Rags to niches

By Michael Goldberg

Knock Out Networking


One of my favorite questions to ask sales producers is, "Who is your target market or niche?" Well, maybe not my favorite question, but right up there. I get the most confused and baffled responses. I'm equally as confused and baffled at how many sales reps don't know or haven't taken the time to figure it all out.

Question: Do you have your niche figured out? Here's a much better question: Do you even have a niche? Or do you believe you're all things to all people? All solutions to all problems? All answers to all questions? The end all and be all? All in the family? Basically, all being, knowing, and doing? See how you are?

Here are some of the most common responses to my target market question. "Someone that needs life insurance!" "Anyone that's wealthy!" "Everyone!" "Anyone that will pay me!" Responses like these are like a chiropractor saying that he serves anyone with a spine. Or simply, "Everyone is my target market." Really?

Here's a dose of reality: If your niche is anyone, everyone and someone, the results often lead to no one. Or a long time before no one becomes someone. Still with me?

Sadly, you aren't the answer to everyone's prayers (although it's a nice thought). How can you believe you're the best fit for anyone, everyone, and someone, anyway? Well, you can't. Or at least you shouldn't. If you believe your niche is as all-inclusive as a Sandals Resort in St. Lucia, you may be leaving tons of opportunity on the table (or in the sand.)

A niche (pronounced nitch or nesh if you want to sound en vogue) is simply an industry, profession, or market segment where you become recognized, you enjoy, and have the ability to add, tons of value. So, why wouldn't you do everything you can to establish a niche? What better way to position yourself as different from your competitors?

If you establish a niche for yourself, you will have a much better idea of how to allocate your time throughout the work day. Otherwise, your marketing efforts may start to feel like a witch hunt -- find business, any business.

Answer the following questions and get started on your niche marketing plan today:

Who do you serve best and wish to serve most? Let's start from the start. Who's your niche or target market? If you don't have one, who should it be? If you did have one, who would it be? Who do you enjoy working with most? Who pays you the most money (a consideration, but not the only one)? With whom do you get the most satisfaction working? If they referred you to similar business, would that be a good thing?

Where do you hang out? In which ponds should you fish? What professional associations, trade shows, conferences, product shows, and recognition dinners attract those you want to work with most? Remember, you want to meet those you serve best and wish to serve most. Also, you want to meet those also serving your niche (maybe a CPA or property and casualty agent). They can teach you more about your target market and how to best serve it. Location, location, location -- a key benefit in having a target or niche market.

What do you read? Answer: Whatever your target market reads. Consider the books, manuals, trade journals, business publications, white papers, Web sites, blogs, and newsletters that are of greatest interest to the market you're looking to capture.

What do you write? Write about industry trends and scenarios that would be of greatest interest to the markets you serve. Offer cutting edge information in a format that's easy to access and read (like this article). Or, float your written expertise to the editors, writers, and reporters of the books, trade journals, business publications, white papers, Web sites, blogs, and newsletters you should be reading. And you don't need to be Shakespeare to be able to write (case in point).

What questions do you ask? What are the most important trends in this industry (or profession, market segment)? What are the greatest challenges? What do you need to know about the industry in order to become a valued resource? Are there books, organizations, associations, Web sites, blogs, online groups, and publications you should research? Who should you speak with to learn more?

Who do you meet? Those you are looking to meet to ultimately hire you. Those you are looking to meet to ultimately be hired by you. Those you are looking to meet serving the niche you are looking to serve (and does not compete with you). Those you are looking to meet who might serve as an advocate for you (and you for them). Those you are looking to meet (who do compete with you) to exchange trade secrets. Those you are looking to meet where a mutually beneficial relationship might begin.

Yes, there's plenty of overlap within all of these approaches, but that's the point. Multiple strategies with the same thing in mind: establishing and getting closer to your market. And over time, you will become a recognized expert. A specialist, rather than a generalist. (Remember, your regular family doctor probably doesn't perform brain surgery.)

Can you change your niche over time? Of course -- but I wouldn't do it too often. The goal is to become established as an expert and resource in a given environment. Can you have more than one niche? Yes, but if you have more than just a couple it becomes confusing and it defeats the purpose. Can you take on business even if it doesn't reflect your niche? Yes, provided you are qualified and can add value in good faith. If not, refer it to someone that is and will.

Step right up! You, too, can become the next rags to niches story! Don't worry, it's not brain surgery.

*For further information, or to contact this author, please leave a comment and your e-mail address in the forum below.