S02 E08 – Step by Step Guide to Specialization

 

Step by Step Guide to Specialization

Marketing becomes so much easier when you know who you are talking to and what problem you solve.

Surely this isn’t the first time you are hearing this. But figure these 2 things out is difficult, so I want to share with you in this show, the step-by-step guide to specialization.

Why should you niche down or specialize your business?

  • you become efficient in what you do
  • you learn the ins and outs of the specialty
  • you become the expert
  • you are a lower risk to the lead to go with you versus someone who is general

The lead knows what you do and that you have solved this problem for others, you are a lower risk for them to sign with you because you have a proven track record of success.

'As a specialist, you are a lower risk for leads to become clients because you have a proven track record of success.'Click To Tweet

Ultimately, that’s why you niche. So that even before they meet you, you’ve already sold them due to your track record of success

How do you choose the niche?

With the 4 Lists of Specialization

  • List all the clients and projects that you’ve enjoyed working with in the past
  • List all the clients and projects what you didn’t enjoy working with
  • List all the common elements and reasons that you enjoyed working with
  • List all the common elements and reasons that you didn’t enjoy working with
  • Rank each list item from 1 to 5. The higher number the more important it is for you.

What you now have is a working idea of a niche.

At the very least you should be able to clearly see those things that you do not want to work on and the types of people that you don’t want to work with.

On the flip side, what should be standing out to you is some basis of industry and a problem that you are solving for someone.

Next, you’ll learn all the steps to refining your specialty and start getting that specialty honed in.

There are 4 steps to starting to specialize your business and landing that first specialized client.

  • The 4-lists to Niching Down
  • Learn how to say “no”
  • Vet the niche to see if it really has value
  • Do the research and land that first client

Episode Take Away

Pull out a piece of paper. Yup, paper, and a pen, please.

Then fold the paper in half across the middle and then in half again across the vertical. Now unfold it and you should have 4 quadrants.

In the top left quadrant, I want you to list out all the clients and projects that you enjoyed working with. Just list the names.

In the top right quadrant, I want you to list out all the clients that you didn’t enjoy working with. Remember just list the names here.

In the bottom left quadrant, I want you to list out all the common elements and reasons why you choose the clients and projects in the above quadrant.

In the bottom right quadrant, list out all the common elements and reasons why you choose the clients and projects in the above quadrant.

In each quadrant I want you to put a number from 1 to 5 next to each list item. You are now going to rank each one by putting a number next to it. The higher the number, the more important it is for you.

You now have is a working idea of a niche. Your business specialty!

You should be able to clearly see those things that you do not want to work on and the types of people that you don’t want to work with.

On the flip side, what should be standing out to you is some basis of industry and a problem that you are solving for someone.

Important Mentions in the Episode

Marketing for Freelancers

How to specialize your business with Sara Dunn with Sara Dunn

Meetup.com

How to increase the number of leads and clients with Brennan Dunn

How to build a service from the ground up with Ruben Gamez

Zapier

Google Trends

Transcript

All the episodes this season has been focused on marketing

This episode is going to be a bit different, we are going to take it back a step.

Marketing for your freelancing business can be tough because you need to define who it is you sell to and what you are selling.

This season you heard Chris Marr and Chris Ducker talk about answering the questions of your target customer, or your ideal customer.

Lee Jackson, Ruben Gamez, and Brennan Dunn dove deep into some strategies, tools, and areas of focus when it comes to marketing your business.

Then Sara Dunn who is still very much working on specializing her web agency came on the show and shared her ups and downs as well as the struggles she had in navigating the waters of figuring out what that specialty is for her.

I too struggled when I first tried to specialize or niche down. But in 2013 I started to think about specializing my business. Not because I saw other people doing it. Not because I wanted to become the go-to person in my space.

It was because I was getting married.

I was getting married in 2014 and I wanted to essentially take off for 3 weeks. Plus I knew that ramping up to the big day, there would be random days that I would need to take off to do the things that needed to get done.

I became really stressed out. I got to a point at which I felt that all I was doing was chasing down the next project, but not really making much movement for the business other than keeping it going. Effectively treading water and I knew that couldn’t sustain the business.

