When you are just starting out, chances are you are happy to have any work that walks in the door. You’ll take on customers that are everything from an absolute breeze to those that push you for a rock-bottom price that you regret agreeing to come the end of the job.
As you build your reputation you will still have a spread of enquiries from different customer types, but with experience you start picking the ones that are going to be trouble and either don’t take the work or charge for the trouble you expect they will be.
The truth is that while you continue to be a generalist, the painful customers will continue to slip through.
However, if you are a niche-specialist this is where customer relationships can become easier….not necessarily because you are dealing with a subset of customers that are “nicer”, it is that you have more power in setting customer expectations.
The value of niching for marketing and setting customer expectations
People are buying for outcomes. When they buy from you they have justified your expense against the outcomes they are looking to achieve by using you.
The price will always be something they will be trying to reduce the pain of, but if they believe what you have to offer delivers more value than your cost then they will choose you.
It all comes down to value over cost. So how do you define your value with a customer?
One of the best ways to do this is by getting specific and niching to a particular customer type or industry. By redefining your marketing message, you can focus your marketing collateral on “speaking to” people in your niche market:
- What are their pain points?
- How do you alleviate that pain?
- Who have you helped that is just like them?
- What results could someone like them achieve with you?
These are all very specific questions that will have different answers for different audiences. If you can answer these questions for a specific audience you elevate yourself from a basic commodity to a niche authority.
As a niche authority you attain many of the qualities of a brand in a customer’s eyes:
- Expected results
- Fit for purpose
People will pay more for an assurance of results with someone they believe understands their needs. If someone has a choice between a $3,000 solution that will result in $6,000 of sales versus your $10,000 solution that will generate $30,000 in sales (a 100% return versus a 200% return) then it comes down to the value and the customers belief in your ability to deliver.
It goes further – people don’t second guess your recommendations and the solution you are offering when you have established your position as a niche authority. This means that they will listen to you and you are less likely to have to deal with scope creep because someone’s aunty thinks they should do something differently.
How to serve a niche without losing everyone else
So here’s the rub….will you lose business by narrowing your focus and possible excluding potential buyers from your product offering? Possibly.
However, just because you are niching does not mean you have to focus on one area of your market to the exclusion of all else. 50% of your business may be the general market so chopping them could be disastrous for your business! If you can niche to one specific industry/customer type that is great but let’s proceed as if this is not possible right now.
The secret is to identify the niche(s) you want to focus on and start working that into your marketing. It should be stressed that you may be able to identify more than one niche to target, but you will be targeting one at a time.
1. What customers do you currently work with that you enjoy working with, have a high profit:cost ratio and you can comfortably deliver results for
The ideal scenario is that you will be able to identify existing customers that are representative of the niches you want to target. This means you already have successful case studies, as well as a guide for delivering a successful result.
That being said, perhaps you see a hole in the market. Don’t be afraid to take the first mover advantage.
2. Can you define a particular buyer persona for each of your customers
Crafting a buyer persona is a way to identify with an individual in your target market. It is a reference document that highlights the specific needs of a potential buyer, their thought processes and things you may need to consider through each stage of the buyer journey.
3. Restructure your website to highlight these niche specialties
Our approach to building websites is to build in the capability to make every page give the “home page effect”. We do this for 2 reasons:
- Any page on your website is a potential entry point, whether it be a link through search or social or a specific marketing campaign you are running. You only have one chance to make a good impression.
- Every page should have a purpose with the user path not only being mapped out for the entire website but also for individual pages. You know why a page exists on your website, so what actions do you want a visitor to take?
So your objective in niching without losing potential customers outside of your identified niche(s) is to have pages that highlight your services in general while linking to niche specific pages, and those niche specific pages linking back to service pages for more detail if required on particular service areas.
As far as your marketing is concerned though, everything will now be pushing traffic to niche specific pages for each piece of your marketing. If you are targeting accountants, you now send them to a page that talks to the needs of accountants, not your home page.
4. Identify the marketing channels for each niche and run targeted marketing campaigns
Part of identifying the buyer personas for each niche you are targeting is to get a handle on what marketing channels are going to be most effective. If you were targeting accountants, would Pinterest be your go-to marketing channel? I think not.
You now have the ability to be very focused with your marketing, this means less wasted time and money and greater chances of conversions. Your marketing becomes measurable and (as you optimise for positive return on investment) scaleable.
Streamline your processes to further maximise profitability
Once you have identified niches, these could become the most profitable areas of your business.
Not only do you understand your customers needs better, you also know the specific solutions (or close variations) they need…. This means your processes can now be systemised from onboarding a new customer into your system through to delivering every element of your offering.
If everything is systemisable and measurable, you are now in the great position of knowing exactly how much your service will cost to deliver, how to price to deliver the profit margin you are after and, possibly most importantly, how much you can allocate to marketing to bring in new clients while remaining profitable.
The great thing about marketing your service now is that you know exactly who to target, where they are looking, and how to speak to their pain points and present your service as the solution. You are no longer taking a shotgun approach to your marketing, you are now marketing in a measurable manner knowing why people are responding and where it is worth focusing more of your marketing dollars.