Are you struggling to attract new clients to your business? Do you want to get paid more for your work? Tired of dealing with bad fit clients?
There’s a solution to all three of these issues: Niching.
There’s no doubt that re-focusing our own agency to help architecture firms has been the driving force behind our success over the last five years. We’ve been asked to speak at national conferences, appeared on established industry podcasts, and we’ve even hosted our own architect-only 5-day virtual conference with top industry speakers and more than 500 attendees.
Before architects, we had great careers in branding, communications, and marketing, both on the agency and client sides. We have worked with brands and companies like Calvin Klein, Dow Chemical, Lipton Foods, General Motors, and Syngenta. Our careers even took us to Europe for 12 years, but in 2012 we moved back to the USA and established our own digital agency helping SMEs market and brand themselves.
It took many time-consuming projects (and late nights!) to realize that we can't be everything to everyone.
With each new client, we spent countless hours gaining a deep understanding of their business to implement a unique, effective strategy. From our clients’ point of view, we were constantly trying out new things to get results – which didn’t always work. For us, it took its toll physically, mentally, and financially – not only on us, but also our staff, and our company.
We found that our business model wasn't giving us enough traction. It was a constant battle trying to find new companies to work with, and in a bid to fill up our project pipelines we often ended up working with less-than-best-fit clients.
There must be an easier way to make money, right?
We did some soul-searching. We did some research. We asked other agency owners about their secrets to success.
The answer that just kept popping up? Niche. Focus on one type of client, one type of industry, one market segment, or one type of service.
Imagine a scenario where you are a recognized leader in your area of expertise. Instead of chasing down random projects that don’t really fit your particular strengths and interests, you have a pipeline of prospects who want to work with you because you are the expert.
Successful professionals in all areas of business are experiencing this type of demand. Why? Because they have a clearly-defined niche.
Think about the niche businesses you use. You wouldn't go to a Toyota dealer to fix a vintage VW minibus. You don’t go to a general practitioner for heart surgery. You go to a specialist, someone with specific knowledge and experience who can solve your particular problem.
So we pivoted.
We decided to focus on a single industry: Architecture firms.
Now, we only need to know what works (and what doesn’t) for one industry. We know their problems, their challenges, their goals, and what they really want. We know what their clients want and need too.
We've been able to market ourselves better, streamline work processes, attract clients we love working with, and establish our business as the go-to agency for architecture firms.
Interested in learning how niching can work for your agency? This article will tell you everything you need to know.
The advantages of niche marketing
The niche marketing strategy is a tried and true formula that can help agency owners to dominate a specific market with a more targeted offering. If you don't think niche marketing is right for your business, check out some of the many benefits below, and we might just convince you otherwise.
When agency owners concentrate on a specific service or industry, what you're offering, and whom you're helping becomes much clearer. By honing in on your unique speciality, you can amplify your agency's unique selling points, addressing the needs of your niche clients directly. Defining your niche will evoke a sense of clarity, confidence, and credibility in your work, inevitably attracting more clients.
Niche marketing ensures that your messaging, website copy, services, and networking events are hyper-focused, improving your overall branding and making you stand out. You'll be more targeted, distinctive, and relevant to a smaller group of well-aligned prospects. In contrast, agencies that offer more general marketing to a broader audience might have difficulty climbing the ranks and standing out in such a competitive landscape.
The client sales cycle tends to move faster for niche agencies because your audience's unique issues are directly addressed. Marketing clients want to know their agency understands their industry and will give them an attentive approach. When a lead relates to your industry-specific messaging and feels like you genuinely understand their problems, it won't take long to convince them to work with you over a more generalized agency.
Agencies that work with clients from varying industries require more considerable time and effort to pitch to new clients, stay ahead of trends in the industry, and balance widely varying projects. However, if you're focusing on a single niche, you're armed with unique resources, onboarding, and business insights that can be reused or tweaked for each client instead of reinventing the wheel each time.