I got to a point where I was so overwhelmed with it, that I told my soon-to-be wife that I was going to go back and get a full-time job.

You know what she said? “That’s not what you want to do. I know that and you certainly know that. Don’t worry about it, we’ll figure out a way to get through it.”

Could you imagine? Yup, I landed a winner guys!

So it lead me to think about sales, and what my business would look like after I took all this time off. And I was smart about scheduling projects out, so I wasn’t concerned with the days and weeks when I returned. I was more concerned about the couple of months later.

I have defined processes in my business to go out and perform lead generation and sales, but with me being away, I would miss those opportunities. These missed opportunities would affect my business 2-3 months after we got back.

So after talking with some people I repeated, looked around the space my business was in, web development. I saw that people who had specialized their business in some way didn’t appear to be in the hamster wheel of always having to look for that next project.

From afar it seemed as though they had sales coming to them.

This was really the start of my journey in specializing my business, for the first time.

Now I’ve gone through 3 major shifts in specializing my business. But for this show I’d love to be able to walk you through some processes and how to do some research around specialization that worked for me and for other folks as well.

I want you to walk away from this episode with some tactful steps and action items if you are in this process, thinking about it, or just refining the sales process of your business.

I want to share with you 4 reasons why you should focus on specializing your freelance business.

## Why should I niche or specialize? 6:46
I think you know this answer, but let me elaborate and hopefully shed some light.

I always like to use the analogy of doctors in this case.

So your general practitioner is someone who you goto when you have a cold or ill, right? You often times want to have a GP pretty close to you. Someone who is reasonable in cost. And ultimately someone who if they retired tomorrow, you probably could find someone else pretty quickly that would do the same thing.

Now if you need brain surgery, how does all that change? You want the best. Even if you have to travel a bit, you’ll go out of your way for that. You probably won’t even consider cost as a part of your consideration in choosing them.

There’s a drastic difference in mindset here, right?

When you niche or specialize more than a few things become widely apparent.

First you become efficient in what you do because you continue to do it time and time again. Every time you do something you get just that bit faster and maybe even find better ways of doing things.

You also learn something each and every time you do something.

Which brings me to #2 – you learn the ins and outs of the specialty. You learn about the customers, the industry standards, how things are done, and most importantly the language of that specialty.

Third, you become the expert. As you solve the same problem over and over again, you are the expert. As the expert you can command higher fees and prices.

Lastly, it’s a lower risk to the lead to go with you versus someone who is general.

The lead wants the best. If they truly understand their needs and are not just looking to keep up with the Jones’, they will look for the best.

When you need your car fixed, you aren’t talking to a carpenter right? And when you want an extension onto your house, you aren’t calling your mechanic, right?

Because the lead knows what it is that you do and that you have solved this problem for others, you are a lower risk for them to sign with you because you have a proven track record of success.

Ultimately, that’s why you niche. So that even before they meet you, you’ve already sold them due to your track record of success.

## How do I choose the niche 9:39

This is where I think you may get hung up the most on it. So I’m going to walk you through an exercise that helped me, and that I use today with coaching clients. This will be the very first step in figuring out your niche.

I want you to pull out a piece of paper. Yup, paper and a pen please.

Then fold the paper in half across the middle and then in half again across the vertical. Now unfold it and you should have 4 quadrants.

In the top left quadrant I want you to list out all the clients and projects that you enjoyed working with. Just list the names.

If you don’t have clients yet, then list those pet projects you have worked on or those ideal projects you would like to work on.

Think about how impactful the project was to their business. Think about your interest in the industry of your client. Think about how much you would want to do more like it? What about the people did you enjoy most?

In the top right quadrant I want you to list out all the clients that you didn’t enjoy working with. Remember just list the names here.

Think about why the project wasn’t as successful as it could have been. Why was it not enjoyable to work with these clients?

In the bottom left quadrant I want you to list out all the common elements and reasons why you choose the clients and projects in the above quadrant.

In the bottom right quadrant, list out all the common elements and reasons why you choose the clients and projects in the above quadrant.

