5 Lies About Niches That Everyone Thinks Are True

Truth lies

Image via Wikipedia

There are a lot of misconceptions and untruths about niches.

Sometimes, it’s a question of not understanding what a niche really is.

Other times, it’s a bit of bravado.  Some of the biggest lies:

“Having a niche will kill my sales; look at all the business I’m ignoring.”

Actually, the opposite is true.  Once you specialize, you’ll become known for that specialty.  People and businesses will seek you out, because you’re now a recognized expert in that field.

You can also use that specialty to cater specifically to your chosen market.  For example, if you’re an expert on organizing, rather than trying to help everyone, focus on busy  moms.

Then adjust your schedule, and  your services accordingly, offering appointments during the early morning, when the kids are in school.

“It’s OK to combine two different businesses, like office supplies and fitness, under one website.”

Mashing two entirely different businesses together will just confuse your clients and customers.  People who want to exercise have completely different needs and wants than people who need to buy copy paper.

If  you want to run two businesses, set up two different websites.  Actually, better yet, start one, get that going, and then worry about the second one.

“We don’t need to specialize, everyone will want our product.”

This one is astonishingly persistent.  I’ve heard it from software companies, business event planners, pet food producers, you name it.  When you love what you do, or what you sell, it’s easy to think that everyone will want it.

That isn’t necessarily true though.  If that software is written in Chinese, it’s useless to people who don’t speak Chinese.  Yes, many large businesses use event planners, but most small businesses won’t.

You’ll have better luck targeting specific people, or setting your services apart in some way.  How about an event planner who understands both logistics and marketing/budgeting?  Or who specializes in exotic destinations for corporate meetings.

“I’ve got a big list of names, from several career changes, I can earn lots of money from it “

A large, random group of people who you’ve met over the course of several years isn’t a niche marketing list.  If you’ve changed careers or industries from selling accounting software to producing handcrafted guitars, not everyone on that list will necessarily be interested.

In order for a list to be profitable, they’ll need to have something in common, a need for your services (you solve their problems), and the money to pay for them.

“The more I offer, the better. I’m going to branch out.”

There’s a store near me that offers tech support services (fix your PC, troubleshooting and so on).  They also have a sign saying they buy and sell gold.  It doesn’t really make sense, does it. Those are two entirely different areas of expertise.

Figure out what your market wants, and stay with it. Only add something if it complements what you’re already doing, say PC services and Mac services.  Think about it this way, would you go to a fitness expert for brain surgery?  Or would you go find a neurosurgeon?

What Your Clients Really Want: Why You Need a Marketing Persona

Ostrich Close-up

Image by wwarby via Flickr

Have you gotten up close with your people?  Not your family, or your friends, but your people — the people who read your blog, buy your services, or spread your posts around the internet.

If you’re going to successfully market your services, it’s a good idea to create marketing personas.  A persona is just a fancy marketing term for mini-profiles of the people who are your ideal customers.

Who is your ideal client?

Ostriches? (hmm, ostriches, they like to put their heads in the sand and hide from problems).  Or tigers? (they glare at you and they can rip your arm off if they want).

But, since you’re probably not marketing to animals (I don’t think they have credit cards, so probably a good thing), you’ll have to think about the people you want to reach.  SEO whizzes? Electrical supply companies? Green tech companies?

Look at your client/prospect files.  Is there a pattern?  Do you have a specific niche market? Maybe you have a lot of law firms as clients. Or, you might find that many of your clients are medium-size marketing agencies.  What do they have in common?

Are you offering something that nobody else is doing? If so, you could eliminate your competition.

Create a detailed profile for your marketing persona(s)

Build up as detailed a biography as possible.  You may find you need more than one.  You might have a persona for first-time users of your product and another for people who are more experienced.

You can even give them names (either real names or names that reflect their stage in business or life).  The idea is to use those personas as a mental shortcut in your marketing.  If you tell yourself you are marketing to Newbie Joe, you know exactly what that means.

What do they worry about?

Do they want to set up a blog?  Does it seem like a huge obstacle to them?  Are they unhappy with their web sites, but hesitate to act because they’re afraid they’ll get ripped off, or it will cost buckets of money, or take forever? Maybe they just don’t know who to call, or who to ask.

Can you help them solve that problem?

Remember the salad dressing rule. Focus your energies on people who have a problem you can fix (and how much better they will feel when you do).   You could  have the world’s greatest baby food formula, but trying to sell it to people without small children is a waste of time.  They won’t care.

And, keep your head out of the sand (it’s really hard to get it out of your hair).


