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What exactly is a niche?

Apr 9, 2018

What exactly is a niche?

When I say that one of the most powerful ways to help your accountancy firm marketing stand out is by focusing on a niche, you may not know exactly what that means.

Does it mean an area that you focus on exclusively? Does it have to be an industry? Can you have more than one niche? How do you define it, and where do you begin?

The whole point of a niche is to focus your marketing (particularly your content and message) so that the right sort of people will come to you – and the wrong sort will go away.

The level of competition amongst accountancy firms is massive, and intense. Every potential buyer has at least a few firms they’re talking to or considering, if not more. Accountants are stepping up their game when it comes to marketing, so having a decent looking website or brand or offices, or using cloud accounting, is nowhere near enough to help your buyer make a fast decision.

If you accept that, and you are keen to consider a niche, here’s what I mean by that.

A niche is a focused, targeted area that you serve particularly well.

It is small (and the smaller the better).

It is specific.

It is known to you.

It is one thing.

I’ll write more about how to determine and find your niche, but here’s a little more about what a niche is (and isn’t).

A niche does not have to be an industry, but it helps.

Typically, a niche is understood to be a particular industry. Dentists. Freelancers. Creative agencies. Accountants.

This works so well because it’s instantly identifiable.

If you’re a dentist, and you see fourteen accountancy firm websites, and one of them says “we help dentists with their accounting”, it will instantly grab your attention.

This is why saying things like “we help small businesses grow” or “supporting businesses with profit and cash flow” don’t stand out. Every business in the world is looking to make a profit, sort out cash, grow – at least to some level. You haven’t caught their attention. You haven’t stood out yet.

You can have a niche that is not an industry, but it’s much more complex to define.

A niche is an area that is so focused that your buyer can instantly say, “That’s me.”

Not only does your buyer recognise themselves in your message and marketing, they also feel an instant connection.

You want to stop this person in their tracks. Relieve their pain and pressure. Help them think, “Oh whew – what a relief. This accountancy firm gets me.”

The more specific your niche is, the better. If your niche isn’t an industry, you’ll need to drill down to the small details that make your buyer who they are – part of a very small group in the world.

You can start with the lowest common denominator, but you’ll need to drill down further and further until your buyer has nowhere else they could possibly go. Until they feel absolutely amazed and wonder how you built an entire business around their individual needs.

Say for example your ‘niche’ is small to medium sized businesses making 500k to 2m in sales, with a mindset to grow, and a willingness to invest in good business advice and tech. That’s still far too broad.

Keep going.

What traits does this category of person or business have? What tech do they use? How long have they been in business? Where are they located? What issues and problems do they face?

If you work with businesses that are at least 1-2 years old, owned by one person, use Xero, and have no more than 10 employees, you’re moving in the right direction.

Adding an industry helps even more, if you can. (Perhaps 1-2 year old retail businesses that use Xero and aren’t using the retail apps as well as they could.)

Go as deep as you can possibly go. I call this an ‘ultra niche’: generally it does begin with an industry, and then adds traits and characteristics and qualities until it almost seems ridiculously specific. “Self employed divers who are UK residents for at least 9 months of the calendar year” may seem laughable, but you’ll get all the divers. (If that niche even exists. Let me know how you go.)

A niche does not have to be exclusive, but it helps.

You can serve more than one niche…but I wouldn’t suggest any more than two. In order to serve a niche well, you need to spend a lot of time getting in their head. How do they think? What problems do they have? What questions are they asking that you can answer?

It’s really distracting to be constantly shifting your mental attention to different types of people or businesses. You’ve experienced this in a small way when you turn off your email notifications and silence your phone and put all your attention to the project you want to complete. The thing that would have taken you several hours whilst being continually distracted ends up getting done in twenty minutes. Focus gives you the greatest results.

This doesn’t mean you can’t test multiple different niche areas until you find out which one you’re going to pour your marketing efforts into. More about that in a future post.

You must have expertise in order to serve a niche well.

A niche is an area that you understand.

You have to ‘get’ them. There is no point choosing a niche to enhance your marketing, if you don’t know what you’re doing.

The point of having a niche is that you are crafting a marketing message that significantly shortens the process of building buyer trust.

Trust is what takes the longest to build. The buyers of accountancy firm services are no exception to this, because the elements of accounting are so personal. Finances. Goals. Sacrifice. People have given much for, and bet their lives on, their business. They talk to you about their families, relationships, health issues. And you as their accountant know things about them that sometimes their family doesn’t even know.

So if they’re going to trust you, their first question will be, “Who else have you helped who is like me?” What other dentists have you served? How do you know so much about yoga studios? What do you know about what it takes to be a wedding photographer?

Now, this doesn’t mean you cannot possibly market to a niche without having any expertise yet. You can certainly start the process by exploring it, talking to this audience, creating some test messages and content for them.

It does mean, though, that without expertise your marketing will take significantly longer. You don’t have the case studies and stories yet, so you’ll need to build trust in other ways. Do a lot of listening, and work ten times as hard as anyone else to build that expertise.

The more of these you can combine together, the better and more profitable your niche will be.