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What Are You Known For

Mar 10, 2008
In business I have lost track of the number of people who when you ask them who their customer is they reply "Oh- everyone really".

When I hear that response I also get to hear how their business is struggling, they have spent a small fortune on advertising with no result, staff come and go with monotonous regularity and good suppliers are thin on the ground.

The thing is your product or service will never suit everyone. Trying to make it fit is the definition of futility. It is like trying to be known for the term "retail" in Google - you will have millions of competitors with bigger budgets all competing for the same thing. However it you are known for "Recycled Scrapbooking Paper" you have a fighting chance to be known (and will get sales as a result).

By being clear on what you are known for and consistently communicating this message through all of your corporate communications you are building a brand.
But what if you are like many small business owners and struggling to find your one niche? What if you like doing a little bit of this and that? If your business has many strands to it?

I admit this is an area I personally have struggled with until I read some work by Tad Hargrave, the Marketing Consultant to hippies.

His theory is that when people buy something they mentally ask 3 questions:

1. Is this product/service relevant to me and my life?

2. Is this product or service credible? Who else like me uses it and what do they think?

3. Does this product or service offer value for money?

By knowing your niche you can better target your marketing. But how do you find your niche? That thing you are known for?

Many small businesses are challenged by over-identification with their business. The key thing to remember is you are not your business. Just because you have a wonderful diverse personal background and a variety of interests doesn't mean your business has to be diverse.

You can maintain your uniqueness in your private life, but in your workspace you can specialise in one or two areas.

This is where traditional business marketing models stopped and if you couldn't find your niche you were somehow "less than" other businesses and just needed to work harder finding your niche.

But Tad took this concept and turned it on its head. Yes identifying a niche is a good logical process - but what if your niche is just people like you? To specifically target your product or service to people like you - "renaissance people". People who always have multiple things and interests on the go at one time and struggle to keep it all together at times.

Now that really made sense to me! Pretty much all of my clients are multi-dimensional people - triathletes who also run million dollar businesses, managers with a passion for healing, retail managers who moonlight as clowns.

They all are brilliant in their own rights, but struggle with some parts of their lives or business. That is the constant with all of my clients, although each of them see me and use totally different parts of my diverse skill sets.

This is a good start, but how do you put it into words?

The first and most critical rule is your niche is all about them and not all about you. You are solving their problems and not selling yourself and how fantastic you are.

One way Tad suggests top put words around your niche is completing the sentence - "I work with (kinds of people) who are dealing with (kinds of problems)".

It looks easy - but it is surprisingly difficult.

Another way you can put words around your niche is to ask your clients or customers to describe what you do well, why they come to you and what they know you for.

You can do this formally through a market research company or informally through a poll or focus group. Be prepared for both good and bad feedback!

Prune your words until when you say it your heart "sings" when you ready it and when you say it people say "tell me more". If you do that - you are heading in the right direction.
About the Author
Ingrid Cliff is a Freelance Copywriter, Business Development and Human Resources Consultant to Small Businesses with her business Heart Harmony. Ingrid writes a free weekly small business newsletter and Small Business Ideas blog for small businesses.www.heartharmony.com.au
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