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Take Your Up Market Skills Down Market


My proposal is for those who were high fliers in our previous jobs to work to understand how to brand and market yourself as a high quality provider to those who could not otherwise afford your services. Everyone likes to get a bargain, but not at the risk of harming their business. By making it possible for those with lower budgets to obtain the highest caliber of service, you will serve huge a market need and pay some of your bills at the same time.

Many of us have spent many years building up prestigious reputations in our chosen professions. For me, this included long hours as an associate and, later, equity partner, in an well-known law firm, followed by a senior legal position at a Fortune diversified products company. This prestige put me in leagues where I charged exorbitant rates to high end clients, much of which went to the overhead resulting from fabulous downtown offices and yearly bonuses.

But when the "gravy train" ended for me 4 years ago, I quickly realized that without the accouterments of the prestigious firm behind me, I could no longer effectively compete for the same upmarket clients I had served for many years, even though I could provide the same caliber of service. (And perhaps I could provide even better service, since I didn't have the issues associated with maintaining a partnership or worrying about pleasing my boss as well as my client.) To this end, when I struck out on my own, I started looking for customers in places that I never would have considered previously. I quickly found that the best place to find clients was in locations where larger service providers did not compete.

For me as an IP (legal) strategy and business consultant, this meant that I had to approach "lower tier" (at least that's what my high-end law partners and "hoity-toity" corporate legal colleagues would call them) organizations to provide seminars and other free advice. Because the people who belonged to these groups had lower budgets than corporate clients, they were largely ignored by prestigious lawyers and consultants who require a certain threshold level of fee structure to accept a client. Nonetheless, these small clients greatly appreciated the ability to garner the same caliber of service that the Fortune companies could acquire at a fraction of the cost they would normally be charged (if they could even be accepted as a client). Moreover, my experience and expertise greatly surpassed that of the professionals who generally frequented such organizations, and I quickly became a preferred provider of services within these organizations. I was able to string together a nice set of engagements for smaller clients, several of which I have been able to turn into recurring consulting revenue. Moreover, my "down market" client base was much more diverse than my corporate clients, which had the pleasant side effect of opening me up to new learning for the first time in many years.

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winners announced - December 04, 2011
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