In order to be successful, it’s critical to clearly define your offering, your market and your ideal buyer. It’s also equally important to state what you’re not. What industries do you not want to do business with? What types of clients don’t align well with your company culture or products?
One of the exercises we like to take companies through is one where we look at your current customers and identify commonalities in the most successful cases. We look for industries of specialization and try to identify any intellectual property or unique industry items we possess. This helps these young start-ups to work through targeting the right kind of profitable business. Invariably someone will say, “Well we have experience in XX industry but we’d take leads in YY industry. While there’s nothing wrong with targeting more than one industry, it’s important to remain tightly focussed on businesses where you can best compete and offer significant value.
Defining What You’re Not
A mistake that a lot of start-ups make is getting into a mode where they are chasing after any business, rather than focussing on industries where they can provide the most value and have the highest likelihood of success. This is understandable. You’re trying to become profitable as quickly as possible and cash flow is critically important. But this can be quite shortsighted and counter productive.
One of the most important tasks a start-up can undertake is deciding the industries that they want to focus on. Right behind it, in terms of importance, is deciding what business you don’t want.
One of the reasons it’s important to identify what you are and what you’re not is that its very hard to compete in industries where you lack experience and insight. Not to mention areas where you lack interest and/or passion. You’re much better going after one highly profitable industry than chasing after four where you have little chance of beating the competition. So here are 4 questions to ask yourself when determining what you don’t want your company to be when it grows up:
- What are the industries where you don’t enjoy working?
- What are the attributes of a company that makes it a deal killer for you? (e.g. lack of senior level management commitment, lack of resources or personal, etc.)
- What industries do you tend to not be competitive or typically struggle to maintain profitability?
- Is an industry worth investing in to win potential business, or are you throwing darts at the wall and hoping they stick?
How do I Know if I’m Chasing Bad Business?
There are a few surefire ways to tell you’re working in the wrong industry and need to opt out of working with companies in a given industry of vertical
- Difficulty consistently winning business – if every time you go head-to-head with a competitor in a given industry, it may be that you lack the knowledge/experience/insight to add sufficient value to be competitive.
- Lack of profitable engagements – if you are consistently loosing money on a given vertical it may because you lack sufficient differentiation or fit for that industry.
- No viability in an industry – You may really know the typewriter repair business well, but how viable is that business? Go after industries that are viable and will remain viable.
- You hate doing the work – There are certain industries that you just don’t enjoy working with. It may the type of environment you have to work in, or maybe industries in the vertical just lack sophistication. If you hate doing it, DON’T DO IT! Life is to short to do work that you hate!
Do you need help identifying your ideal clients and target industries? We can help! Let’s talk!