I am giving you 20 Questions that you’ll want to answer in order to set your business focus, and make your company referral-ready. The first one was, What are your Company Strengths? Now, let’s turn to…
Question #2 – What is your Company’s Domain Expertise?
You should know that I have a total lack of interest in anything related to fashion and style. I’m a guy’s guy. I grew up with 3 brothers, and I have 5 sons. If you tried to hire me as a consultant for some fashion brand, you’d find that, in the words of author Robert Heinlein, I’d be a stranger in a strange land.
No domain expertise. Not even any interest. None. Zero. My wife still has to correct me when I call a blouse a top, or a shirt (OK, nowadays I just do it to annoy her…)
But I can be quite effective in the realms of commercial pharmaceuticals, and training. Those are my “home” markets, where I have deeper knowledge, a broader network, and a level of comfort and expertise. Let me illustrate how I think about domain expertise in two dimensions:
Dimension 1 – Your Vertical Domain
Most companies have some kind of domain expertise – that is, a certain area of knowledge/business in which they have experience and strength. It could be Education, Auto Manufacturing, Energy, Financial Services, Defense, Consumer Products – any of a number of vertical markets. Turns out that I have my strongest track record, and my most profitable clients, in the Pharmaceutical/Life Sciences industry. I can gain prominence in that sector, far more that in some other verticals where I could only dabble. Make sense? You can’t add equal value in every market.
Dimension #2 – Your Horizontal Function
Life Sciences is a big domain. And Training is a big function. There’s the R&D side, the Clinical side, the Corporate/HR side, the Commercial side. And, in those buckets, there are multiple functions and subspecialties. For instance, on the Commercial Sales Training side, one specific functional area for deploying training is Key Account Managers, and there are vendors that specialize in that “horizontal” slice. Those vendors may not wish to touch product launch training, diversity training, compliance training, or leadership training – you have to pick your focus. You can’t do everything equally well.
One of my referral partners focuses on Managed Markets training. Another one emphasizes Communications Skills. Another focuses on benchmarking studies, while another does curriculum development and product training. Yet another sells a training technology platform, and so on.
The companies that I cannot intelligently refer to clients are those that claim to do so many things, they actually have no differentiating offering or message.
Where is your most effective work, in two dimensions? Take a historical look at your best and most profitable work, and decide where you have the best opportunity to dominate. Then focus there.