Module 1, Step 2:
Refining your audience -The importance of niching down
Now that we’ve defined our audiences, let’s take a quick look at their behavior as a whole
If your business is reliant on a strictly local radius around you, your actual audiences may currently look like this:
5% Freebie or heavily discounted (family and friends).
10% Great customers who appreciate you and don’t question your invoices.
85% Argumentative customers that pit you in a race to the bottom for lowest price.
If your audience is even vaguely familiar to this, I think we can agree that we would like to drastically change the percentages above. While only you can decide how you want to handle your family and friends discount (I simply became vocal about needing to curb that years ago, and it has worked for the most part), I can definitely suggest how to even out the imbalance between 10% great customers and 85% race to the bottom (bad) customers.
Most of us want to be everything to everyone because we don’t want to turn away a customer, right?
While this is understandable at face value, here’s how it produces the WRONG customers:
- Your promotional material explicitly says that you can serve everyone — “no matter how big or small” (it does, doesn’t it?)
- You have a solution for every problem in your field
- You don’t have any pricing in your promo materials
Here’s what this says to your prospect:
- You try to get what you can from each customer
- Since you’re not a specialist, you must be average at best
- You are willing to haggle
And there you go — the race to the bottom is on!
Let’s turn all this around. And we can do this without turning away the majority of our prospects — only the ones that’ll sink the ship. And this frees us up to work with more of the customers that we enjoy.
When we say “niching down” or “specializing” most people assume that we’re leaving large chunks of potential customers behind.
For this reason, I want to try to put it another way that may make more sense to you: Let’s not forsake large chunks of our market, instead, let’s hyper-focus, or “specialize” in a particular field of the whole market.
To find or develop your own specialty is to define yourself as THE expert in this special segment of your field. It helps us build credibility through word of mouth, online reviews, testimonials and case studies.
It reduces our competition.
If you own a heating and cooling company in Maine where the cool months outnumber the warm ones, you’d be wise to focus your entire business in the heating aspect – build the best relationships with suppliers, speak to having the latest equipment and knowledge that ensures the customer of the best return on their investment. Many of these same customers will purchase cooling services as well when needed.
It allows for “upselling”.
When we win the trust of our niche customer by providing an excellent product or service, we can then upsell related products and services. For many of you, this may be your first introduction to a “sales funnel”.
It is much easier to sell a smaller piece of your services (or smaller product) to a new prospective customer because there is less perceived risk. It is an opportunity to build trust and create a loyal relationship. Likewise, it’s also much easier to sell additional products or services to these existing customers for years to come.
It allows you to enjoy your career more.
When you decide to focus more on what you’re great at and enjoy and reduce your frustrating tasks, you’ll have a MUCH easier time getting out of bed in the morning and nurturing customer relationships.
There will always be a degree of frustration with every career, but as we get more successful, we can have other people take over more of those responsibilities.
Examples of finding our niches:
First, an online personal trainer.
I truly don’t remember which podcast I heard this interview on, but a young woman was being interviewed to talk about how she built a hugely successful online business selling an online personal training course.
In the beginning, her course solely targeted women. Nonetheless, she still had about 10% male customers.
After she felt well-established with her foothold in this market and had plenty of success stories to draw from, she simply duplicated her course, changed the pronouns from “she” to “he” and marketed a new course specifically to men.
She says that she didn’t just double her income the next year — she tripled it!
If she didn’t niche down to women in the beginning, I’m quite sure she’d still be struggling to find her audience. But, by niching down to women in the beginning, it aloud her to develop credibility and refine her course, then reach out to another market.
Example 2: My own experience in specializing (niching down)
A few years ago I went through quite a depression. I had to do a lot of soul searching as I was very unhappy with the constant corner I found myself painted into in my career. I felt my career becoming “commoditized” early on as a graphic designer. Later, as a website designer. And today, I still fight the all too common moniker of “online marketer”.
Screw that! I provide people with amazing returns on their investments. I was getting very frustrated and defensive with my colleagues and even my clients as people seemed to expect more and more from me for less and less.
I considered changing my career entirely. But, what would I do? Flip real estate? I know a little bit about that. But I’ve always known that my real aptitude is in this graphic design/marketing realm.
I realized that I had to put myself through the same, pain staking process that I put my clients through that are building a brand or re-branding.
I realized that I was trying to be all things for all people and that’s too exhausting and I had to learn to do a lot of things that I simply don’t like nor excel at.
I had to get clear with what I have “liked” most in my career, what I’ve “disliked” the most.
Since the “dislikes” are the problem(s), I then had to ask myself if I have viable “likes” that can negate my biggest “dislikes”.
As I made a list of my “likes” and “dislikes” things began to take shape.
