Four Ways to Get from Here to There
Business development success is rooted in a firm's positioning, and while choosing a focus for the firm is The Difficult Business Decision, it's not the only decision around repositioning a firm. The question that immediately follows once you have chosen a focus is, how do we make the transition? Here are four ways.
My favourite, the Just Do It method is as simple and brave as publicly staking your claim to new territory immediately. This makes sense when the firm has the experience and is at least on its way to having expertise in the new area of focus. The advantage of jumping is it forces you to move quickly to defend your new territory. There's nothing like a public declaration to invite attack and hence inspire the rapid development of appropriate defences. If you're serious you'll burn the ships behind you.
2. Second Brand
Sometimes there's a large gorilla client that you worry will flee as soon as the new positioning is unveiled. While most clients won't be deterred by the change in language on your website, some might. In these examples it might make sense to launch a second agency brand to wrap around your new area of focus. It's as simple and inexpensive as a new phone number, business card and website. If you take this route, make sure to put all your business development efforts behind the new brand. The old one should eventually fade away into oblivion. This approach is often used by small market firms that want to retain some of the lucrative local accounts, at least for a little while, while they pursue a wider geographic trading area through their new, more narrowly-focused offering.
3. Two Steps
Sometimes the final positioning remains unclear and further validation of the options is required. In this case it might make sense to take one step toward the positioning with the understanding that within 6 to 12 months another step will be taken. As an example, let's say a generalist firm is thinking of focusing on vertical industries of either banking or insurance but is not sure which market represents the best opportunity. The first step might be to narrow the claim of expertise to financial services and then simultaneously pursue both segments under the broader umbrella, seeking to determine the best one to focus on.
4. Outreach First
When the new area of focus is one in which the firm has little or no experience it's logical to work to amass that experience first. In these cases the positioning remains undeclared while the firm pursues new clients within the area of focus. Once a small number of meaningful engagements are under the firm's belt, it then goes public with it's claim of expertise.
These options are laid out in order of consideration. Explore the Jump option first, and if that isn't the right option for you, move down the list.
Finally, remember that a change in your firm's positioning may not necessitate a purge of your client roster. You reinvent your firm one new client at a time.