Copyright Brad Kendall

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2 Copyright Brad Kendall

3 Introduction!4 Are you a commodity or an expert?!6 How to become an Expert!18 Pick your field of expertise!19 Pick something that already interests you!19 Make sure you know your stuff!22 Meet other experts!22 Join associations and groups!23 Read blogs, magazines and books!23 Share your knowledge!24 Write a company newsletter!24 Create a blog!25 Give speeches!25 Share source material with clients and leads!26 Host a Webinar!26 Share your research!27 How to know when you re an expert!29 Further Reading!30 About the Author!31

4 Introduction A couple of years ago, I was working 20 hour days and barely making ends meet. Anytime I did have off, I was constantly on call dealing with customers who did not respect me or my time. I would constantly have to argue over almost every invoice i sent out, not to mention I would have to manage and maintain a large number of different systems. I was the owner of an IT firm, I had a lot of customers and did just about everything from virus removals to server installations. I was a jack-of-all trades and felt like a master of none. It seemed like the more customers I had and the more work I did, and somehow, I made less with every new customer I brought on.

5 The cost of acquiring a new customer took many months of work to pay off. I would have to endure the costs of learning a new environment, marketing more and spending the time convincing a new customer to do business with me (often at the cost of reducing my price). I was unhappy and frustrated. My personal life was non-existent, I could barley pay my bills and I was wondering if I should just get a real job and give up on owning my own IT business. I knew I had to change something about my business or I would not be able to continue. What did I do, you ask? I Became an Expert.

6 Are you a commodity or an expert? I came to the realization that I had to change something. I discovered that I had broadcasted myself as a commodity IT provider. Once I figured this out, I knew I had to become an expert in my industry to meet my life and business goals. Here is what sets commodities and experts apart. Commodities: are not respected as professionals constantly hassled over price and timelines spend a lot of money acquiring new clients receive few referrals excessively create and negotiate proposals waste time at networking events

7 Experts: establish themselves as an industry leader become a trusted resource get interviews and media coverage gain access to events (via conference/ speaking invites, etc.) help others convert followers to sales through respected referrals from centers of influence charge a premium for their expert services Being a commodity is not fun. Yet many IT Professionals reject the idea of building a niche business of expertise because they fear missing opportunities as a result of narrowing their focus. Their approach to getting new customers is to go anywhere, do anything and

8 to accept anyone who walks through their door. It is important to recognize that it is impossible to be an expert in everything. Other IT Professionals tell me their customers do not interact with them in ways that make them feel respected as professionals. They believe they are always being hassled about price and the risk of their customers leaving for another firm hangs over them constantly. They also commonly tell me they do not feel their marketing is effective. This is the cost of being a commodity. My answer to these complaints is as simple as this, Stop being a commodity! The only way to move your firm away from commodity status is to become an expert with

9 a well-defined niche. When you are a commodity, customers will switch to another firm over small price differences or minuscule incentives. As a commodity, you will receive few referrals because you fail to differentiate you or your firm from the competition. Customers and potential customers will not be willing to wait for an appointment and they will not be loyal to you. Commodity IT professionals are always negotiating price and spend a great deal of time responding to requests for proposals. Add on the time and training it requires to learn to administer a new software platform or network environment. When you become an expert with a niche business, you can target your marketing and get more clients by focusing on the right

10 prospects. When you are an expert, you have clients, not customers. Lets look at the definition of a customer and a client from Dictionary.com: Customer [kuhs-tuh-mer]: noun a person who purchases goods or services from another; Client [klahy-uhnt]: noun a person or group that uses the professional advice or services of a lawyer, accountant, advertising agency, architect, etc. Which would you rather have? A client respects your skills and engages in your services in a professional manner. A customer treats you as a commodity and rightfully so, as you broadcast yourself as such.

11 As an expert, you will spend a lot less time at those boring networking events and can focus your time and attention to becoming a strong center of influence. You will stop responding to requests for proposals and do business with people who seek you out for your expert opinion. As an expert, you will be able to differentiate yourself (or your firm) based on your niche rather than competing on price, location or a host of other limiting characteristics. You'll become highly sought after when you are able to position your business as THE solution for your perspective and existing clients. They will seek you out because you understand them so well and are constantly coming up with new methods and ideas to tackle their problems.

