A Niche or an Ocean?: A Consultant's Muddled Message

December 6, 2019

Last week I was on the phone with a consultant ready to launch his practice.

“Who do you serve?,” I asked him.

“Businesses between $5 million and $50 million in sales,” he replied.

“That’s not a niche,” I told him. “That’s an ocean.”

Later, out of curiosity I looked it up:  according to NAICS, there are over 300,000 businesses in the U.S. with sales between $5 million and $100 million. Yes, this consultant is like a dingy in an ocean, and given his expertise, he doesn’t need many clients to have a thriving and lucrative consulting practice.

This is a common fallacy when first starting out in professional services, and I understand what’s behind this guy’s thinking. We’re afraid to be specific with who we help because we might exclude yourself from potential new business opportunities.

Joseph Garfield, Phase3 IT

Joseph Garfield, Phase3 IT

On “Alpharetta Tech Talk,” a radio show/podcast I host on Business RadioX®, I recently interviewed Joseph Garfield of Phase3 IT, a company providing outsourced IT project management services.

During the interview, Joseph talked about specific projects in healthcare IT he and his team had tackled, and their success with these projects.

Offline, though, Joseph told me that the same basic principles of IT project management apply across industry sectors. From an IT project management perspective, there’s not much difference, if any, between an IT project management assignment for a hospital vs. other companies.

Yet Joseph chose to discuss his successes in healthcare IT. Further, his website has testimonials dominated by healthcare professionals. He belongs to a healthcare IT executives association.

If I’m the CEO of a healthcare company with a big IT problem, such that I feel like I need to outsource my IT project management, who am I most attracted to? The IT consultant who can “do it all,” or Joseph Garfield and his Phase3 IT team, the “been there, done that” professionals in healthcare IT who have stellar results with other enterprises like mine?

Further, who am I most likely willing to pay a premium for?

When you appeal to everyone, you appeal to no one. You have no unique message, and therefore, not much of unique value proposition. You’re trying to market your services to the ocean, instead of specific industry associations, for example, where you are much more likely to find your ideal client.

You are average, and your pricing, if you get that far, will get pushed to average.

You’re rudderless in an ocean.


©Ray Business Advisors, LLC and John Ray

Photo by Zhu Hongzhi on Unsplash


About me:  I’m enthusiastic about how changes in pricing strategy can significantly change profitability for a business and enhance life choices for business owners. I live this passion through Ray Business Advisors, my outside CFO and business advisory practice, in which my pricing is exclusively value-based, not hourly. I work with business owners on how they can change their pricing not just to increase their profits, but better serve the wants of their customers. Click here to learn more or call me at 404-287-2627.


  1. Joseph Daniel Garfield on December 10, 2019 at 4:39 am

    Outstanding article John! Almost poetic!

    I love the power of your principles including: “When you appeal to everyone, you appeal to no one. You have no unique message, and therefore, not much of unique value proposition.”

    That is so true, it is the uniqueness of something that adds value. What is common is cheap while the rare is priceless…like dirt vs diamonds.

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us!

    • John Ray on December 10, 2019 at 12:02 pm

      Thanks for your generous comment, Joseph, and thank you for allowing me to use you as an example in this post.

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