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How To Carve Your Niche In The Marketplace
by Michel Fortin, Ph.D.
In today's hypercompetitive marketplace, long gone are the days of mere prospecting and crafty (and often misleading) sales tactics using 1,001 approaches to "close the deal." Due to the information revolution, prospects are now more informed, more educated, and incredibly more sophisticated than ever before. Using a plethora of techniques such as these are no longer effective -- or in the very least, they are not as effective as they used to be.
Let's face it. People can no longer be "sold" let alone tricked. With information at their fingertips (such as with the Internet), they can find out almost anything in a matter of seconds. However and unfortunately, there are many companies still training their salespeople to use these outdated approaches. Prospects not only see them coming but they also consider such techniques to be insulting. I do say "outdated" because, in our knowledge based economy, more and more sales tactics are being frowned upon with each passing day.
Like direct mail marketing, telemarketing, and unsolicited commercial e-mail (also known as "spamming"), more and more prospecting methods are slowly being added to the list of taboos. Trying to find and sell clients is sadly becoming an increasingly difficult endeavor Therefore, what is a better, more effective, and certainly more "politically correct" approach to generate good quality prospects? In essence, a solution to this dilemma is to generate leads that are already pre-qualified and pre-sold, even before prospects are marketed.
Find More With Less
The first rule in pre-qualifying prospects is to specialize. The most common mistake newcomers to any field of business make is to think that by expanding their portfolio they will secure more business. Nothing can be further from the truth. Specializing and narrowing one's focus as much as possible will paradoxically increase the likelihood of getting more business.
Specialization is in itself a fundamental marketing process. It's amazingly effective in creating "top-of-mind" awareness among a specific target market. For instance, an accountant specializing in car dealerships will get more business than a general accountant will. An advertising consultant specializing in print media for home furnishing stores will get more business than a typical advertising agent will. A photographer specializing in weddings will get more business than a regular photographer will. And the list goes on and on.
Over the years, specialization has been referred to as "niche" marketing. As more and more businesses get started (and the more inundated with marketing messages our society becomes), the less time, energy, and money people will have to spend in making choices for those with whom they will choose to do business. Specialization helps to solve that problem.
For instance, let's say that you're thinking of referring clients to one of two car salespeople. One of them is a typical salesperson while the other specializes in first time car buyers (e.g., students, young drivers, newlyweds, late bloomers, etc). The latter offers special creative financing methods for those new to credit, additional car-specific driver training information for new drivers, and rate comparison charts that suggest insurance companies with the lowest possible rates for newly licensed drivers. Now, to whom do you think you will refer more people (and do so in an instant)? This is the awesome power of narrowing your focus.
Be an Expert
Consumers will choose when they have a choice presented to them to go to a business that specializes in a unique area in which they have a need. Think of a laser, which is basically a beam of highly concentrated light. You want to focus like a laser on your niche and, when you do, you will as a result burn you, your business, and your product into your prospects' minds.
Specialization casts an aura of superiority and exclusivity. When you deal with a specialist, you will automatically assume that this person has greater expertise, has greater knowledge about the field, and offers greater service since, by catering to a unique market, it implies that he or she will have a better understanding of your situation, needs, and concerns.
Additionally, niche marketers generate far more serious prospects than general, curious ones. Specialization is the wave of the future. And the greater the competition will become, the greater the need for more specialists. For example, why do you think there is a trend in specialty stores these days? They are popping up everywhere! Today, there are stores selling only dry foods in bulk. There are vitamin and food supplement stores. There are electronics stores. There are toy stores. There are even mothers-to-be and baby clothing stores!
The need to specialize is obvious. With the media storming you with information and with your very limited time to be able to shop around for the best product from the best company at the best price, you will more than likely go the store that pops into your mind and do so only when the need presents itself. For instance, you can buy a toaster from a department store, a home furnishings store, a kitchenware store, an appliance store, a grocery store, and a drugstore -- even a bank! Heck, if there were a toaster store, you'd probably go there first. So ideally, your job is to find your niche and to narrow it down as much as possible.
