Want to expand your Business IT consulting practice but don’t have a stream of anxiously waiting clients? There are options!
Today we’ll be discussing the second major strategy for expanding your Business IT consulting business without getting new clients. (Though the strategy when implemented correctly WILL help you get new clients.) In this Part 2 of our “Business IT Expansion Series” we’ll explore “adding services” to your existing line of products and services.
But first — if you haven’t yet read Part 1, definitely go back and check that out.
Here is a quick recap of our six major strategies to expand without adding new clients:
- Expanding existing client relationships (covered in Part 1)
- Expanding existing service offerings and adding new ones (today’s topic)
- Creating mobile apps, web apps or traditional software
- Creating information products eBooks, physical books, online courseware, webinars, etc.)
- Creating membership sites
- Other “traditional” business strategies, such as acquisition, partnerships, buying stakes in other companies and the like
What does it mean to “add services”?
Before “adding” anything, you have to first know what you have. “Current services” are those things you deliver to clients today. In general, these are the services you advertise for sale and contract to clients for delivery.
“Adding” then, is offering new business services that you do not currently offer or have never offered before.
There are two major types of service addition:
- Service enhancements. These are services closely related to what you currently offer, or that could be grouped or packed with other existing services. For example, a web design firm that adds web hosting services, or an Identity Access Management consulting firm that adds a reporting service to its provisioning service. A retail example could be something like offering a selection of bands to go with loose gem stones. You get the idea. Service enhancements are generally the easiest and fastest ways to expand your service portfolio.
- New services or service divisions. For instance, an email integration company that adds collaboration portal services. Services in the same industry to be sure, but services that require substantially different skill sets.
Why add new services?
- To increase your market share.
- To deepen your relationship with existing clients.
- To improve your skill set, or those of your employees, contractors and partners.
- To win particular clients or specific projects you could not otherwise bid on.
- To reduce eventually eliminate current services that you want to phase out.
- To make your business more attractive as a takeover target.
- To enhance market diversification and increase economic protection.
- To do a particular type of project just because you want to.
Potential downsides of adding new services
As your business solidifies and grows, adding services is often a good thing. But there are a few potential downsides to keep in mind:
- You may not have the internal expertise to offer your new service. These days, you can add 1099/corp-to-corp contractors from just about any field of expertise. Bring someone on for a spot project, or partner up with a trusted firm in your industry. Subcontract them in under your company banner, provide the service and manage the project internally. This is a tried and true strategy used by all the successful consulting firms in and outside of IT.
- You may not have the “street cred” (yet) to offer the new service. Even existing clients that know, like and trust you may hesitate awarding a new project outside your area of expertise. Is your portfolio in the area of the new service a bit thin or non-existent? Consider offering part or all of the service to a well-known and trusted client for free, or at a substantially reduced price. Use the “introductory special” pitch, but really mean it and really deliver. Make the scope small and focused and ask for a referenceable testimonial if the client is happy. Then, make the client happy with your new service! DELIVER! Instant “street cred.”
- You may not have the time to research, manage, document, or launch a new service. Is the value calculation positive? (See the next section…) If so, hire one or more virtual assistants and task them with creating checklists and templated documentation.
- You may not be budgeted to manage the work or administrative tasks required for the new service. If budget is a challenge but the demand is there, this is the perfect opportunity to partner up.
- You may not really want to offer a new service. This is a judgment call. Often, this situation arises when one of your existing happy clients asks if you can also do “xyz” task/project for them. In fact, if you are delivering BIG Results to your clients, you should be hearing this question all the time. But just because they ask, doesn’t mean it is something you can, should, or want to do. Weigh your options carefully. If your answer is “no”, you could let them down gently with a reference they can call to fill the need. However, the BIG Results model is to have fewer, happier clients with multiple streams of business expansion income. In general, if there is any possible way to provide the service, either in-house, or by teaming up with a trusted partner and taking just a small slice of the business for administrative purposes, then do so. The more your clients can rely on you to be the “go to person” and deliver BIG Results, the better the relationship will be for you and the client.
