Building a niche can ensure the long-term success of your advisory practice. Once established, a niche virtually guarantees a steady stream of pre-qualified referrals. How can you launch an effective niche – especially if you’re just starting out?
1) Pick a few potential target markets. Most of the time, you have a gut feel for the niche you’d like to serve. In my own writing and editing business, for instance, I work with financial advisors, business coaches and publicists serving the financial advisory industry. This niche has built upon itself over the years (everyone in my three niches seems to know everybody else).
If you’re just starting out, brainstorm who you think is a good fit for your business, based on:
- Your educational/occupational background (maybe you studied engineering and know a lot of engineers)
- Your family connections (Do you come from a family of doctors?)
- Your interests (Are you passionate about wine, golf, or Harleys and know high-earning professionals who also like those things?)
- Your marketing platform (What do you uniquely provide and who most needs your services?)
2) Research your niche. To properly serve a niche you must learn everything about them. Learn about their career possibilities, challenges and financial needs from reading their publications or following some niche thought leaders on social media. For example, if your niche is doctors, you should, at a minimum, check out Medical Economics or Physician’s Practice. These general publications examine the financial pressures and opportunities confronting doctors. You may also want to peruse some of the online journals for particular high-paying specialties just to get a sense of what doctors do everyday and to become more conversant. You can do this with any other niche: learn their issues! Read what they read. Listen to their podcasts. Know who is important locally, as well. What is the local economy like for your niche? Try your local business journals.
3) Interview niche members. You can only get so far from reading. You need to interact with actual people! An advisor client in Maryland contacted female physicians and conducted interviews. (Some of them were clients; some were prospects.) She asked these women doctors how they felt about their salary, their benefits, what, if anything, bothered them about their job, how satisfied they were with their career choices, what they loved about their job, and what could make it better. She also asked about their financial worries, what kept them up at night. She then turned that research into writing material for her blog and other publications. When you interview niche members, you’re building a library of research you can use to build out your marketing platform.
4) Write articles for niche publications. The same advisor then contacted the editors at several physician trade journals and was able to publish her articles. As you consider articles, remember that editors are looking for more clicks and more eyeballs. Try to tie your article into something timely in the news, a new study or a larger trend. As a former editor myself, I know that most publications are thrilled to get well-researched, well-written articles that address the needs of their audience. And you can always hire a writer to help you out!
5) Speak to niche groups. Once you’ve written a few articles (even if they’re on your own blog), you can reach out to niche groups to see if they need a speaker. Host a lunch workshop in your office for members of your niche. One advisor in Atlanta started working with employees of a large telecom by educating them about their benefits packages. An advisor here in Phoenix researched the names of physicians who had recently passed the state board. He sent them invitations to a dinner he and his partner were hosting at a trendy restaurant – and he so impressed us, my husband and I became clients.
Another sure way to meet niche members is to court other professionals who serve them. An advisor in Minnesota, for instance, build a lucrative niche with divorced women by cultivating relationships with divorce attorneys – whom she invited to her firm’s skybox at the Twins’ games.
Bottom line: Building a niche requires effort and focus. It requires seeking feedback – and acting on what you learn. Most importantly, it takes a dedication to client service. Always offer to be a resource to members of your niche. Make sure they know you are available to speak to their friends and colleagues – and you might even consider handing them a list of the topics you could address.