It’s an old adage, but a true one, that “you can’t be all things to all people” without losing a strong connection to someone specific. In the world of marketing professional services, those who choose not to build an intentional, focused relationship with clients in a niche market segment do so to their own detriment.
Responding to a Jolt
Sally was employed by an AmLaw Top 100 firm about 10-15 years ago when the large firms were targeting vertical markets. Her firm had targeted the CPA industry and Sally, with prior stints inside CPA firms, was eager to help develop the market. When her firm shifted priorities from the niche, she had a decision to make.
Instead of trying to take firm clients with her, Sally opened her own firm, to focus on regional accounting firms in the area where she had attended law school. This strategic choice was effective for two reasons:
- It avoided even the appearance of trying to compete with her former firm, and
- It gave her an entree’ to a target group of profitable prospects not being pursued by others
For several years she continued to develop and deliver specialized services offerings tailored to CPA firms, such as partner compensation consulting, strategic planning, partner retreats, organizational restructuring and profit enhancement. By the 5 year anniversary of being in business for herself, Sally had identified the need to build a team around her with scalable infrastructure that would allow her to focus on client service rather than firm management. She joined a regional law firm with about $7 million in gross revenue and six partners that had begin to see the revenue and profit benefits of pursuing highly specialized niche practices.
For the past decade, Sally has led the firm’s niche practice for CPAs and seen the firm grow to over twice the size it was when she joined. By getting to know finance executives, CPAs, firms and the industry, she has been able to create a value-added service that goes well beyond compliance into unique complementary offerings. By choosing to specialize and establish herself as a subject matter expert, she has enjoyed great success.
Not content to only be a service provider, Sally has taken on the coveted roles of a.) trusted advisor and b.) referral source. Some say she “knows every CPA in town.” Her strong relationships have been maximized to win considerable business for her firm. While others attend chamber and other networking meetings, she introduces CPAs she knows to firm partners according to their industries and areas of specialty. Her efforts have developed into a solid channel of business development and referrals for her partners and clients.
The highly specific niche has permitted the firm to win against many of the area’s most respected law firms that offer the usual corporate business and estate services. Certainly, the firm can–and does–provide these at the highest level. But Sally and her colleagues have positioned themselves beautifully – a focused, reputable law firm that can provide the usual suite of legal services and, significantly, knows the industry and its unique challenges and nuances, offering the experience and expertise to help the client become more successful.
Ultimately, specialization is offering a value proposition rather than a reduced-price commodity. Under Sally’s leadership, her firm has added a tremendous value to traditional legal services by customizing their offerings to keenly understood market segments.