Succeeding In A Niche Market

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,

Kim

Image: Boston Cremes (1962), Wayne Thiebaud  (b. 1920)                                               Courtesy of The Crocker Art Museum   Sacramento, CA

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Niche Market Opps for Freelancers

Developing new markets is essential for all Freelance consultants and business owners.  That means it’s necessary to be aware of major trends and even significant fads,  for there is money to be made over the long or short-term.   How does one learn about the existence of niche markets that may be promising for you?  Stay abreast of current events by reading good newspapers,  business articles,  blogs and magazines.   Talk to your friends,  family and colleagues.   Do volunteer work,   go to the gym,  out for a bike ride,  or drinking with your pals.   In other words,  be fully engaged in life and the information that you seek will either come to you or will be unearthed by you.   If you read the March 20 post on making your own luck,   you’ll know what to do.

Career Transition consultants

How to identify a second career and segue from one’s current line of work and  into what will be more personally and/or financially rewarding is on the must-do list of many professionals,  employed and unemployed.   Some folks are preparing for a possible lay-off,  some for retirement and still others want to make a career change while they’re still young enough to enjoy it.   Discovering the industry and job specs of work that resonates with you and formulating an effective career change recipe that leverages skills,   relationships and whatever additional training that will open the right doors drives the business of career transition coaches.   Also, companies that are in the midst of a major staff reduction often hire career transition consultants to soften the landing of employees who’ve been let go.

Generation Y Marketing consultants

Many businesses and large cultural institutions,   notably ballet,  opera and regional theater companies,   symphonies and museums,  are determined to add under 35 members to their aging family of donors and subscribers.   Generation Y is integral to an organization’s survival and to that end marketing and development departments have been offering discount subscriptions,   innovative social events designed with younger audiences in mind and other targeted marketing initiatives that might attact the Gen Y crowd.   Institutions cannot afford to slack off on these campaigns and consultants who specialize in marketing to the under 35 cohort are being hired to keep the audience-building strategies flowing.

Home Security consultants

Listen to your local television news report tonight and you’re guaranteed to be inundated with the horrific details of lurid crimes committed in both middle class and low-income neighborhoods.  Home invasions,  car jackings,  bullying,  identity theft and shoot-outs in Wal-Mart parking lots occur with shocking regularity these days.   As a result,  fear for one’s personal safety is on the rise and home security consultants have seen a significant uptick in billable hours as many individuals seek to protect their physical and online security.   Police officers and detectives are qualified to give advice on how to secure doors and windows and where to improve lighting,   as well as give useful advice regarding mail and newspaper deliveries when one will be out-of-town and pointing out the perils of announcing your vacation plans on your Facebook page  (why tip-off thieves?).   Electricians are qualified to install sophisticated home alarm systems and IT specialists will set up protocols for your computer.

Home Organizing consultants

When you decide it’s finally time to get your office,  closets,  basement and whatever else organized so that you can live and work at peak efficiency,   home organizing consultants will come to your rescue and help you purge the clutter and effectively organize,   store abnd label what you will keep.  The best will have training in Feng Shui.   Additionally,   most also give pointers on useful organizing accessories,  office furniture and other tips to make your home environment pleasant and conducive to attracting good energy.

Image consultants

We all want to look our best,   but many of us can use some pointers.   There is a critical mass of shoppers  (and not just the very affluent)  who are willing to pay a professional shopper or stylist to help them identify flattering styles and colors and devise a mode of attire that reflects their personality and fits with their professional and social lives.    Since the early 1990s,   high-end department stores have offered personal shoppers to work with customers and increase sales and loyalty to the store.   The notoriety of Hollywood stylists who dress the stars for award shows and other high-profile personal appearances has caused that service to trickle down to the middle class masses.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Top Niche Markets for Freelancers

Every business is in search of promising niche markets that will bring additional dollars to the bottom line.   Some Freelance consultants successfully operate totally within a narrow yet lucrative niche,   but most of us choose to expand our focus to include a particular niche market.   Depending on your specialty,   it could make sense for you to weigh the possibility of entering one of these growing markets.   To position yourself  for successful entry,   it might be necessary to get some training and perhaps a certification.   No doubt you’ll also need to establish a couple of key new relationships to help you get a foot in the door.   But if your research and your gut tell you that there’s reason to believe you have a shot of picking up a client or two,  then by all means get the ball rolling and do what you have to do.

 Environmental sustainability consultants

Opportunities to incorporate environmentally smart and friendly measures into homes and offices continue to grow.   The sustainability / green movement has a tremendous amount of feel-good attached,  as people strive to become better stewards of our environment.   Businesses and individuals are jumping onto the green bandwagon.   Tax incentives to persuade businesses to go green  are in place.   At home,   investments in energy efficiency translate into lower utility bills.   If you have the qualifications to hang out a shingle and address eco-friendly sustainability,   clean-tech or other green business issues,   then green will also mean dollars earned.  MBAs with a sub-specialty in sustainability,  architects,  engineers,  urban planners,   building contractors and electricians are who I see reaping the benefits. 

Home office design consultants

If you were born with an eye for arranging furniture,  understand and can communicate the benefits of ergonomic furniture and are up-to-date on bleeding edge IT products and can help people sort out their business technology needs,  then becoming a home office consultant may be the niche for you.   Knowledge of Feng Shui is another big plus.   Many more people work from home either entirely or occasionally as compared to the 1990s and the ranks of the self-employed and telecommuters continue to grow.   Even the federal government is promoting telecommuting and funding requirements to support the process have been established.   Presumably,   government contracts to hire home office design consultants for federal employees who are able to telecommute are available.

Gardening consultants

Americans are spending more time at home and as a result citizens are investing more money there,   indoors and out.   Those with green thumb or brown are hiring consultants to show them gardening possibilities and present a menu of suitable plants that will help them identify and express their preferred gardening styles.  The consultants will also interface with landscapers to design the customized outdoor space.   Gardening consultants style window boxes for city folk and Christmas greenery in town and country,  too.  There are even vegetable garden consultants.

 Color consultants

A required course for my undergraduate degree in Psychology was called   “Physiological Bases of Behavior”  and in that course we examined the psychological perception of color.   Hospitals have for decades used certain colors in surgical suites and recovery rooms to promote a calming vibe for patients and surgeons.  Scientific research over the decades since I graduated from college has further defined the power of color to influence buying habits and stimulate appetite,  which has made big-budget retail establishments and restaurant chains important clients for the color specialists.

I’ll have more niche markets for you to ponder next week.  Thanks for reading,

Kim