Not only do generalist agencies find it difficult to compete (it’s often a race to who can do it cheapest), but niching will also land you better-suited clients. Since you know exactly where your clients are hanging out, what they need, and how to market to them, you'll soon become an industry authority. Your agency will be seen as the best choice for your target audience since your offering is highly relevant. Once you've established your agency as a leader in the industry, you'll find that clients actively seek you out rather than you reaching out to them.
So, how do you find your own niche?
Clarifying what you want to niche in is a journey rather than a quick decision. It takes most agency owners a long time to pinpoint the type of clients they want to help and the industry they wish to specialize in, so don't be dismayed if it doesn't happen overnight.
Choosing your niche takes a fair amount of experimenting, refining, and, most importantly, time. Give yourself the space to play around with different niches, and explore the possibilities. There's no need to put pressure on yourself to find one immediately. Trust the process.
It may take dabbling with vet clinics and landscaping companies before you finally settle on jewelry designers, and that's okay. After experimenting, it will be obvious what niche you're most passionate about and which one works well for your business.
Side note: A very common misconception about niching is having to offload your old clients/only working with new clients in your niche. This is not true - if a client is a good fit for your business and you want to work with them, go ahead!
Our top tips for finding your niche
Create a Venn diagram
Yes, you read that correctly. A great place to narrow down your niche options is to see what overlaps between these three key areas:
- Current/previous experience
- Relevant skill set(s)
- Personal/ professional passions
Don't worry if you don't discover overlapping qualities for all three areas. If you start with one, you can work on the other two over time. This is simply a jumping-off point to get you thinking about what you're passionate about and already skilled in.
Explore your options
Get your notepad out, and think about your niche options in more detail. Exploring all of the possible routes will give you more clarity on what could work for your agency. To help you examine the many paths you could take, ask yourself the following questions:
- What challenges has your firm overcome?
- What transformations have you, or your agency, gone through to lead you to where you are today?
- What difficult journey have you made that you can now guide others through?
- What work do you genuinely enjoy doing?
- What work would you rather avoid in the future?
- Are there any particular niches that you already have a solid foundation in or that perhaps jump out at you?
- Who are your favorite clients? What work are you most proud to show off? Do they fall within a common industry, services, or products provided etc.?
Research your niche
Once you have one or more possible directions to take niche-wise, do your research to see if they are a worthwhile pursuit. We recommend assessing your niche(s) based on the following factors:
Do some online digging to see if there are existing networking platforms for your niche. Look for things like Facebook groups that your niche audience is active in, industry-related associations your audience may be a part of, publications they are likely to read, and online or offline networking groups.
Suppose you see a lack of online spaces to network with your audience online or offline. In that case, it might be pretty challenging to target them, whereas an audience that's active in numerous locations demonstrates more opportunity to showcase your brand.
See if there are non-competitive brands, influencers, and champions that your audience listens to and values. By identifying any partnership opportunities available within the niche, it might be easier to choose a specific direction. It's a fantastic idea to reach out to these people and politely ask for their insight into the industry to help you decide whether it's a good fit or not.
Evaluate what platforms are already serving this niche. These could be podcasts, blogs, Youtube channels, and social media platforms that relate to your chosen niche. In the ever-growing online world, you'll find that there are generally digital outlets for almost any business. If your audience is active across multiple digital outlets, you’ll have more locations to target them by guest blogging, placing ads, or joining a podcast.
It's vital that you do competitor research for your chosen niche to see if other agencies are targeting the same audience with a similar offering. If there is competition, that doesn't mean you should automatically abandon the niche. It shows that there is untapped potential for a new competitor to take a large chunk of the niche market share. A quick Google search should show you who else is tapping into your unique market by typing in "Marketing (or your specific service) for [niche]".
Now that you've reached the end of our niche marketing guide, we hope you can see the many advantages of niche marketing and how to apply this business-savvy method to your agency.