When operating in the B2B services sector, it is useful to keep in mind that “Elegance is refusal,” advice that is attributed to the late style icon Diana Vreeland, who was Editor-in-Chief at Vogue Magazine from 1963 to 1971. Perhaps some Freelance consultants haven’t realized this, but the question in the mind of the prospect you’ve been talking to is, “Does this guy (or gal) have the know-how to understand my problem and the expertise to solve it?” You’ve got to admit, that’s a very good question and you won’t make many sales until you figure out how to demonstrate that you do.
Early in my Freelancing career, I made the rookie mistake of trying to be all things to all potential clients, because I desperately wanted to get my business rolling. I wanted billable hours and a growing client list. It took a little while to figure out that presenting myself as a jack-of-all-trades (who was apparently perceived as a master-of-none) was the wrong strategy and was not winning me enough business. Attempting to spread myself thin was not the way to persuade clients that I had a depth of knowledge that they could trust.
Eventually I realized that trimming a couple of service options would amplify, rather than diminish, my perceived expertise and make it easier to present myself as a knowledgeable authority who can deliver the outcomes that clients need.
Another benefit of concentrating your expertise in a carefully selected group of services is that it’s much easier to develop and implement an effective marketing strategy. Creating a compelling elevator pitch is much easier when your focus is narrow and deep, as is putting together marketing messages and devising promotional campaigns, choosing key words for SEO, identifying competitive advantages, communicating the value proposition and building a trusted brand.
Once you are profitably operating within your chosen niche and have earned the trust and respect of a few good clients and referral sources, it’s good business to think about expanding your footprint and entering a sub-niche market. Your goal will be to discover a secondary line of business that’s a natural add-on to what you’re doing now. Leverage the success and relationships that you’ve built in your primary niche market to open doors to a new product or service that a subset of your current clients would be willing to buy from you. You’re looking to discover a specific need, challenge, or frustration that certain of your clients routinely face and will pay to resolve.
You will do some research. Start by paying attention to your clients’ businesses and where your products and services fit into the realization of their mission-critical goals, or challenges they must solve. Test the depth of demand for what you might offer in a sub-niche market by conducting a Google search. If there are many articles written on the topic, that demonstrates good potential for making a profit. Read a few articles and learn what those in the industry say about the topic—what worries them and what motivates them to buy products or services to address this need?
Search next for businesses that currently provide products or services that address that need or problem. The presence of competitors is a good sign, as long as the market does not appear to be saturated. If companies are doing business in that space, then there is money to be made. Visit at least three or four websites and study the features and described benefits of products and services offered for sale in your proposed sub-niche. Take special note of the selling points, how services are delivered, bundled, or priced. Also read the blogs, newsletters and client testimonials. View client lists—are any of these businesses selling to your clients?
Once you’ve decided to enter a sub-niche market, you must conduct a vigorous marketing campaign to announce your presence. Consider it your big chance to launch an email marketing campaign. You’ll only contact clients and others who already know you, so your emails will likely be read. This is also a good time to offer discount pricing, so that early on you’ll get experience in delivering the product or service to your sub-niche, allowing you to obtain client feedback and perfect the process.
The launch campaign will also involve your newsletter, blog, white papers, or case studies, plus updates posted to LinkedIn and any other of your social media platforms and, as soon as you can schedule an appearance, a webinar or podcast. In 12-18 months, you may gain enough traction in your sub-niche to be positioned to invite a happy client to give a testimonial, perhaps in the form of a case study, so that you can reinforce the value you bring to those with whom you work. Good luck!
Happy 4th of July and thanks for reading,
Image: Boston Cremes (1962), Wayne Thiebaud (b. 1920) Courtesy of The Crocker Art Museum Sacramento, CA