Industry Expertise Creates Marketing Value

This morning, I heard two ads on the radio, one for Comerica Bank and the other for J.H. Cohn, an accounting firm. I found the ads particularly intriguing not only because of their timing—they ran consecutively—but also because they both emphasized the firms’ respective expertise in a variety of industries.

This interested me because I hear a lot of debate about how important industry experience is. For instance, litigators will say that they are generalists and can litigate anything, and I understand their viewpoint; however, the potential client’s perspective is often different. Prospective clients want to feel that you understand their industry.  From a marketing point of view, identifying yourself with an industry can make a difference in your marketing.

If an accountant were to simply state, “I’m an accountant,” people might forget that. They don’t understand how to differentiate that accountant from another CPA.  On the other hand,  I know a CPA who says that he specializes in the art business. He doesn’t even do that much in that area, but people remember that he specializes in that field. In the future, they are more apt to turn to him and say, “I know you do art, but I have a client who is a book publisher. I was wondering if you could help him with that.” Another example of how industry expertise creates memorability is that of the left-handed plumber. People who remember the plumber is left-handed still might be inclined to ask that individual for help with a right-handed challenge.

There is value in talking about industry expertise, and hearing those ads made me consider why it’s important to include in your marketing. When our firm talks with professional services firms, and ask about the kinds of clients they work with, they are sometimes resistant to the idea of trying to segment and go after particular industries. Any list can be segmented even if you only have two clients in that industry.  Often, they’re afraid it will cause them to lose business; people will only think about them for business related to that area, even though the opposite is true.  More important is that your marketing is more efficient the more focused it is.  You can’t, for instance, market to all entrepreneurs, although professionals tell me that’s their target market. It’s just not possible; you dilute your efforts. But if you can segment that by creating some other area that you’re expert in, then you can make inroads and take advantage of additional opportunities that exist.

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