Do you find yourself offering a wide range of products and services, trying to offer anything that you can to everyone that you meet?
I certainly did, when I started my business! I offered every service that I thought I could performÂ—from design, to CD burning, to printing (off of my home inkjet printer!), to typing and transcription. Once, I even helped a family pack for a moveÂ—I had the spare time in my schedule, and it paid a few bucks!
I thought that this approach would bring me more business. It certainly kept me busyÂ—thinking up new services to offer, finding clients for those services, and learning how to do them. But being busy is different from being successful. Since I didn’t appear to be an expert in any of the services that I offered, I was not able to convince my clients that I should be paid well for then. After a while, I decided that this was not the best plan.
But I was scared to offer fewer servicesÂ—what if I couldn’t find enough work in a single specialty to support myself? What if I wasn’t the best in the field that I chose? What if I got bored only offering just one service? All of these fears made me really hesitant to narrow my offerings. I even argued about it with my business coaches and advisors.
Finally, I decided to narrow the services that I offered in my marketing materials. I started talking about just logo designs and stationery sets in my 20-second commercial, on my website, and in my marketing flyers. This helped my clients to focus on the services that I could best deliver to themÂ—I closed more sales with ease, and got more referrals from both clients and casual contacts.
This type of narrowing and focus is known as niching. It helped me to concentrate on developing clear marketing materials about specific services, and to create better processes for delivering them. Niching also helped me to focus on my own businessÂ—it helped me to decide which products and services I can best deliver, and what I should outsource or just not quote at all!
Next, I got really brave and narrowed things a bit moreÂ—I promoted only logo designs, and only to small businesses. At this point, things really took off! Not only did the previously noted benefits increase, but also, now that I could really focus on my clients’ specific problems, I became an expert in their exact needs. Once I gained this expertise and could speak directly to a real need, my services gained a lot of value… and I was able to raise my rates to reflect that targeted value.
Narrowing your services in this way is called niching. By narrowing the types of services you offer, you niche horizontally. By narrowing the types of businesses to which you offer your services, you niche vertically. Using both types of niching is the most specific and targeted way to niche.
Developing a niching strategy didn’t mean that I didn’t offer any other servicesÂ—I still design marketing materials and websites, and I even offer stand-alone website coding. But until I established and grew my expertise in one area, I stuck to marketing just that one service. If a client needed additional services, I was happy to provide them. Other clients even came to me specifically for websites or brochures from time to time. So while I did limit the services that I actively promoted, I didn’t limit the types of projects that I delivered… or the income I was able to bring in.
Differentiation can also help you to focus in your own businessÂ—it can help you to decide which products and services you can best deliver, and what you should outsource.
So, instead of trying to be everything to everyone, I recommend that you try niching your services. It will help your clients to focus on and identify the services that you offer, and it will help you to develop deep expertise in a single area… and niching will help you to raise your rates and create a profitable business.
About the Author
Erin Ferree is a brand identity and marketing design strategist who creates big visibility for small businesses. Through her customized marketing and brand identity packages, Erin helps her clients discover their brand differentiators, then designs logos, business cards, and other marketing materials and websites to reflect that differentiation, as well as to increase credibility and memorability. As the owner of elf design, Erin is passionate about helping small business owners stand out in front of their competition and attract more clients. Hundreds of small business owners across the US and Canada have relied on Erin to create content and visuals that support their brands.