I was a mile wide and an inch deep.
This is how I’ve felt over the last number of years when thinking about my sales coaching practice. Over the past 11 years, I’ve coached business owners and professionals in over 50 different industries including: advertising specialties, insurance, legal and even a Caribbean medical school. While it’s been a tremendous ride, there’s something to be said for having an emphasis in one particular industry. Becoming a “specialist” can be a scary proposition as your messaging and marketing efforts change to accommodate this new direction. The obvious fear is giving up some potential business by speaking openly about only your main industry or vertical. In working with hundreds of attorneys, we regularly discuss the up and down sides to becoming a specialist.
For me, becoming a specialist didn’t happen overnight. I invested over seven years of my life working in the legal industry before finally pulling the trigger and making this my sole purpose. To be honest, I wish I had done it years ago. The reality is that when you can build a reputation in one industry, market or vertical, your business can grow much more quickly than you ever thought possible. Of course, a number of elements need to be in place before making this jump. Here are a few things to think about before making the switch and specializing:
#1. You need to be the best at what you do.
Whether you are a litigator or an estate planning attorney, nothing is more important than being skilled at your craft. When thinking about specializing, be sure you have the baseline skills and experience to succeed in a particular area of the law. It might make sense to get at least 2-3 clients under your belt in a particular area to test it out and see if specializing makes sense in that area. It might also be helpful to leverage the clients you have in that one area to introduce you around in that space.
#2. Choose the right industry or vertical for you.
In my experience, there are three main ways to select an area of focus. First, leverage the work you’ve already done, and then repeat. For example, if you’ve worked with textile manufacturers and have shown great value, target other textile companies to work with. Second, look to the future and find an area that is up-and-coming. For example, in Illinois we are legalizing medical marijuana. This may be an area to focus on as people look for legal help around this controversial new law. And lastly, ask, “What am I passionate about?” Do you care about something and want to get more involved. For example, one of my clients is very passionate about animals and is now focusing on working with dog shelters and veterinarians. Finding a niche’ that you are passionate about can make your legal career much more meaningful and enjoyable.
#3. Finding a space, where there is space.
Be aware of your market and niche’, and who else is there before committing to becoming a specialist. While you may have experience in real estate for example, there may already be too many lawyers in that area to easily separate yourself from the pack. Do your research and try to find a segment of real estate that isn’t fully saturated or move to a different specialty all together. By studying the competition and the amount of business generated in a particular niche’ you can better hedge your bets when selecting a specialty.
Developing a niche’ has been a life changing event for me. I’m working less to get new clients in the door and my reputation as an expert continues to grow every day.
By focusing on one thing, there’s a lot less pressure than before when I was selling to everyone. While it might take time, try to find the right niche’ for you and become a specialist. You’ll become more successful as people always remember a specialist and rarely remember a generalist.