Be sure to give some thought to the downsides before finalizing your service strategy.
When to add new services
Before adding services, I recommend following a basic “service addition evaluation” checklist. Now that we have touched on some of the advantages and disadvantages of adding services, we can make informed decisions. The following checklist is what we use at Links Business Group LLC:
- Do we have the capacity and bandwidth to deliver on our current projects?
- Do we have existing clients asking us for a particular new service, or variation of a service we already offer?
- Do we have a valued partner that offers a service that would compliment ours and benefit both of our client bases?
- Is there a particular product or service we want to offer?
- Is the market trending away from any of our current services?
- Is current service demand slowing or expected to slow in the near term?
- If we were to consider adding a service, could we support it? If not, what would it take to support it? Do we have the necessary partnership(s) in place to support it? Can we ramp up to support it? Do we need additional vendor certifications?
- Is the potential new service something we can test on a small scale and abandon quickly, or modify quickly if it doesn’t work out?
- Is there a new service opportunity in our industry that is so powerfully compelling (technically / economically / demand-wise) that we just HAVE to take a look at it?
I encourage you to add your own questions to the preceding list. The list is just there to help get you started and provide important points to consider. My main point is that any major changes in your service portfolio — adding OR removing — can have a major impact on your future and bottom line (up or down.) As consultants and entrepreneurs, it’s easy to want to offer every service and product we possibly can. But focused specialization, with structured steady growth and constant measurement is the way to go.
Service evaluation scoring scale (based on questions 1 – 9 above)
This is a sample scale I use and advise my consulting-company clients to use when evaluating new services:
- 1 Has to be “yes”
- 7 Has to be “yes”
- One or more of the other items have to be yes
- 9 is a wildcard and happens rarely, but it does happen. The point of including #9 on the list is to keep options open for new, lucrative and unique opportunities.
Practical ways to add new services
Excited to add some new services or enhance existing ones? Great! Here are a few tried-and-true tips:
- Partner up! Find a complimentary service or product firm, strike up a relationship and do a small pilot project together. Partnering is the fastest, least-risk way to quickly bring a new service to market. In this age of meshed social networks and “coopetition”, it has never been easier to engage with other service providers and companies. In fact, with the right partnership you can literally offer new services right away.
- Add a service that fits your existing base skills and requires minimal learning or new certifications. For instance, if you are a project management firm, add business systems analysis to your service list or vice versa. If you are a systems integrator, consider adding a contract systems administration division.
- Ask existing clients to pay in advance for new or experimental services. If a client is asking you for something that you don’t traditionally provide, be honest with them. Many will surprise you. If you are consistently delivery top-notch value to your clients (you are, aren’t you?) then they will WANT to expand your expertise and give you new project opportunities. Once you’ve successfully delivered on your new service, it becomes another bona fide project for your portfolio.
- Review past projects at least twice per year. What in your past projects can be extended, re-branded, packaged together or enhanced to become a new service?
- Buy other service and product firms. It works for the “big guys” and is not as hard as you might think. Granted you will usually need an established track record and some capital / credit or backing, but it’s always an option.
- Combine existing services into packages. One of my favorite tips. Build packages, add/remove options and where possible, add free or low-cost software scripts and tools to enhance new or existing service packages. Many clients believe they are 100% unique, but the reality is that most industries share many points of commonality and have similar needs. For example, consider pairing a strategic roadmap with enterprise architecture, implementation and maintenance and a free dashboard tool for stats and tracking.
Summary and next steps
In this article, I’ve presented some action steps you can take immediately to review and potentially expand your services. The next step is up to you!
Your next steps are:
- Sign up for the “BIG Results List” using the form below. Once you have done that, then…
- Review your existing service portfolio and pros/cons of your current offerings.
- Using the “service addition evaluation checklist” above, evaluate one or more new service offerings.
- Take action!