In my experience, there are two kinds of small business owners: one that knows whom their market niche is and utilize it, and another who tends to waiver or not want to "set in stone" their target market. With the latter group, I always probe for more information: Why don't you want to choose a specific target for your product/service? Time and time again, the response is the same "I don't want to limit my profits by only catering to a few."
In all reality, you're not limiting any profits at all! When playing horseshoes, you have one horseshoe with one stake. Try playing horseshoes with 5 stakes and one LARGE horseshoe ? how successful do you think you'll be then? My guess is not very. The same is true with marketing: the more stakes you're trying to 'ring' the more difficult it is to accomplish that goal. By clarifying which stake you're going after, your success rate is going to be that much higher; and because you're targeting a specific group of people you can speak to them using their own words and make yourself an expert in their field!
Expertise = more business!
I know that personally, I would much rather do business with someone who caters directly to my needs. There are a million widgets out there; why would I buy a large red widget when I need a small green one? If I'm aware of the small green ones, I would definitely buy one! The same goes for your product/service. The more you know about your market, the more people of that market are going to want to buy from you!
Determining your Niche
Where do I find my target market?
Take a good look at your services. What are your three favorite things in the array of services you sell, the ones that you enjoy most? List them on paper, define them clearly, and there you will find your starting point.
Who can use these services?
You need to figure out who can use ALL of these services. Not just one, but all three of the services you chose. No easy route here: answering small business owners just doesn't count (The Small Business Administration (www.sba.gov) estimated there were 23.7 million small businesses in 2003). There may very well be more than one group of people who can use your services; but you must approach these groups one at a time for the most success out of your marketing dollar. Once you find that specific group, narrow it down even further. For example, for many years I worked exclusively with bankruptcy attorneys, and was considered an expert (see that word again) in assisting with bankruptcies. My services were actively sought out (once the word was out about who I am and what I did) without me having to market extensively. Why? Because I was 'the one to go to' regarding bankruptcy assistance. I even trained quite a few personnel in businesses I just didn't have time to assist. These people needed my services, and they needed my unique characteristics.
Who exactly are you speaking to?
You must do some research (yes, the dreaded 'r' word) to figure out the demographics/psychographics of your ideal client. Who are they? Where do they live? How much money do they make annually? Where do they shop? What do they do in their spare time? Where do they congregate? The list goes on and on. You need to know as much about the specific types of people to whom you're marketing. An easy and cost-effective method on the internet is finding discussion groups directed at those people, and listening very carefully. Knowing the exact demographics just isn't enough ? you must get into their heads and find out what makes them tick. When you know what makes them tick, you know how to speak to them; therefore, making it a lot easier to position yourself as an expert.
Market research doesn't have to be costly or difficult; use your imagination to find where your ideal client congregates and the websites/books they visit/read, and you'll get a good starting point. Seek out people individually, and probe their needs. They will tell you what you want to hear regarding this, and more often then not, they will also direct you to places to find more information. Get an insider in the industry, and use them to their fullest potential.
What makes you different?
Now is the time to take a look at your competition for this niche. What services are you offering that differ from the services of your competition? What characteristics are they looking for in you? Do you need to be professional, but upbeat and personal? Do they need someone who specializes in their business with a focus in marketing or project management? This is the time to make yourself shine! You need to stand out from the competition, and add your own personal flare. You need to know what makes you different and highlight it every chance you get! This not only helps define your market, but this is another way your customer will actively seek you when they are in need.
Marking your Territory
Once you've figured out this vital information about your ideal client, you can begin actively marketing and advertising your services. You will know to whom you are speaking, so make sure that you are always speaking to them! This is the time for you to announce to your market who you are and what you do! Add it in any signature line you can make, in any direct or email marketing pieces, brochures, articles, letters, everywhere you can! Make sure your networking groups know who you are targeting: they will be another tool to use to your advantage. Be the expert you are: show it to all. Niche marketing is not only a powerful tool, but a very BIG rule in my book. Combined with your branding techniques, this will give your marketing the most bang for your buck. And don't worry: You can always choose a new niche!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Erin Banister is the president of TrinityJacobs ? Your Personal Virtual Assistant. Erin's expertise includes marketing and desktop publishing, amongst other administrative specialties. For more information, visit http://www.TrinityJacobs.com