When I work with clients on their online marketing, we spend a lot of time defining the business niche that the client is trying to serve. We can’t really start working on a social media strategy or optimizing the website for specific keywords until we know who we’re trying to target and what message is going to reach them. Understanding the client’s niche is critical to effectively marketing the business online.
Why Is It Important to Have a Business Niche?
Every single field has competition. If you’re a B2B service provider, you already know this. Whether you’re an attorney, a bookkeeper, a nonprofit consultant, or a sustainability consultant, there are hundreds of other people out there who do what you do.
If a prospective client is considering hiring someone, why should they hire you instead of any of the other qualified professionals out there?
One of the best ways to answer this question and demonstrate your value is to specialize in a business niche. This could mean focusing on a particular industry (such as working with clients in the food industry) or a specific area within your field (such as board development if you’re a nonprofit consultant). This has two benefits. First, you can provide more value to your clients because you have honed your expertise in an area relevant to them, and second, you limit the competition you face.
For example, marketing consultants can specialize in different areas such as branding or public relations. Instead of trying to do everything related to marketing, I focus on a specific area: online marketing, especially content marketing and search engine optimization, for B2B firms. This reflects both my interests and expertise and where I can provide the most value to my clients.
After talking to dozens of service professionals in recent years – as friends, colleagues, and clients – I’ve noticed that the ones who struggle are the ones who describe their target market as “anyone who needs XYZ services.” By contrast, those who have identified a business niche where they can establish themselves often have more clients than they can handle!
How Does Having (or Not Having) a Business Niche Affect My Online Marketing?
As a business owner, your two biggest and generally most limited resources are your time and money, so it’s important to use them strategically. To use them strategically in your marketing, you need to be really clear about the market you’re trying to serve since all of your marketing efforts will stem from this. This is especially important in your online marketing, since you generally only have a split second or two, if you’re lucky, to get someone’s attention.
Think for a moment about how people find and interact with you and your business online.
When your website shows up in search results, it will be one of many on a page that people will scan quickly to see which link they should click on. When they click on your site, users will decide very quickly if they should stay or hit the “back” button on their browser. When they click through to your blog, they will scan it quickly to see if it’s worth their time. When they choose to follow you on social media, your updates will be one of hundreds that show up in their newsfeeds. When they choose to receive your email updates, your newsletter will be one of dozens that lands in their inbox. At each step in the online marketing process, you are competing for something quite scarce – a user’s attention.
It’s going to be hard to capture the attention of your prospective clients if your content – web copy, blog posts, and social media updates – doesn’t resonate with them. This will diminish the overall effectiveness of your online marketing because people won’t click through to your site, read your blog, or share your posts and updates on their social networks.
The only way to stand a chance to get someone’s attention is to provide them with content that is relevant and useful to their unique needs. If you know who your ideal clients are and you craft content that is specifically targeted towards them, you will have a much greater chance of success (this will also help with your SEO).
How to Identify Your Niche
To identify your own business niche, figure out how you can differentiate yourself from your competitors and what area you can specialize in. Ask yourself these questions:
- What do I enjoy doing? Even within your field, there are some things that you like doing more than others. What are the projects that you get excited about? Paying attention to what you enjoy is important, since we generally enjoy doing the things that we are already good at.
- What do I not want to do? Almost as important as figuring out what you enjoy doing is figuring out what you don’t enjoy doing. Think about the projects that you drag your feet on or avoid doing. Instead of competing for projects that include work that you don’t want to do, leave those for others and concentrate on the ones that you’ll enjoy and will be a better fit for you.
- Where do I have the most experience? Think about how you have gained experience in your field. Was it through working for a large corporation, a small business, or a non-profit? Was it in a specific industry, or in a particular area within the broader field? In my case, for example, I started my marketing career working for an ecommerce business, so all of my experience was focused on blogging, social media, search engine optimization and paid Adwords campaigns, not in offline marketing strategies; focusing on online marketing was a natural course for me.
- What is my target market? You might start with a broad target (“anyone who needs XYZ services”), but you’ll need to narrow it down from there. How can you break down your market into more specific segments? For example, both startups and established businesses may need your services, but would one be a better fit for you?
- Who values my services? Some clients may really value your services more than others. Think about the clients you’ve worked with and identify the ones who really understood the value of what you were offering to them and were happy to pay your fees. What do they have in common?
Once you have identified your business niche, you will be in a better position to market your services effectively. You’ll have a clearer idea about what you do differently than others in your field, what your expertise is within your field, and who values your services. You’ll be able to craft content that will speak directly to your ideal clients. You can put together your online marketing plan and know that prospective clients will be much more likely to stick around on your blog and read your social media updates!
Have you faced any challenges in identifying your niche?