Image via Getty | Michael Mller / EyeEm
Often, designers come to me and say, “I know I need a niche, but I can’t decide which one to choose.”
What I think they are really saying is, “I’m supposed to pick something and reject everything else and I don’t want to.”
But that’s not it at all.
Picking a design niche means that you identify your ideal clients and do everything you can to attract them, which can, in fact, be done without alienating everyone else.
So no, you don’t have to stop doing everything that doesn’t fit into that niche. Other projects, companies and opportunities will surely continue to come to you via word of mouth. And since it’s your business, you get to decide which to take and which to “decline,” case by case, based on what your goals are or what’s on your plate at any given moment.
In other words, picking a niche doesn’t require rejecting anything; it simply means that you choose carefully where you spend your very precious marketing time and energy.
How to pick a design niche
So how do you go about picking a niche?
The general advice that is usually offered is to focus on something you’re passionate about. But passion will get you just so far. More important are:
1. Your experience.
This will prove to the client that you understand and have worked in their market. What samples or clients do you have to show?
2. Your connections.
This will shorten the time it takes to start a conversation with a stranger. Who do you already know?
3. Your access.
This will make it so much easier to reach your prospects, saving you time and effort. Is there a ready resource available?
When you’re trying to get the attention of your ideal clients, experience, connections and access will almost always prove to be more valuable than passion. One out of 3 is a minimum. 2 out of three is better. And, of course, 3 out of 3 is ideal. But if you only had one, access is the most important.
How easy is it to reach the market? Is there a trade association? Do they have events that you can attend? Are they are local or you can travel to them? Is there a directory of members and/or exhibitors? Is it available to the public? Do you have to become a member to get access to it?
For example, if my ideal clients were professional organizers, then the National Association of Professional Organizers would be the ready resource to give me access to that market. Their directory would be my prospect list. Their conference would be my best networking event, and maybe even my best speaking opportunity. I would position myself as the “go-to” resource for this market and it would simply be a matter of time and effort and persistence before they saw me that way too.
How to tell if your niche is viable
Once you’ve chosen a niche to explore, you have to determine if it is viable, which is impossible to know just by surfing the web. You do have to go out there and talk to people.
You will know pretty soon if a market is not viable, but it may take longer to figure out if it is iable.
I had a call recently with a client who had just come back from an event for a niche he was exploring. He had done some initial outreach to 80 possible prospects he found through the trade group and his goal was to get at least one meeting at the event.
And he did get one meeting, but he came to me afterward and asked, “Should I keep pursuing this market? I don’t know if it is viable.”
My response was the same one I give everyone who asks if the market they’re exploring is viable: If you get negative feedback, that is, if the people you meet say, “No thanks, we don’t really need your services,” then that is probably not the market for you.
But this client got one very positive response and a lot of silence. (Don’t forget: silence is not negative.) So that means he doesn’t know yet and it is worth continuing to explore.
Oh, and you have to have one other essential element to pick the right niche: patience.
You must give it time. Don’t give up before you’ve given the market a chance to respond to you.
There are 4 simple steps to the process of picking a niche and in Marketing Mentor’s Pick a Niche Kit, you’ll be guided step-by-step through that process:
- Step 1: Find Your Focus | Choose from 10 options which one is right for your business.
- Step 2: Choose 3 Potential Niches | Identify which markets or industry sectors align best with your chosen type of focus.
- Step 3: Determine The Viability of Those Niches | Assess whether the niches you’ve identified are viable and can support your business.
- Step 4: Move Toward Those Niches | Take the first steps to adjust your message and marketing tools to attract your dream clients within those niches.