You should have a nicely filled out piece of paper.

Now in each quadrant I want you to put a number from 1 to 5 next to each list item. You are now going to rank each one by putting a number next to it. The higher the number, the more important it is for you.

Then once you are done, put it aside and don’t look at it. Come back tomorrow to it and review. Does everything still line up? Is there anything that you need to add or move around?

What you now have is a working idea of a niche.

At the very least you should be able to clearly see those things that you do not want to work on and the types of people that you don’t want to work with.

On the flip side, what should be standing out to you is some basis of industry and a problem that you are solving for someone.

With this piece of paper in hand, it’s on to the second step of your specialization process.

## How to say “no” 13:15 – Step 2

So you’ve got your quadrants right?

This step we are going to focus in on the right side.

This is where you listed things that you do not want to work on and the types of people that you don’t want to work with.

When you start to specialize, this is the best place to start.

Once you identified what it is that you don’t want to do, then don’t do it.

It sounds simple, and it really is that simple.

The very next lead you get that requires you to do anything in the right 2 quadrants, say “no”.

Don’t get me wrong – I know how hard it is the very first time you say “no” to something that you can do, have done, and can be paid well for.

But it’s very liberating knowing that there’s something that you can do, but say “no” to.

And it is liberating because there is more work around the corner that is more of a fit for you and your new business direction.

Even if that next gig isn’t your full blown specialty, it’s a step closer to it because you’ve made time to do the work because you said “no” to the work that you just don’t want to do anymore.

It’s not about finding and launching yourself into a brand new business direction at once.

It’s the incremental changes that you do in your business, the “testing” in your business, the small steps you take in your business to progress forward, that gets you to your goal, your specialized business.

Like I said, I’ve gone through this process a few times now. Each time it actually gets easier because I know that there is work on the other side.

Saying “no” allows me to be a bit more selective of who I work with, what sorts of projects I can make an impact on, and know that I’m delivering such awesome value that I’m respected for and don’t have to have battles over why I’m “a better freelancer than the last one.”

So now that you’ve gone ahead and said “no” and have time for saying “yes”, how do you know that the “yeses” will be valuable, that they’ll be profitable, that they are actually good clients.

## How do I find out if the niche has value? 15:24 – Step 3
## How do I vet the niche to see if it really has value

The best way to research is to talk with people.

This is step 3.

Yup it’s not the most ideal for a lot of us introverts but to be able to vet your niche, you need to start from the ground up.

Since you’ve said “no” to some leads coming through, now’s the time to spend exploring the other side of the page.

First thing and easiest thing to do is to schedule a quick 10-15 minute call with anyone that you mentioned in your top left quadrant.

These are the clients that you’ve worked on in the past that enjoyed and would want more like them.

Start out by sharing with them why you enjoyed working with them and being able to have the opportunity to work on their project.

Then you want to jump into some quick and easy questions.
1. How is everything going?
2. What made the decision for you to choose me over someone else?
3. Is there anything that I can be doing better?

As you wrap up the conversation ask them if they know of anyone like themselves that has a similar project and that you would appreciate a quick introduction.

Now if you don’t have any past clients in that quadrant because you are just starting out or you haven’t worked with anyone that you really enjoyed yet, you can still do this.

You should have a list of projects or industries or companies there.

Goto meetup.com and search for local meet ups based on those topics.

Search for that company online and see who else is in that space.

Find events that these companies attend and see if you can get a ticket.

Take the 3 questions above with you and start up some conversations. To make it less overwhelming, go to the event and have 3 conversations at a minimum where you get these answers.

Keep in mind that since you haven’t worked with these folks before you’ll want to re-position the questions.

Instead of “What made the decision for you to choose me…”. You’d ask “What would be the most important thing you would look for in someone to solve your problem?”

Instead of “What can I do better”. You’d ask “What (if any) issues did you have with the person or company that you worked with in the past.”

Obviously I’m paraphrasing a bit here, you’ll want these questions to make sense for what you are asking about, but these are the exact questions I used when I did this myself.

