Niche

How To Find Your Ideal Niche

how-to-find-your-ideal-niche

'What’s a niche?' and 'how can I find mine?' is a common question asked by many new entrepreneurs. Everyone knows finding a niche is key for any business to succeed, especially small businesses, but many struggle finding theirs.

There is common a tendency in both life and business to try to please everyone. But we know not everyone will like us the same. Some people will love us, some other won’t. There’s no difference in business, we cannot be the perfect fit for anyone in the market.

For example…

A freelance web designer may not be a good fit to develop a complex website for a medium/large corporation. That website may require a team of professionals specialised in different areas of web design and development. On the other hand, hiring an agency to create a simple website could blow up a small business budget.

Targeting smaller groups will allow you to easily connect with them, understand their aspirations and needs, as well as come up with better solutions to their problems. Also, in smaller markets, the competition is typically lower.

A niche is an opportunity to find a solution for particular problem or satisfying the needs of a specific group of people, which is typically called target market.  This solution can be:

  • A product
  • A service
  • A platform or website

In this post today, I’ll take you through the process of finding your ideal niche with real examples from my own business.

 

advantages of being niche

Many business owners feel that by establishing a niche will reduce opportunities and narrow their sales. However, it’s the complete opposite. Finding a niche means your business will have better chances to success because:

  1. you get a deeper understanding of your clients’ needs and can offer a more refined service
  2. you can simplify your business model and streamline your process and marketing efforts
  3. your message gets clearer and easier to understand
  4. your competition is lower which makes easier to get noticed and stand out
  5. your specialised solution can gain customer's loyalty quicker and you come easily to mind for referrals
  6. your fee/price can be increased, as specialised services or products can usually command higher fees than generalists.

 

 

How to find your ideal niche?

Step 1 | Finding your specialty

When you are a small business, you cannot be an expert in everything. There are always things that you can do better than others. That’s your specialty.

A specialty is a combination of things you love doing - your passions - , are really good at - your abilities - and have done many times before - your experience -.

Being an expert on something also implies knowing something in depth. For example:

  • A technique – when you are an expert on a particular area, subject or tool. For example, as graphic designer you can be an expert in 3D design.
  • An industry – when many of your clients belong to the same industry you can claim an industry expertise. This is a common approach in bloggers.
  • A geographic location –many people prefer buying from locals or hiring local professionals. So proximity and local knowledge can also give you a competitive advantage.
  • A group of people – you can be specialised in an age-bracket (massage for babies), in a gender (men underwear), etc.
  • A style – when your aesthetic is different and unique to everyone else’s. This specialty works quite well for creative businesses.

As I explained in this other post on Lessons Learnt From My First Year In Business, one of the mistakes made when I first started my business was to offer as many services as I could.

On my second year, I niched down my services to focus on graphic and digital design, and took the other marketing services out of my offer. I also was lucky enough to have a variety of creative businesses among my clients, so I could claim my specialisation in this industry too.

A good example…

One of my lovely clients, interior visualisation company Living 3D, combined the owners’ passion for interior design with their experience in kitchen design and fantastic SketchUp skills to start a business specialised in 3D visualisations for kitchen and bathroom companies.

TAKE ACTION: To find your own specialty ask yourself the following questions:
  • What are you passionate about?
  • What are you skilled at?
  • What are your knowledgeable on?
  • What are you more experienced on?


Step 2 | Finding your ideal costumer or client

Knowing what you can do and love doing for others will lead you to the next question: who are those “others”? They are those who need and value your product or service, and are willing to pay for it.

For example…
 
Who may need my graphic and web design services? New businesses and start-ups will always need a new brand and website. Also, young company with a few years of market success they often need to take their businesses to a next level having a more professional brand and website.

TAKE ACTION: to find your ideal client ask yourself the following questions:
  • Who's in need of my products/services?
  • Will they value what I can do for them?
  • Will they be willing to pay for my time/product?

This other post by Lauren Hooker of Elle&Co describes7 Tactics to Help You Get to Know Your Ideal Customer.


Step 3 | Identifying problems or needs

The more connected and knowledgeable you are about your target market the better you will understand their challenges and specific needs.

For example…

After launching a new brand and website, my clients usually want to start a marketing plan to promote their businesses. They need search engine optimisation, media exposure… but they rarely have the budget to hire SEO specialists, social media experts, public relation agencies, etc.  So, I identified the need to develop a marketing strategy on a small budget.

