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I‘m not sure I can find an industry to niche in. Are there any other options?

Sep 14, 2018

Picking a niche

This is one of the most common questions I’m asked when speaking about niche. When most accountants think about choosing a niche, industry is the first one to come to mind.

But what if you can’t find an industry? What if you don’t want to?

Worst of all, what if you choose an industry to niche in, and it flops miserably and you’ve wasted all that time?

Now, it is true: a niche does not have to be an industry.

There are at least two other options available to you.

However, bear in mind an industry niche is the easiest and fastest way to niche – particularly if you have experience in this area.

Before you pass on an industry niche altogether, first ask yourself:

Do you have an industry you can focus on for a short time? 

Testing an industry niche is one way to figure out whether this could be something that would take off.

Create a website page, share some social posts, send an email, ask a question on LinkedIn, that sort of thing. Little testers that will give you an indication of whether this could go somewhere or not.

Think about an industry that…

1. You have experience in – the more experience, the better. 

Industry niche works best when you can show you know what you’re talking about. This is usually the reason accountants avoid a potential niche – you only have a few clients in that industry, you don’t have much experience, you can’t see how you would stand out.

It’s a genuine concern. If you have no clients in this industry, or only a few, it’s going to take you a lot longer to break into it. That doesn’t make it impossible (I’ve seen firms open up big opportunities in an industry they literally have no experience whatsoever with), but it will take longer.

Think about it from your own perspective. If someone comes along saying “we work with accountants”, you’re going to check into them and see if they know what they’re talking about. It’s why it matters so much that I’m a qualified accountant myself, worked as an auditor and in an accountancy firm, and our team has stories of firms we’ve served all over the world.

2. You like working with.

You’ve got to like them. Those in that industry will pick up straight away whether you’re in it to make some cash, or if you truly want to help. Recently, I was talking to someone who does advisory for accountants, and he was preparing to deliver an event and was feeling a bit overwhelmed at how to make sure it was a success. I asked him what his ultimate goal for the event was, and he said “I want accountants to feel hope, that it’s possible to navigate this particular area with some small practical tips”. I know him, and i know that’s true. The accountants who attend his event will feel that too – he’s not in it to “monetise accountants”, to make money as a primary goal. He’s in it to help, because he really cares about accountants.

The same has to be true for you in the niche you choose. If you find an industry that’s really profitable, but the people in it drive you insane, don’t go there. It won’t work. Conversely, if you absolutely love helping people in charitable organisations, or the IT industry, or whatever, you’re half the way there.

3. Is profitable (or you can make profitable by efficiencies).

No matter how much experience and love you have for this particular industry, it does have to be profitable. I’ve spoken to accountants who have identified a great industry with lots of potential, that they like working with…but it simply is not profitable for their particular firm or local area.

If it’s not profitable for you right now, look at whether you can MAKE it profitable. If you can turn things around by being so efficient in this industry, great. Do it. But if you can’t, there’s no point in the niche no matter how many great stories you have to tell.

If you’ve done all this – you’ve reviewed, you’ve tested, and it’s not working… then there are some other options available to you.

Be aware that these niche options can be much more challenging. Despite how different you think you might be, I’d strongly recommend looking at other accountancy firm websites and marketing to see if there are any similarities. My guess is you’ll find a lot of them – being modern and forward thinking and using the cloud isn’t enough these days. It’s the price of entry.

Niche by process

To niche in this area, your process and systems need to be truly remarkable. The kind of thing that causes the most digital, most modern, most entrepreneurial business owner to be amazed that an accountant could do business like this.

Farnell Clarke is a good example of a firm who niches by process – and the reason Will managed to do it was that he started years ago, back when this was new and very few firms had this nailed. I know that Will is working on going deeper with his processes now, so that he can continue to stand out. Once you decide to niche in the area of process and systems and tech, you’ve got to stay ahead of the game. There’s no sitting back with this one.

Here are a few things you can consider in terms of process and systems:

  • The remote/virtual aspect: Working with any kind of business, anywhere in your country or even in the world. This means your systems are integrated at every level of the customer journey, starting away back at the prospect level. How do you systemise things so that your prospect is led through their journey in a manner that is so smooth and organised they can’t help but sign up with you?
  • Being a specialist in a particular app, or kind of app: Not just Xero or Quickbooks, but really expert in conversion, training, support, and integrations with either one particular app, or a category of apps and software. This enables you to have a streamlined process for clients who use this app, and you’re showing by example how it’s done. (The team at MAP are a good example of this, having created GoProposal and using it for their clients, and working on a version of it that their creative agency clients can use.)
  • Onboarding that sets you truly apart: Accountancy firms are finding that onboarding is not simply something that happens once marketing is done: it’s integral to marketing, and every aspect of it relates to both prospects and clients. If you’re going to be a firm whose onboarding is so streamlined and integrated that prospects sign up with you in seconds, rather than hours or days or weeks, you’ll need to blow them away with it. Personalised videos, helpful resources, gifts and swag – but you’ll need to go beyond all of that, since I know many firms who are getting this right, too.

Niche by style and brand

If your processes aren’t wildly different from the best and most modern firms, and you don’t have an industry that you can try, you can still stand out by having a brand that is unlike any other.

Again, be ruthless with yourself when evaluating your brand.

If your brand is ‘different’ because you are modern, friendly, supportive, forward thinking, in the cloud, using apps, working virtually, providing advisory…that’s not enough.

You’ll need to go with something…

  • Surprising (like a crazy graffiti style or something no one would ever, in any world, associate with accountants)
  • Shocking (such as using swearing on your website & content)
  • Hilarious (funny videos, or poking fun at your accounting industry)
  • Controversial (like involving political, religious, or sports affiliations, that are intended to divide)
  • Popular (involving celebrities, or high-profile companies and people)

I’d give you examples, but to be honest I haven’t seen too many accountants going this route. One example is Ashton McGill who site proclaims “Damn good accountants. Damn good service. Damn good coffee”. And the offices of Farnell Clarke which literally have a pub and a pool table upstairs.

Niche by specific category

Finally, if none of these are a fit for you, it is possible to have a very specific category of person that you serve.

Again, be ruthlessly specific. Small to medium sized businesses who make £500k to £5m in turnover with 5-100 employees, etc., etc., is not enough.

The idea here is to combine characteristics until it’s so specific you’re almost afraid you won’t have a big enough audience.

An example of this is a firm who is on our Accelerator course, who initially said they work with women in business. Once we talked through the characteristics, we realised they were particularly skilled in helping women who had recently been through a divorce or separation, who had come into a certain amount of money, who were untrained in financial areas and wanted to learn so they could set up or run their business better.

That’s extremely specific. That’s the level you want to be looking at. You want someone to come to your website or read your content and think, “I wasn’t sure there was anyone else in the world like me – much less an entire audience like me that this firm serves!”

You can also choose to niche in a particular app or software, as we talked about previously.

Whatever niche you choose, remember to:

  1. Be more specific than you think you need to be
  2. Track all your numbers (website, social, content, clients, prospects, leads, etc)
  3. Test and try things (review your numbers and look for patterns over a 6-12 month period)
  4. Ask for advice and ideas – run it past people who’ve been there. Other accountants, people who advise accountants, business coach, other experts, us at PF. (You can join our Facebook group and get input from other accountants there.