15 Jan Why We Had No Choice But To ‘Niche Down’ & FOCUS
When we're wet behind the ears and only beginning to make waves within our industry, it's hard not to jump at every opportunity that comes our way.
Our minds are programmed to be constantly churning out new ideas and fresh formulas to attract more customers and tap into a bigger share of the market. But what if these opportunities and ideas are only distractions in disguise?
The more the merrier.
Most of us have considered and usually followed through with either adding a new service, introducing a new product, loosened the criteria of our ideal customer or possibly even started a second company. After all, it does seem like another way to grow our business and capitalize on the opportunity at hand...
Well in 2010, One Deep Design was a prime example for this train of thought. We decided to expand our list of services to include just about everything that fell under the creative title. We went from a no frills graphic design company to offering graphic design, photography, print management, web design and SEO. We were exactly what our business cards said, 'full service creatives'. And if you asked us who we work with, we would of very broadly told you, 'small to medium businesses within Australia'.
What were we thinking?
Like many, we believed to increase our workflow we would offer more services and cater to a bigger market. We were certain this was going to open our doors up to acquiring even more clients and make us look like a big player within our industry. Well, not so fast... We soon realised this wasn't going to plan, regardless of how good it sounded in theory. We weren't acquiring customers at the rapid rate we had originally envisioned; in fact there was very little improvement at all.
The problem with a 'we do it all' approach is, it is easy for people to get the wrong impression. Everyone presumed we knew a little bit about a lot, but not a lot about anything. No matter how knowledgeable and capable we were with each one of these services, the message wasn't getting across. The reality was we hadn't made an impact in one market alone, yet we were attempting to tackle 5 individual markets head on. We were a small business with no defined niche, in an extremely cutthroat market. Without specialising in anything we didn't have an edge - this was a problem.
This called for us to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. The way we had positioned our company was holding us back from growing to the scale we had planned on. It was time to 'niche down' and get very clear on who we wanted to appeal too.
Putting on the blinkers.
To get things underway our first step was thinking about the projects we loved to work on and the projects we despised. For us, the brand design projects have always been most exciting as we can ultimately shape and improve the entire image of a company. The effect this has on a company is massive and it's something we enjoy being a part of. These types of projects also take up a good chunk of time so we don't have to focus on bringing in plenty of smaller jobs to fill up the day. The time factor also means we form a better relationship with our clients, which often leads to many things such as referrals and ongoing work. It had become clear; narrowing in on brand design was one step in the right direction.
Then along came the tough questions... Who do we enjoy working with and helping? Is their a particular industry we gravitate towards? Is there a group of people we can relate to more than others? What inspires us to create exceptional results? After going through a healthy pile of notes, we noticed a common theme pointing towards one group of people. It was obvious our ideal customers were the entrepreneurs of Australia.
While I have simplified this a lot, it wasn't a simple task we mashed out in one afternoon. It was a lot of 'humming and hawing' that took us close to two weeks to really narrow down and be confident about a newly targeted approach. Without sounding too dramatic, it did require huge amounts of thinking and a complete mind shift from previous ideals.
Brand design for entrepreneurs: a micro-niche is born.
Since identifying our micro niche we are now perceived as specialists, instead of the guys that will take anything you throw their way. People can see we create brands all day everyday, so naturally presume we must be damn good at it! As a result of niching down we now land more of our bread-winning projects and work with other entrepreneurs who are passionate about what they do. For us, it's a good place to be right now.
Fear of missing out.
For some, the idea of 'niching down' seems like a bold move; it's what we call the fear of missing out. They are afraid that if they give their long list of services the chop, or get specific about their ideal customer, work will dry up all together. However it is much the opposite, I would like to share with you one paragraph from the book 'Become a Key Person of Influence' that I believe hits the nail on the head...
“Use a sniper rifle, not a shotgun. Intuitively, people believe that taking a general, encompassing approach is more effective, but evidence shows it is not. When you try to catch everyone in your net, you catch no one. The 'cast your net wide', or more graphically, the heavy artillery shotgun approach to business is well and truly dead. A broad approach is especially ineffective when you are starting out. You need to become a laser-sharp marksman focusing on a very specific micro-niche.”
It was this fear of missing out that motivated our initial change in 2010, but after adapting a modern approach to growth, I can say this fear has been entirely squashed. Australia has thousands of entrepreneurs starting new companies and rebranding existing ones month after month, who all require help with their brand. When they visit our website and see we are a perfect match for them, you can guarantee they are calling us and not the next guy who claims to do it all.
What you can take away from this.
Get ultra specific, don't be afraid. Really nail down on what your niche is and what it isn't. Once you have clearly identified a niche to run with, push and explore it to its absolute limit. Only then is it safe to explore and expand into new (but relevant) markets. This doesn't mean go stale until such time, continue to develop and learn everything you can within the niche you dominate.
Remember how you thought the doctor charged like a wounded bull until you meet the specialist he referred you to? Well it works the same way within your industry; the experts who specialise can charge a premium because they have proven themselves and mastered their niche.
Keep your brand inline with your niche at all times to deliver a consistent message.
Form partnerships with people within your industry, but outside of your niche. When you have requests for anything you don't specialise in, simply refer them to someone who does. This doesn't mean you're missing out, it just means you'll receive even more of the things you want to be doing. Because partnerships and referrals work both ways, remember?
Every niche and micro-niche solves a problem. It may be big or small but regardless it solves a problem. Take the time to identify what that problem is and build your brand around it. Be a problem solver.
Adding new services and products is not the immediate answer for growth problems. Your time is better-spent discovering new methods for attracting customers. Without discovering these new methods you will run into the same barriers when 'widening your net' every time.
As entrepreneurs and business owners we must train ourselves to resist temptation and F.O.C.U.S. (Follow One Course Until Success).