Attend any business networking event, and during the round-table introductions you’ll always find an IT company or managed service provider (MSP) that works with “small businesses”.
Ask any of these IT providers which type of small business they typically work with, and they’ll say “any” small business.
That statement may well be accurate. The MSP may have grown organically, being referred business and winning new clients from across a wide range of industries.
But going forward, if that MSP decides not to focus on “small businesses” and instead focus on a specific type of small business, they can reap big dividends.
At first glance, focusing your attention on winning business in a specific vertical or within a specialist niche business area may seem counter productive.
If you’re casting the prospecting net far and wide to work with *any* business, surely you’re increasing the number of prospective clients you can work with?
That might seem like sound theory, but in reality there are hundreds and thousands of other IT companies doing exactly that. If you’re putting out the same message as them, then how does a prospect differentiate between you and your competitors?
But if you market yourself to a specific niche business area—putting yourself out there as an expert with interest in working with a specific type of small business—then you’re drastically reducing the number of competitors in that specific field. What’s more, your marketing is much more likely to be effective if you're acknowledging the specific pain points of your prospects within your area of specialty experience. You’ll be talking in language that they understand, rather than broad terms aimed at everybody.
For many MSPs, choosing a specialism or a niche doesn’t feel natural. After all, they don’t have any specialist knowledge in a specific area, right?
But dig deeper under the surface, and nearly all MSPs have long-term clients that they enjoy working with and have built up sector-specific skills around.
For instance, my own MSP worked with an Optometrist that we knew well, liked, and provided support to over a number of years.
Then, by pure chance (it seemed), we won another Optometrist client and suddenly realized that when talking to an Optometrist, we weren’t talking about their clients, we were talking about their patients. We knew that our new Optometrist client probably struggled to get their patients to keep appointments (they did). We also guessed that they probably didn’t backup their practice specific software records (they didn’t).
We knew all of this from our close working relationship with our original Optometrist client, and before we knew it, we were talking to another Optometrist in language they understood.
Now, overnight we didn’t choose to suddenly start focusing on Optometrists, but we did run a specific marketing campaign aimed at Optometrists. And it was more successful than any campaign before it, bringing lots of new leads. Without even knowing it, we’d become specialists in a specific niche.
We then started exploring whether Dental practices and Physiotherapists had the same challenges that Optometrists had. We found that they did, and so our tiny niche grew from Ophthalmic to the slightly wider healthcare arena.
The next time we stood up at a business networking event, instead of saying we worked with “small businesses”, we said we worked with small businesses and had a specialism in healthcare. Surprisingly, we received more introductions and referrals this way.
Why? Because if you ask somebody to refer you a small business they are overwhelmed with potential options, and subsequently offer none.
Ask them if they know anyone who works in Optometrists, Dental Practices, or Physiotherapy, and chances are they immediately think of somebody who does. You’ve helped them to narrow down their focus of attention.
Some very big MSPs focus their business entirely on one industry vertical or niche. And they do amazing business this way, by reducing their field of competitors, and demonstrating their value and expertise in a specific area.
You may not be ready to start focusing on one specific niche exclusively, but I’ll bet that if you examine your existing client base a little bit more, you’ll find that you’ve already become an expert in a specific niche.
Going forwards, why not try to add some additional marketing specifically at this niche business area? The results might surprise you!