Nailing Your Niche
One of the key steps to having a solid foundation for outbound sales is nailing your niche.
As your business follows a natural progression of growth you begin to run out of early adopters and need to begin to sell to mainstream buyers. The problem that a lot of businesses make is that they treat these two segments the same when they actually have vastly different buying habits.
This is what Aaron Ross, author of Predictable Revenue, refers to as crossing the hot coals, and Geoffrey Moore, the author of Crossing the Chasm, refers to as crossing the chasm (the gap between early adopters and early majority). The key differences between these customers are trust & attention.
When you are selling to friends, family, or through referrals you have the luxury of a large window of trust and attention. Your friends trust you (we hope) and will give you the time you need to effectively explain your product. When compared to mainstream buyers this window shrinks from hours to seconds, thus your selling process must change.
We often see clients with really great solutions that often go overlooked because they’re trying to talk to everybody instead of honing in on one vertical. Focusing in on a particular sector of a target market can help amplify your message to those that have a real need for your business.
Regardless of what industry you’re in, your company needs to establish itself as an expert in the field. In doing so, you’ll also define your company’s niche, which is an essential part of your business’s growth. If you’re struggling to locate your niche (or you don’t know what a niche is) you aren’t alone—it’s something that many entrepreneurs and business owners struggle with. Here are a few tips on how to find (and continually refine) your niche.
Here are the steps we take with clients to help them nail their niche:
- What is a niche?
- Why is a niche important?
- How do you find your niche?
- How do you know you’ve found your niche?
- What is the arc of attention?
What is a niche?
There’s often a misunderstanding (and misuse) of the word niche. A niche (or niche market) is a segment within your target audience where you strategically direct the most marketing (and time). Having a niche is like being the big fish in a small pond—it’s much easier to be successful in a small pond compared to a large one. When you share too many things that you excel at (fishing in too many ponds), it’s more likely to confuse prospects, rather than impress them. Once you find your niche, you’ll compete more effectively within your industry.
Your company’s niche is the specific area in your target audience where you can position yourself as the expert. When it comes to establishing an outbound sales function, this is also where you focus the majority of your sales efforts to create awareness for your products and or services. Your niche will allow you to differentiate your company from your competitors. This is the space where you really shine—bringing value and providing something no one else can do as well.
Nailing the Niche for Outbound Sales Differs From Inbound
Having your niche nailed for outbound sales is different than inbound, and it might even be more important. If you’re doing cold outbound, it’s most likely that your target audience doesn’t know you yet, and it will take more time and resources to go after them. You will want to define a different niche for your outbound sales efforts vs. the Inbound target audience.
We wrote a full blog post diving deep into niches for inbound vs outbound sales for further information.
Why is a niche important?
Nailing your niche is the best way to gain a competitive edge against other companies. Whether you are a consultant, a small business owner or an entrepreneur, there will always be competition. If you have a SaaS, software, media or service company you’ll always have competition and the ‘noise’ keeps getting louder. So what’s the best way to beat your competition? Be the leader in your domain. Your niche helps focus your value, messaging and differentiating factors, so it’s easier for customers to understand and get excited about your stuff. Your niche (because of your expertise, unique skill set and services) is the reason why potential clients will buy your products or services over someone else’s. Finding a niche also helps you grow your expertise in a specific area within your industry. Not only does this benefit your business, but it also helps filter out prospects that aren’t a good fit. Rather than being all things to all people, a niche allows you to focus on the one thing you do really well. Once your niche is defined, only relevant prospects come forward because it’s clear that your business is right for them.
How do you find your niche?
To discover your niche, ask yourself and your team these key questions that help identify areas on which to focus; these will ultimately bring you closer to your niche:
9 Questions To Identify Your Niche
- What are your use cases?
List your products and service offerings to figure out in what ways your products can be used.
- What are your customers’ common pain points?
If you have an idea of what your niche is, this is a great exercise to figure out exactly who your target audience is. Find out what frustrations your prospects have in common and use these pain points to define your niche.
- What are your key differentiators?
Why should someone buy your products or services over your competitors? What sets you apart from the crowd of similar offerings? Distinguish and highlight these differentiators.
- What is your solution to the pain points?
Once you understand the pain points in your market, it’s time to figure out the solution. Craft this message as simply as possible—your solution needs to be crystal clear. The clearer it is for you, the more clear it will be for a customer.
- What are some tangible results of your solution?
