You have probably loved the idea of working in a niche area, as you understand the logic that it will help you to win more clients, more easily and charge a higher fee. Many professionals get that far. But, then they say something like “but I don’t want to turn people away”, so I won’t pursue the niche. What they’re really saying is ‘how specialist do I need to be?’. They are worrying about being too specialist. Do you and what is the answer to that?

How specialist do I need to be in order to get my leg fixed

Why do clients want an expert?

So there I was, leg playing up AGAIN, unable to dive AGAIN and getting thoroughly ‘fed up‘ with the situation. I had managed to damage a tendon, and yes it hurt, but more importantly I couldn’t do what I wanted to.
I know several therapists, some I know well and others who I was recommended to. How should I choose? In the end I found three categories, those who:
  • helped people get better (generalist)
  •  had some kind of sports injury focus (generalist, with interest in)
  • who specialised in my kind of injury (specialist, or maybe expert)
How would you have chosen?
Much as I liked some of the people, I needed this fixed and to get it right this time around. I didn’t want general advice, or somebody that would ‘have a go’. My choice was the specialist. I didn’t even think about fees until I had made that decision.
The greater the level of risk (reputation, wasted time, business health, or my case pain) the more clients are likely to choose a greater level of specialism.
In 2012 the ‘FT Effective client advisor relationships report‘ in showed that 67% of clients wanted their professional advisor to have a good and deep understanding of the world that they operated in.

How specialist do I need to be?

Becoming the expert in a specialist field takes time, and effort. You may not need to be the specialist if you have a new firm that’s just starting out (in fact I’d say you almost definitely don’t). But following the logic of client requirements, can you start increasing your level of specialisation?
The journey typically looks something like
  • A generalist
  • Being a generalist with a growing interest in…
  • A generalist with specialism in….
  • Specialist in….
  • Known expert in….
  • The Go-To Expert for ….
Consider a small high street firm. Your market may be all about being local (that is actually starting to specialise), you may then start to grow and want to increase your typical client value. You may quickly realise that “we specialise in SMEs” is a pointless phrase. Most firms now start saying things like “we want bigger businesses as clients“, that may be true, but it doesn’t make you a specialist in them. Choosing the type of client you are better equipped to deal with, than your competition, will move you along the spectrum.
You may later refine that further, and look to add client value by knowing everything about a sector. This doesn’t prevent you from dealing with ‘walk in‘ trade, but you may start to realise it is less profitable.
If you are going to stand out from your peers and competitors then you really need to be known for something. It’s the best way to help get referrals and focus your marketing. Perhaps the answer to ‘how specialist do I need to be’ is that you need to be one step further along the expert continuum than your competition.
How far will your journey towards being the 'Go-To' Expert go and when will you begin it?
Written by Jon Baker The 5-50 Coach. I help professionals grow their firms from 5 to 50 employees, sustainably, profitably and still have fun. Have you got your "next step kitbag yet"? It's stuffed with guides, reports & templates helping you grow from 5 to 50 employees Click here for immediate access