What's the best way to break into a new market? How do you expand your expertise to grow into new niches? Here are five tips to help you start breaking into a new market today:

  1. Provide a solution to a problem that helps automate a process, increases efficiencies or drives revenue. Customers want to know that you can provide solutions to problems that enable them to make their business run better, faster and with increased efficiency. Tap into your existing skill sets with your current clients and ask yourself how you can develop a solution to make your new customers' lives easier. Discover what their top three pain points are today and come up with one or two innovative solutions using your strengths and skill set. Good solutions almost always open doors.
  2. Do pro-bono project work in your new market to develop expertise. In this economy, most consultants can't afford to do work unless it's a paid project, but pro-bono work should be considered a long-term investment if it leads to a new client. With most businesses looking for increased economies of scale, pro-bono work is welcomed and allows businesses to try out a consultant to see if there's a true fit. Be bold -- ask a potential new customer if you can take on a pro-bono project to solve a problem for her, and prepare yourself to take on additional client work if the project is successful. Once your work is done, be sure to update your LinkedIn profile and resume with the new expertise you've gained.
  3. Develop content such as blog discussions, articles and top tips that show you're interested in developing expertise in a new market, then post online. If you have a solution to a problem in a market, make sure to post it via a blog entry or article so people can view it online. Make sure your content is easily searchable through online search engines so that potential new clients can find you. Developing content can help lead to increased networking opportunities in a new market and provide new avenues of discussion for potential new clients and colleagues. Today, customers are using online social media sites and websites to make purchasing decisions. Good content is also a great way to drive potential new clients to your website to learn about your talents, passions and key services. If you write a blog entry on green IT or post an article on your website, make sure a Google search will bring up your name and content piece. You'll also want to extend the life of your articles by posting on free online article directories such as ezineArticles.com and Articlesbase.com. These sites can further your reach online by giving your articles additional online exposure to many searchable content websites.
  4. To gain expertise, join online networking forums and groups that discuss topics in your new market. Online forums can help you meet others with a shared interest in the market and help you network with professionals who can refer you for new projects. With online social media forums gaining popularity, many suppliers and vendors are having discussions online about topics that are relevant to their industry. Recruiters and potential clients use these same outlets to gain access to vendors and suppliers who can help drive their businesses. Make sure you join groups that can help you learn about the latest market trends in the industry you are trying to enter. Don't underestimate the power of social networking. In your networking efforts, try to find a coffee buddy in your new market who can meet with you once a quarter to give you ideas for successfully breaking into and gaining traction in your new market.
  5. Re-position your LinkedIn profile and online presence to include updated skills and any work that is relevant to a new market. LinkedIn is a powerful tool. Millions of people use it as the first step in screening a potential client and/or employee. LinkedIn is a way to tell the world about your talents and skills. Consider repositioning your summary statement. Add your special interest groups and networking groups to attract recruiters and potential new clients. Make sure people know you're breaking into a new market.

Sherry Prescott-Willis spent more than 18 years marketing consumer and high technology products before writing the book,Market This! An Effective 90-Day Marketing Tool.