Are you making this amateur mistake? (and what to do about it)

don't make your consulting business generic

don't make your consulting business genericWay back in high school, I worked at a grocery store. Besides the usual, brand-name products, we also stocked generic products. Now, this was back in the mid-1980’s, and generic foods weren’t the house labels (Kirkland, etc.) that they are now.

Generics back then both looked like and delivered crap.

But, there was a market–a market of people who couldn’t afford better or were just extremely cheap.

Since then generics have changed a bit, but most people still believe that generics are worse than name-brand products.

For consultants and freelancers, there are 2 points to keep in mind:

  1. People instinctively think that generic is low-quality. While some generics can actually be better than name-brands, public perception is that generic equals crap.
  2. More important, there are plenty of things that people won’t buy if they’re generic–mainly up-market, more expensive stuff. If you need heart surgery, you want a Harvard grad, not some joker who went to Podunk University or some other diploma mill.

Same with consulting.

Being generic is consulting business suicide

Here’s an example. Say you know a thing or two about computers (I’m not picking on anyone in particular here), so you slap together a web page listing all the possible things you can do. Then, a potential client–I’ll call him J. P. Moneybags–decides he needs some help with online marketing. Moneybags finds your website, and sees that you offer:

  • social media marketing,
  • networking for home & office,
  • hardware upgrades,
  • SEO,
  • software installation and recommendation,
  • performance tuning,
  • custom application development,
  • website design, and
  • wash, wax, and vacuum their car.

Now, ol’ J. P. Moneybags is going to think, “What the hell is this?! There’s no way I’m going to hire them for my business!” Why? Because by offering everything under the sun, you look like an amateur. It’s a common mistake, but one you MUST avoid–unless you really are an amateur. By offering everything, you make yourself generic; there’s nothing about you that stands out–other than being an amateur. Being generic just lost you business.

How a consulting niche works to your advantage

But, what if J. P. Moneybags goes to your website, and sees stuff about:

  • social media marketing using Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn,
  • how to use SEO to increase online marketing results,
  • targeting local businesses through online channels, and
  • how to use pay-per-click advertising to attract more leads.

Now, ol’ Moneybags is thinking, “This dude knows their stuff.” And ten seconds later, you get a call from Moneybags himself. So, even if you’re just getting started, and even if you FEEL like an amateur, DON’T ACT LIKE ONE. Amateur tactics get amateur results. You want more than that. You want a professional, sustainable business. The way to get that is by focusing your business on a specific niche.And no, “computers” is NOT a niche. “Online business marketing strategy” is a consulting niche. To get a better idea of how to define your niche and how being in a niche can help your consulting business, take a look at the following:

Know your niche or define it, and you’re halfway toward having a much more successful consulting business. And if you’ve got a more profitable consulting business, you won’t have to eat generic crap food anymore.

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Daniel Rose - February 26, 2012 Reply

Very good article. So many people fall into the generic trap, or the low value trap. They focus on cost/price, but at best a cost/price purchaser is an average customer. At worst, they’re a great way to lose money.

    Greg Miliates - February 26, 2012 Reply

    I completely agree. Competing on price is a losing strategy. Some of the most “challenging” clients I’ve had are the ones who are the most price-sensitive; typically, they end up being extremely demanding, yet are reluctant to pay for the value they demand.

IT Consulting Guy - March 8, 2012 Reply

Thanks for the tips and great article. I really like your views on the consulting niche. I find myself in that situation quite a lot these days.

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