Begin At The Beginning

Homebased expert Kim T. Gordon answers our readers' questions: How can you best market your service and identify potential customers?
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This story appears in the June 2000 issue of Startups. Subscribe »

Kim T. Gordon, our Marketing Expert, answers a question about starting, running or growing your business.

Question: I'd like to start my own negotiation/consulting business using my skills and work experience with contract and business relationship negotiations. My past focus has primarily been in the health care industry, but my skills are adaptable to virtually any negotiation need. I would like some suggestions on how I can best market my services and generate business. I'm challenged to identify potential clients.


Answer: You have three important questions to answer before you can launch your new business: What will you market? Who will want to buy it? Why will they want to buy it from you?

While you'd like to offer your services as a negotiation specialist, that may not be the best or most recognizable description of what you plan to market. When it comes to launching a new company, it's always easier to fill an existing need than to create a new one. So it may be more advantageous to classify yourself according to an accepted title such as "management consultant" or "business mediator," while specializing in a particular type of negotiation.

Once you know what you plan to market, you'll be able to identify and make critical decisions about your future prospects just by looking closely at the types of clients who presently buy similar services. What characteristics do they have in common? Is there a market niche or segment you can effectively appeal to? While you say you can fill "any" negotiation need, it's best to narrowly focus on only those people who will be your best prospects. Identify the types of businesses you'll target by category, such as hotels or manufacturing firms, or by unifying characteristics, such as number of employees or the types of transactions the companies engage in.

To answer the final question-Why will these prospects want to buy from you?-conduct a bit of competitive research. Gather marketing materials from your potential competitors to learn the rates the market will bear, the marketing approach used to reach your principal prospects, and the benefits your competitors promise to deliver. What new or unique benefits will your clients realize when they hire you? Decide how your services will differ from those of your competitors. Then use this information to develop a unique marketing message to motivate prospects to buy from you instead.

Edition: September 2017

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