Starting with my “dislikes” (the easy list at that point in my life), I could easily identify two major aspects of my career that were driving me crazy:
1. Being treated like a commodity in spite of my portfolio, experience and results
2. Constantly learning/mastering new technology
My “likes” list took me a few weeks to refine
As I spent quiet summer evenings contemplating what I found most rewarding to me over my career, I had quite a list:
1. Having some very successful lead generating results. My favorite being with an electrician that provides electrical safety training.
2. Developing company brands — logos, slogans, mission statements, brochures, websites…
3. Teaching digital art courses at the local college
4. Designing annual reports and alumni magazines
5. Creating magazine and book cover designs.
6. Creating sports posters and brochures
The last goes on, but I already identified what was most important to me.
*** Now comes the crucial part of this step – cross referencing.
I took each of these “likes” and asked myself if I adopted this as a specialization moving forward, could it negate my dislikes?”
The answer is a resounding YES! My brand development strategies made a name for me very early on in my career. I have a unique insight to it. I LOVE the positive impact that it has people and companies. I believe being a brand expert is a unique field IF you have the portfolio and experience to back it up.
It also checks off my “dislike” box of having to chase technology. Website development tech will continue to evolve, but the big, glaring gap between a website that converts leads and those that don’t comes back to the brand that you populate it with — and that’s not solved through technology, but through my creative abilities and experience.
In the end, I realized that focusing on my love of creating better brands would allow me market myself more uniquely and spend more of my days doing more of what I enjoyed. It also allows me to partner with many more people in my industry. Whereas I used to see so many people as competitors, I now see most of them potential partners. So, my company Edwards Communications’ niche would be building Best Brands.
While my marketing messaging is now anchored in Building Your Best Brand. All the other stuff I do with my clients – build websites, brochures, email campaigns, videos… are complementary services.
My love of teaching was the next thing on my list that I identified as a passion in which I excelled, I could scale and could neuter my dislikes.
I then asked myself WHAT part of teaching did I enjoy the most. That was teaching older students – they found learning the software to be much more difficult than younger students did, and I enjoyed breaking it down to smaller steps, so they’d get quicker “wins”. This broke down the barrier of frustration and intimidation.
I’d been wanting to do online classes since there was an online, but I kept my focus so broad that it was overwhelming. But now I began to see that if I took what I know best, branding, and taught it to people that I enjoy teaching the most… well, that was when Over 50 Starting Over was born.
Example 3: The exterminator: “I really don’t LOVE an area of my business. I just do it for the money”
I have to share this story with you now. It’s the story of the Bug Killer who would be better described as Buzz Killer.
I was in a mastermind group and I was giving people an extended elevator pitch on how I help people find their Best Brands by helping them connect or re-connect with their passions… with the reasons WHY they went into the work they did in the first place. It created a lot of fun engagement with the members. The ball finally landed in the hands of a very dry, skeptical man of about 35 years of age.
“What if you don’t love your job at all? I’m an exterminator – I kill bugs! I got a job doing this right out of school – worked for a guy for years learning everything there was to know about this business. A couple years ago I went out on my own because I was running his company anyway. But I do it to support my family, because it’s all I know. I can’t say that there’s a part of it that I love or think is special”.
I said, “Ok – you have a family! Are you passionate about them?”
“Of course,” he says dryly.
I reply, “Awesome! Ever do pesticides around your own house?”
“Do anything different for the family? Any special precautions?” I asked.
“Yea. I use organic pesticides in most areas – especially if there’s any chance of contact with my kid or dog. Timing is important too – when people will be around or not. Ventilation… seasons….
“PERFECT! You have your new niche of being the most trusted supplier of organic bug killer in your area. Your target audience should be young families, elderly and people with pets!” I reply enthusiastically.
“But they’re more expensive. Most people want the cheapest stuff,” says Buzz Killer.
I explained that he can still service everyone with the cheap, deadly stuff if he so desires, but if you lead with being the expert (and you must become the expert) on the organic stuff for the good of the audiences I just mentioned, it puts you in a place of trust.
Some people need to get real with themselves
This is a great example of a person that has to dig deep and decide if he really wants to move forward in a matter that is serving himself, his customers and his family much better, or if he is going to remain stuck in his system of limited beliefs and maintain a life of price battles and frustrations because he believes that he doesn’t deserve to pursue something that he’s passionate about.
I have a lot of information on how to work on limited beliefs on OverFiftyStartingOver.com (type “limited beliefs” in the Search Bar) if you feel you may be stuck there as well, but we’re going to move forward now.
This process is a giant first step in creating a unique brand that suits you and your customers.
Please complete the work sheet below. Think of your first draft of this as just that — a first draft. Chances are that when this exercise starts to get your wheels turning, your true “likes” and “dislikes” will become clearer. And as they get clearer, you’ll see the value of the final cross referencing step and the power of promoting your specialization.