Regardless of the reason you started your business, we all fundamentally want the same thing. We want to grow our businesses.
You want more potential customers. More calls, more contacts and ultimately more paying customers.
Somewhere along your journey you’ve probably heard people talking about finding a niche. Turning away customers when you want to grow your business? That would be madness wouldn’t it?!
In this guest article, Karen Reyburn, Owner and Managing Director of The Profitable Firm, addresses this number one fear of pursuing a niche.
For those who are considering a niche, the biggest fear of all is…
…what about all that business I’d be missing out on?
You know that when you decide to pursue a niche (particularly an exclusive one), by doing so you’re saying goodbye to everyone else. Anyone who isn’t your target market will know to go elsewhere. They won’t enquire. They’ll see your marketing messages, realise you’re not for them, and leave.
And, you think to yourself “I don’t want that”.
You want all the business.
You want all the people to come to you.
All those who need your services in the whole world – you want them to find you.
We’re inspired by Apple, Instagram, Vimeo, Xero. By companies that build an amazing product, or deliver an incredible service, that literally every person in the world wants, and gives it to them.
But here’s the thing: those are the exception, not the rule.
We cannot possibly, all of us, come up with a product or service which will appeal to the entire world’s target market.
“Okay, fine, I know that,” you might be thinking. “But I still want the biggest market possible. The greatest chance of success. I want to reach the greatest number of people who need my product or service – and I’m worried that picking a niche means I’ll miss out on them.”
So here’s the truth for you:
A niche enables you to reach exactly that: the greatest number of people who need your product or service.
That’s because when you choose a niche, your clarity in the type of person or business you serve helps your prospective customer have clarity, too. They make a connection quicker. They are more likely to get in touch. They make a decision much faster. And all because you’ve clarified that fit between what you make and what they need.
That means you’re not missing anyone.
When you figure out what you do best, and who wants it, and the two connect, then why would you care about the people who don’t come to you?
They’re not actually missing anything, because they don’t want or need what you have. And you’re not missing anything either, because you would not be best placed to serve them. Someone else would: and you’re making it possible for them to connect.
So when you’re facing that number one niche fear, here’s what to do with it:
4 questions to help you understand who you’re best placed to serve
You’ve spent too long trying to serve all the people doing all the things. We know that the Jack of all trades is master of none, and that the message for everyone actually helps no one, but still we do it.
Because we’re scared to risk it. There’s really no risk when you have this level of clarity: so seek that clarity first and foremost, and you won’t be missing anyone at all.
There are four questions that may help you in figuring this out:
1. What is the one thing you keep coming back to?
It’s not simply about what you love or what makes you come alive, or your passion. We all have multiple things in life that we love and are good at.
I ran a wedding photography business for over five years. I was really good at it. I had people flying me all over the world to America, Cyprus, Ireland, to shoot their wedding. But I had to look at what would be the most profitable, for the longest, and that was the most scalable.
There are people in my life who still think I’m an accountant. I don’t bother to correct them anymore, because I can see why they think that. The accounting element has been what remains, year upon year.
2. Who or what do you understand best?
I am constantly telling people how much I love working with accountants. I really do. After all these years, I understand so much about them: and there are so many amazing things. They tend to be people with integrity. They’re generous. They care about their clients as people. They put family first. They seem quiet and introverted but are incredibly fascinating with hidden skills.
Think about who you understand, because you’ll be better placed to help them
3. Who do you get the best results for?
This could be in numbers – some of my accounting clients have helped a business increase its worth to £10million or £30million and then sell it.
It could be in happiness – a friend of mine in Ireland works for a social organisation helping teenagers have a place to hang out and do fun things instead of doing drugs and sending their life on a bad path.
Think about what you do that causes people to be the most voluble in their thanks.
4. What is the most profitable to you?
This is why you can’t solely look at what you love or what you are good at.
In my wedding photography business, people were willing to pay high fees, and my travel expenses. Every wedding I shot, I increased my fees, and people were happy to pay it. But when I looked at the number of hours I spent on one wedding, I calculated it as close to 90 hours.
When I looked at what I could do with those same hours in my marketing agency, I knew instantly which was the most profitable. So I decided to focus my efforts on what was already profitable, and make it more profitable still.
Be prepared to try and test things
You’re not going to figure out your niche instantly. Simply thinking “I have a few clients who are dentists” or “I really enjoy working with charities” is not enough to ensure that this is a niche which will be scalable and profitable for you.
Part of facing this niche fear is keeping it simple, and small, until you know what works. Some of the things you can try include:
- Create a landing page for your proposed niche. Make sure you address their issues, problems, and motivations – don’t be generic. (Who knows, even trying to build a landing page might point out to you that you don’t know that niche very well.)
- Develop a helpful content item for your niche. Write a PDF guide. Write a series of blog posts. Run a webinar or a live event – even a small one. Create an infographic. Put together a checklist. Produce something that is genuinely helpful for that audience, and see if they like it!
- Connect with this audience on social. When I set up The Profitable Firm, I knew that I was focusing exclusively on accountants. So I went to Twitter and followed every accountant I could, and any organisation that served accountants. I read what they shared. I commented and connected with them. I asked questions. Now, five years later, I don’t even have to try: they find me. But I had to start somewhere.
- Create at least one product or service offering that meets their needs. If you’re a copywriter and you’re considering helping only IT companies, don’t simply “put together a package” – the kind where you take what worked for everyone and stamp the word “IT” on it. Really put your brain power to the problems those IT companies keep telling you about, over and over, and go ‘blank slate’. What do they wish they could get from a copywriter? How can you provide that and be profitable? That’s a package offering they’ll be more interested in.
- Remember the progression model, and be patient. Your buyer these days does around 75% of their research before they ever get in touch – sometimes before you even know they exist. They watch your videos, see what you’re posting on social, read blog posts, lurk in the background. You want to address awareness, then helpful free stuff, then something small that is paid, all before they buy the ‘big’ product, whatever it is. Use the progression model, and let them come to you.
Don’t simply turn people away
When you have clarity about who you serve, and other businesses do too, you can refer business to each other, and everyone wins.
One of the greatest blessings in my business life is being able to send people to who can help them best. I’ve had creative agencies ask if we can work with them. Charitable organisations who want me to coach them. Product-based businesses ask for content writing.
For all of these people I’ve had to say “We can’t help you because we’re exclusive to accountants”…but we never, ever end it there. We never turn someone away without suggesting where they can go instead.
By now I’ve gotten to the stage where I can almost always suggest a business that is uniquely placed to serve that person’s particular needs – but if for any reason I can’t think of one, or there are none I’d recommend personally, I can still send them to a larger organisation such as Design Pickle, or People per Hour or even Amazon.
Be both ambitious and realistic
All this “you can do anything you want to do” malarkey sounds great on an Instagram post. I saw a #lifewithoutlimitations hashtag recently, and it bugged me.
It bugged me because the greatest achievements in my life have resulted from me rising above the limitations I’ve been given in my life. Health limitations. Relationship limitations. Geographical limitations.
Don’t ask for no limitations, because we all have them (or we will have them soon). Figure out what yours are, and rise above them.
Enjoy rising above that fear!
About Karen Reyburn
Karen Reyburn is the owner and managing director of The Profitable Firm, a creative agency that works exclusively with accountants. The agency is completely virtual, with the team working all over the world to deliver services to accountancy firms globally.
She has created the Content Marketer Accelerator to help accountants learn and apply content marketing principles within their firms, without wasted time.
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