Thursday, January 20, 2011
By Kathy Fediw, LEED AP, CLP, CLT
Whom do you want to do
business with? How do you choose which
market(s) you’ll serve? We don’t choose
our market—our market chooses us!
After losing two jobs within
a year, I decided to start my own business nine years ago doing training and
consulting work. I tried to be all
things to all people and –I failed miserably!
I managed to get a couple of small contracts, collected my unemployment
in between and kept telling myself "If this doesn’t work out, I can always go
work for Wal-Mart.”
Each month I looked at where
the money was coming from. What were
customers buying? What were they willing
to pay me to do? Who was willing to
spend money with me and what did I know about them?
It quickly became apparent
to me that the majority of my clients were interior plantscape companies, the
people who take care of indoor plants in shopping malls and office
buildings. This was the industry I had
worked in for over 20 years. This was
the kind of work that I did best. These
were people I knew well and had networked with for many years.
I listened closely to what
they were talking about, what challenges they were facing, what they needed and
what they wanted. I checked the online
message boards, sent surveys and listened closely whenever I saw them
What they wanted most was
help that was designed just for them and their unique problems. They wanted to work with someone who knew
their daily struggles, someone who knew the business and understood where they
were coming from. I kept hearing over
and over again that they wanted stuff that was "just for them.”
So I gave them want they
I decided to "grow where I
was planted” and devote my business to working exclusively within the industry
I knew best, doing what I do best. This
is where I could truly excel and succeed.
Growing in a Small Niche
Since this was a
very small niche market and most of my clients were small business owners with
limited budgets, I knew I would need to offer a variety of products and
services at different price points to capture more of the market. My business has grown to where we now offer
everything from books and teleseminars to workshops and multi-year consulting
contracts. We now have around 250
customers with a core of about 40 companies and associations all over the world
who do business with us on a repeated and regular basis. Each product and service feeds into another
and leads to more and more sales from the same customers, forming a
self-sustaining business model that works quite well.
Defining Your Niche
You may not think you serve
a niche market, but if you analyze the customers you already have (not who
you’d like to be your customers) you’ll probably discover that most of them
share a few similar characteristics.
Look at the businesses, the people who actually hire you and the people
you directly interact and work with. If
you’re just getting started and don’t have any customers yet, look at the
people you have business relationships with and who need and can afford your
services, people who will be excited when you call and who want to see you and
find out what you have to offer.
Your niche market may be
defined by a combination of characteristics such as industry, geographic
location, gender, age, profession, level of education, revenue or socio-economic
level, marital status or other factors depending on your practice. But you do NOT serve everyone. There are businesses and individuals who you
will best serve, depending on your background, interests, contacts, knowledge,
skills and personality.
Focusing on a niche market
has helped me focus my business and be more efficient in my marketing efforts
and developing my expertise. It gained
me "rock star” status where I can go to a conference and know almost everyone I
see in the hallways. I no longer have to
be everything to everyone. I just have
to be an expert for one group of businesses and individuals, and that I can do.
Kathy Fediw, LEED AP, CLP, CLT is a
consultant, trainer, author and speaker.
She is no longer interested in working at Wal-Mart. She is a member of IMC-USA and the IMC
Houston Chapter. She can be reached at Kathy@JFAConsultingBiz.com or
through her IMC Profile.