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3 Things to Think About Before Attacking a Niche

I am a big proponent of businesses focusing a lot of energy on developing their ideal customer and, better yet, identifying a clear target market. If you’ve read much of my teachings, you might already be nodding your head.

When a web designer or developer tells me they can’t get customers, I always ask, “Who is your customer?”

And then they think for a minute, before responding:

“Small business.”

(Danger, danger!)

From there it is a pretty easy process to understand who their customer really is…often they just haven’t identified them yet.

But then there’s the case of the web professional who responds heartily with:

“Fashion companies that are in London.”

(Specific market, specific city.)

Which makes me happy.

Recently during an email conversation with Chloé Watts, the web pro superstar owner of chloédigital, she revealed how she is working to take over this very market.

But she said one thing that caught my ear:

“I’m going to focus on fashion companies in London, but first I need to get all of my marketing collateral in line.”

My brain exploded…

I immediately requested a conference call.

From Experience

I love when pros tell me they are going to focus on customers in a specific niche. But I hate when they tell me they have to do a bunch of stuff before they reach out to those customers.

From my experience in the trenches, I know that it is more important to get out of the building and work with your customers before you invest too much time in your marketing.

The following are three things to consider as you decide to focus on getting clients in a specific niche…

1. What is your current situation?

What marketing collateral do you already have? If you have a website that says you make websites, do search, email, and more, then leave it be. If you don’t have anything, make a one page website with:

  • your logo
  • one sentence—”I make [insert skill] for [target market] in [geography].”
  • contact form

Anything else and you are kidding yourself because you don’t even know what the market wants!

How many customers in your target niche are already customers? If you don’t have any, then you must make it your primary goal to find one and talk to them. It might turn out that they don’t even want a website. If you have less than ten customers, you have no business making a big investment in up-front collateral. If you have more than ten customers, depending on the average revenue you are getting, then it’s up to you. But when I’ve attacked a niche, at my best I had almost twenty customers before moving beyond a one-page, opt-in squeeze page.

What contacts do you have in this niche? Take an inventory. What customers, leaders, directors, influencers, and champions do you have in your contact list? This is your mine. These are going to be the people that make or break your ability to quickly penetrate and grow within the niche.

2. Are you sending an army for a scout’s job?

It is our knee-jerk reaction to believe that creating a website, SEO/PPC campaign, email series, brochure, and special business card is necessary before you ever set foot in a client’s office. Which is either a confidence thing (“if I don’t have this, then these dentists won’t believe I make websites just for dentists”) or it’s a delusion of grandeur thing (“if I make an awesome website, I will dominate this market in no time!”)

The reality is that the best marketing material is you, the web professional, sitting across from a potential customer in your target market. You are going to validate that you build websites in their niche by just saying, “I build websites for dentists.” Your website could say: “The Web Design Experts” for all they care.

Your marketing should eventually catch up with your efforts. But if you are focusing on X niche and you only have four clients in that space, marketing material isn’t your problem.

Be an army scout.

Go search for access to these prospective customers and get meetings with them. Either a phone call or coffee. Sit down and ask them about their market. Ask them how they got where they are and what their top problems are. It might turn out that what you planned to say on your website doesn’t even connect with their top problems.

When you a have twenty or thirty clients in your niche and it’s time to scale up your efforts (speak/sponsor at conferences, pay for advertising in a local trade journal, or ramp up that PPC campaign), then invest money and bring in the troops.

3. What is the fastest way you can get five customers?

Hint: it’s not building (or re-targeting your marketing on your website).

It’s getting twenty meetings with customers in your target market. Sure, a great website and marketing strategy can get you those meetings. But SEO and campaigns take time. And unless you have reams of cash in your bank account, you probably don’t have three months to wait for those leads to start flowing.

Think about tactics to get you conversations with prospective customers today. Is it:

  • a LinkedIn message?
  • an email to an owner?
  • cold calling a list?
  • asking existing contacts for introductions?
  • attending an upcoming conference or trade show?
  • asking an industry association director to introduce you?

There are tons of tactics. But all of them start with you getting in front of your prospective customer to have a conversation about their top online pains and problems. Not spending weeks and weeks mulling over your new website copy.

Your plan should be able to answer this question: what can I do to get out of my office and in front of these customers?

Does this mean….?

It might sound like I don’t believe in sound marketing. I mean, aren’t I promoting web professionals who build websites? Kind of sounds like I’m telling cobblers to stop wearing shoes.

But I’m not.

Good marketing in your business has its place. That place happens to be after you have a rock solid understanding of the target customer you are pursuing in your business. Good marketing has a place when you have revenue coming in the door from your first clients in a niche. When you have actually validated that you have the ability to find, sell, deliver, and delight someone in that space.

If you are currently in the position that Chloé is in, and are ready to dominate a niche, but are just waiting for that last polish on your marketing…take heed of this: what you have today is plenty to get that deal.

Good enough is the new perfect.

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