One of the ways you can minimise the time you spend on business development is to focus on developing a niche for yourself. This may not make sense right off the bat, but it does when you think about it. Having a goal or a target to hit puts you on a path to success, one where the end is clear and everything you do is focused on getting you there. If you don’t have a target (or a niche), then you’re going to struggle to move forward and it’s going to take you a whole lot longer to get where you want to be. To explain this idea more, this article tells you everything you need to know about finding your niche, including why having a niche is important and how to use it to become the Go-To Expert.
Firstly, let’s consider what we actually mean by a niche…
A niche is a set of people that have similar attributes; some obvious ones could be ‘tax specialist in property,’ ‘commercial lawyer specialising in technology clients,’ and ‘general practitioner accountant specialising in local, micro-businesses.’. Your niche could be one or several of these dimensions, e.g. sector, business lifecycle, ownership structure, marital status, demographic, way of thinking… Some of the more specialist niches I know of include:
- Auditor specialising in contract compliance between big brands and media agencies.
- Regulatory finance specialist for telecommunications and utility companies.
- HR consultant specialising in workplace mediation and workplace investigations for financial services companies.
There are many other ways of grouping people so that you are dealing with a niche: ambitious, proactive, accountants with a personality who have between 5 and 50 employees; people that are concerned about what might happen when their parents go into care soon. Do you see what we mean? A niche is specific and immediately tells a person what you do. A niche is not:
- “SME owners”
- Owner Managed Businesses
- Family Businesses
- HNW (high net wealth individuals)
OK, I should say – a useful niche is not…..although that depends on the purpose of having a niche.
What makes a niche useful?
The purpose of having a niche is to communicate immediately what you do so that clients know who to come to to get what they need and colleagues and partners think of you when they have a referral in mind. For example, niches like “SME Owners” will not help anybody find referrals for you however much they want to. There are too many others in the same space, making the same claims. (This is the equivalent of asking for a silver car rather than a pink car) You are relying on other people (referral partners) to notice something and then stop doing their own jobs in order to “sell you”. It’s a bit like having a page of text covered in highlighter ink, nothing stands out enough for anybody to take action. If you have a clearly defined niche, however, it’s now much easier to become the expert within that area, both inside and outside of your firm. In fact, being seen as the ‘go-to’ expert for a subject in your firm is the best way of starting up your own client portfolio. Why? Because as the expert, people go-to you rather than anybody else!
Does choosing a niche mean I have to turn business away?
Many professionals resist having a niche because they are worried that they’ll have to turn business away so let’s answer this question once and for all. The answer, of course, is no……..and yes. By finding your niche, you can easily differentiate yourself in your firm and be someone who the partners can refer new work to. Of course, you will always be given different kinds of work by your partners – but if you really want to develop your own portfolio, and not be seen as hanging off the coattails of one of the partners, you need to develop your own niche and technical specialism. By choosing a niche, you can develop a specific marketing strategy that allows you to focus on what you’re good at, grow clients that you’re more likely to convert to raving fans and that you can get referrals for more easily. If you end up so busy that you choose to not work with other clients, then you might end up turning business away. This is the ‘yes’ part of the question. As a specialist in a specific area that your marketing is aimed at, you’ll get more clients in that area. What would you do if somebody else approached you? You’ll decide if you have the capacity to take them on, or not. You don’t have to turn them away, you just don’t market to them! Let me emphasise that again, your niche may only be a handful of your current clients, however, all you are doing is not marketing to other types of clients – you don’t have to turn them away. In fact, you get to choose who you want to take on! Read: Everything you need to know about creating a strong personal brand that’s memorable
What exactly is a niche marketing strategy?
Now for the dictionary definition of niche marketing: Niche marketing is about focusing your marketing on part of the market that would benefit the most from a specific element of your service. The niche defines the features that will satisfy specific needs; probably including price, quality and demographics. A niche marketing strategy allows you to use language that is likely to appeal to a certain sector of the market, show why you are the best person for that market and get more clients from it (possibly paying higher fees too). Said like that, it sounds all too easy, doesn’t it? If you need help to build your niche marketing strategy, then how about downloading our free guide to helping you choose and capitalise on your niche? It also allows your internal network and external referral partners to understand more clearly who you work with and how they can find you referrals (read “the flickering light”, for a great example of a clear way of getting more referrals).
Become the “go-to expert” by finding your niche
As we mentioned previously, if you’re an expert in a specific area, people will want to come to you. This is why finding your niche and knowing how to use it is so powerful! (If you’re ready for more help to become the “go-to expert”, click here.) The foundation of successful referral marketing is having a clear idea of who you work for and why you’re the right person to recommend. This is much easier when you’ve adopted a niche. Here are some examples of niche marketing to show you the value of being a go-to expert:
- The accountant that specialises in working for landlords with lots of rental properties. It’s easy to see why landlords will want her, she knows more about tax and relevant profit ratios for that sector. It’s easy to state when networking and easily understood.
- The lawyer who specialises in dealing with new startups. His fee structure and service delivery are tailored to suit. It’s easy to explain when networking.
- The auditor who specialises in working with big brands helping them with contract compliance for their contracts to media agencies.
- The lawyer who specialises in crowd-funding.
- The list goes on, why not add a comment on the best ones you’ve seen?
How should you develop your niche?
“If I niche, I will only get one type of client or one type of work and that means I will miss out on variety and probably get bored.”
As we covered, having a niche doesn’t mean you turn business away, it means you can get referrals more easily, therefore saving you time with your business development. While this fear is quenched, however, another very real one is causing junior professionals to resist having a niche. Many professionals fear boredom as much as they fear having no work. They worry that they will miss out on the variety that being a jack-of-all-trades brings as they condemn themselves to having a large pile of work on their desk every day that is the same and bores them rigid. While it may sound dramatic, it is a very real worry and one that can be easily put aside once you understand how you can develop your niche. Finding your niche is about marketing; it’s about focus and allowing you to have marketing that is very attractive, versus marketing that doesn’t really speak to anybody. It’s about being an obvious choice for people in that niche. While choosing a specialism results in more qualified leads coming to you, it also leads to others outside of your niche wanting you too! You may not believe it, but if you talk to many professionals who focus on marketing to a niche, they will probably profess to have under 50% of their clients in that niche. Long story short, choosing your niche doesn’t limit you in your career if you remember:
- Having a niche means marketing to a specific part of the marketplace in order to spend less time on business development and more time with their clients.
- Having a niche doesn’t mean turning down business, it positions you to be able to turn away the work that you don’t want.
- Having a niche doesn’t mean one type of client and work forever. You can have multiple niches if you focus on mastering one at a time.
Find your niche and save time
One of the ways you can minimise the time you spend on business development is to focus on developing a niche for yourself. Only when you do this can you be effective in your marketing, have qualified leads come to you, and generate higher-quality referrals from your partners!