(C) Karen L Reyburn 2019
When you’re exploring niche options, you begin to do some work and then wonder….is this good enough? Specific enough? Does it qualify as a niche?
A niche is a targeted, focused area that you understand and serve particularly well.
Although choosing an industry is the easiest and simplest niche choice, it doesn’t have to be an industry. It could be a type of person, or location, or a problem someone faces.
And as you begin exploring it, you wonder if this niche you’ve identified will work.
Some examples of early niche discussions I’ve had with accounting firms include…
- People who want to grow their business
- Business owners who want to save time
- Technology-minded businesses
- People who don’t have time or want to save time
- Business owners who don’t understand their finances (but want to)
Whilst those are all true, and represent some of the clients and prospects you’ve spoken to, they’re not specific enough yet. They’re not a niche because there are still way too many accounting firms who deal with all of those things.
You need to go deeper.
You’re creating a niche to help potential clients choose you.
How does the definition of your niche help them make that decision faster?
Most initial niche ideas are still too vague
We had an Accelerator member share with us that “We have been working on the concept of real time/daily bookkeeping/accounting for a while now and realised this could be a niche for us: SPEED – or something to do with this. Business owners who need their accounts/bookkeeping completed at speed – or a play on efficiency or for people who don’t have time – or on the go but need their numbers quick. Do you think this sounds like a niche idea in development?”
They started in the right place – looking at the problems these people, or businesses, face.
But that potential niche is still too vague. And it could open up new problems.
Focusing on SPEED could result in getting people who do things last minute. Have poor time management. Expect you to come sailing in and saving the day.
They explored it further and said, “I think I mean speed for people who need their figures today and not 6 months ago. For people who need the figures to drive their business today. Need might be the wrong word. Maybe people who want to be on top of their data in real time. We really want to work with clients who are responsive daily, who interact with us daily and love getting their numbers daily too. These are our fav clients and the ones we can make the biggest difference too. Just not sure if this is a niche, or maybe just a desire?”
When this happens – when you’re beginning to identify the problems – it can mean that you’re not yet at the core problem.
The client wants their figures today….but WHY do they want that? What is the problem or issue or situation in their life/business which is preventing them from getting that?
- young parents
- brand new business owners
- high growth businesses
- people who travel a lot
- …something else?
When you delve into WHY they need things at speed, why they need to make decisions fast, why they are growing so fast…. that begins to point you closer to your niche.
Review your best clients, and what makes it easy to do business with them
In order to go deeper with your niche idea, try this exercise:
- Make a list of 5-7 of your absolute best clients
- Identify these things about them:
- A. What makes doing business with them easy
- B. What they struggle with/why they need things at speed
- C. What their business is like (specific characteristics ie lots of cash, more than one owner, work from home) Look for patterns amongst those things
- Find the one(s) that are going to bring you the absolute best clients – and will help them to be able to answer “yes” to whatever question it is.
So for example, if you look at your list and realise that your very best clients are all working mothers, or they’ve just started up in the past year, or they all come from one specific networking group….that begins to give you more detail for your niche.
And then instead of working with “people who want things fast” (pretty much all of us), you can niche down to “working mothers who have set up a business within the past year and are members of this networking group”. Or whatever you end up discovering.
Go deeper by asking “why is this the problem?”
Another firm started out with a niche of businesses who used Quickbooks. When they began going deeper they identified a few more specifics:
- Service-based businesses
- Uses Quickbooks Online (QBO) but is confused by it (and will likely need some amount of QBO cleanup to get started) ?
- Growth-minded business owners who value investing in a relationship with a professional accountant because they want to focus on building their business and servicing their customers
- Want reliable, timely financial data to make informed business decisions ?
- Don’t have the time or the expertise to manage their accounting and taxes
- Revenues of $200K+ ?
- Likes technology and cloud-based workflows and is open to working virtually with their accountant ?
This is a good first deep dive, and I encouraged them to go deeper.
Some of the ‘deeper’ questions were:
- Do they know this about themselves yet? WHY do they value this? What bad thing happened to them or what issue do they have they may not be facing up to yet?
- Why do they want this particular thing? What are they going through? Have they made a bad business decision? Did they lose some money? Are they worried about losing money or their business?
- What’s the core problem? is it because they don’t want to hire a bookkeeper/want to do it themselves? What are they spending their time on? Why don’t they value accounting & tax work?
- How can we phrase “cloud based workflows” so it’s appealing to your target market? What can you say about working virtually – ie maybe it’s not just ‘working virtually with your accountant’ but just ‘working virtually with suppliers’ or ‘working virtually’!
Incorporate it into your marketing by creating content for the deepest elements of the niche
The next stage is to incorporate this into your marketing.
Not only creating content that is appealing to those kind of people, but asking questions which identify if the prospective client falls within those categories.
We do this at PF. We have a diagnostic which we ask anyone considering working with us to complete. All of the questions have been crafted based on the qualities of our ideal client.
Obviously we work exclusively and only with accountants – but we discovered that wasn’t enough. It wasn’t specific enough. There are lots of companies who work with accountants, and there are a lot of accountants out there.
When we evaluated what makes the relationship work, what are the qualities of the accountant who most needs what we provide and is most ready to start on it, we discovered that they…
- Have creative and tech clients
- Are willing to talk about personal things & be human
- Are active on social media (or starting to be)
- Are actively planning on hiring in the next year
- Understand the power of brand (how it’s core to good marketing)
- Are willing to try new things in marketing
- Want to get better at marketing
And so our diagnostic now addresses all of those things, and some others too.
If someone doesn’t fill in the diagnostic, that’s ok. Maybe they’re not sure yet and need to consume some free stuff to build trust.
If they fill it in and they don’t want to bother with branding, or just want to get marketing done with no effort from them, or aren’t really focused on growing, that’s ok too. Maybe they’re not at the stage of working with PF on a regular basis, and they just need a small option like our 12 week Accelerator course or an SEO health check.
And for those who fill it in and we can tell straight away their firm is in a place where they’re ready to invest in regular, consistent marketing and tracking that on a monthly basis…well then we can have the conversation.
You can do the same. As you explore whether your niche is “good enough” yet, make sure you go deep. Look for the problem behind the problem.
You may need to drill down to four or five levels below the apparent problem to get to your niche, but it’s there. It’s always there.
Keep digging and you’ll find it!