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The Headless Ghost Movie Poster

You won’t hear this guy complaining about his niche.

You will hear entrepreneurial leaders and other talking heads (Seth Godin, can you hear me?) telling us to find our niche. As I was watching a Twitter feed during lunch on the day of the manhunt for the (alleged) Boston Marathon bomber, it struck me how unimportant nearly all the voices (tweets) were, at least to me. They were all just a bunch of noise.

Why is finding your niche so important?  It is easy to look out into the world and easily become overwhelmed by the flood of information.  You have a product, a service, or an idea that you want to share with the world, but you will more than likely be drowned out, unless you start with your niche.  Take the case of the Twitter posts I mentioned above: nobody cares about your comments unless you have active followers.  Finding your niche is the best way to be heard through all the noise.

Don’t worry about being listed on the Amazon best seller’s list or getting a call for an interview by Wired, Inc., or Fast Company.  Focus on your niche first.  I have learned this lesson over the years. When I started this company, I had grand hopes and dreams for this company to become a large player in the ERP space, providing implementation services across the full spectrum of Oracle E-Business Suite modules. I never put much effort into that bigger plan for a variety of reasons, and frankly I am glad that I did not. Instead, I focused on being really good and getting better at just one area: Human Capital Management (a/k/a HRMS). Although I read this more than a decade ago and can’t remember who said it, this is the age of the specialist.

The reason the niche matters is because people who care about what you sell or say will be the ones listening. It is much easier get the attention of 200 people than 200,000,000 people. If the message is important or interesting enough, those 200 will make sure it spreads to a larger audience.  The important thing is to find your niche, decide if there is growth, and then get in and build.

The book Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World is next on my reading list, which addresses platform creation.  The platform is one of the concepts Seth Godin proposes in his book Linchpin, another book that I consider recommended reading. I will offer my thoughts after I’ve read it.

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As a general rule, I spend no time on Twitter. I will usually visit when I want to see how a big new event trends, especially from people on the ground.  Aside from that, I am only there when I post updates to this blog.

March 2013 - The Best Month Ever

March had 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays, and 5 Sundays. How could it not have been the best month ever?

For the independent consultant, marketing does not come naturally for us, unless perhaps you are a marketing consultant.  This is because we are technicians by nature, using the definition of technician as described in The E-Myth Revisited, the brilliant book by Michael Gerber.  Our websites and blogs are one of the most visible ways in which we can market ourselves and showcase our knowledge.  Running a website and blog is one thing; getting traffic to our sites is another.

When we relaunched this site in August 2012, we began experimenting with different methods to increase traffic to this site. March…it was the best month ever.  Really! Why was March the best month ever? Three things: [click to continue…]

Wine and Olive Tapas

You can wine them and dine them, but it is going to cost you.

For the small consulting firm and independent consultants, building strong customer loyalty can make or break your business. Weak customer loyalty, at the very least, will make the struggle to keep your sales pipeline full a lot more difficult.  Strong customer loyalty will provide dividends for years to come.  Some of the common approaches to loyalty building are:

  • Wine and dine (or lunch and brunch) your clients
  • Provide outstanding service
  • Be professional

Spoiling your clients with good meals and drinks is fun for all involved, but I do not recommend this as a general rule. There are too many ways for this to go wrong: company policy violations (improper gifts), setting a precedent for future dealings, liability concerns, and the risk of being the next big thing on YouTube.  Reserve this for post-go live celebrations, if you must.  Providing outstanding service is an obvious choice and professionalism speaks for itself, though the monetary value of either is difficult to quantify.

I have found one method that is not as obvious, but is absolutely effective and profitable: adopt your client’s vision, mission, and culture.  There are three steps to doing it right, which I term the RDI MethodReconnaissance, Disguise, and Integration.

Step 1: Reconnaissance:  [click to continue…]

Fractal Image

Everything in the universe is connected to Facebook, except Matrice Consulting.

If you look for Matrice Consulting, LLC on Facebook.com, you will not find us. If you are looking for Facebook on matricellc.com, this post is the only place you will find it.  I am asked or told at least once a week, “Why aren’t you on Facebook? You should be on Facebook”.  I am one of those skeptics, one of those people who are somewhat distrustful of all things Facebook.  I also find, through observing other people, that it is a huge productivity killer.  This is not news, of course:

And those are just the really old articles.  Personally, I have found that distractions, such as Skype, email, text messaging, and phone calls break my concentration and it takes time for me to recover from those distractions.  As I finished the last sentence, a spam text message came through, case in point. 😡  This is one of the reasons I wake up early in the morning and check my email only at fixed times during the day.  Do not misunderstand me: all of these communications have a place in our office.

