If you have genius, industry expertise will improve it

Close up picture of the stamped pattern on an industrial floor

Last week, we found ourselves in a robust discussion with a client about what it means to be an industry expert.

Many professional services firms have a sector-based go-to-market strategy but what does that mean exactly?

If you work exclusively for one client, does that render you an industry expert? Unlikely.

If you have a handful of clients from a certain industry, does that mean you’re an industry expert? Probably not.

To tout yourself, or your firm, as having particular industry expertise, you must be able to demonstrate that you are deeply knowledgeable about the sector. You must be able to show that you’re well informed, well connected and always up-to-date.

  • How large is the industry, domestically and globally?
  • How competitive is it?
  • Who has market share?
  • How do companies differentiate?
  • What are the barriers to entry?
  • What substitutes are available?
  • What are the threats?
  • Where is, or might there be, disruption?
  • How much power do suppliers exert?
  • How is the industry regulated?
  • How is the industry affected by commodity prices/technology/political instability…?

And so on.

The benefits of sector-based marketing

There are benefits to being a recognised industry expert and to sector-based marketing including:

  1. An industry-based marketing strategy provides focus and so should be more efficient and effective than a scatter gun approach.
  2. Industry expertise can be a point of difference, especially if you are able to tailor your services and solutions to the unique needs and challenges faced by your target sector.
  3. Specialising can justify you charging a price premium.

If you’re not quite there, but seek to brand yourself or your business on the basis of industry expertise, here are a few pointers. Do some or all of these things and you will be on your way to becoming an industry expert.

1. Join the industry association

Identify and join the most respected industry association. Membership will give you access to, among other things, information and events.

2. Get active

Once you’ve joined an industry association or two, get involved. A passive membership is a waste of money. Participate on committees and working groups. Contribute content. Submit abstracts to speak at events. Attend as many educational and social events as you can.

3. Mix in the right circles

Seize every opportunity to mix with other industry leaders. You’ll learn from them, build a network through them, and by association will be assumed to be one of them.

4. Press the flesh

Find out where and when major or important industry-focused conferences and trade shows are held each year. These will help you to expand your network en masse. That said, time pressures and your marketing budget won’t permit you to attend everything so choose wisely. Identify the best events having regard for the content, caliber of speakers, composition of attendees and so on.

5. Be the host

If you’re just getting started, consider creating a platform such as a podcast through which you can host already established industry thought leaders and influencers – for example, C-suite executives, analysts, authors, journalists and academics. You’ll learn from them and will simultaneously make meaningful connections.

6. Collaborate

Identify and collaborate with adjacent businesses which also target the same industry sector. These could be a source of referral work

7. Feed your brain

The only way to stay up-to-date is to keep up-to-date. You have unprecedented access to information. Take advantage of it. Search. Filter. Subscribe. Consider mainstream and alternative sources; free and paid media. Don’t disregard new or emerging sources but prioritise quality over quantity. Remember, too, to check your rear-view mirror – educate yourself about your target industry’s past, not just its future. And don’t forget, great content comes in a variety of forms so look out for podcasts and videos not just written material.  

8. Network online

You’re on LinkedIn but how well do you use LinkedIn? Do you use it for research? Do you participate in industry groups? Do you follow companies, individuals and hashtags relevant to your target industry? Do you systematically use LinkedIn to nurture your real world connections?

The same applies to other social networks.

As your industry network starts to grow, don’t be shy about asking for advice and recommendations. Which publications do you recommend I read? Who do you listen to? What other industry networking groups do you belong to? Who else do you recommend I follow?

9. Master the lingo

Every industry has its own jargon. Learn the terminology and the acronyms so you can keep up with the conversation.

10. Learn, baby, learn!

If you’re serious about not just positioning yourself as an industry expert but genuinely being one, get yourself some qualifications. Start a masters degree, complete a certificate or a few short courses. And though face-to-face formats will also afford you valuable networking opportunities, explore the available online learning options as well.