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Which Niche?

Thursday, January 20, 2011   (0 Comments)
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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 face-to-face.

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 wanted.

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 or through her IMC Profile.