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4 Reasons Why Consultants Fear Specializing (And Why They’re Mistaken)

By Michael Zipursky

Let’s talk about specialization for a moment.

I did a podcast interview not too long ago with a consultant, now based in Scotland who has a wonderful specialization.

There are some lessons in there that I think that all consultants, including you, can benefit from. I made this quick video to share those lessons with you.

If you haven’t checked out that podcast episode yet, you can go to the Consulting Success Podcast and check out that podcast — as well as a whole bunch of other ones that will help you to grow your business.

But let’s get to the core content here that I want to share with you today. It’s all about specialization.

Just because you’re focusing on a specific area doesn’t mean that you can’t accept other types of business. You still can. It’s totally up to you.

This consultant that I’m talking about really honed down on his specialization. He is a consultant doing branding and packaging design for beer companies. Pretty specific.

Now he could have called himself a “design consultant.” That’d be the highest level.

He could have also called himself a “branding consultant.”

He also could’ve also said, “I don’t do branding, I only do packaging.”

He’s more of a “packaging consultant” now because he’s doing branding for beer bottles.

He also could have said, “I’m a packaging consultant.”

But what does he actually do?

He went from being very, very broad — saying I’m a “design consultant” — to a branding consultant, to packaging consultant, and finally to being a packaging design consultant for beer companies.

Along the way, he tried things like web and marketing materials and so on.

But he really honed in all the way to packaging design for beer companies. Now his business is going exceptionally well. He’s seeing really strong growth.

But I understand that a lot of consultants hesitate around this.

Maybe you’ve hesitated to focus in more or specialize in a specific area. There are many common fears around this, which I’m going to dispel.

1. Fear of Losing Business

The most common fear that people have around this is that they’re going to lose business.

If they fear that they’re going to lose business, that somehow by specializing that they are going to not have as much business anymore because they’re going to a smaller market.

But that’s not true. I’ll tell you why in just a moment.

2. Fear of Missing Opportunities

People feel they’re going to miss opportunities if they specialize.

If you’re thinking “I might lose business,” here’s the reality.

Let’s say that this is the size of the market that you’re playing in. If you’re general, that’s you. I don’t know if you can even see that on the camera. You’re a dot right here — a dot.

What you want to think about is the entry into a marketplace where you’re playing in a much smaller field, but where you’re able to make a much bigger impact because you stand out a lot more.

You’re a bigger fish in a smaller pond as opposed to being a little minnow in a massive ocean.

Missed opportunities. People think that they’re going to miss out. They think “people will contact me from a different type of industry and they won’t be able to help them.”

a group of specialized business consultants

That’s not true as well. Just because you’re focusing on a specific area doesn’t mean that you can’t accept other types of business. You still can. It’s totally up to you.

If you’re focusing on only working with automobile manufacturers, if someone approaches you from the printing industry, it doesn’t mean you have to say no to them.

If it’s still aligned with what you want to do and you wanted that product on, take that project on. You can feel good about doing that. You don’t have to say no to opportunities that come your way.

But from a targeting perspective, from a focus perspective, and from a messaging perspective, you’re going to be much more focused.

3. Misunderstanding of Marketing

Number three is your marketing.

This is not a fear, but more of a reason why you should do this is. It’s that your marketing and your messaging is going to be much more effective because it will hone in.

It’ll speak to a specific ideal client as opposed to saying one design consultant that can do 50 different things – versus I’m a packaging consultant for beer companies.

There are far fewer companies that could use those services than if you said you were a design consultant. But if you’re a design consultant you’re competing against a lot of other design consultants.

What makes you different than anyone else?

You’re now able to target those very specific organizations that are your ideal clients. You can develop messaging that resonates with them because it speaks directly to them. And you’re able to target them and identify them so your marketing becomes not only easier to manage, but more effective because you know exactly who to point it to.

Instead of trying to cast a huge wide net and manage a whole bunch of stuff, you’re able to go very direct — almost laser targeted towards that ideal client.

4. Adopting The Status of “Expert”

The fourth reason to do this is by specializing, you position yourself as an expert much faster.

Of course, you still need to have real expertise, but by deciding to specialize, an ideal client will see you as an expert right away due to your specialization.

subject matter, specialized consultant

If I’m a beer company and I’m looking to hire someone to help me with my packaging, am I going to hire someone who calls himself a design consult consultant who has stationary work, website work, signage work, interior design work, product design work, and everything else under the sun?

Or am I more likely to hire someone that specifically specializes in package design for my specific type of company?

Of course, this latter person will have the advantage. Of course they’re going have the upper hand and of course they’re going to win more business more consistently when they go up against the former person. Because they’re targeting that specific market.

Need Help Specializing Your Consulting Business?

As long as there’s enough potential in your market, which there are in most markets — you don’t need a thousand clients to build a successful and thriving consulting practice.

You can get 10 clients per year and have a very successful business just depending on what size your average engagement is. You don’t need tons and tons. You don’t need to go after this huge market when this one here will do.

You can build a multimillion-dollar consulting practice targeting a very specific market because you become the expert in that market, and your marketing and your messaging becomes much easier to manage it and highly effective.

I hope this example illuminates the reasons to consider specializing.

And I want to challenge you as a consultant right now — from one consultant to another — to look at what’s your real area of specialization.

Who are you really focused on it helping, and can you segment in even more — can you be even more specific?

Can you create a more focused messaging and marketing to really go after your ideal client?

When you do, you’ll start noticing that you’re going to get a lot more traction.

You’ll see a greater response to your marketing, to your outreach, to your articles, and to everything else that you do because your brand will now start to resonate with that specific type of ideal client much more than it ever did before.

If you’d like help in dialing in your specialization, messaging, service offerings and marketing get in touch, our Clarity Coaching Program may be a great fit for you.

2 thoughts on “4 Reasons Why Consultants Fear Specializing (And Why They’re Mistaken)

  1. If you go deeper into vertical specialization, do you run the risk of exposure to market swings if there is a downturn in that area? And what about specializing based on an emerging strategic and operational issue that is universal to a wide range of businesses – as opposed to being a specialist for a very finite type of product/company as you illustrate here (beer)?

    • Art, great question. Business is full of risks and they can never be eliminated completely. However, most markets, even when under significant stress have opportunity. The problem may change which can require you to re-position your offering, yet opportunity always exists for the consultant looking for it and open to making things work.

      Regarding solving for an issue and not for a specific market. This can work, but keep in mind that if you’re at the early stages of marketing your consulting business the more focused you are with your ideal client and messaging the more response you’ll receive and the greater traction you’ll experience in almost all cases.

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