A: This is one of the most common types of questions we receive—to specialize or not to specialize? While it can be frightening to deliberately turn away paying business, especially in this economy, our rule is that if you get a verifiable 70% or more of your business from one specialty area, then you can and should specialize in that area and say “No” to all other business outside your specialty.
In trying to get yourself to an emotional place where you can brand yourself as a healthcare shop exclusively, you should think about more than the 25% of your income that your non-healthcare business provides. You should also think about these factors:
-How much time and money does it cost for you to acquire your non-specialty (in this case, non-health care) clients?
-How easy is it for you to work with them, since they represent an area where you are not a recognized expert? Do you spend a lot of time dealing with change orders, writing proposals, etc.?
-What kind of referral stream are you getting from those clients?
See, value isn’t just a matter of gross income. It's al the factors that make your little agency profitable. If you spend more than average to get those non-core clients, spend 20% more time on them for the same amount of money, and get 50% fewer referrals, you’ve got nothing to lose going specialist and kissing them goodbye. Which is why we recommend that, whenever possible, you specialize.
Here’s a simple three-step plan for specializing the right way:
1. Start a six-month branding program telling your health care clients that you plan to narrow your focus and specialize in their area of business. During that time, complete your new branding look, feel, and language, and update your Website. Communicate with your core clients during this period; remind them what you’re doing, and ask for referrals. In fact, why not also do this with your non-health care clients? Because the next thing you’re going to do is…
2. ...establish your own referral program. Have an agreement with some other agencies in which you refer them non-health care clients in return for a finder’s fee. Then, when a non-health care client contacts you, you say, “I’m sorry, but I’m specializing exclusively in healthcare companies now. I would be happy to refer you to a partner agency I’ve chosen personally.”
3. Raise your fees. You can justify them--after all, you're an expert now! Plus, you may need them at first until you pick up new clients.
Peter Montoya and Tim Vandehey are the authors of The Brand Called You, the definitive guide to personal branding, published by McGraw-Hill. The book can be purchased here.
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