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Jack of All Trades, Master of None

Posted on May 23, 2007

by Elizabeth Zielinski, CMM, CMP

You can’t be successful as a third party unless you establish yourself as an expert.  You can’t be an expert without credibility, and you aren’t credible if you claim to be the best there is at everything.  It’s simply not possible for that to be true, and so claiming otherwise will come across as hollow at best and damaging to your personal brand at it’s worst.

And yet, there is a fine line between the “I can do that” spirit which is required of an entrepreneur, and identifying a key niche where you can truly claim an area of expertise.  I recommend asking yourself the following questions to assist you in walking that line:

1.  What are you really selling?

Chances are, there is a difference between what you think you are selling and what your clients want to buy.  You may know you provide a well-managed meeting with provable ROI, but your clients really just want to know that their meeting will happen on time, the way they requested it.  This is where it is most important to know your benefits vs. your features – features are the characteristics of your services, while benefits tell your clients what they’ll get because of those features.  Focus on the benefits you provide when considering your niche market.

2. Who wants to buy what you want to sell?

It’s always easier to fill a need than to create one.  For example, if your potential clients are not yet focused on the strategic elements of meetings, then perhaps being too strategic about how you market your management of those meetings is not speaking a language they will understand.  Stake your claim in a niche where there are already buyers for the services you will be selling.

3. Why will people want to buy from you?

Refer back to my comment above about credibility.  People want to do business with those that they trust and see as having specific expertise.  Building that trust requires taking some risks.  I would rather turn down business that I know is not right for me than take something that requires me to provide sub-par services, because doing so would damage my credibility.

The answers to these questions will help you evolve your core message, or niche.  And that will lead you toward becoming a master of your trade.


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Dave Lutz

Elizabeth, I enjoyed reading your posts this week. Nice job!

Another element of any successful business is having a good client mix. Many independents will start out either serving one major account or picking up small projects here and there.

For long term stability, it is prudent to keep your sales hat on until you have enough large customers so that none of them is more than 25% of your annual income. Also, you should be selective on the clients or projects that you take on that do not offer the benefits of a long term relationship or that have a low payoff for the time invested.

Dave Lutz
Velvet Chainsaw Consulting


Great comments and suggestions. My challenge is providing a contract for clients that include the trust issue. Planner vs. client. Are they comfortable with verbiage and am I making it clear to client out seeking attorney to confuse my intentions, to support, and also protect myself.
Do you know who in the industry can assist with writing contracts for meeting planners. MPI and other associations, basically tell you what is important for a contract, however, looking for actual independent planner contracts. Thanks much,
Posted by: Debbie January 15, 2008 at 02:59 PM

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