Acme will be focusing on high-technology manufacturers of computer hardware and software, services, and networking, who want to sell into markets in the United Kingdom, Europe, and Latin America. These are mostly larger companies, and occasionally medium-sized companies.
Our most important group of potential customers are executives in larger corporations. These are marketing managers, general managers, sales managers, sometimes charged with international focus and sometimes charged with market or even specific channel focus. They do not want to waste their time or risk their money looking for bargain information or questionable expertise. As they go into markets looking at new opportunities, they are very sensitive to risking their company's name and reputation.
Large manufacturer corporations: Our most important market segment is the large manufacturer of high-technology products, such as Apple, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Microsoft, Siemens, or Olivetti. These companies will be calling on Acme for development functions that are better spun off than managed in-house, for market research, and for market forums.
Medium-sized growth companies: Particularly in software, multimedia, and some related high-growth fields, Acme will offer an attractive development alternative to the company that is management constrained and unable to address opportunities in new markets and new market segments.
As indicated by the previous table and Illustration, we must focus on a few thousand well-chosen potential customers in Europe and Latin America, while also offering services to UK and US firms that want to expand into European markets. These few thousand high-tech manufacturing companies are the key customers for Acme.
The consulting "industry" is pulverised and disorganised, with thousands of smaller consulting organisations and individual consultants for every one of the few dozen well-known companies.
Consulting participants range from major international name-brand consultants to tens of thousands of individuals. One of Acme's challenges will be establishing itself as a real consulting company, positioned as a relatively risk-free corporate purchase.
Consulting is sold and purchased mainly on a word-of-mouth basis, with relationships and previous experience being, by far, the most important factor.
The major name-brand houses have locations in major cities and major markets, and executive-level managers or partners develop new business through industry associations, business associations, chambers of commerce and industry, etc., and in some cases social associations such as country clubs.
The medium-level houses are generally area specific or function specific, and are not easily able to leverage their business through distribution.
The key element in purchase decisions made at the Acme client level is trust in the professional reputation and reliability of the consulting firm.
1. The high-level prestige management consulting firms:
Strengths: International locations managed by owner-partners with a high level of presentation and understanding of general business. Enviable reputations which make purchase of consulting an easy decision for a manager, despite the very high prices.
Weaknesses: General business knowledge doesn't substitute for the specific market, channel, and distribution expertise of Acme, focusing on high-technology markets and products only. Also, fees are extremely expensive, and work is generally done by very junior-level consultants, even though sold by high-level partners.
2. The international market research company:
Strengths: International offices, specific market knowledge, permanent staff developing market research information on permanent basis, good relationships with potential client companies.
Weaknesses: Market numbers are not marketing, not channel development nor market development. Although these companies compete for some of the business Acme is after, they cannot really offer the same level of business understanding at a high level.
3. Market specific or function specific experts:
Strengths: Expertise in market or functional areas. Acme should not try to compete with Gloucestershire Research or Accenture, or Select in their markets with market research, or with ChannelCorp in channel management.
Weaknesses: The inability to spread beyond a specific focus, or to rise above a specific focus, to provide actual management expertise, experience, and wisdom beyond the specifics.
4. Companies do in-house research and development:
Strengths: No incremental cost except travel; also, the general work is done by the people who are entirely responsible, the planning is done by those who will implement it.
Weaknesses: Most managers are terribly overburdened already, unable to find incremental resources in time and people to apply to incremental opportunities. Also, there is a lot of additional risk in market and channel development done in-house from the ground up. Finally, retainer-based antenna consultants can greatly enhance a company's reach and extend its position into conversations that might otherwise never have taken place.
At the highest level are the few well-established major names in management consulting. Most of these are organised as partnerships established in major markets around the world, linked together by interconnecting directors and sharing the name and corporate wisdom. Some evolved from accounting companies (e.g. Arthur Andersen, Touche Ross) and some from management consulting (McKinsey, Bain). These companies charge very high rates for consulting, and maintain relatively high overhead structures and fulfilment structures based on partners selling and junior associates fulfilling.
At the intermediate level are some function-specific or market-specific consultants, such as the market research firms (IDC, Dataquest) or channel development firms (ChannelCorp, Channel Strategies, ChannelMark).
Some kinds of consulting are little more than contract expertise provided by somebody who, while temporarily out of work, offers consulting services.