As I mentioned in the article “Intro to Branding” which you hopefully have already read, your “brand” is so much more than a mere symbol. It’s what defines you as a business: your business philosophy, practices, attitude, promises to your customer, product integrity, etc. You will be remembered for your brand, good or bad, so make it good. Really good.
And don’t think that you have to decide exactly what your brand is in one sitting. It took me years to fine tune my brand, and it didn’t really start to happen until I had identified who I really wanted to work with and help, and who my ideal client would be.
Think about it.
How can you figure out who you are as a business, and how you’d like to do business, if you haven’t even figured out exactly who you want to work with. You can’t, because you can’t focus, you can’t understand your clients and help them solve their problems and you can’t target your efforts in any one particular direction. And that is where the secret lies. You have to target your efforts to a very specific group and then your brand will begin to take shape, because of how you interact with that group.
So, the first step is to identify your niche, and then your niche slice. The literal definition of a Niche is “a sub-market of a much larger market or a distinct segment having specific appeal for a targeted person or audience. ”
Niche marketing is very specific and it works. You can super-target your marketing to a specific group of people and the cool thing is that, while you think you may be eliminating the other groups, it works just the opposite. They will still find you, and if they like your brand message, they’ll buy from you. Keeping your focus too broad, will just dilute your message to the masses and then no one feels like you are really talking to them. This doesn’t mean that you don’t still offer these other services or products, or work with other groups of people, but you focus your marketing efforts in one specific area, to get more bang for your buck.
By focusing your efforts to a smaller gap in a large market, you can find your unique voice that hasn’t already been done 100 times before. Make sure you find a gap that has real demand. Use your instincts and your knowledge of the market to find that gap, and then you are free to fill in the blanks and make it your niche.
By creating this brand, you’ll effectively become the go-to person for people who want to know about that topic. Word about your specialty will spread throughout the niche and soon people will begin to seek you out of their own accord.
Here are some examples of too broad niche marketing:
- Horse training
- Horse breeding
- Online pet supplies
- Custom farming services
- Large animal veterinarian
- Western wear
- Meat Production
Examples of breaking these down into niche slices could be similar to the following:
- Horse training – Reining training
- Horse breeding – Selecting and breeding horses suitable for a particular discipline.
- Online pet supplies – Pet supplies & equipment for agility dogs
- Custom farming services – citrus experts
- Large animal veterinarian – endurance horse specialist
- Western wear – the biggest collection of custom wild rags in the west
- Meat Production – Bison
Some of these can be, even should be, broken down into even more specific niche slices, such as horse training. There are still many, many reining trainers out there, so if that’s what you do, how can you find a niche, and fill a gap, that will help you set yourself apart from all the others? Do you have a specific way of starting horses that makes your finished reiners better? Do you offer a special lesson program that will help owners become better riders and win more, or do you specialize in clients who just want you to show their horses?
I have a great example of an existing client who trains dressage horses, which some of you may think is a niche slice. She’s highly skilled, very successful in the show ring, but now helps riders fine tune their own skills with the help of bio-mechanics, which help you to learn how to use your muscles and bend your joints properly to master your sport and help prevent injury as well. She has found a niche that is not very well represented, therefore she’s in high demand.
After finding my own niche slice, I was finally able to make the leap from keeping a part time job paying just $10 an hour to a full-time freelance designer. And all I did was finally decide who I wanted to work with, define my niche slice (design for ag professionals), and begin hanging out with them and focusing my efforts towards them. People were more easily able to find the services I offer, my message spoke to them and my business grew. Of course I’m still found and contacted by business owners in other fields as well. They just relate to me and my message and want to work with me despite the fact that they don’t exactly fit my “ideal client” profile. My clients range from plumbers to roofers, to relationship coaches, along with horse trainers/breeders, cattle ranchers and farmers.
Something else to think about in helping you determine what your niche slice might be, is thinking about what is next for your clients? Take some time and think about your existing clients. Pick one client and visualize them and then answer some questions about this client. If you’re just starting off and don’t have any clients yet, talk to other co-workers, friends, family members, etc. to get a feel for what the public might be thinking.
- What do you believe your client needs or wants next?
- What is your client’s next goal?
- What will help your client solve their next problem?
- What does your client want on a regular basis?
- What will stop your client from implementing what he or she learned from you?
- What will stop your client from succeeding and seeing results?
- What could increase their availability and desire to succeed?
Think about the clients who weren’t as successful as you thought they could be and ask yourself what got in their way? Now, think about the clients who have succeeded as you expected and ask yourself what you did that helped make that a reality for your client, that others might not have the skills and expertise to do as well as you?
Each answer could lead you to a potential niche slice that you can turn into a program that will fill a gap that hasn’t yet been identified. The bonus is that, if you are passionate about what you discover, you get to spend your days doing something you love, and not really working for a living.
After you’ve spent some time working on this and discovering what your niche slice is, feel free to share with us in the comments, or comment on the Theresa Sheridan Designs Facebook Page. We’d love to hear from you!
Click here to view all the articles in The Branding Pen Series.