Why IT Consultants Don’t Get Enough Customers: Solved

Posted by · May 8, 2012 4:20 am

Learn the one, counter-intuitive trick to getting more clients in the door, faster, from referrals, networking, and word of mouth marketing.

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Sounds strange, but gets clients: Don’t Forget to Download the complimentary Whitepaper that goes this series: 7 Wickedly Effective Best Practices for Marketing Your I.T. Business.

IT business owners and consultants generally fall into one of two categories.

Either they don’t have enough time or they don’t have any customers. In this blog series, I’m going to cover the latter – not enough customers.

We’re going to find out why IT guys and consultants (and IT girls out there) don’t have enough customers. What’s the root cause? How do we fix it and how do we start attracting customers naturally without having to sell or get pushy or break the bank on expensive marketing that looks great but doesn’t produce money?

Why Traditional “Business Books” Don’t Apply to I.T.

See, one of the basic needs for all businesses is the USP. This is a unique selling proposition and if you pick up any basic business book on marketing or sales, they’re going to jump directly into that issue. The problem is those books are not for the IT world. The IT world is different. We’re not a butcher. We’re not a baker. We’re not a candlestick maker. We don’t sell widgets. We’re not retailers and we don’t even sell a physical product. You’re right! We’re in the service business you would say.

But that’s not quite right either. Yes, we do perform a service but we’re not in the same service business as say a plumber or an electrician. Electricity has been the same since the beginning of time. Plumbing has been the same for eons as well. Water has always rolled downhill even for the Romans.

Electricity always flows from positive to negative. Those service businesses have a simpler and easier model. So that’s not to say that they’re simplistic. The electrician and the plumber are fantastic businesses to own. Not only that, they’re always a need and they’re industries that are very old and very proven as viable business models. But IT is different for one reason. It changes constantly. Therefore we’re not in the product business even though occasionally we might build systems for customers. We are also not in the traditional service business because that would imply that we perform the same service over and over.

So, What Business Are We In?

We’re in the answers business. Think about that for a minute. We sell answers. We sell expertise. Our business is unique because we can sell an answer to a problem without even knowing why the problem exists and if you doubt that, think about this. Have you ever had a conversation with a customer where you fix something and they say, “Well, what caused that? How do we prevent it in the future?” and you struggled with an answer because the real reason was, “I don’t know. I just know how to fix it”? But that’s the legit answer.

See, and then the other problem is answers change every 18 months. See, water will always flow downhill for a plumber but viruses change daily. Security risks, threats, they change on an hourly basis. We don’t sell service. We sell answers and with this basic understanding, we must necessarily then define a secondary question. Answers for who?

This is where the rubber meets the road. Most IT professionals, who are in business for themselves or as consultants, can fix just about any problem you throw their way. It doesn’t matter if it’s a virus problem, a network problem, security issue, server problem. That would pretty much intuit their way through it and if not, like one or two Google searches would pretty much got it handled.

But that’s the problem. Because we can fix anything, we tend to want to fix everything for everybody and if you don’t have enough customers, I can guarantee that you don’t have enough customers because you have not tailored your services to appeal to a specific group of people.

Counter Intuitive?

So the first objection I get here is always, “Well, why would I want to pick one group of people? Doesn’t that lessen my ability to get more customers because there are less people asking for my service?” Yes, I know. It seems counter intuitive but when you lessen the number of people that you’re trying to reach, you actually increase the effectiveness of the message that you’re sending them. Thus, you’re increasing the amount of people who actually want to do business with you.

So let me give you a really obvious example of how this works. Right now, your quarantine is probably full of spam garbage, right? Now why is it even called spam? It’s because they’re advertising messages that are sent out in these massive email campaigns to everyone. The only qualification you need to have to be a recipient of this email is to have an inbox. You don’t even have to be alive. Alive or dead, doesn’t matter.

Same thing with your analog mailbox and analog junk mail. You will today, tomorrow or the next day go to your mailbox and get coupons to crap that you have never heard of, don’t need and don’t want. But what happens when you get a letter from a friend? You open it. What happens when you get contacted by a business that you’ve contacted before? You listen. Why? Simple answer is we want to feel special. We want to feel a connection. Familiarity equals connection. We want to feel like the vendor that we’re going to do business with went in the business specifically for us.

We want to make it so that the IT consulting arena for us is a specialty and when you get this specialty, you get a special audience. You’re not just a blanket target market. By the way, there’s a difference between audience and target market. Audience is a subset of target market. Target market is people grouped by age, income, geography but within that, we have age, income, geography and then we have thoughts, feelings and opinions, certain types of people, stuff that doesn’t really fit on a piece of paper or on a spreadsheet. That’s the stuff that you need to concentrate on because that creates a connection and I will tell you this right now. Where there’s no connection, there’s no profit. So OK, fine, I’ve convinced you for that one maybe.

Who Do I Pick?

Next one is, “Well, who do I pick?” Well, fortunately, Microsoft has done all the heavy lifting for you. If you will notice, they divide stuff up. They have Windows Home, Windows Professional/Enterprise and Ultimate. And why does Microsoft do this? For one simple reason. It’s why they do everything. The numbers support it. Microsoft knows that the Home user is different from the Professional/Enterprise user who is then yet different from the Ultimate user.

So don’t bother reinventing the wheel. Take a page out of their playbook and choose to appeal to either the home user or the enterprise user or the enthusiast or a subset of any of those.

Now how do I choose a target audience? Choosing a target audience is as complicated or as simple as you want to make it. You could flip a coin. Not really recommended. You could go with your gut instinct which is only slightly better than flipping a coin or you could actually run the numbers. This is the highly recommended way. OK?

If you divide your customer base into home residential versus office enterprise, you’re very likely to be able to add them up and find out which one of those categories brought in the most money last year and then you can think, “Hmm, who is the clear winner?” Well, just add it up. The numbers will tell you.

If it’s residential, you concentrate on them. If it’s corporate, you concentrate on them. Whoever brought in the most money last year, that’s who you start to concentrate on. Now I know what you’re thinking. But if I do that, I will lose a customer. I can’t afford to lose customers. That’s very true. You can’t afford to lose customers. That’s why you have to preserve your cash flow in your existing business because cash flow in a business is like air in your lungs. Sure, you can go without it but only for a brief period of time until panic and death set in.

See, once you’ve decided that you’re going to choose either the home user or the enterprise user or perhaps the enthusiast or perhaps a subset of one of those, you start tailoring your marketing messages to appeal to that audience. But do not forsake your existing customers quite yet. They’re the ones that are providing you with money for meals and mortgage payments. The more customers you pick up that belong to your target audience, the more money that you will bring in.

If You Love Them, Let Them Go.

(If you despise them, kick them out faster.)

Now over time, the non-target audience who has been supporting you all this time will probably fizzle out. In fact, they will definitely fizzle out. Some of it, well, because they’re attrition or they will move away or they got a coupon in the mail and that’s perfectly OK for them to leave.

You’ve already replaced that customer with a new, much more profitable customer than they ever were. It’s a net gain. Over time, you will discover that appealing to a specific audience naturally attracts new customers. Your marketing messages will become more and more effective and you will get more and more business, here’s the best part, more easily especially if you follow the rest of this video series and implement the tactics and strategies that it contains. So that’s it. That’s the number one problem. That’s how we fix it. Choose somebody to sell to. Quit selling to everybody.

Don’t Forget to Download the complimentary Whitepaper that goes this series: 7 Wickedly Effective Best Practices for Marketing Your I.T. Business.

  • Great blog post! Insightful into what really differentiates the IT business with normal “service” industry.