By Saralyn Collins
“Who are you – What do you do – and WHY should I care?”
These are the most commonly asked questions at a networking event or when you first meet a new individual. Now it is rarely worded just like this but this is what they really mean when they ask you about yourself and your business. Especially that last part – “WHY should I care about YOUR business?”
After almost 30 years in the business of coaching and helping business people learn to identify and describe their “niche,” this is still one of the most difficult strategies to help clients determine. I can’t quite understand why so many think that “winging it” when you talk about your business is preferable to a well designed, carefully thought out, and well delivered marketing message.
I understand that we live in a rather casual town and tend to have a more laid-back approach to life. I love that and am trying to adapt that philosophy for sure. It makes it much easier to relax when appropriate and to enjoy the beauty around us.
But … I don’t know about you – but I am dead serious about growing my business. There is NOTHING casual about that determination. And I want to connect with others who are also serious about growth. “Serious” business people are always well-prepared and thoughtful about the words they choose to describe themselves and what value they can bring to a customer.
For some reason, too many people do not “get” the fact that when you describe whom you are and what you do, those listening already have a preconceived agenda in their minds. Now many of those are not even aware of their true agenda. It’s often a subconscious thought and they’ve never given actual words to it. But make no mistake; it’s there none-the-less!
There are a number of consultants and business coaches that grow an entire business around nothing but teaching people how to discover their “true” niche and then how to explain it wisely to those prospective customers they meet. Surely if huge businesses can be grown around this concept, there must be extreme value to it … right?
So how does one determine what your individual “niche” is in the first place?
Over these last few years as I networked and met so many amazing biz people in this area, one thing has stood out more than any other factor. Entirely too many people stand up to introduce themselves and list ALL the different things they do. And when they finish, I still have no idea who they really are and exactly what they do.
I understand WHY you are doing that. I totally get it. Most of us are multi-talented and actually can help in different areas. We all have interests and ideas about many different things. But I wish I could help you understand how detrimental that is to your business image. It says to those listening “I am not making any money in my business, so I have to do multiple things until I can figure it out.” Well, that doesn’t exactly inspire confidence if I am looking for a “Specialist” to help me.
Have you ever heard the old saying “Jack/Jane of all trades and master of none”? That is exactly what you are saying to potential customers out there – “hey, I do so many different things and am really not an expert at any of them… but won’t you buy from me anyway?”
In today’s economy more than ever, people want great value when we spend our hard-earned money. We want to hire someone (whether it is a biz coach, a website developer, a marketing consultant, a social media specialist, a massage therapist… on and on) who is a specialist in what they do. We want the “best” results when we spend our money and that requires someone who is an expert… not a general practitioner.
I have no problem going to my GP for my check-ups and simple things. But the minute there is something major, he automatically refers me to a “specialist”! And I feel the same about my business. If something is seriously wrong, I don’t want just anyone who says they can help me. I want “the best person” – the expert in that particular area! My money is too hard earned and business growth is too important to take a chance on someone who does not consider themselves an “expert.”
So how does one go about discovering a PROFITABLE niche? Well, thanks to a colleague Janis Petit (www.smallbusiness-bigresults.com) I want to share some of her ideas combined with my thoughts to help you figure this out.
Within the scope of your talents, passions and knowledge, there is an ideal niche where you can become the go-to expert, and where finding ideal clients will be easier. Often finding the niche where you can have the biggest impact and making the most money can make the difference between struggle and success. Surely this must sound somewhat familiar to many reading this article.
1. Passion: What are you passionate about? What message, talent or knowledge do you want to share with the world? You can make money without passion, but it becomes a dry and tedious journey that can easily lead to burn-out. It’s hard to have the drive and determination you need long term without it.
2. Problem: People today are overcome with information and marketing messages. What is so important to them that they will jump at the opportunity to read your message?
What are the biggest problems, challenges or wants your clients have for which you can provide a solution or desired result? Only by doing some research can you know if people want what you have to offer. You must know what people want before you decide what products or services you need to offer.
3. Pay: Are those same people willing and ABLE to pay you a competitive price? If not, it’s the wrong market. Just because people need something doesn’t mean they’re willing to open their wallet and buy it. (Very important point here!)
4. Profit: Can you make a decent profit after you pay all of your expenses? If your products aren’t profitable, your business will struggle to stay open. Also, what quantity of each product could you expect to sell? Get out your calculator and run some numbers. This is harder to figure out when you offer a service. Most people need some professional help to determine this – so reach out and get it!
5. Positioning: Can you find a sweet spot in this niche where you can be positioned as the go-to expert? (EX: Fed Ex – when they started promoting themselves as the expert in overnight mail, both the PO and UPS already mailed overnight. They just never called themselves the “expert” in that field. So FedEx became the “expert” in that small niche!) If the niche is overcrowded with very similar experts, how will you stand out? Or could you offer an approach that’s slightly different to help you stand out in a crowded marketplace?
I understand that answers to these are not easy to figure out. But they are critical to your growth and the well-being in your business. If you want to have a really profitable business then you have no choice. You can become a “generalist” once you have built a solid reputation and are making a good profit. But prior to that, the more general you are in your niche, the less profit you will make.
Being casual with our lifestyle is delightful. We will all live longer because of it. Being casual with your biz growth will ultimately result in business death! I’m in business for many reasons, but one of the main ones is: TO MAKE A PROFIT! Surely you are as well.
If you have realized that discovering your special niche and then learning how to market and promote it is an ongoing problem, feel free to contact Saralyn at 828-649-8011 or Saralyn@SaralynCollins.com. These tips and more are also shared each month at the Biz Magnet lunch & learn. Info and registration can be found at www.wncwoman.com.