In this article, Heather Townsend, author of ‘The Go-To Expert' and ‘The FT Guide To Business Networking', considers why so many professionals hold back from making their business development so much easier, by adopting a niche.
There are typically four reasons why you might find yourself avoiding adopting a niche:
- You think you will turn business away
- You fear boredom dealing with one type of client
- You worry about alienating your existing clients
- You have no idea where to start.
1. You think you will turn business away
As a specialist in a specific area, your marketing will be optimised to attract the right sort of clients – the ones that you really want to work with and find rewarding in more than just the fiscal sense.
What would you do if somebody else approached you? You would decide if you had the capacity to take them on, or not. You don’t have to turn them away; you just don’t market to them.
Many professionals worry that if they adopt a niche then they will alienate their existing clients who don’t belong within that niche. Remember that your marketing is not aimed at your existing clients, just the new ones that you want to win.
If you are delivering a great or even extraordinary level of service, your existing clients probably couldn’t care less about your niche. However, you may find that to deliver the right level of service to the niche clients, you need to exit some older clients.
2. You fear boredom dealing with only one type of client
The common arguments go like this:
- I like the variety that being a jack-of-all-trades brings me.
- I started my firm to get a greater variety of work and enjoy myself more. If I niche I will only get one type of client and that means I won’t be as happy.
- If I am to get allocated to more clients at work I need a broader skill set to be more appealing to the managers and partners resourcing the client’s work.
This is a very real fear. Your long-term success depends on being clear on what you want, emotionally as much as (if not more than) financially. But then think a bit more. Variety comes from the people you have as clients, more so than the topic you have chosen as your niche.
A niche is about marketing and profile building. 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. That leads to you becoming the Go-To-Expert for your marketplace.
Having mastered one, who’s to say you can't start another one or two niches?
Early on in your professional career you do need a good spread of technical knowledge. However, as soon as you are qualified, this is when you will start to make yourself more attractive to be allocated to client work by specialising.
3. You worry about alienating your existing clients
Marketing to a niche is all about attracting in new clients. How you market yourself generally has a minimal impact on your retention of your existing clients. After all, retention of your existing clients is heavily influenced by how well you look after them and service their needs.
Therefore, unless you do some really outrageous or offensive in your marketing to a niche, you are really not going to alienate or lose your existing clients. (Unless, of course you want to!)
4. You don’t know where to start
Understandably, it’s one thing to say that you have a niche, and another to actually commit to it and capitalise on it. However, once you have decided on a niche, then it is time to get underneath the skin of your niche to be able to offer them the services that they really want to buy.