TAKE ACTION: to identify opportunities ask your market the following questions:
  • What would they like to achieve through their business?
  • What's stopping them from achiving it?
  • What would they like to have in order to achieve what they want?

I found client conversations, Google searches, blog comments and forum questions the best ways to understand my target market struggles. Surveys can also be an excellent way to get this information from your market, although conducting a survey requires specialised software and professional knowledge on market research techniques.


Step 4 | Researching competitors

Now you can find out who is already providing solutions to those needs and how. Ideally nobody else would be already offering a solution, but if they are, then try to find a way to resolve the same problem in a different and better way than the others.

For example…

Back to my target market, in the Internet you can find many marketing books, guides, blogs, marketing plan templates… But I could barely find anything specialised in the creative industry. I couldn’t find any marketing workbook/planner either, so I found here a possible niche.

TAKE ACTION: to research your competition ask yourself the following questions:
  • Who is already serving the same market needs? (your competitors)
  • How are they doing it? (their solutions)
  • What hasn’t been done yet? (your possible niche)

 
Step 5 | Designing specialised solutions

Working with a small group of people will allow you to quickly identify specific needs and easily study how others are already serving those needs. So you can come up with a solution to satisfy the same needs in a different –or just simply better - way to your competitors.

For example…

I developed a solution to help creative businesses to identify marketing priorities and plan their promotional activities by themselves, on a small budget and with no marketing knowledge. Although there were some marketing books on the same topic, I presented my solution in a format that others didn’t: a printable marketing planner/workbook (you can find this product at my shop)

This digital format makes my product conveniently available everywhere 24/7. The workbook format makes it very actionable and easy to use.

TAKE ACTION: when designing your solution ask yourself the following questions:
  • Is my solution unique and different to everyone else?
  • If my solution is similar to others, how do I differentiate myself?
  • What are the benefits of using my solution vs using the competitor’s solutions?

 

Step 6 | Evaluating profitability

You may come up with a great solution for a market, with very low o none competitions, but unfortunately you make no money with it. Before spending your time, money and energy in launching a product or a service ensure that:

  •  Your target market is not too small,
  •  People in your market understand your product and find it easily,
  •  They can and want to spend the money you’re asking for it,
  •  The product has good profit margins.

For example…

For many months I researched the possibility to produce printed copies of my marketing planner, but it wouldn’t have a global research, and the local market was too small to make my planner profitable. I also tried many different ways to sell this product online, until I found Etsy the most effective.

TAKE ACTION: before developing your product or service ask yourself the following questions
  • How can I reach my target market?
  • Who is influencing my target market?
  • How much should I sell my product for to make a profit?
  • How much the competitors ask for their solutions?
  • Does my solution have better value for money than the others?
  • Ideally, how many monthly sales should I make for my product to be profitable?

Wrap up

A niche is a combination of passions, skills, knowledge, experience and ability to make money with all of this. If you’re very passionate about something but there is no one willing to pay for it there is no market out there for your passion. If you just follow the money, not a passion, you will be easy to beat by your competitors.

To know more about finding your niche also read:


Common Problems Of Marketing Design Services

Something I learned from working with designers and creative businesses is that many of them usually share similar challenges marketing their business. In this post today I’m bringing five common challenges shared by many clients and industry professionals.

Mood-board-Common-problems-of-marketing-design-servies

 

Challenge 1  /  Finding Your Uniqueness

One of the biggest problems in the design industry is the over-saturation. There are so many designers out there that makes it really hard to get noticed.

People always have the same question about your business: “why should I hire you over thousands of other businesses in your industry?” Having an answer to that question is vital to your business.

Solution: If you want to stand out, find a specialisation

There two simple ways to find what makes you unique and different to everyone else:

  • Find a niche – take a look at your clients and see if you can identify anything in common, at least in some of them. It could be the same age range, same interests, same lifestyle, etc. If you offer services to other businesses, see if some of them belong to the same industry. If you find a pattern you can claim a specialisation in a particular niche and focus your marketing efforts on it.

For example, I focus on designers and creative businesses, as many of my clients belong to that industry. Having experience on that particular niche offers an immediate competitive advantage to new clients: they can benefit from the lessons I learned working with other similar businesses.

  • Find an area of expertise – As you cannot be an expert for everything narrow your offer to only those services that you know best. This focus will bring clarity to your business, and help you identify the skills you need to develop and master that particular area of expertise.