People love statistics and they love to quantify good results. Make your solution statements memorable. Find concrete numbers and case studies to prove that your solution is what they’re looking for. For example, “We helped this company save X dollars, generate Y% more sales, and we deliver Z in under 7 days.”
- Who are the decision makers and internal champions?
Find out who the key contacts are that you want to speak with and determine what it is about your product that they should care about. Do you solve a personal or a business pain for them? If not, find new prospects. If so, contact these people and work to track down more similar leads.
- Where are you hitting home runs?
Find out who your top customers are. Do they have something in common? Zero in on this community and learn everything you can about them. What are their pain points? What do they have in common? Is there a trend with your top customers? From there hone in and refine your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP).
- Why do your customers love/need you?
Don’t just be a ‘nice to have’ company. You want to get to a place where your customers need your product or service to be successful. Find a way to refine your current offering so it’s a ‘must-have’. It may take some tweaking and refining, but the result will be worth it.
- What is your unique genius?
To find or be found, to close deals, to avoid commoditization – you must be different or unique. Every business (and individual) has unique strengths, weaknesses and superpowers – whether or not they realize it. A talent for making money, focusing, creative writing, art, service, engineering, relationships, innovation, a passionate community, celebrity employees, an interesting personal story or history…
Sometimes it’s clear, like the customer service and culture of Zappos. Sometimes it’s hard to put your finger on, or it needs developing. But it’s always there. What makes you stand out? What are your special advantages? If you can come up with nothing else, you have the personal stories of the founders and employees. Personal stories – like “I struggled, I wanted to help others avoid the same struggle so I did x, y, z” – can themselves be very compelling.
Niche Building Next Steps
Once you have asked yourself these questions, take your responses and use them to help craft your niche. This will separate you from your competitors and make it easier for your potential customers to decide that you are a better fit for their needs.
During this process, you may hit a wall—but don’t worry, this will give you the opportunity to discover where your business can grow. Even once you feel you’ve nailed your niche, return to these questions and see if there’s room for even further improvement. A niche is specialized, but that doesn’t mean there’s no room to continually refine it.
How Do You Know If You’ve Found Your Niche?
Once you understand the basics of discovering and establishing your niche here are some clues that tell if you’ve pin-pointed your niche:
- If you have grown by word-of-mouth but struggle with lead generation and outbound prospecting, you haven’t nailed your niche.
- If your solution is offering ”nice-to-have” products or services to prospects instead of “need-to-have” products or services you haven’t nailed your niche.
- If your marketing sales strategies aren’t seeing results, you haven’t nailed your niche.
If you can relate to any of the above, you may need to re-evaluate your focus and consider a different route. Oftentimes, nailing your niche can come from asking yourself a series of questions that help you identify sales or marketing problems. Take time to consider your assets, your business goals, and what you and your team do well. Go back to the basics—discover what you do and who you do it for. After a bit of exploration, you’ll be closer to your niche.
The Arc of Attention
Crossing over the arc of attention will help you answer whether or not you’ve found your niche.
Please understand that prospects are not your family. Your family may give you three hours of their time, but unfortunately, this is not the case when asking a prospect to read a cold email. You only have a few seconds to make an impression and get a prospect’s attention. The ‘Arc of Attention’ becomes much smaller so we need to be clear and simple about how you can help them during outreach.
If you’re able to quickly and clearly outline how your business solves a prospect’s pain, you can build trust and move them along the Arc of Attention so that they invest more time with you. Can you capture a potential client’s attention in a short period of time? If you’re having to describe too much around how your solution solves their problem you’re probably venturing outside your niche. You’ll be less effective in communicating your message and lose their attention. Nailing your niche is critical to scaling your business. As Aaron Ross, author of Predictable Revenue says, “when you’re talking to everyone, no one can hear you.”
Real World Example: How LeadGenius Found Their Niche
LeadGenius started out as a company called Mobileworks, which did crowdsourcing. This was before Kickstarter became a common platform. Few people who weren’t friends-of-a-friend, or super early adopters, ‘got it’. They were burning cash like crazy when they narrowed their niche to “outsourced virtual assistance.”
By narrowing or focusing on a tighter market & service, they got to “cash flow neutral” in only 60 days. Then they narrowed even more, to on-demand prospecting & lead generation and sales took off! It became easy for companies to understand how LeadGenius could help them.
Want further resources? We’ve reserved the Predictable Revenue “Nail a Niche” workbook for you so you can work through five aspects of finding your niche. In order to build a strong foundation that will allow you to start a successful outbound campaign, this will allow you to determine where you can grow the fastest with the best market opportunity.