12 By providing quality innovative services that put your clients' interests first, you'll stand out from your competition. How about a few analogies. Toyota is a commodity car company. Ferrari is a niche or expert car company. Toyota sells their cars to everybody under the sun. They currently sell 16 different models of cars. Think of this as supporting 16 different industry specific software packages or network layouts. That is a lot to support! Ferrari is a legend of the automotive industry. Ferrari is a known brand and highly valued throughout the world, yet, Ferrari doesn t

13 advertise. Have you ever seen a commercial for Ferrari on TV? I haven't. Yet when I think of fast cars, guess what the first brand of car I think of is? That s right, Ferrari. Ferrari doesn t make an SUV, or a compact car or minivans. They make high end super cars for a very specific market. They also make a lot of money doing it. Ferrari doesn t sell a lot of cars either. They sold 6400 cars in 2007 while Toyota sold 2.6 million. So Toyota sold 406 times the cars that Ferrari sold. Ferrari makes a limited number of cars and sells them for a very high price to a limited number segment of the car market.

14 Now lets throw this concept into IT services. You could be a commodity IT provider like Toyota. Sell your services to everyone who will buy them. You will find yourself working with too many different software platforms and network configurations. You will have to try and understand many different business models and support a lot of different setups. You re marketing budget will have to be at least 10x bigger, because you need to hit so many different industries. The number of support staff needed to maintain this is setup is astronomical. Word of mouth referrals will be few and far between. You will have a lot of competition

15 because everybody does IT services for anybody. Or, you could try the Ferrari model: Pick one industry or even one micro-industry. You have only a few industry specific software packages that you need to master. The business models are mostly the same across all businesses in your niche. You can now focus your marketing on a small segment which becomes smarter, faster and cheaper. You can give your clients expert IT advice and services because you will know their pain points and growth strategies. The same approach applies to software as it did with Toyota and Ferrari. Lets compare

16 Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. Which product would you rather have for your IT business? ACT! CRM: A very generalized CRM package that requires a lot of customization to fit your needs. Although a considerably cheaper, ACT! does not fit the needs of any business perfectly. Or CommitCRM: A CRM designed from the ground up to exactly fit your needs as an IT services provider. CommitCRM offers support tickets, technician dispatch, MSP integration and

17 hundreds of other customizations that are almost essential for IT providers. If it were me, I would choose a customized software package. I would choose it because that is what fits my business perfectly, or near perfectly. Sure, it may cost a bit more but I would be willing to pay for expert software designed for my needs. The choice is yours. You can position yourself as a commodity or an expert. If you remain a commodity, you will spend a lot of money blasting the market with no real target with flyers, brochures, discounts, special offers, etc... selling them on your qualifications or you can position yourself as an expert and have satisfied clients (centers of influence) sell your qualifications for you.

18 How to become an Expert If you want to stop being a commodity and command the respect you deserve, you must: Pick your field of expertise Make sure you know your stuff Share your knowledge

19 Pick your field of expertise This is kind of obvious. But you need to focus on a field of expertise. Ideally, it s a field that doesn t have a lot of experts locally; otherwise, what is the point? You want to be the only person in town who can answer questions about a particular subject. Pick something that already interests you This would be the best option since you ve already started becoming an expert in something that interests you. Do you have a particular client or set of clients where the field fascinates you? You need to be passionate to be an expert, so pick something you will enjoy doing every day and don t mind getting really into the topic.

20 Analyze your client base for areas in which you excel Analyze your competition for areas in which you can stand out Analyze your team for unrecognized areas of experience or expertise Let me explain what I did The client I enjoyed dealing with the most was in the hospitality business. I enjoyed this for the following reasons: Extremely tech dependent, so the owners never hesitate to consult with you on the newest technologies for their business. The hospitality industry is an extremely competitive business that is influenced by trends. Owners have to constantly upgrade to stay current and hip.

