industry.

– A specific title or job function, preferably within a specific industry.

– A specific geographic population.

– A clearly defined demographic group (e.g. retired executives who have income over $250,000 and/or net worth over $5 million).

– A psychographic group (surfers, motorcycle riders, Libertarians, bird watchers).

Ideally you combine a few of the above for an even more targeted group. You have to be sure that your target market is large enough, not already saturated with competition, has people in it with problems you can solve, and has the financial resources to afford your services.

Most importantly, you have to enjoy working with your target market. Otherwise, you probably won’t dominate your niche.

When I first began consulting, I figured I was smart enough to handle any business issue that came my way. My consulting practice floundered until I focused on specific niche markets. Then everything changed. I wrote articles in targeted publications that generated real interest from executives in my niche. I spoke at industry events and suddenly decision makers wanted to meet to me. I did research about the issues my target market faced. Then referrals started flowing, and everything changed.

Focus! Stop succumbing to the pleasant illusion that everyone can be a client. By limiting your prospects you can actually spend less and achieve better results.


Why do clients hire professionals?

September 27, 2006

People generally do not want to hire professionals. There are lots of reasons why, but they all come down to trust, value, and credibility. Here is what prospective clients are thinking when they consider hiring a professional:

1. This will be expensive, and I’ve been burned too many times before.

2. I don’t want an outsider looking into my private business.

3. I need help, and this makes me feel vulnerable.

4. Maybe if I wait it out or do what I’ve always done, things will get better on their own.

5. Why can’t these people speak in plain English?

In this context, it is no wonder that cold calls, traditional marketing, and scripted sales conversations don’t work.

Instead, you need to convince your prospective clients of a few things:

1. You are a credible, experienced expert.

2. You will solve their problem and provide value far in excess of your fees.

3. You are professional and personable. People not only recognize that you can do the work, but they also want to work with you.
These three attributes equal trust in the business world. Of course, you can only generate so much trust before you are hired and get results. And trust in a business setting isn’t at all comparable to the way we might trust a friend or family member.

But you must be credible, demonstrate value, and be personable.

How do you do this without cold calling or spending a fortune on advertising?

You do this through trust- and education-based marketing tactics. These tactics cost little or nothing, and quickly establish you as the go-to professional in your field. Basically you educate your market — in formats that are convenient for and tailored to them — about the pressing problems they have that you solve, the benefits and value of your solutions, why you are unique and better, your approach, and proof that your claims are accurate.

When you market based on trust, value, and credibility, you will notice an immediate difference in your practice. Most notably, clients will come to you because they know you, recognize your value, and are predisposed to work with you.

Think about the professionals you have engaged over the years. Retrace your steps when you learned about them and ultimately hired them. What caused you to decide to hire them out of all of the professionals in your area?

I’ll bet it had to do with their credibility (e.g., you already knew them, or heard about them from a trusted source), value, and the fact you liked them enough to want to work with them.

Think also about your own best clients. How did they come to you (if you don’t know, ask them)? Odds are that most hired you when you demonstrated that you understood their problem, could solve their problem, and were uniquely qualified to get them the results they want.

The problem with most professionals is that they don’t systematize the above process. The rely on things like “word of mouth,” which is basically depending on the odds that busy strangers will think about you with everything else they have going on.

As a result, most professionals waste too much time and effort on ineffective marketing, or have given up on marketing and wait for the phone to ring.

There is a better way. What you have to do is systematize the processes you use to build your trust and credibility. This includes creating automatic mechanisms to let prospects learn about you and decide for themselves that you can provide them with value. It also means focusing on strategies that don’t cost much but can have a huge impact in educating people about what you do and why you can help them. And it means proactively generating streams of referrals, instead of hoping for word of mouth (Hope is not a strategy!).

Are you positioned to be the professional that people think of first when they have a problem that you can solve?

Welcome to the Trust-Based Business Development Blog

September 17, 2006

There are plenty of programs out there that teach scripted, tacky marketing and sales tactics.

This blog, and the trust-based business development system, is meant to fill a gap in business development education. It is targeted to highly-educated, sophisticated professionals, people who develop trusted advisory relationships with their clients.

For people like us, business development can feel awkward. We are selling our expertise, and don’t want to feel like we are hawking or pitching our services. We want to build trust and demonstrate credibility with prospects and clients — but in an authentic and comfortable way.

That’s the purpose of this blog. It will introduce you to insights about developing business based on authentic, ethical, trusted relationships. Of course, you have to demonstrate your value and credibility to your marketplace. But there are ways to do this that feel comfortable and even enhance your practice.

Stay tuned, and please post your business development questions and experiences at any time!