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September 19, 2017

What Makes a Specialist Special?

specialistMost research firms are ‘generalists’… offering a variety of research methodologies to all kinds of firms in all kinds of industries. If it’s a profitable opportunity and if it fits their team’s skill set – they’ll take it.

And that’s fine. But with that broad approach to business comes a muddled and murky approach to marketing… decisions are difficult to make. Trying to serve so many kinds of companies in so many industries means far too many marketing options. So, how do you choose?

  • Often, firms just throw their hands up in frustration and give up – never making ANY decisions. That’s not good!
  • Or they participate in generic marketing activities (attending a general market research event, for example, along with scores of other generalists – never standing out from the crowd).

But when you’re a specialist, marketing decision-making becomes crystal-clear. Choices are finite. Often, it’s simply a yes/no choice. Let’s assume that your specialty is “financial services.” Now let’s answer some of those tough marketing questions:

Q. Which conferences should we attend/exhibit at?  A. Those that financial services marketers and researchers attend.

Q. Which publications should we read or advertise in?  A. Those that financial services marketers and researchers subscribe to.

Q. Which associations should we read join?  A. Those that financial services marketers and researchers are members of.

See a trend here?

And it continues…

  • Which LinkedIn groups should we join?
  • Which Twitter hashtags should we use?
  • Who are we writing blog posts for?
  • What kinds of companies should we target?
  • What buyer personas should we develop?

The argument against specializing is that you leave money on the table because there are some projects you won’t take on (those outside of your specialty). And while that might be true in the short-term, once you’ve built a reputation as a specialist, many other benefits become yours…

  • You will be invited to speak at industry conferences
  • You will be asked to write for industry publications
  • You will attract followers on social media
  • Your blog becomes a “must read”
  • You can charge more for your services

In general, you will become sought-after because of your specialty/expertise and those inquiries will far outweigh the handful of projects you might have to turn down.

I think Michael Porter, the famous management consultant, said it best about being a specialist… “Strategy 101 is about choices: you can’t be all things to all people.”

Want to learn more about becoming a specialist and differentiating your firm from others? Join Steve Henke, Founder of Harpeth Marketing, at the Insights Association Annual Conference for his presentation, “Define and Be Different… How to Become a Standout Brand,” September 26-28 in Palm Beach, FL.

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