Sunday, November 05, 2006

Niche the Rich

We hear the message again and again: find a vertical or a niche where you can be successful. The idea is that having a specialty will make you more profitable.

I have no argument with that, but want to recommend a variable you can add to your equation. In all businesses, there are owners willing to spend money and owners not willing to spend money. You need to find clients who are willing to spend money.

Some people say "I don't like lawyers" (or doctors or real estate agents or whoever) "because they don't spend money." I say there are lawyers and doctors and realtors who want to spend money and those who don't. The key is to differentiate between them.

One of the great books on building personal wealth is _The Millionaire Next Door_ by Thomas Stanley and William Danko. If your net worth is not yet a million dollars US, invest in this book. If you're in the $1-$3 million range, it's still a good read. If you're over that, take some time and write a book to share your insights with the rest of us.

In the meantime, here's an interesting thought inspired by the book. Stanley and Danko define what they call Prodigious Accumulators of Wealth (PAWs). This group is discussed at some length in the book. On a personal level, "the millionaire next door" drives a used car, prefers beer over champagne, has lived in the same house for twenty years, and avoids financing a personal lifestyle at the expense of a comfortable retirement. In other words, PAWs can be quite frugal.

So what makes a PAW a good client? One would think a PAW would be "cheap" and unwilling to spend money. And that's their tendency.

When do PAWs spend lots of money? According to Stanley and Danko, they spend money when they see it as an investment. So your success in appealing to these people depends on your ability to convince them that they are investing in technology.

This fits particularly well with a managed service model rather than a break/fix model.

After all, think about how you place these services. Break/fix work fits particularly well with clients who are willing to react to problems rather than pay for pre-emptive support. Pre-emptive support -- managed support -- is an investment in the future. It is for business owners who see a bigger picture.

With your current clients, you probably have a sense about whether they're prone to viewing technology as an investment or simply a purchase. For prospects who are not current clients, think about the kinds of "surrogate measures" you can find to determine their attitude. You're looking for someone who saves money as a general rule, but buys a higher quality product when the long-term finances make sense.

One other tool is the technology roadmap. See

I believe that, if you can get a prospect to buy into the technology roadmap process, then you've found someone who can see technology as an investment.

In the long run, this will be a great client. They won't be every new toy that comes along, but when it's time to buy a new open license agreement, they'll be onboard.

Important note on technique: Add the following phrase to your vocabulary. "We don't recommend every update just so you can have it." Consider when and how YOU would view technology investments in a given situation.

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