In the past, specializing could be risky for consulting firms. Consider the limits a pre-Internet consultant would be placing on their potential clients. The firm would’ve been hard to find, making it difficult to serve their client base.
But now, with global reach, finding clients has less to do with geography and more to do with fitting clients’ needs.
Because specialization helps your consulting firm match specific needs, it also makes it easier to target your marketing efforts. By narrowing the audience you’re trying to reach, your advertising and marketing can address issues specific to a given industry, professional role, or region.
When your target demographic searches for solutions, they will be much more likely to find you – and general consulting firms will appear less equipped to solve their problems.
There are definite benefits to specialization. How do you decide your firm’s focus?
First, determine the kind of specialization you’d best be suited for. There are five categories:
1. Industry specialization.
Consider the prior experience within your firm. In what industries do your consultants have the most knowledge and insights into? Choosing a growing industry that your firm is well suited to serve can be a powerful boost to your business.
It’s best to select a stable, growing industry—and it’s crucial to keep up with trends and technology in your chosen field, so that you avoid the pitfalls of obsolescence.
2. Service type specialization.
Many services transcend industry, such as strategic planning or social media consulting. By leveraging expertise in a specific service, you can build deep credibility in your area. This is particularly true when focusing on a new or complex service that few businesses have mastered.
3. Geographical specialization.
While the Internet gives you access to clients worldwide, your familiarity with a particular geographic region may give you insight into the needs of businesses in that area.
Understanding the regulations, trade laws, language, and customs of a specific place can be leveraged into a close-knit community of clients. This specialization is admittedly fading as the world shrinks, but if the right opportunity presents itself there are rewards to be reaped.
4. Organizational role specialization.
Tailor your consulting firm to support human resources directors, CEOs, or IT leadership, for example. Working with a specific role or department within an organization can help you develop and offer insights into the challenges of those particular roles. This specialization can help you engage with clients across many industries and regions.
5. Specialization in particular types of problems.
Businesses across all sectors share many common problems. By specializing in solving a particular kind of problem, you can reach out to countless clients.
Some common challenges to specialize in include cost reduction, managing merger logistics, or increasing productivity. The downside to this specialization is that you’ll be dealing with temporary situations. Each client whose problem you solve will need to be replaced with a new client.
As you decide on a specialization, consider the experience, education, and access to information and resources within your firm. You might even want to invest in a consulting session of your own with a subject matter expert in the specialty you’re considering.
Stay consistent but flexible.
Specialization can give your business a boost as you launch, providing focus for your brand and audience. But specialization isn’t short-term or one-time thing. Quite the opposite—the power of specialization is in the time your firm has invested in getting to know the industry or issue you regularly address.
That said, like every business, consulting firms will sometimes have cause to re-evaluate their specialization or adjust their focus. Your clients’ needs, some of which will change over time, will inform your specialization. Changes in technology and industry trends may also skew your original specialization. This is a good thing.
Remember, a specialization shouldn’t be a restraint; it’s a focus that helps you serve the clients you’re best suited to help. Follow the need as necessary, but be sure you’re not chasing whims of the marketplace.
None of this points to the disappearance of generalist consultants, but there are definite long-term benefits to choosing a specialty. A well-chosen specialization goes a long way towards defining your brand and differentiating you from competitors and generalists. That brand differentiation will help you generate leads and secure new clients that you’re uniquely situated to serve.
It might feel counter-intuitive but it’s true: specializing can remove the limitations your consulting firm faces and open you to more business moving forward.