Thriving as a small fish in a big pond

One of my favorite sessions from the 2021 AIIP virtual conference was Kelly Berry‘s crowdsourced ideas on “Small Fish in a Big Pond – How Independents Navigate the Information Industry Without Large Budgets.” We shared our favorite low-cost information resources and strategies, but what I found most compelling was the focus on what sets us infopreneurs apart.

We have competition from both larger consulting firms, with their big-name analysts and six-figure budgets, and lower-cost (and often lower-quality) research being offered by graduate students or interns. This got me thinking about the approaches that I have taken to ensure that, while I don’t have the deep resources of the big players and I’m not as cheap as some other options, I have attracted clients who see the unique value I bring as a one-person business. Some of the specific approaches I have taken to highlight that sweet spot include:

Focusing on the personal connections I make with my clients. My payment may come from a faceless bureaucrat at a Fortune 100 company, but the engagement is with a particular person. I make sure that I show up as authentically as I can and stay focused on my clients’ priorities and needs.

Believing that the customer is always right, even when they’re wrong. If a client has a concern about my deliverable, I do whatever it takes to address that concern. Yes, the problem may have come from the client’s ambiguous request or (ahem) unreasonable expectation, but all that really matters is that I do my best to address the concern. I know I am more responsive than a big firm in resolving a customer issue.

Providing a neutral perspective. A large consulting firm has a template and methodology they deploy to a project, which means less ability to accommodate unusual or unexpected projects. Internal employees who might provide a “free” alternative usually come with a built-in bias and may fail to recognize outliers and unexpected results. I offer a neutral, third-party perspective and the ability to look at the question from multiple angles.

Staying focused on each client’s most important outcome and ensuring that every deliverable can be frictionlessly incorporated into my client’s work flow and process. That may mean using my client’s preferred report template, providing an executive summary slide deck or live briefing of my findings, or making my report “white label” so that my client could put their name and brand on it.

I bring in experts as needed but my clients aren’t paying for the overhead of keeping those experts on the payroll. I can stay agile and handle new kinds of projects because I tap into my network of AIIP colleagues to bring in the expertise I need. Since I don’t have them on staff, my business is able to pivot as my clients’ needs change.

While we won’t replace either the big consulting firms or the “free” research services of a junior employee, one-person infopreneurs can fill the need for agile, high-value services.

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