I spend a lot of time thinking about how to find unique consulting niches to fill as a consultant/entrepreneur. Creating new value for customers is always in demand but often difficult to systematize.
Occasionally I come across an interview of an entrepreneur who created a successful businesses by filling an unusual niche. What is often left out of the interview is the process used to find and exploit that niche. Is it just a matter of luck or could there be a more structured approach to consistently find and monetize new opportunities ?
Specialization is Key:
One should always start a discussion about niches with a quote from the founding father of labor specialization Adam Smith:
“The greatest improvement in the productive powers of labour, and the greatest part of skill, dexterity, and judgment with which it is any where directed, or applied, seem to have been the effects of the division of labour.” – Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations
The success of a consultant/entrepreneur depends on the ability to identify niches, that if filled effectively, will create enough value to customers that they will trade money for that product or service more than once. Typically consultants tend to settle into specific industries as their expertise grows within that field. However most industries nowadays are being disrupted by a combination of massive financial change, new technology and a rapidly changing global workforce.
How would you like to be a consultant specializing in taxi medallions in the era of Uber ?
Change is inevitable !
A Process Framework
I’m a big believer in process frameworks as they can be a great way to structure a complex activity and make it repeatable and measurable. The following is what I call a ‘Value Niche Framework’ designed to help convert curiosity to value.
I’ll be producing a series of YouTube videos detailing the VNF process in the coming weeks that will go into much greater detail. Make sure to sign up for my mailing list to get noticed when the videos are released.
Stage 1 – INSPIRATION
Feeding Your Curiosity
The primary source of creating new value is curiosity. Everyone should spend a few hours every week exploring new subjects to expand their worldview. Reading a wide array of different subjects, expanding the personal network and taking classes are all good exercises to expose yourself to new ideas. If you don’t have a lot of time or aren’t sure where to find new topics you can use the power of the Internet to help automate the process. Some of the best sites for exploring new subjects include stumbleupon.com, randomusefulwebsites.com and randomwebsite.com
Ultimately a low-cost means of ideation is to constantly expose yourself to new information. Occasionally certain subjects will catch your attention enough to become ongoing interests. Interests grow into new skills that help the consultant create value.
Stage 2 – CULTIVATION
Curiosity that evolves into an activity worth investing time and money becomes an interest. For example, a casual curiosity about golf might lead to taking a lesson or reading some magazines that ultimately leads to an active hobby. If you live in an area where golf is prevalent there maybe numerous opportunities to turn interest in golf into a new business. Interests have the tendency to produce new skills and knowledge that will help with creating value propositions. It is most useful to consciously develop interests relevant to whatever marketplace you plan to exploit.
Stage 3 – QUALIFICATION
Once an interest develops to the point where it’s ready to be converted into a value proposition there are three important activities that follow. Properly qualifying an idea is essential before committing resources and manpower.
Deciding to pursue a value proposition requires a commitment until success is achieved because there will be risks and opportunity costs to consider. Making good business decisions is one of the scariest and most difficult things to do well. Half-hearted efforts at promoting a new value proposition will be easily detected by potential clients. Total commitment to your value proposition will be the difference between success and failure.
Access to the right information is critical at this stage. Knowing how to get information and use it effectively is what truly separates the wildly successful from the average performer. Keep in mind that the Internet is by far the most powerful engine for data retrieval but don’t discount information garnered from alternative sources. The value proposition must be based on accurate information about the market you will be servicing.
Your personal and professional networks will be integral not only to validate your value proposition but to expand your reach into new markets. I will be writing a separate post on the specifics of networking in the AfterBubble era. Ultimately the multiplier effect of a strong network is how you can project a big idea to a wide audience.
In part 2 of this article I will be exploring in detail the mechanics and metrics of value propositions and how to overcome the ‘threshold of execution’. Also we will discuss in detail the two monetization strategies that are the most effective to convert curiosity to value. Please make sure to subscribe to the AfterBubble.com mailing list to be notified of upcoming events.