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3 Opportunity Areas for IT Consultants in 2016

Monday, December 7, 2015/Categories: business-tips

End-of-year predictions for 2016 have started appearing on the airwaves and online, and the consensus is clear: next year, we’ll be even more dependent on the digital world.

That’s great news for small IT businesses. Here are three opportunity areas that we predict have the potential to be especially fruitful for you in 2016 – and how you can tap into them to grow your revenue.

Technology Opportunity Area 1: IoT Manufacturers & Retailers

A recent data breach at Chinese toymaker VTech Holdings LLC highlighted how the Internet of Things (IoT) is exposing people to data breaches in new ways.

What happened: Hackers reportedly accessed information from five million adults and more than 200,000 children after gaining access to an online portal where customers could access games from VTech tablets.

Your opportunity: Analysis of the hack has pointed out that companies participating in the Internet of Things are often not IT companies. Manufacturers and retailers of toys, cars, appliances, and more are suddenly in the business of collecting and storing lots of customer data – and they’re not always doing it securely.

This means there is a tremendous opportunity for IT businesses to offer security consulting services to those looking to jump on the IoT bandwagon.

Technology Opportunity Area 2: Online Retailers

On October 1 of this year, liability for data breaches shifted for US retailers (read more in the whitepaper Understanding the 2015 U.S. Fraud Liability Shifts [PDF]).

What happened: Retailers are now required to accept EMV (aka chip-and-pin, aka “don’t remove your card yet!”) cards at checkout or face increased liability for data breaches. While this has the potential to decrease breaches in stores, many experts predict that it will actually increase fraud in card-not-present (CNP) transactions – i.e., online transaction.

Your opportunity: Online retailers are now a more attractive target to potential hackers, but many aren’t aware of the ways they can protect their customers and data. And even those who are aware of the things they should be doing may not have the IT savvy to implement those best practices. IT professionals with web development experience may find a whole new customer base in online retailers.

Technology Opportunity Area 3: Healthcare Providers

Experian’s 2016 Data Breach Industry Forecast [PDF] report predicts that healthcare data breaches will continue in a big way in the coming year, with both major providers and smaller operations facing breaches.

What happened: The implementation of the Affordable Care Act means that more people than ever now have their data in the systems of medical care providers, from big insurers to independently owned medical offices. On the black market, medical data fetches 10 times the price of credit card data. Hackers have therefore been targeting medical care providers in a major way – and not much is expected to change in the 2016.

Your opportunity: Mom-and-pop care providers are like any small business in that they often don’t have adequate security for their data or a dedicated IT team to help them get up to speed. This is particularly dangerous for medical professionals, because they are required to adhere to the strict data security requirements outlined by HIPAA and HITECH. This means that many small offices are badly in need of security systems, upgrades, or training.

How to Seize Your Opportunities in 2016

While there are plentiful opportunities for technology professionals to grow their businesses in 2016, new clients aren’t likely to fall into your lap. Be proactive about seeking new clients among the groups outlined here by doing the following:

  1. Update your business website and LinkedIn page to highlight services likely to be in high demand. A little Google keyword research can help you understand how potential customers are searching for the services you can offer (e.g., IoT security, online retail security, healthcare provider security, employee security training) so you can include keywords that will get you found.
  2. Tap into your network to see whether opportunities exist among people you already (sort-of) know. This may require actively asking about security practices and systems and having other early-funnel “sales” conversations. Hate having those? Make the process easier by reading our blog post 3 IT Sales Tips to Help You Avoid Becoming a Free Consultant.
  3. Identify your target audience and focus on reaching them where they are. If you’ve never thought about target audience before, check out the BizJournals.com article 5 Steps You Must Take to Reach Your Target Customer.
  4. Ask for referrals and reviews from existing clients. When visible on your website, online review sites, and marketing materials, these can help you win and build trust with prospects.
  5. Think like a marketer. It’s normal to wish that you could just perform IT services all day long – but without actively pursuing new clients, it’s impossible to sustain a business.
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