If you had the opportunity to get into a new market, where would you start?   If you wanted to attract particular clients, who are the people that would help you make a solid entrance?  Centers of influence, evangelists, and critical contacts are three potentially powerful types of people who might provide the answers you are seeking.

Centers of influence, as identified by John Bowen, are highly visible and influential individuals who have in-depth niche knowledge.  Typically, they are either niche members themselves or are professionally related to the niche.  Examples include reporters, authors, and volunteers who work closely with your targeted fragment.  Centers of influence are an excellent source to help you understand how niche members think and make decisions. 

Try to identify a handful of people who can help you better understand the market.  Making contact with centers of influence within your industry can catapult you into a great position of understanding the market you are trying to attract, and whether it is a worthwhile endeavor for you.  When contacting the centers of influence you have identified, you should let them know why you are interested in meeting with them and why you believe they are qualified to educate you.  As Bowen describes, useful items to further address might include the following:  challenges niche members face, size and depth of the niche, ideal marketing strategies, and possible competitors.  When concluding your meeting, ask the person if you can reach out to them for future inquiries.  

(Source: John J. Bowen, Jr., Breaking Through: Building a World Class Wealth Management Business, 2008)

Evangelists, as stated by well-known speaker and author Guy Kawasaki, are individuals that carry your flag in places that you cannot.  They are not shareholders or employees, but are people who really believe in you and your service.  When evangelists hear that someone has a need similar to one your firm provides, their instant reaction is to mention your firm by name.  According to Guy Kawasaki, relationships with evangelists are often short lived, lasting just 3-5 years.  However, once an evangelist is on your side, they are very unlikely to later side with your competitors.  Embrace evangelists while you can.  Their existence may be short, but it can prove to have powerful, lasting effects.

(Source: Guy Kawasaki, Rules for Revolutionaries, 1999). 

A critical contact is a person who shares your target market, but is not a direct competitor.  Instead, your services are complimentary to one another.   The existence of an amicable and trustworthy contact in your business world is crucial.  These contacts are unique because they understand your business, they are a trusted business in your niche, and they can provide you with insight about prospects.  A network of critical contacts serves your customer base extremely well.  It provides them with trusted resources for services beyond what you may be able to provide.