Shrink the Pond


I spoke with Jackie Kruger at CliftonLarsonAllen, this morning. Jackie runs marketing for the Minneapolis-based accounting firm. “I always tell my practice leads to ‘shrink the pond.” I love that phrase. Better to be a big fish in a small pond than a small fish in an endless ocean of near competitors.

Shrink the Pond

Shrink the pond to differentiate your expert services.

When it comes to expert services, being undifferentiated is death. “Our company does implementations of cloud-based HR software for mid-sized accounting and law firms in the Southwest” is far better than, “We are an IT shop that helps clients design and build technology solutions.”

It is old marketing advice, but timeless. Shrink the pond until you dominate your niche. I spoke recently with a top 100 accounting firm about business development.

“Where are you looking to grow?”

“We are focused on $500MM to $2B revenue companies.”

“What are some projects you have done recently where you did a really good job for the clients?”

“We have worked with two mining companies to help them install state-of-the-art enterprise risk management systems.”

“That is a niche you could own. You could be the largest accounting firm focused on serving the mining industry.”

“It was good work and we did a good job for the companies.”

“Try that as a focus for your business development — calling on mining company CFOs, sharing case studies on how you have helped other similar firms. I like it because you have a right to dominate that niche.”

As you can imagine, as the firm narrowed their focus their reputation for expertise in that niche grew. Soon, they were being invited to speak at mining industry panels, had convened a best practices roundtable that meets quarterly and in general had positioned themselves as the go-to accounting firm for miners. The rule is, if you can’t say you are the largest or best in a category, make your market definition smaller. Shrink the pond.

Good: We are the third largest oil and gas lease consultant in North America.
Better: We are the largest oil and gas lease consultant in Texas.

Good: We specialize in business law.
Better: Voted the best franchise attorneys by the International Franchise Association for the last five years.

First is best.