The Three Building Blocks of a Successful Marketing Campaign

Yesterday’s post talked about a dumb marketing mistake.  Today’s post will turn around and focus on the three building blocks of a successful marketing campaign.

building blocks
Image by nerissa’s ring via Flickr

Every campaign and every business is different.

However, every successful marketing strategy has these basic ideas in common, no matter what your business, who your audience is, or what you are trying to sell.

First, you must know who your audience is.  The more detail you have (in your head, or on paper) the better.

Next, you need to know what they are thinking: what are they worried about, what are their goals?

Finally, you have to know why they should choose you (instead of anyone else) to help them with those problems.

Who is your audience?

Who are the specific group(s) of people you want to reach? Be able to describe your ideal client, whether they are new moms who want to lose weight or owners of crossfit training centers. Give them personalities and names if you like. If you offer services to two different kinds of people or companies (say both brides who want help choosing lingerie or men who want help buying a gift), then separate them. Don’t write the same stuff for both.

What are they thinking?

Taking the example above, the brides will have different concerns than the men. The brides will want to know: will it fit? will it show under my dress? how hard is it to put on? is it pretty?

The men want to know if she’ll like it, if it’s too sleazy, is it the right size?

Two completely different sets of concerns.

Why you?

Be clear about how you’ll help and what problems of theirs (not yours) you solve. Spell out why your approach is special or different, and show your personality when you do – be the person who offers overwhelming value or insanely great service or personal advice on selecting exactly the right lingerie for brides-to-be. Detail the reasons they should hire you, rather than someone else. Pile on the value. Make buying a “no-brainer.”

So, what’s your strategy?  Are you focusing on a particular audience? Not sure? Want an opinion (I have lots!)?  Just ask.

Are You Marketing Backwards?

Da Vinci notebook
Image by tiny_packages via Flickr

We all know that Leonardo da Vinci wrote backwards, though nobody knows exactly why.

It may have been to keep his work secret, or because he was left-handed (and writing that way was less messy).

Doing things backwards worked for Leonardo, but it’s not a good idea for your marketing.

Is your marketing backwards?

I was just reading this blog post in the NY Times by Jay Goltz.  He owns a picture framing company and his team was doing some sales planning for next year. They were trying to think of some ways to increase business.

A brainstorming session about a hypothetical 100 people in the area who needed framing, but went elsewhere, came up with the following possibilities :

  • “5 percent used us and for some reason decided they didn’t want to come back (we have a very high repeat and referral rate).
  • 25 percent are loyal to another frame shop and have no reason to leave.
  • 20 percent consider us too expensive.
  • 50 percent don’t know about us.”

Self-focused marketing is looking the wrong way

So, they decided to increase their advertising to get the word out. Obviously, this isn’t scientific, and the author readily admits that.  However, there’s another, bigger issue.

Say they spend more on ads, radio, adwords or whatever. Now more people know they exist. Is that enough?

Do you buy from the place you heard of (along with all the other places)? Or, do you buy from the place that’s remarkable? That treats you differently or offers something the other framing stores don’t?

There are lots of places near me (this store isn’t one of them), but no particular reason to choose one over the other. It’s a commodity. I have something I’ve been meaning to frame, and when I do, I’ll just pick one.

They were focusing on themselves, not their clients

They were looking in the wrong direction. They stopped and asked themselves how to get more sales, and their solution was focused inward – we’ll advertise more!

They never asked what the customer might want, such as pickup and delivery of large paintings or faster service. Neither did they focus on building a niche – maybe focus on museums (large, high-quality frames) or hotels (mass frame purchase).

What if the experience was special or unique in some way?

Like this dry cleaner (apologies in advance for the forced commercial; Seth Godin fans look closely at 1:55).

The reason that Hangers Cleaners is doing so well is that they made it convenient and made it fun with silly signs and t-shirts. How many silly dry cleaners have you ever seen?

Marketing forwards (outwards and toward the customer has led this company to improve its revenue, while its competitors are losing money.

Which way are you marketing?

How to Eliminate Your Competiton

Picture of the bathroom tiles in the Schulz Mu...

Image via Wikipedia

My brother and dad own (and rent) several apartment buildings. One of the bathrooms needed some new tiles, so my brother went to look for replacements.

The building is old and the color is discontinued. He finally found a guy who sells them… for $15 each.  And these are tiles that probably cost 25 cents each when new.

What’s going on here?

The guy has found a specialty. He travels all over the world, buying up discontinued, end-of-run, and leftover tiles. Then he ships them home to New York. If you really (really) want a specific tile, he’s THE guy. He’s created his own niche, which nobody else can match or compete with (at least not easily). He’s not just standing out from his competition – he has none.

What makes YOU different?