Become a Celebrity
You want to be the leader in your category or in your unique area of expertise. By doing so, free publicity will flow to you quite easily. Non-traditional mediums will seek you out. Specialized publications, strategic marketing alliances, and community television stations are wonderful mediums through which you can get the word out effectively at little or no cost.
For instance, I once met a computer consultant who ran his own show for free on cable television -- yes, free! As a programmer specializing in financial institutions, he hosted a show during which he interviewed guests ranging from bankers and corporate executives looking to hire computer consultants, to other consultants in areas similar to his own.
He also took calls on the show, had his phone number displayed at the bottom of the screen at all times, and had an question-and-answer format where people watching the show had the ability to ask questions to which he (or his guests) would answer directly on the air. The show was not meant to advertise him directly but meant as a public service gesture.
Publicity is remarkably different than advertising. It is far more credible and believable. And there are many ways to get publicity out there, let alone free publicity. In a hypercompetitive marketplace, specializing causes people, other mediums, as well as other companies (looking to refer clients or to form strategic marketing alliances) to seek you out. Your goal is to become known as an expert in your field. If you have narrowed your focus to a very specific, highly specialized field, publicity will come easy to you. The media (and particularly those that are specialized as well) love to hear from people who are uniquely qualified.
Get Out and About
Do you write articles for your local newspaper or in the very least in the op-ed section? Do you send out news releases to all the TV, newspaper, and radio stations in your area? Do you offer free seminars during fundraisers for non-profit organizations? Do you offer to speak at luncheons, clubs, and organizations such as the Rotary? Do you offer free services to charities or sponsor community projects? As you can see, the list goes on. There exists a multitude of publicity opportunities out there and I encourage you to vigorously seek them out.
A hair transplant doctor I know sent out news releases to all the TV stations and offered to perform a hair transplant live on the air as part of a suggested medical documentary. With the consent of the patient, cameramen taped a live surgery where the doctor continually answered questions asked by the reporter. The doctor's name and his phone number were frequently mentioned, and the piece aired during that station's regularly televised newscast.
Not only did it cause his practice to get flooded with calls, but the doctor also had a bright idea to obtain the permission to mass-copy the televised report on videotapes. He mailed them as part of his information package to potential patients and referral-sources, and even digitized them so that people may view the procedure online while visiting his Web site.
I know of an insurance agent who decided to specialize in life insurance new families. His company didn't require it of him but he decided on his own to develop an expertise in this area. You'll often find him at bridal fairs, home-buyers seminars, home furnishing stores, home shows, banks, mortgage-lending institutions, car dealerships, toy stores, and so on. Now, for a typical insurance agent to do this kind of stuff may or may not be a waste of time. But how much more effective will he be if he promotes himself at those special events or locations as an insurance agent strictly catering to new couples and families?
The Write Way
Write articles based on your unique expertise. Send a query letter to publications for an article you wish to contribute. A query letter is one in which you address the editor and propose a topic for an interesting article you wish to write. Make sure that the headline of your query grabs their attention and makes them want to read it. Make your article somehow related to a free report you have to offer. Give them a brief outline of your article along with a summary of your free report as a sort of "tickler." Send the same query letter to as many newspapers as you can, especially specialized publications read by your target market.
Don't limit your efforts to newspapers and magazines. There are also newsletters from other companies, news and discussion groups, bulletin boards, electronic newsletters from other organizations, trade associations, trade publications, web sites with online article archives, news shows, and most important publications from strategic marketing alliances.
Don't forget to include in your query letter that you're not looking for any compensation -- at least, not for now -- but ask if you can add a byline at the end of your article. A byline is a small bio or resource box showcasing the author and how he or she can be reached. It's also a good way to generate leads by offering your free report. By the way, here's mine#
About the Author
Michel Fortin, Ph.D. is a consultant dedicated to helping businesses turn into powerful magnets. Visit http://SuccessDoctor.com to receive a FREE copy of his book, "The 10 Commandments of Power Positioning." He is also the editor of the "Internet Marketing Chronicles" e-zine -- subscribe FREE at http://SuccessDoctor.com/IMC/.
Tags: Sales and Marketing