Every marketing message needs to have an intended recipient. "We work with these kinds of clients." Prospects are looking for service providers who understand who they are. They don't want a financial planner who works with everyone, but one who works with "couples sending two or more kids to college," for example.

So, in an 'audio logo' a headline, the title of an article, a name for a talk, or the opening paragraph of a web site, it needs to be crystal clear exactly to whom your message is directed. If you are vague, it simply won't do.

Why this is so important is that everyone is mostly interested in him or her self. We are all the main focus of our own attention. Our name is the most important word in the English language. So when a marketing message says, "I work with these kinds of people," we take immediate notice. It's not for everyone, it's for ME!

Defining Your Niche

One of the questions I get most often is "How do I determine who my ideal clients are, and how do I know I'm targeting the right clients for my business?" This question isn't just about your message it's about the 'strategic' direction of your business. If you open a law firm, there's a big difference between doing real estate law and family law. If you're a consultant, the work will be very different working with multi-national corporations as opposed to family businesses. And if you're a coach, you may choose to work with creative types instead of high-level executives.

I almost always recommend that you start with the kind of clients you are most familiar with. I started working with Independent Professionals because I was one myself and I could easily relate to them. I had the knowledge and skills to help them. I didn't have the knowledge and skills to do marketing for large companies. With your present knowledge, skills and experience, who would be the idea clients for you?

The other thing that I recommend is specializing, to some degree, in your niche or target market. It's a lot easier to market to a target group than to an unfocused group. Sometimes even that target can be quite broad. For instance, Independent Professionals can include virtually any self-employed professional or owner of a small professional firm. On the other hand, often it makes sense to target very narrowly if you have expertise in a very narrow niche.

Specializing has the following advantages:

It's easy to find your clients as they have certain affiliations

You can develop a higher level of expertise in that niche

You can develop approaches and processes that can be used over and over

You can develop more of a reputation in a niche

Your marketing will be simpler and cost less money

Specializing has the following disadvantages:

Your niche may not be big enough to support you

If the market changes, your niche may virtually disappear

You may get bored with your niche as it is always the same

You may miss many opportunities for business outside of your niche

Some say that you don't choose your niche, your niche chooses you. That is, you are drawn naturally to work with certain types of clients. Again, because of your knowledge, skills and experience, where you can make the biggest impact as an Independent Professional may be fairly obvious. However, it's not unusual that many Independent Professionals drift. Often they have knowledge, skills and experience in many areas and they are also quick studies who like new challenges.

If this is the case for you, you need to be careful. You get a call from a prospective client for an interesting project that can utilize your skills. You take it and end up doing more of the same kind of projects. Then you connect with another prospect and take on a completely different project. After a number of years, it's very unclear what your business is really about. And businesses like this are very hard to market.

On the other hand, you might spend a lot of time determining your niche, developing your messages, services and materials. And you discover that, although all of this looks good on paper, it's not working in reality. You realize that there is very little work in that niche or that you don't have the connections to make inroads into that niche.

I recommend more of a hybrid approach to determining your niche. You want to consider your knowledge, skills, experience, and interests as well as the realities of the current market. You need to look inside as well as looking outside. Here are some questions you can ask about any niche in which you are considering specializing or targeting for new business.

Inside Questions

Do I have the knowledge, skills and experience in this niche?

Am I interested in this niche and do I like these kind of clients?

Are these the kind of clients I can imagine working with for years?

Will there be enough variety and challenge for me in this niche?

Outside Questions

Is this niche accessible through various marketing channels?

Can I make good money in this niche?

Is this niche growing and will opportunities exist for some time to come?

What are the barriers to entry for this niche?

Once you have a basic idea of the niche you want to specialize in, you need to define it even more specifically. That is, you need to say more than, "I want to work with High-Tech companies." That's pretty vague. Instead, you need to define the parameters of this niche. The easiest way to do this is by defining the demographics (external selectors) and psychographics (internal selectors) of this niche.

Demographics

These are all the external selectors for this niche. In the following table, are the key demographic selectors for both companies and for individuals.

Company Demographics

Individual Demographics

Industry

Size of Company

Geographic Location

Annual revenues

Who their customers are

Age of company

Gender balance

Age of average employee

Who you sell to in the company

Profession

Geographic location

Age

Gender

Ethnicity

Income

Situation

Demographic Examples

Companies

Our clients are large semiconductor companies in the Silicon Valley Area who have been in business for at least five years and whose marketing is at least 50% international. Our main client in the company is the VP of marketing.

Individual

Our clients are women going through life transitions. Typically they are 45 to 65 years of age, live in the Cincinnati area, have a family income ranging from $60K to $200K. They are currently going through a life transition such as divorce, moving, retirement or recovering from a major illness such as cancer.

Psychographics

These are the internal selectors in this niche. These are the values, the style and the philosophy of your clients. These are just as important, as they help you get very clear about the kind of clients you want to work with.

Company Psychographics

Individual Psychographics

Company mission/philosophy

Management style

Reputation in industry

Commitment to training/education

Hiring practices

Litigation history

Level of integrity

Awards for excellence

Community involvement

Knowledge, skill, experience

Personal values/life outlook

Work ethic

Personal style

Intelligence

Integrity

Flexibility

Psychographic Examples

Companies

Our clients have a very high standard of excellence and integrity. They also have a reputation for innovative products. Their management approach is informal yet well-organized. They pride themselves on achieving consistently high profit levels. They are involved in community projects and have received many awards in this area.

Individuals

The key personality trait of my clients is that they are tired of the status quo and they want to grow. However, they have found themselves in a stagnant place for a long time. With the transition they are going through they want to reassess the important things in their lives and live a more fulfilling life based on making a contribution.

Defining your Ideal Clients or Marketing Niche

Based on the information above, you now want to define your ideal clients both demographically and psychographically to the best of your ability. Don't worry about getting this perfect, just ask yourself, "If I could choose my ideal clients, the clients I would like to work with, the clients I would like to make a contribution to, the clients I can see earning good money with, who would those clients be? And then come up with a demographic and psychographic profile or statement for these clients as I've just done.

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