This isn’t easy. It wasn’t easy for me. But the more people you talk with about this, you’ll start to see and hear patterns and you’ll get to learn the language they use when describing their problem and solution.

In episode 5 of this Season, Brennan Dunn talks about why high-touch sales work so much. Then he figured out through these sales conversations the trigger points, the language, the struggles, and solutions for his clients. Only then could he craft the benefits of his solution and present them at scale in emails, on his website, even in FB Ads.

These conversations are critical to finding out how valuable a specialty is. In episode 4 Ruben Gamez talks about listening to someone’s response with a question. Do their eyes light up? Are they excited? Or are they just responding to your question in the positive because they don’t want to disappoint you.

If it’s the latter, then ask them what it would take for it to be a no-brainer for them if this issue was solved?

Here’s an interesting side effect of having these conversations. This will lead in to you getting work overtime because you are talking about that “one thing” and starting to lay the groundwork for being the expert in your specialty.

Which brings me to the final step of this process.

## How to do research and land that first client 20:30

It’s time to put into practice what you learned from these conversations.

I want to walk you through 6 steps so that you can land that first client.

You should see some patterns emerge in the responses you have.

First, make a bulleted list of the struggles or issues that you were told either by past clients of yourself or of other service providers from those folks you spoke with at the meet ups.

From this list, grab a few of the top issues and search Google, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Quora for those issues. As much as I don’t like being on Facebook, if you are in some business groups on Facebook, these are great for finding out the struggles of other businesses.

Spend about a morning (or if you have a process in place for your sales currently, spend that time doing this) and see if there are more folks out there with similar issues or the exact same struggles. Don’t worry about how old the posts are unless you haven’t seen anything in the past 12 to 18 months.

You may want to create a spreadsheet with links to the posts and dates of when you responded just so that you can followup.

Second step is to respond to those people expressing their struggles and issues. Ask them if there’s anything that you can do to help. Don’t worry about making the sale, just see if they respond.

Third step is to go back to your previous leads that didn’t become clients for whatever reason and look through them. See if in your notes, emails, any correspondence at all where they’ve encountered these issues.

Why did they become your lead in the first place? Sometimes when you are a generalist you turn down work that is very specific because maybe too complex or requires some more education than you are willing to put in the time for.

Then send them an email to ask them about their struggles and if there’s anything at all that you can do to help.

Fourth step is to be patient. Folks tend to complain online in the heat of the moment. Unbelievable right? They may not respond right away especially if some times has passed. If you can, setup alerts using a tool like Zapier to send new posts your way that are related to your searches.

Fifth, if there’s a specific technology involved, or if there’s a specific product or topic, head on over to Google Trends and put that into the search bar. If there’s an uptrend over the past 12-18 months, great. If there’s a pretty even trend, great. If there’s a downward trend, maybe this is something that you want to re-assess.

Lastly, look at your list of leads and responses that you landed. See if you can further define the scope of work even more. Once you do, present it to them and see if they will bite.

If they do, you’ve got yourself the MVS – minimum viable service – haha – I think I just made up a new acronym.

Let’s say over the course of this you have about 50-100 different people and companies who you have spoken with or corresponded with. How many responded? How many can you get onto a call and pitch your thing?

Can you land 1, 2, maybe 5 new clients in this first test of your market? Obviously it depends on your bandwidth and service. But if you can land one or 2 then you’ve moved in that direction towards your specialty.

It may not seem like a lot, but you need that first step into it. As you learn from these interactions, talks, and projects, you’ll position yourself better for the next round. You’ll start to build a library of case studies related to the speciality. And more importantly remain on track because you have focused your organic sales around a specific market and away from being that generalist.

I know that this was quite a lot of information and steps. I hope that I was able to break it up into sections for you. If you want to see the outline, head on over to rezzz.com/208 and you will see all of the steps outline for you.

I know you are in a different place in your journey than say myself or another freelancer. That’s ok.

Share with me on Twitter, @rezzz, where you are in specializing your business.

What stage are you?

Are you just thinking about it?

Are you struggling with where to focus your skills on? Are you not landing any clients?

Let me know, tweet me @rezzz and let’s chat.