• You’ve had good success in one industry, but you find it’s declining – and there’s good growth in another sector
• You’ve been serving small clients effectively, and you’re ready to take on the big players
• You’ve been living in one part of the world, and have recently moved – or are planning to move – to another, so you need to build a client base in your new place
Those are your ‘greener pastures.’ So how do you jump over that fence to get where you want to be?
Well, as you might imagine given the theme of this blog, my answer lies in developing really useful content. Specifically, content that shows that what you’ve done and learned in your previous market can benefit clients in your new market.
In homage to Dr. Seuss’ “The Cat in the Hat,” we’ll call your previous market “Thing One” and your new market, “Thing Two.”
As with all of business, success comes from starting by looking at yourself and what you do but, from your client’s perspective. To do this, imagine yourself sitting in the office of a Thing Two prospective client. What’s going through that prospect’s head? How about, “Well, maybe you rocked in the work you’ve done to date – but how does that translate into helping me in my situation?”
Before you totally bomb that particular meeting, do your homework first.
Fence-jumping step one: what your markets have in common
Your first step is to do some research and thinking about what you have to put forward as relevant experience and insights.
Your practice needs to be focused on pressing problems and opportunities your clients face, no matter which market you’re chasing. So, think of what those problems and opportunities are, for the market you know now – your Thing One – and the one you don’t know as well, yet – your Thing Two. Consider:
1. Big global trends – skill shortages, capital constraints, the prospect (or reality) of constraints on carbon emissions, disruptive technologies and business models (Uber, airbnnb, Upwork). Consider demographic trends (retiring Baby Boomers in North America), population migration, destabilization coming from terrorism along with asymmetrical warfare, and other issues.
Particularly, note the trends you’ve helped your Thing One clients with. That points to skills you’ve developed already, that can be applied to Thing Two situations.
2. Trends and news specific to Thing One – Look for specific invasive business models and technologies with which you’ve helped your existing or previous clients. It seems that just about every startup’s business plan says it will be “The Uber of this industry”. As we’ll see below, your objective is to find trends and issues you’ve helped Thing One clients deal with, that are about to become, or already are, well, “a thing,” for Thing Two.
3. Trends and news specific to Thing Two – You’ll need to do this research anyway, right? Because, of course, you’re focusing not so much on “what you do” but on “problems you have that I can solve.”
4. Put these three piles of ideas into one place. Maybe you use mind-mapping, or Post-It notes, or colored highlighters. But whatever tool you use, your objective is to analyze your experience, finding ways to show your Thing Two prospects that you have insights and experience that can help them deal with specific issues they’re facing.
Step 2: Show you can add value in your new market
Your second step should be to think of insights you’ve developed, solutions you’ve found, trends you’ve discovered, and new developments you’ve researched in Thing One clients, that also apply to Thing Two.
For example, I worked recently with a client in New Jersey who had experience helping municipal landfill operators. My consultant client wanted to expand into meeting the needs of power generation utilities.
This included her experience helping her current clients manage leachate, which is the technical term for rainwater that has passed through the landfill, picking up contaminants such as metals, along the way. This leachate must be captured and treated, before it has a chance to contaminate surface or groundwater. The usual way to capture it is by means of a liner, which is an impervious layer placed under the landfill before it starts accepting waste, to make the leachate flow towards a collection sump pump.
My client said that coal-fired power utilities in the US are now faced with new regulations from the federal Environmental Protection Agency, to better manage the leachate from the ash that is left behind by the coal-combustion process. This includes developing landfills that effectively manage the leachate – a new idea to many power utilities, but an issue that my client had helped her municipal-landfill clients solve many times before.
I worked with my client to prepare an article, published in a coal-industry publication, which told coal-fired power utilities some of what they needed to know about managing leachate. This demonstrated my client’s ability to solve the issues being faced by potential clients in her new market.
Step 3: Create content that shows your Thing Two solutions
Content about a need that is new to your Thing Two market, where you have experience through your Thing One work, is a particularly powerful kind of what I call “transition content.” That’s content that helps you transition from one client base to another – content that shows your ability to meet issues where you have experience from one market, but that has only recently become an issue in your new market. This can include “newsjacking,” which means creating content that uses a hard-news development as its hook, and “trendspotting,” which is content wrapped around a slower-moving development.
So, think of problems you’ve helped your current clients face, which are being faced by the clients you want to have. It’s strongest if it is a new area for your Thing Two, but not essential. But think of new methods you bring to bear on the problem or opportunity.
Blogging and other content that shows your ability to meet the new market’s needs is a big factor for success with your transition.