In my last column, I made a case for the benefits of targeting an industry niche.
When your approach to marketing is “shot gun” it takes quite a long time to create a reputation for yourself. When you work a specific niche, you can create “celebrity status” or “expert status” in a year or less. In this month’s column, I want to give you some specific strategies you can use to create this expert mage within your niche.
Choose Your Niche Market
There are three main ways to determine a good niche for yourself:
- Previous Employment: George Valdez, CFP worked in the automobile industry for 5 years just out of college. After he became an advisor, he targeted that market. Now, most of his business comes from automobile dealership executives and successful salespeople. His business has grown very quickly in only 4 years.
- A Market that Interests You: Leslie Barrow is a rep near Los Angeles. She really enjoys the entertainment industry – particularly movies. So, she’s created a reputation for herself among movie executives, producers, and directors. Dudley Morgan, CFP was an athlete in high school. He’s created a reputation for himself among professional athletes. Bob Sherman came from a long line of printers. When his family couldn’t keep the business alive, he became a financial advisor and has established a reputation among executives and sales reps in the printing industry.
- Your Existing Client List: After attending one of my Unlimited Referrals® Seminars, Barbara Cross decided to target and create a reputation in a specific market. She looked at her client list and realized that she already had 6 great clients who were very successful photographers. After less than 2 years, she’s become known as “THE financial advisor for photographers” in her city.
What industries or markets have you worked in before? For what industries do you have some affinity? What market do you find fun? Do you have several good clients who work in that market niche? Answering these questions can help you narrow your focus.
Ask for Help
Talk to clients, friends, family members in the market you wish to target. Use those sources to get referrals to others in that niche to do informational interviews. Tell them you’re thinking about targeting their market and that you value their advice. You will be surprised at how much help they’ll give you. They’ll tell you what keeps their colleague up at night; how they make money; and how much money they make. You’ll learn the industry jargon.
Determine the Universe of Your Target Market
Once you have found a market you might want to target, you need to determine the universe of that market. Is it big enough to make it worth your time? Is it big enough within your local area, or do you have to become regional or national in your scope for the universe to be large enough? Make sure there are enough businesses within the market, within the geographic area where you wish to do business.
Determine Your Prospects
If this industry has a local or national association (and most industries do), get a list of the association members even if it means joining the association. There are also directories in the library on various industries. Even the phone book can help. If you cannot determine who your prospects are, or if they will be hard to reach, find another market to target.
Look for Overlaps with Your Target Market
For instance, in addition to the printing industry, Sherman has targeted executives in the ink, and equipment industries. Suppose you’re targeting restaurant owners. The related markets might be their suppliers – food, linens, equipment, etc.
Read What Your Prospects Are Reading
Virtually every industry has magazines, trade journals, and newsletters that most of your prospects read. The national and local associations publish these, as do independent companies. How do you find out what they’re reading? Call the associations and ask them what they publish. They may also be able to tell you about other publications. Talk to your existing customers or prospects within this target market and ask them what industry publications they are reading. Subscribe to several of these and read them on a regular basis. Some are free.
Get Involved in Trade Associations
There are national associations, state associations, and local associations. Any decent library has books or lists of associations, usually in the reference section. The Encyclopedia of Associations not only lists all the associations and all the information about them, but also indexes them in various ways, including key words, industry, and geographic location.
Go to the library – you ask? Maybe. Maybe you can find what you need searching the internet. Some industries have more than one association serving them. The reference sources will tell you how many members the associations have. (That’s not the number of businesses in that industry; it’s just the number of businesses that have chosen to join that particular association.) You can usually determine how many conventions or conferences they have. Under the national association listing, often they’ll tell you how many regional, state, and local associations there are. If you don’t know how to get in touch with your local association, ask the national association.
As an associate member of your target industry, you will have access to products and services that can be very helpful in your niche marketing efforts, such as a membership list and regular publications. After you join, be sure to get a list of all the benefits, so you don’t miss out on any.
Use the association to enhance your visibility. It’s called “promotion through participation.” The more you become truly active, the more relationships you can create.