Linkedin is our Facebook and is minimally distracting. I use Twitter, but only to send out new blog articles, which takes 1 click.  I believe social networking is good, in some ways, but I cannot justify using Facebook because of the amount of time that I see it consuming.  I would much rather play with my children and spend time with my wife.

Maybe one day we will grace a few of the billions of pages of Facebook, but that day is not today, tomorrow, or next month.  Sorry Mark Z.

Man smiling, waving his armsTo establish oneself in the world, one does all one can to seem established there already.
– François de La Rochefoucauld
 

Self promotion really gets a bad rap.

Exhibit A:  Timothy Ferriss

From an Amazon review of Timothy Ferriss’ bestselling The 4-Hour Workweek:  “His shameless self-promotion and braggadicious style is second only to the undisputed champion of the genre, Donald Trump.”   Ouch.

Exhibit B: Nikola Tesla vs.Thomas Edison

These were two of the most prolific inventors of the late 19th and 20th centuries, who were bitter rivals.  Who is better known today, Tesla or Edison?  Ask 100 people who invented the light bulb, and probably 95 of them will say Thomas Edison.  Ask 100 people who invented the power system that lights that same light bulb when you flick a switch, and you will be lucky to have 1 person name Tesla.  The difference is that Edison was a self-promoter and Tesla was not.

Exhibit C:  Muhammad Ali

One of the greatest boxers of all time, stated, “It’s not bragging if you can back it up.”, when referring to himself as the greatest boxer ever.  And back it up he did.

Exhibit D:  Usain Bolt

Usain Bolt and his team won the 4 x 100 meter relay at the London 2012 Olympic Games on August 11th, breaking a world record in the process.  He announced to the world that he is a legend.  Bob Costas commented, “It is harder to have a higher opinion of Usain Bolt than he has of himself.”  Well said, Bob.

Is self-promotion a bad thing?  Are self-promoters bad people?  I am of the opinion that if you do not promote yourself, no one is going to do it for you.  One of my early failures in business in the late 1980’s came in expecting to be recognized for my hard work and dedication.  As an assistant manager, I found myself passed over for promotion several times without justification, at least in my eyes.  The people who were promoted were the people who put themselves in positions to be noticed.  I, on the other hand, was a horrible self-promoter, expecting that my efforts would be recognized.  Sadly, the “if you work hard, you will be rewarded” myth is one that still permeates our labor force.  Hard work and dedication are just parts of the formula for success.  Just look at Tesla’s life and you will see what I mean.  His inability to sell himself to the world relegated him to second fiddle behind Thomas Edison.

There are two sides to this coin and I believe there is something to be said for humility.  I consider myself a pretty humble person and I think most people who know me would agree.  Even when I say, “Yeah, I know I’m great”, I am saying it in a dry, deadpan style. The act of being humble, which should not be confused with submission, is not an easy thing to do.

I am going to step out on a limb here and state that self-promotion is a very good thing, when tempered with humility.  It is a really good thing.  Timothy Ferriss is promoting himself, because as a writer, he is his own brand.  Edison promoted himself and his ideas so that he could make enough money to get back to the lab and create more cool stuff with his staff.  Ali proved that he was one of the greatest, and by the time he had stated it, he had earned the right to call himself the greatest.  Bolt stepped over that line in claiming that he is a legend, which is a title received from others, not bestowed upon oneself.  Now that was shameless.

If, as entrepreneurs and independent consultants, we do not promote ourselves and our brands with the same energy and enthusiasm as the finest self-promoters, then we are doomed to be passed by those who are willing and able to do so, even by people of lesser skill and ability.  Once more:

If you do not promote yourself, no one will do it for you.  

If you can successfully promote yourself, your company, and your cause, then I believe you can do great things.  If the haters call you shameless, then so be it.  Self promoters move the world.

At home I am a nice guy: but I don’t want the world to know.
Humble people, I’ve found, don’t get very far.
– Muhammad Ali