In our last conversation, we talked about choosing an industry, or vertical specialization, as a way to find your “people like us,” but what if there’s not one industry that fits your business?
One of my clients, Diane Yetter of Yetter Tax, helps people with their most difficult sales tax problems. Though we think of sales tax as being primarily a retail problem, the most difficult challenges in sales tax apply to manufacturers, e-commerce sellers, hospitality chains, people who sell through dealer–the list goes on. Her work doesn’t fit well within a vertical specialty.
To make things more difficult, only the very largest of companies have more than one person who works with sales tax! Her ideal customers are one or two people in every company across all kinds of industries! How do you reach them?
Working within a horizontal specialty
When you solve a particular problem that occurs across multiple industries, that’s called a “horizontal specialty.”
For many years Diane has been responding to the isolation within the sales tax field by organizing training and conferences under the Sales Tax Institute. The training brings together those lone sales tax people so that they can meet other “people like them.”
In those training events, she saw that when you get a group of sales tax folks together, they love to talk about sales tax! Those arcane rules and frequent law changes may not make you the life of your office Christmas party, but get a group of sales tax experts together and they nerd out about sales tax.
So Diane and her team turned that into a badge of honor. They created the hashtag #SalesTaxNerd, developed a logo, and designed SWAG that celebrates sales tax nerds. The team even launched an award that recognizes true sales tax nerdiness.
They found something true about their ideal customers and called it out.
What happened? We have job applicants writing “I’m a #salestaxnerd” in their cover letters. People add the stickers to their name tags at conferences! They buy t-shirts, mugs, and water bottles to show their nerdiness.
Diane has gone from being a recognized expert in her field to being the leader of a tribe.
How could you celebrate your tribe?”