Building your own practice often means you need to be known for something in particular. This ‘something’ is often referred to as a ‘niche’. In today’s marketplace it is very difficult to make make partner as a generalist. In this article, based on an extract from Poised for Partnership, we explore how to find your niche.
How to find your niche
Some professionals find that by the time they get to Partner Track they already have a clearly defined niche. However, this isn’t the case for everyone. If your work has been of a very generalised nature up to now, it can be hard to pin down what your niche will be. Remember your niche can be focused on a sector, specific location, technical specialism or even a type of person. There are only a few rules about choosing your niche:
- You need to be able to build a referral network and highly targeted marketing plan based around the niche
- There needs to be enough of a marketplace for you to build a partner-sized client portfolio
- By claiming a niche, it needs to significantly reduce the size of the marketplace you are focusing on.
Picking up on the last rule: far too many professionals say they have a niche or a specialism because they focus on ‘owner-managed business’, ‘high net-worth individuals’, ‘SMEs’ or ‘Entrepreneurs’. These specialisms are not a niche as most of their peers will say that they also specialise in these. A true niche will typically dig one or two layers deeper than what everyone else says that they specialise in. As one client found, even though his marketplace was owner-managed businesses, he targeted his marketing on owner-managed businesses who:
- Had 2–4 directors
- Had 20–200 employees
- Were manufacturing companies
When you are considering your niche you want to think about three factors:
All three factors need to be present for the niche to be right for you.
Very simply, you need to be passionate about your niche if you are going to commit to it for at least the next few years. Clients want to work with someone who is enthusiastic and excited to be working with them and their personal or business affairs. If you don’t have the heart for what you will doing, you will never have the commitment or energy to build your profile and reputation within the niche.
The easiest way to win new clients is when you already have a track record of working on similar types of clients. It is much easier to build up a client portfolio in a particular niche if you have an established network and verifiable results working with this type of client.
You may be passionate about a certain niche and have credibility within the niche, however, you need to feel as if you fit. This means that you have shared values, you care about what your clients care about, and you find it easy to socialise with your clients.
If you are still struggling to decide on your niche then do this exercise
This happened to one of my clients, who is a litigator. He had a broad practice and had been known to turn his hand to most forms of litigation. He was struggling to identify what his niche was. So I asked him to plot on a graph the type of work he did. The two axes of the graph were ‘passion’ and ‘reward’. After he had plotted 3 types of litigation a light bulb went off in his head. He realised that he did have a niche, just his niche was acting for ultra-high net wealth individuals who were entrepreneurs. As a result of doing this exercise, he was able to put in place a marketing plan to build his network of referrers who could send him the right type of client.
Deciding on what you will specialise in and finding your niche, will be the point at which marketing and business development becomes much easier and less time-consuming.