When business owners ask me why they have a difficult time prospecting and closing on business, one of the first questions I ask is, 'who is your audience?' When I hear answers that include words like, 'anyone who…,' I immediately know that we are heading into an emotional conversation - niche marketing. Why is it emotional? Well, when you suggest to a struggling business owner that they need to narrow their market it feels limiting and frightening. If they can't make a sale now how will they ever close business by marketing to fewer people? Yikes!
I've learned the hard way. Having spoken to countless entrepreneurs on this topic and receiving enormous resistance from most of them, I now begin the conversation with, 'we are going to create a duplicatable formula that will increase sales and enable you to market to as many people as you like!' How exciting is that? Certainly, it's not the most important aspect of this conversation, but it sure makes them feel better!
More effective networking: When I belonged to a Business International Networking group we did an exercise called the Reciprocity Circle. Rather than exchanging leads as we did every week, we each stood up and asked for a very specific lead. Things like, 'I would like a connection to the HR Director at xyz company' or 'Do you know a health-conscious mom who has a baby under one year of age and has left her corporate job to be at home with her family?' That week, we went from an average of 15 exchanged leads to over 100!
When you know exactly who your audience is and can be very, very specific, it opens the minds of your networking partners and makes their job of referring people to you much easier. They will be excited about passing these leads to you because you are doing most of the work by 'reminding' them of the people they know who are ideal customers and connections for you. When you use words like, 'anyone who' the brain shuts down. It's hard work to go through your entire mental database to find that one, specific 'anyone'.
More effective marketing: If I come to your website and it tells me all about YOU, I'm probably going to leave quickly. Sure, I want to know about you or your product but first I want to know that you understand my problem or desire. If I am to be your customer, it needs to be all about me! But how can you talk about me if you don't know me?
Isolating your target market is just the beginning. You must study and know your ideal customer as well as you know yourself. If you are a web designer, for instance, you may be marketing to 'anyone who needs a new, cutting edge, amazing, fully optimized website that is the best in the world!' Oh sure, they all say that. But if you design websites specifically for dentists, it tells me that you know my audience, you know the industry language, you know the touch and feel that I'm looking for….you know what tells my ideal patient that I am the dentist most suited to their needs and concerns. After all, I'm busy fixing teeth; I don't have the time to do all of this research. You are an expert! Now I really like you!
The compelling reasons for isolating your niche are many, this is just a sampling – but you get the picture. When you position yourself as the expert in a specific niche you will have greater clarity, stop chasing the illusive 'anyone who' and your world will become a much less confusing and stressful place.
So how can you choose just one? Does it limit sales?
Remember that after you master your niche, you may choose another! But don't try to develop 2 or 3 at one time. Learn from your mistakes and your wins and then develop your second if you like. And no, niche marketing does not limit sales. It is expansive and liberating! You will know what conferences and trade shows to attend, you will know exactly what to say when someone asks you what you do, and the development of marketing materials will be a breeze!
To select your niche begin by asking yourself these questions:
Of all the people who could use my product or service, who am I most passionate about working with? Who do I most closely identify with, understand – even sympathize with?
Who will benefit the most from my product or service?
When I speak with, or sell to, _______ it excites me the most.
If I have to devote a lot of time and effort to learning about a particular industry or demographic which one would I enjoy the most? Which one do I already know the most about?
If I were speaking to a room of 500 people and could either give my product away, or work with, just one of them, who would I choose? Give your ideal client/customer a name and describe them in great detail.
The people who give me the most positive feedback on my offerings are __________.
Now identify how you can reach your audience. Optimizing your landing page and blog is important, but what else? Are there other businesses and organizations that you can align with? What tradeshows, conferences and meetings target your audience?
Prepare a signature speech for your new audience and begin contacting organizers, podcasters and organizations who would welcome you to speak to their audience, which happens to be the same as yours, of course.
Create a free information product for your niche and market that on-line and as a giveaway at your speaking engagements.
Enjoy being viewed as an expert – the go to person! But mostly, enjoy the fact that you are helping more people and attracting the abundance that goes with it!
MARLA TABAKA is a small-business adviser who helps entrepreneurs around the globe grow their businesses well into the millions. She speaks widely on combining strategic and creative thinking for optimum success and happiness. @MarlaTabaka