What’s the best way to niche-focus your marketing services business?
This question comes up over and over and over again. And it applies to nearly everyone in the marketing services business. Copywriters, traffic specialists, agency owners, the works…
If you sell marketing services, how can you maximize your success (for both yourself and clients) by narrowing your focus?
That’s the topic of today’s Mailbox Monday!
Remember, YOU can get your question answered in an upcoming Mailbox Monday issue…
All ya gotta do is shoot it to me at [email protected]. Simple as that!
Now on to today’s question…
First and foremost, thank you for delivering so much value in your daily essay… I read them religiously and I refer back to them often. You, my friend, have top priority in my inbox.
This video you just delivered has given me much to think about and now I’m at a crossroad and I don’t know which direction to go. You see, I just created a website to position myself as a profit extraction specialist for small business owners and I’m also working on publishing a book soon, but after watching your video I’m thinking maybe I should just focus on helping tax practitioners instead of small business owners in general.
The problem with this approach is, what about everything I’ve done so far?
Do I create a different website gear towards the tax industry? Or… Can I keep everything the same and still serve that target market?
Then again, maybe being a profit extraction specialist is niche enough…
What are your thoughts? what do you think I should do?
What every marketing service provider should know about niche-focusing your business…
The way I see it, the answer to this question is a big IT DEPENDS!
Here’s the thing… I don’t know exactly how much experience you have, and how confident you are that you can deliver on the “profit extraction” promise, and for whom.
So let’s zoom out for a minute.
Why the heck would you select a niche in the first place?
In short, it’s so your potential clients say, “That’s exactly what I need — it’s a perfect fit for me!”
So, let’s look at this from a couple different angles…
If you develop a niche-focus on an industry, you’re telling your potential clients, “I specialize in helping people just like you build and grow their businesses, getting more leads, customers, sales, and profits.”
Give them some evidence that you’ve helped others just like them, and you get that desired response: “That’s exactly what I need — it’s a perfect fit for me!”
Or let’s say you develop a niche-focus on a result (such as profit extraction). Do that and you’re telling your potential clients, “I specialize in getting this specific result, for businesses in any industry.”
Again, give them the evidence you can get that result in many industries, and the response is: “That’s exactly what I need — it’s a perfect fit for me!”
OR what if you go for the double-fit?
That is, what if you can promise a specific result for a specific type of client? “You have double the profits sitting inside your current tax practice customer base. I help you extract those profits within 90 days.”
Do this and you’ve severely limited your total market. (Which is not necessarily a bad thing, as we’ll discuss in a moment.)
But for those people within that market who are a perfect fit? BAM! “That’s EXACTLY what I NEED — it’s a PERFECT FIT for ME! HOW DO I SIGN UP?!?!?!?”
Yes, the caps may be a little over the top, but how else do I convey the added excitement?
There are pros and cons…
Still speaking in generalities here, let’s weigh some pros and cons…
First, let’s discuss focusing on a specific industry…
Markets and industries tend to be very insular. They tend to think, “But our business is different.” They tend to distrust outsiders, and give undue credibility to others in their space.
It doesn’t matter whether they’re wrong or right here, only that this is true.
Knowing this is true, by focusing on a specific industry, you gain instant credibility. Because you choose to go narrow, those who you focus on will inherently trust you more.
This pays off right away, but then other benefits accrue. The longer you’re in an industry, the more reputation you gain, which benefits you. Go to industry events year-after-year, and you gain “regular” and “insider” status, which earns you massive trust.
Plus, there is benefit to developing insider knowledge. While principles are universal, techniques and tactics can vary massively between industries. So the application of certain principles and strategies can be honed through industry experience. That is, knowing that you have to make an offer in a marketing piece is very different than knowing, for example, the best-performing acquisition and back-end offers in the investment publishing niche.
Finally, the more specific you get with who you are targeting, the easier it is to get in front of them. Both through paid media and other channels. The more specific the grouping, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to find them somewhere (in person or in media) that’s very targeting-friendly, for very high ROI.
The cons to targeting a narrow vertical? Well, you might feel like you’re limiting yourself. Which is true if the market is ultra-small. For example, if you’re only targeting local tax practitioners, you may see a lot of limitation there. But tax practitioners without that geographic limitation is a much bigger industry than one service business could handle.
