One of the things I work on with many of my clients, is the development of a valuable niche for their business. A highly profitable niche, with literally no competition.
Here’s a quick look at the approach I use, plus some ideas you can adapt into your own business.
The niche model I use is based on the strategy I developed for my own business. Here are just 3 of over 70 processes I’ve developed.
Enriching my competitors
Instead of focusing on crushing the competition, I focused on enriching the competition. When I started my business in 1995, my strategies were so different from the other providers in my industry, they were no longer competitors. This gave me the freedom to enrich, elevate, connect and promote their marketing businesses. That remains to this day.
The following is from a previous article I wrote on this subject – the full article is here.
“I chose to proactively seek out opportunities to help my competitors flourish, to open doors for them, to share new ideas and strategies I’d developed with them, to connect them with useful people, etc. I was in my twenties at the time and many in the industry said I was young and naive. I saw things very differently…”
Tip: If you found that interesting, I strongly recommend you read the full article.
Closing sales replaced by opening relationships
Instead of focusing on closing sales, I focused on opening relationships. It has always struck me as odd that good salespeople are referred to as good closers. So I decided to focus on opening instead of closing.
Opening relationships, to be precise.
Whilst sales closers have a toolkit of psychological closing techniques, I didn’t. Instead of seeing the sales process as a game of chess, pitting me against the prospect, I wanted to be on the same side of the table as the prospect. In their corner. Looking out for their best interests, exactly as I would if they were already my client. This transforms initial meetings with a prospective client. It switches things 180 degrees, from the usual chess game.
Yes, it does mean being willing to openly, honestly tell a prospective client if you don’t think you can help. When this happens, you’ve still planted some amazingly positive seeds.
You’ve just demonstrated to a prospective client that you can be trusted. You’ve also demonstrated that you offer an exceptionally professional service. In my experience, these same prospective clients often go on to become regular sources of high quality referrals.
This approach has set me apart and allowed me to further develop my reputation as a trusted adviser. That’s because it’s in such stark contrast to the usual strategy, of closing tricks and needy follow-up emails.
Building an influential network, not a big network
People in the marketing industry are known for the size of their networks. They’re at every networking event. They’re amongst the most active people on Linkedin. I took a very different approach. Instead of focusing on growing a large contact network, I focused on growing a small, but influential network.
Even when I was starting out, I never saw the value of what’s usually thought of as ‘networking’. For example, I think I had my last lot of business cards printed around 2002/3.
Oh, and I’ve never had a Linkedin account or had any need for one.
Business is all about people and the depth of the relationships you have with them. I chose to intentionally develop strong, meaningful relationships with people who I believed to be the best fit.
Initially my main focus was senior media people, marketing experts and mentors. I was 29 when I started my business, no one knew who I was and I needed to be around people who were able to help me get known and develop. If you followed the link I shared earlier, you’ll have seen how my first 6-months in business went.
As with every person I have shared this selective networking approach with, I too have found that you automatically get many of the benefits of a large network. Such as massively expanding the reach of your work, your opinions and your ideas.
For example, you’ll find that from time to time, your influential contacts recommend you and your work to their audience. An audience that respects their endorsement. Another example is media coverage, something I have professionally benefited from enormously. Lots of journalists have known me for years. They trust me and are comfortable enough to contact me, and cite me, when they need expert opinion.
Tip: One way to get started is to think who would be really useful for you to know in 12-months or 18-months time. And today, start to look for ways to earn their attention and then their interest. It’s not by cold emailing them or pestering them. It’s about being useful to them. Gently. Over time.
I hope that quick look at 3 of the 70+ processes I’ve developed, has encouraged you to seriously consider a more niche approach to the growth of your business.
Ultimately, you can choose to compete against the masses or develop your own, wonderful niche. You can choose to blend in or stand out. You can choose to be ‘yet another’ or uniquely you. It’s always a choice.