Many of us spent the last few months of 2018 analyzing our progress for the year and thinking about ways to grow in 2019. For businesses like ours – those in markets with a lot of competition – finding a way to cultivate a particular target niche is a focused and efficient way to differentiate yourself and scale in the direction you want.
Before we move too far into 2019, take these three steps to choose and attract a target niche this year.
#1: Categorize existing clients
It’s time to get into the data. Look through the clients you’ve worked with over the past year, and categorize them by industry or by vertical.
As you’re looking at the list, think about four questions:
- Do you have a strong concentration in a particular industry? Maybe, you hadn’t noticed before that 20 percent of last year’s clients were dentist offices or mechanic shops.
- Are there certain customers you just love working with? Perhaps, as you comb through the list, you realize that most of your favorite customers operate in the food services industry.
- Is there a particular industry or vertical that you love working in? You’re passionate about female entrepreneurs, or you’ve always wanted to get connected into the music industry.
- Which of your customers tend to be most profitable? Maybe, you only have three customers in the tech industry, but they make up 40 percent of your revenue.
The answer to each of these questions gives you a potential direction for a niche. If there’s some overlap among them, then you’ve probably hit a winner.
#2: Market to your target niche
Once you’ve identified a niche, it’s time to starting marketing directly to that niche.
There are a number of ways to focus that marketing, and you’ll likely want to do more than one of them.
- Content for your website. Create blog posts, best practice documents and videos focused specifically on that niche. For instance, if you’re targeting specialty food producers, you might write several blog posts all about the bookkeeping or accounting needs, challenges, and successes of food producers.
- Testimonials. Hopefully, you have at least one existing customer in your target niche. Ask them to leave you a review, or write you a testimonial. Put these on social media. Tell them you’d like to interview them about their business, and put that interview on your website and on social media. You’ll get exposure, and you’ll learn more about the industry and how you can better serve it.
- Meet them where they are. Go to the places your niche goes. Set up a booth at the specialty food producers conference. They probably don’t see that many bookkeepers there. Reach out to podcasts for food producers and advertise in their trade publications. Don’t be afraid to look into sub-communities: perhaps, there’s a specialty food producer’s conference just for women or people of color, or a specific religious group. You’ll run into less competition and likely find a group that appreciates having your focus.
Some firms are concerned about losing one niche by focusing on another. It’s an understandable but unnecessary fear. Many firms, mine included, have expertise and actively target clients in a number of niches. Using things such as multiple landing pages, niche-specific brochures and focused social media campaigns can allow you to market to more than one niche at the same time.
#3: Build expertise internally
Once you’ve created a marketing strategy, it’s time to make sure your team is ready.
You might be asking, “Shouldn’t I do that before I start marketing?”
The return on investment for marketing efforts is rarely immediate. You’ll need to put your company out there to your target niche for a while before you see those customers rolling in. It makes sense to get started as soon as possible – assuming that if a niche client walked through the door, you wouldn’t have to turn them away because you would truly be unable to provide your services to them.
So, once you’re moving on some marketing, talk with your team about the target niche. Find those internal champions that can be subject matter experts on the applications or the issues specific to that industry or vertical. Depending on the size of your firm, it could just be you. It could be two or three employees that you empower to find out more.
Of course, as with any business development plan, you’ll want to set goals for your progress and check on them periodically. If six months have passed, and you haven’t seen a single qualified lead for your target niche, reassess your marketing efforts. Are you showing up in the right places, both in person and online? Are you presenting a clear message about your expertise?
Make changes as you need to, celebrate your successes and get ready to add an additional target niche next year.