Another con is the risk of becoming the jack of all trades, but to one industry. For example, if you focus on tax practitioners but don’t offer a narrow-focus service offering, they’ll tend to have you do anything and everything they can think of. Which is good for keeping busy, but anyone who does anything and everything is not perceived as having a high value for any one skill in particular. So your hours will likely be long, and your pay short.
The only other con I can think of is boredom. If you feel like you’d get bored too easily focused on one tiny industry, I get that. If that’s the case, choose another industry, or be willing to shift between a few targeted industries.
Next, let’s discuss focusing on a specific result…
Here the biggest advantages come from speed and systemization.
For example, if you focus on creating online lead-generation funnels for small business owners, you could get really good at your own set of proven methods for lead-generation funnels.
Or, on the profit extraction bit, you could get really good at identifying and capitalizing on specific opportunities to get more money from their current customer base.
The downside of this is without clear targeting capability, you’d have to find another way to get the people interested in that result to raise their hand.
That can be somewhat difficult to figure out, if you don’t already have a broad reputation in the general small business market.
You have to get really good at selling the result you can get, and making it work at a scale that supports you. In general, the economics of this are difficult, without some kind of market specialization (even if it’s just all small businesses in your city).
Finally, let’s discuss focusing on getting a specific result for a specific industry…
If you become the expert at one narrow result, for one narrow industry, you can quickly become the recognized expert and authority in that, for a target market that’s easy to reach.
This brings all the advantages of each approach, and eliminates most of the disadvantages.
Plus, this approach tends to lead to the highest fees and compensation, almost no matter how you measure it.
The biggest risks?
If you haven’t sold this as a service to this industry already, you risk having something they don’t want. This is a realistic risk with ANY new business endeavor or offer, so be willing to test and tweak and pivot until you find something that works. You start small, learn from failure, and build on success.
And if you get bored or don’t feel like you’re flexing your creative muscle enough? The nice thing about getting really specific on a result you generate, with a specific method, for a specific business is it tends to be very template-driven and scalable. Make it your new challenge to figure out how to systematize it and get others to deliver the service. This creates a scalable business you can step away from, to pursue another opportunity, and another!
So, whaddya do?
Again, it depends. I’ve given you a lot to think about.
If you’re very early on in your career and experience, you might want to embrace going more general, to get a lot of experience fast (recognizing you’ll make less in this phase). You can sell your service to the market you think you’re interested in, and a few others. See what you think.
At one point, I thought I wanted to be a direct response copywriter for the self-help niche. (I even wrote the event promo for the first ever event that well-known business guru Brian Tracy put on himself — before that, he was always only a guest speaker!) A few projects in, I realized the money wasn’t there, and went for a second market I was interested in: investing.
Along the way, offer your profit extraction service, as well as being a little flexible with what you’re offering to deliver. The idea is to test out and see what results you can get, what you’re good at, and what you enjoy doing.
This phase should take no longer than 2-5 years. This is really about the early discovery of your path.
If you have more experience, I’d lean toward really focusing in and serving one target market to the fullest, with a unique and proprietary method for getting them one desired result.
This justifies the highest fees, plus can usually be developed to be process-driven and scalable beyond just you providing the service.
Finally: regarding everything you’ve done so far…
I once heard that at the very beginning of his career, Gary Bencivenga had three or four different letterheads printed up. One was, “Gary Bencivenga: Investment Copywriter.” Another, “Gary Bencivenga: Health Copywriter.” And so on.
Depending on the client he was going for, he’d use the right letterhead.
This made it look like he was specializing while he was still figuring things out.
And for the hodgepodge mix of other clients you might go after? A more general promise or title works.
Consider everything you’ve done up until this point as valuable experience and a starting point for everything that is to come. Use what you’ve got, but don’t be afraid to also customize.
For example, you might not even need anther website, but you may want to create a big link on the front page of your site that says, “Tax practitioners, click here.” Then, they get an entire portal or landing page dedicated specifically to talking to them, about how profit extraction is applied in their business.
Do that for your top three industry categories, and suddenly you have a site that both serves the masses and gives the main clients the opportunity to feel like they found something made for them. It’s a niche halfway approach that can work wonders — especially if you drive traffic specifically to the niche landing pages, when appropriate. (Alternate approach: duplicate the website but customize by industry, so it feels like a totally separate experience.)
Ultimately, you have to be willing to test and try and experiment, and see what works best for both you and the market.
My bet? The more you specialize, the bigger breakthroughs you’ll experience.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,