Careers

Pivoting to becoming a specialist

Apr 02, 2020

Becoming a specialist in a particular sector isn’t reserved for large firms only and is far easier than you might think. Mary Cloonan tells us how.

The professional services market in Ireland has changed in the last five years and, after this COVID-19 crisis, they certainly will again. Professionals might be starting to think about pivoting to a particular service or sector, and becoming specialists who know the ins-and-outs of that sector and are better positioned than general practice (GP) accountants to advise their clients.

In the past, this may have been an option for large firms only, but the Irish market is small and built on connections and relationships, so displaying your expertise in a particular sector is far easier than you might think. I work with a number of mid-sized practices that focus very successfully on specific expert areas. In turn, they compete successfully with GP accountants.

Picking a specialist area

When thinking about pivoting to a specialist area, think very carefully about where you want to focus and remember: picking a specialist area does not prohibit you from working with clients and prospects in other areas.  

Research in the US indicates that high growth, profitable firms are focused on having clearly defined targets. The narrower the focus, the faster the growth. The more diverse the target audience, the more diluted your marketing efforts will be and, in turn, less effective.

Some things you should consider:

  • Is there potential for you in the sector of your choice? Is there already enough support for this sector, or are potential clients looking for professional advice and guidance?
  • What is your commitment level to this change? Are you ready to focus on this sector? Are you committed to building your profile as a specialist?
  • Will you enjoy working with clients in this sector?

Experience and connections

Since you became an accountant, you have been networking within the industry and have been working diligently for the clients you already have. Take a look at your network to see if you have clients or connections in your chosen sector who can guide you through any issues, become potential referrers of new contacts and provide testimonials, links to associations or groups in the sector.

Building your profile

Once you’ve established who your target audience is, use these key methods for building your profile with them:

Social Media

Create a profile on LinkedIn that clearly focuses on your expertise, then connect with stakeholders, follow relevant groups, businesses and influencers of the sector.

Website

Your website is your virtual 24/7 presence, and the single most important development tool. This is where your audiences learns about what you do. Prospective clients are not likely to choose you solely based on your website, but it is a critical validation point. Prospects will easily rule you out if your website sends the wrong message.

Networking and events

People do business with people they know, like and trust. So, if you are trying to do business in a particular sector, let the sector know you. Most industry sectors have an association so go along to events, seek to write in their publications, find opportunities to speak at events and exhibit, if that’s an option.

Comment

Ensure you are well-read and understand the issues of your sector. Set up Google news alerts and subscribe to magazines about the sector. This will ensure you are staying up-to-date on the issues relevant to your potential clients. You can then comment on the latest news on the industry and post via social media and write short pieces. Get connected to the journalists involved and offer commentary.

Repeat

Most importantly, when establishing your profile in a specific area, ensure you are consistent and repetitive. I see large and small practices start very enthusiastically, but only those who maintain focus will reap rewards.

Mary Cloonan is the Founder of Marketing Clever.