This is a great question and one that is not as easily answered as you might think.  We often come across clients who believe that they are “specialists” in serving a particular sector simply because they already have a few clients in that space.  Unfortunately, this does not make a firm a true specialist. Professional services firms cannot “create” a specialty simply by deciding they are going to go after that target sector. Being a true sector specialist takes much more than that!

For example, take my love for cooking (and eating!) Italian food.  It’s safe to say I’ve tasted my fair share of delicious Italian food, from New York City to Rome and Florence.  I’ve even cooked my way through about half of one of Giada De Laurentiis’ cook books.  But does this make me a specialist or expert when it comes to Italian cuisine?  Unfortunately, it does not.  What makes our favorite Italian chefs such experts and their food so delicious is the fact that they really are specialists in this area.  They have the experience, credentials, and education that put them on another level.  Let’s take a look at these qualifications.  When combined together, they are the perfect recipe for making a professional services firm a specialist in serving a particular sector.

  1. Experience.  It’s crucial that a firm establishes a strong history and track record in serving a particular sector or industry before they can refer to themselves as a specialist.  Think years, not months.  Decades are even better.  The more experience you can cite, the more competitive your firm will be in winning clients in your targeted specialty sector.
  2. Credentials.  Many specialty target sectors and services require specific education and credentials.  For example, in order to be a specialist in forensic accounting, you are going to need a team that not only has experience, but also the right credentials like Certified Fraud Examiner and a Certification in Financial Forensics.
  3. Continuing education.  Education is an incredibly important component in terms of establishing your expertise in serving a niche sector.  Not only should your team for this sector have the appropriate educational background, experience and credentials, but it is also important that the firm is committed (both financially and emotionally) to continuing education in the specialty area.  This will help your firm stay up-to-date on the latest industry trends and best practices to truly serve your clients as specialists.
  4. Dedicated team/staff.  Does your firm have a team of staff members who are dedicated to the specialty area?  Is there a partner or partners who are leading this practice/specialty area for your firm?  Or is any old team member being assigned to a serve so called “specialty” industry without any real experience or interest?  Having a clear and dedicated team of staff and partners who are experienced in serving your target sector demonstrates to potential clients that your firm is passionate about serving the target market in question and has the resources to do so successfully.
  5. Tailored services.  A professional services firm that is committed to serving a sector or target market will tailor their services or even create new services (based on their extensive experience and best practices) to meet the target sector’s unique needs.  Applying a one size fits all approach is not a sign of a sector specialist.

Take all of these qualifications and combine them together, and as Emeril would say, “Bam!” You’ve got the perfect combination to call your professional services firm a true sector specialist.

Want to learn more? Take a look at some of our specialty solutions, specifically created to meet the marketing needs of small to mid-sized professional services firms.