Finding a ‘niche’ area in business is a critical component of any marketing. It can do the following for you:
- Set you apart
- Identify you as an expert
- Increase your reach
- Enhance the awareness of your brand
- Increase quality referrals
- Decrease competition
- Provide more repeat business
First, what is a niche? It’s important to realise that a niche is not simply a group of potential customers that happen to be in the same industry or type of business. It can be, depending on the type of business you have – but it can also be a specific product or service that you provide to a certain market. For example, a design company could have a niche in services to photographers; but that niche would generally occur because they’ve worked with so many photographers that they have developed a package that tends to suit most of them.
One of the problems that many accountancy firms have is that of not specialising (or not realising that you can). I can’t count the number of firms who I’ve asked, “So what industry or area do you specialise in?” only to have them say, “Oh, we do everything – our clients cover a whole range.” You might think that’s the best way to go, but the fact is, you get far more business if you find or create a niche market and serve it to the best of your ability.
Here are a few tips for developing your niche area:
Review your client list. Are there any clusters of clients that you serve – industries, type of business owner, geographical areas – that could be combined into a niche? One of the goals in niche marketing is not necessarily to try to find one ready-made, although that helps a great deal. But you start with where you are, and then build a niche from that. If you have even 2-3 clients in a particular area or type of business, start building products and services around that area. (Read on.)
Build products and services in a niche area. One of the benefits of serving a niche market is that it increases your profitability drastically, because you get very good at a particular type of work, and you can create structures, formats, templates, and various preparations that will increase your speed dramatically as you work for that particular market.
Segment your database. Even if it’s as simple as dividing it into clients, prospects, and strategic partners, that’s a beginning. Once you’ve done that, you can expand your divisions even further – taking the Clients segment and splitting it into the length of time they’ve been with you, or the size of their business by revenue or number of employees; or taking your Prospects segment and splitting it out by geographical area, or gender, or proposal amount. The more division you do, the better your marketing is. People love to receive an email, or come to a website landing page, that applies to them specifically. I’ve done this many times before – I get an email in, and am just about to delete it when I realise that it’s answering a question I was just asking myself the other day, so I stop and take the time to read it – and perhaps go on to connect with the business further.
Customise your marketing materials. You can take the same brochure, or website landing page, or email, and with a few tweaks make it applicable to a particular niche area. Obviously (as discussed above) the more specific your offering to that niche is, the more likely it is that someone will progress to doing business with you, but you want to begin somewhere. And then you can begin to offer further opportunities for that niche market to connect with you – webinars, live events, clubs or groups, newsletters, e-books, and more. You can even consider creating a completely separate website for your particular target market, if it’s applicable.
Use their language. If you’re truly going to connect with a particular niche, you’ll need to use words, phrases, acronyms, and other turns of language that will help your targets to understand that you know what’s important to them. This particularly helps if you’re just starting out in marketing to a niche – it helps develop rapport.
Identify potential clients. If you’ve identified one or more niche areas, it makes your search for potential clients that much easier. You can join particular groups on Linked In or Facebook, and make comments to gain visibility. Start blogging on specific topics related to your niche area, and publish those in places where your target market will find them. Attend events that will be attended by that niche market. (Make sure you don’t attend simply in order to hand out business cards to as many people as possible – you want to engage and build relationships slowly.) It may sound counter-intuitive, but it really is better to market to a smaller group of people who are truly interested in what you have to say, rather than blasting out emails to hundreds of thousands who are very likely not interested at all.
Ask for referrals. If you’ve gotten business from one particular type of business, ask that person if they know anyone who needs what you provide. You can do this without ‘sales pressure’ (which we’re all worried it will come across as, if we ask for referrals), by mentioning at the beginning of the client relationship that you get a lot of business by referral, and later on you may be asking them if they know anyone who could use this kind of help. That way, you’ve prepared the road, and when you do ask in a month, or six months’, or a year’s time, they may even be ready with an answer.