Right now, there’s a lot of demand for all types of high-end consultants. And the best way to set yourself apart and stand out in the market is by choosing the right speciality.
But many new consultants make the mistake of casting their net too wide. Being a generalist may land you new clients, but your returns will be much greater if you target a specific niche.
By narrowing in on your specialty early on, you position yourself as an expert, and as your business grows, your reputation grows with it. Specializing can lead to more lucrative consulting opportunities, and give you a competitive advantage down the road.
How to Narrow Your Focus as a Consultant
But with so many different types of consultants, how do you know where to specialize? The following five steps can help you narrow your focus and validate your consulting specialty.
1. Consider Your Skills and Expertise
The first step is to take an inventory of your skills and how you’ve been most helpful to others throughout your career. What are the tangible skills you’ve gained over the years that clients could benefit from?
Take out a pen and a piece of paper and start brainstorming some ideas. Here are a few things you can include on this list:
- The various industries you’ve worked in
- Hard skills you gained during your career
- The types of customers you’ve helped
- Big wins you had throughout your career
As you continue writing out your ideas, you should begin to notice patterns emerging. From there, you can narrow your focus to those activities that you are truly the best at doing.
You can also pick the work you truly enjoy doing. Because a big part of becoming an independent consultant is the opportunity to do what you love, work when you want, and pick who you work with.
2. Know the Different Types of Consultants
Consulting is a pretty diverse industry, and there are a wide variety of services you can offer. At this point, it can be helpful to familiarize yourself with the different types of consultants and see which one fits your skill set the best.
Here are some of the different types of types of consultants and the relevant skills you’ll need to have for each role:
- Strategy: This type of consultant helps clients identify and manage their organizational strategy. To be successful in this role, you need to have experience in business strategy and business development. You’ll also need to have strong interpersonal skills and be able to lead your client through this process.
- Operations: Operations consultants help businesses improve their business processes. You’ll help your clients improve their internal operations and make improvements to their overall infrastructure. This type of consultant should have experience with specific business processes or infrastructure support.
- Marketing and sales: In this role, you’ll work with companies to create and implement a new marketing strategy. You’ll help your clients identify their marketing message, and figure out how to share that message with their audience. To be effective in this role, you’ll need to have a mix of technical and soft skills, as well as practical marketing experience.
- IT: As an IT consultant, you’ll analyze your client’s IT systems to ensure they help the company meet its business objectives. You’ll need to be able to analyze and evaluate the company’s IT infrastructure, identify any inefficiencies, and help them implement an improvement plan.
- Project management: As a project management consultant, you help businesses keep their most important projects on track. To do this role, you should have a solid foundation in project management and experience applying these skill sets in real-world situations.
3. Identify a Need in the Market
Once you’ve identified the skills you have to offer potential clients, you need to identify a need in the market. This will help you find the kinds of clients who need and value the services you offer.
Spend some time thinking about the types of companies that could not only find value in your services but have the most to lose by not hiring someone like you. For instance, there are many opportunities when it comes to market access, data science, and mergers and acquisitions.
Once you’ve identified your target market, take some time to learn about their problems and the language they use to describe those problems. You can learn this by reading industry forums, attending industry conferences, and searching Reddit and Quora threads.
4. Study Your Competition
A lot of people see competition as a bad thing, but that’s not necessarily true. Whenever you’re entering a competitive market, that means there’s a lot of demand. And you can learn a lot by studying your competitors.
Competitive research will help you identify industry trends and figure out how to position your consulting business for success. Once you’ve identified some of your competitors, you’ll want to consider the following:
- Their website and positioning
- What they post about on social media
- How they describe their services
- How they’re building their email list
- Their unique value proposition
- Whether they include their pricing on their website
5. Validate Your Offer
And finally, it’s time for you to validate your offer. Doing competitor research and learning more about industry trends is useful, but those things aren’t enough on their own. You need to talk to potential clients and find out if they see the value in your services and are willing to pay your fees.
At some point, no matter what type of consultant you choose to be, you’re going to have to invest in growing your consulting business. Validating your idea from the start is going to save you time and money down the road.
Come up with a minimum viable offer and begin selling it to your target market. This will help you identify whether potential clients are willing to pay for your services. And most importantly, it will give you valuable feedback that you can use to continue changing and improving your offer.
Identifying your consulting specialty is the best way to stand out to your target market and grow a successful consulting business. And when you’re known in a specific industry, it makes it easier for people to refer you to other clients.
If you’re not sure exactly about your specialty, the best course of action is to choose an area that’s in demand and see how potential clients respond. You can always change it down the road if you find something that’s a better fit or if you identify an unmet need in the market.
One of the best ways for new consultants to get started is to apply to join Business Talent Group’s community of independent talent. We can connect you with the kinds of high-profile clients who are looking for skills and experience just like yours.