21 The hospitality industry has many branches: hotels, resorts, casinos, conference centers, clubs, spas and restaurants. There is plenty of room to grow. There is limited desktop support issues. Desktop support is one of the things in IT that I loathe. A lot of integration between systems (liquor inventory systems, Point of Sale Systems (POS), Property Management Systems (PMS), Audio/Visual (A/V) systems, security systems, key card systems), which is what my partners and I enjoy doing the most.

22 Make sure you know your stuff You can t become an expert by just declaring I m an expert. You need to learn some things. So start doing your research. As an IT professional you should have no trouble finding the information needed. Here are some tips on how you re going to develop your expertise: Meet other experts All you need to find is anyone who knows more than you do and develop a relationship. Try finding influential people in your field of choice and make sure to ask questions and find out how to learn more.

23 Join associations and groups You will find lots of experts and learning opportunities here. Just being around people in your target field is a learning experience. Read blogs, magazines and books Get comfortable with how to find experts and the information they publish. This also is how you keep up with developments in your area of expertise. As an expert, you will need to know what is going on in your industry. Try to read at least one relevant book a month and spend 30 minutes a day reading blogs.

24 Share your knowledge None of this does you any good unless you actually share it with your clients and the world. The essential part of being an expert is creating and sharing. Explaining what you know instead of listing credentials will give you the attention of your clients. This takes careful balance. You want to show off without being seen as a show-off. Don t just blast out your company name claiming you re an expert. Educate your potential customers by creating content. Write a company newsletter Do you have an outlet to share articles or columns with clients? Share information relevant to you client; it doesn t have to be all IT related.

25 Create a blog Just start writing what you learn and link to sources. Use social media that connects to your clients and perspective clients to promote it. Make sure it s all professional. Write and post to this page regular press releases/media releases about unique aspects of your thinking, any new credentials you earn, speaking engagements, webinar announcements, etc. When members of the media recognize you as an expert, they will start turning to you for insight on the industry. Give speeches Join Toastmasters. Talk in front of civic groups about your area of expertise. This will build a reputation that can work its way back

26 to your company. Speaking is also great because it helps build your confidence. You can also record your speaking and you have excellent blog content for almost no work. Share source material with clients and leads When something pops up that you think will interest someone, them a link. Hand them a print out or copy of a magazine article. Help them understand what you know. A personal touch goes a long way.! Host a Webinar A webinar can be a great way for you to show your knowledge to your clients while providing assistance to them. This is a great way to connect to many people at one time. Webinars are another easy source of content for

27 your blog. Your clients will ask the questions they want to know and all you need to do is record the session and post it to your blog. Share your research We are constantly reading and researching all the time. You research new potential software or hardware solutions for you clients or new services available to better serve them. Formalize your research and share it with clients and prospective clients. Get out there! Of course to be an expert, you have to get your name out there. The best way is to connect with people and share. Share your blog article, thoughts and research papers. Share tips and other how to s that your potential clients may find useful. Share other peoples content. Do everything you can to be

28 known as a respected expert in your niche. You want people to think of you when they think of your niche.

29 How to know when youʼre an expert You will know you have moved from commodity to expert status when your clients, colleagues and other contacts begin to look to you for information regarding their business. In a commodity relationship, you can expect a limited number of referrals because you can only make a limited number of referrals to your sources. When you achieve expert status, the same sources will look at you and give you referrals because they know you can truly understand and solve your client's problem.

30 Further Reading I frequently blog about becoming an expert at There is a wealth of information there to assist you in your transition from a commodity to an expert. I am also a very helpful gentleman, so contact me anytime if you feel something is missing or you just don t quite understand what I am saying. I am also have a series of expert building tutorials available at expert which include practical examples and templates on how to become an expert and share your knowledge with the community.

31 About the Author Brad Kendall has over 10 years of experience in the ever-changing, fast-paced, dynamic technology industry. Brad loves teaching about his experience owning a small I.T firm. He has made huge steps in increasing his profits, time and sanity! Using his expert building techniques, Brad has become a leader in the hospitality technology industry. He currently operates three highly successful businesses including a hospitality I.T. consulting firm, a digital software and hardware company and a firm that develops mobile and SAaS applications.

32 From a professional perspective, He has always been considered a natural leader who is wiling to take charge and do what it takes to get the job done right and done right the first time.

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