On the one hand, you want to leave yourself wide open to all the work that you can do.  But on the other hand, when you do that you actually dilute the core of your message, and your marketing becomes so much less effective, and you get spread in all kinds of different ways.  So actually, paradoxically, the way to get more work is to be more narrow and focused on the ideal type of client you want to win.  That’s a challenge, how do you go about choosing your niche?

Choosing your niche - step by step

Before choosing your niche.

Just before you dive into choosing your niche, let’s deal with a common objection – “I don’t want to become so narrowly focused”, or “I don’t want to lose clients”. These are two very common fears. Whilst it’s true that working in a niche actually helps you to get more business, many people want to work towards that longer term goal rather than “jump straight in”

The stages of niching

  1. The generalist. Pretty much as many people are today, you work with anybody (that doesn’t have to change) and your marketing is very general (that is the bit to change first). Generalists can be happy and successful, but their marketing will be less effective than when it’s targeted into a specific area. People often will ask when should I specialise, maybe you’re not ready yet – but it may be time to start thinking about it
  2. A generalist has a particular ‘interest in’.  So we’re still pretty general, but a particular ‘interest in’.  That particular interest then moves to be a growing specialism. Still very much a generalist but with a growing specialism. Here is the point where you are working towards your niche. Maybe you are thinking and focusing more on one area than another, have realised that some client categories are more profitable than others, or that you get better results from some types of people.
  3. A ‘specialist in’, or has ‘specialisms in’. Now you are starting to be better known as a specialist. You may not be the The Go-To Expert but are now benefiting from working with people in your chosen area. You may have more benchmark information to share, can offer them more value as you understand them more.
  4. Being seen as the expert. Here you are well known in your niche. It’s clear in all your marketing that you are the expert. This is the stage that most people think about when they say they have a niche and are the The Go-To Expert. They tend to be busier, get a higher conversion rate (clients arrive ‘pre-sold’) and charge substantially higher fees.

Wait – did you say higher fees?

In research done by the Hinge Institute in 2014, they found that even if you’re just known locally as an expert, so probably a generalist with ‘specialisms in’, you can be commanding up to three times the charge-out rate of a generalist.

So as you develop your niche  you don’t have to be the ‘expert in’. You can still be a generalist with ‘specialisms in’, and sometimes that’s as far as you need to go, particularly if your audience is small local businesses. But if you want to stand out from your competition, it’s time to think about choosing your niche.

Choosing your niche – 3 key tests.

  1. Passion: Do you love what you do, are you passionate about it?  If I said to you, you’re going to be doing this for the next 2 to 3 years, would you go ‘Yes!’, or would you go ‘Ohh’.  So make sure you’re passionate about it, because passion can open doors in a way that sometimes credibility can’t.
  2. Credibility.  Now you can grow a specialism without credibility, but it takes hard slog and hard work.  Now you may ask ‘how many clients do I need to really start on a niche?’  The answer is one, you don’t need a lot to have that growing ‘specialism in’. But consider credibility:
  • What track record have you got?
  • What case studies have you got?
  • What testimonials have you got?
  • What clients have you already worked with?
  1. Fit. What do I mean by ‘fit’?  Is there a market for your services with the aspirations you have, about the income that you want to bring in?  Is there a fit, is there a need for what you do?  Because you could be really, really passionate about helping unemployed people back to work. But there may not be people who are prepared to pay £200 per hour, who are unemployed, that want to work with you.

In summary

Choosing your niche, is about the three tests: Passion, Credibility and Fit, and you don’t need to ‘go all the way’. Where are you on your journey, and what will you do about choosing your niche?

Jon BakerWritten by Jon Baker The 5-50 Coach. I help professionals grow their firms from 5 to 50 employees, sustainably, profitably and still have fun. Networking is a key part of getting great results in small firms. If you want great networking tips sent to your desk once a month, click here and I will start sending them to you, so you can make a real difference to your referrals.