When I talk about specialisation, many clients get concerned. They think by claiming a specialisation they may lose business opportunities. Specialising yourself doesn’t mean that you wont be able to provide other services or work with other industries, but it will help you stand out in this over-saturated market.

In this other post I explain how offering a wide range of services was one of my own first mistakes and specialisation was one of the lessons learnt from my first year in business.

Challenge1-Finding-Your-Niche.gif

 

Challenge 2  / Finding New Clients

Another common struggle for many small businesses is finding new clients. Again the market oversaturation makes it difficult for many new businesses to build a portfolio of clients. Tight start-up budgets makes it hard to invest in marketing and advertising which also minimises the opportunities to gain new clients.

Solution 1: get new leads by word of mouth

Family and friends can help promote your business by word of mouth. Also target your local community, small businesses like supporting each other. And above all leverage your existing clients.

Finding a new client is the result of many hours of work, communication efforts and meetings with prospects. It’s easier to sell a new product/service to an existing client than find a new one. Focus on giving your clients the best possible service, as chances are that they will use your services again in future or even refer some new business to you.

In this other post I explain how building relationships can help grow your business.

Solution 2: Share information and help others

Many of those who use Internet everyday are looking for answers to resolve a problem. Sharing your knowhow through your website or blog can help others resolve problems and help you build relationships with potential clients, while positioning yourself as an expert in that particular area.

Having a blog, writing a free ebook, creating video tutorials or offering free e-courses are different ways to share your knowledge with others in the Internet.

In this other post I share some useful tips to treat your blog as a business and make it profitable.

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Challenge 3  /  Keeping the cash flowing

Many small businesses constantly go from very busy to very quiet times. Unfortunately money stops coming during those quiet times and you never know when it will start coming back again.

Relying on selling only customised services to clients can be a risky strategy for a small business. Situations like not being able to find enough clients to support your business, losing some clients or needing some time off could have a negative impact in your cash flow.

Solution: Diversify your offer

If you find a niche, explore every business opportunity within it. Find other needs that this niche may have and that can be complimented with products.

Sell products, not just services. Those products can be physical or digital goods (i.e. anything downloadable), courses or subscriptions.

For example, I support my business by selling different types of digital products in third party websites. In periods of low activity I focus on producing new designs to add my catalogue.

Challenge3-Having-Cash-Flow

 

Challenge 4  /  Publishing Your Pricing

When someone looks for a design professional the first question in their minds is “how much is it going to cost me?” If you don’t have pricing in your website, many people might assume your price range is above the average.

However, quoting design services is a complex exercise that needs to take many different things into consideration. Every project has different specifications that need to be discussed with the client before you can quote their jobs.

On the other hand, charging your clients on an hourly basis can end up being unfair for the client. Experienced designers can come up with ideas quicker and can complete a job faster than a junior designer. Even if the hourly rate of a junior designer is cheaper you could end up paying more for their services.

Solution: package your services

Packaging your services as if they were products will allow you to set a fixed price. You can always re-calculate the price of any project that requires some extras or add-ons but at least the client gets an idea of how much your services can cost. It will also save you time quoting jobs and replying enquiries about your rates.

Challenge4-Publishing-Your-Pricing

 

Challenge 5  /  Being Over Capacity

This might actually be something very positive for a small business. The problem is that if you don’t have a team to support you in busy periods, you may struggle to keep up with everything on your plate.

How to manage several projects at the same time, look after existing clients, promote your own business and find new clients without losing your sanity? The answer might be ‘outsourcing’, but before thinking of hiring some extra help you can try something else more cost-effective.

Solution: build production processes

Organise your job in steps that can be repeated in every project. To do this, you can use the quiet periods to create templates of proposals, emails, etc that you can customise quickly for every new client. This way when you are overcapacity, you can save time in managing clients and projects to spend some more in providing a good service.

This other post by Lauren Hooker of Elle and Co. explains how to use 17Hats to organise your process and client workflow.

Challenge5-Being-Over-capacity
 

Here is also another interesting reading found in Mighty Deals blog with six ideas for increasing your customers to your design services.

Surely, these are not the only challenges that designers and creative business have to face, or the only solutions to the problems above, so feel free to contribute! Leave a comment and share any particular challenge that you face or/and any solution that you came up with for them.