Alex Forge, CFP, recently headed up his target market’s charity event of the year. This brought him great visibility over an entire year. And he worked with many centers of influence within his niche and from other parts of the business community. He told me that he can trace six new clients directly from this activity, and from those six, he’s already been referred to 4 more clients.
Identify the Industry Influencers
One of the most powerful things you can do to create a reputation in a target market is to identify and serve the industry influencers. The industry influencers in your target market are the presidents of the associations, members of boards, people who have had significant success, and others who are just very active in one way or another. Find ways to get to know and serve these people as soon as you can. And serve them well, because they can make or break you.
Serving these people can mean making them satisfied clients. Or it can mean helping them develop association projects and plan charity events. Since most of these people are very successful, they already know that the secret to success is “meeting people through other people.”
Write Articles for Industry Publications
Writing articles for publications popular among your market audience is one of the most effective expert building strategies. You can write articles that teach people about the latest investment options, market conditions, insurance options, etc. The more you relate to their industry, the better. These articles must not be one long advertisement for you or your company. It must be full of usable information. The purpose is not to sell; it is to establish yourself as an expert in that industry.
Many good things can happen when you have articles published in industry publications. You get the opportunity to show yourself as an expert in that market. You can make reprints of the article, adding the banner from the front of the publication. When you send out information to prospects, you can use the reprint to demonstrate your credibility.
Use Media Publicity
Did you know that anywhere from 50 to 80 percent of the stories in your newspaper were placed through press releases and other publicity efforts? Beyond the front-page news, most of the stories that appear in newspapers and in magazines do so because there’s someone out there pushing that topic, issue, or newsworthy event to the press. Someone persuades an editor that the information is of interest to readers, and an article is born. The key to getting an article placed or getting an event covered is to make sure that it’s newsworthy. It must contain information that will benefit readers, either some new information or a new perspective.
Taking a strong, even controversial, stand on an issue will get media and reader attention. If what you have to say is powerful and helpful, you stand a chance of being published. Rarely does a large newspaper or magazine print a press release word for word, but quite a few of the smaller publications do. Sometimes the press release you send can catch the eye of an editor who will decide to interview you for a much longer piece than you had envisioned.
Remember the fundamental selling principle: Talk about your features in terms of benefits. When you mention a new product, new service, new location, or any other feature of your company worth writing about in a press release, always put it in terms of the benefits to your customers. “The New Tax Laws Are a Boon to Printers – Or Are They?”
All you need to do is contact the magazine, journal, or newsletter and ask who should receive a press release on the topic you plan to cover. Then send it on. If you have a publicity photo (which you should), send it. Many small publications give preference to press releases and articles submitted with photos. There are many books about the fine points of writing press releases. Consult one of these books and follow its guidelines before sending yours off. If you try to wing it, your odds of having your press release considered will go way down.
The important thing about approaching the industry press, or any press, with news releases or a story idea is that it can’t appear to be self-serving. Certainly you can be quoted in the release or article, but it can’t read like one long ad. It has to be newsworthy.
Use Educational Seminars
Seminars within a narrow niche or market are usually always more effective than seminars that have a broader approach. Educational events will serve at least two purposes. First, they will establish you as the expert in your field with industry specific knowledge. Second, they’ll give you another “warm” way to meet with prospects and clients in your target market. Invite your current clients to bring their industry colleagues to these events.
Sponsor an Event
Your target market is probably full of opportunities for you to gain widespread recognition through sponsorship. Perhaps your target industry has awards ceremonies that can be sponsored in some way. Perhaps your target market, particularly on a local level, sponsors certain charities. Find out what industry events there are and find ways to attach your name to those events. Make the sponsorship directly from you, not just your company. Instead of the brochure saying, “This award is being sponsored by XYZ Company,” have it say, “This award is being sponsored by John Doe of XYZ Company.”
Adapt Your Marketing Materials
A brochure or other promotional piece will always be more effective if it’s tailored to your target market. It builds so much more value in doing business with you. To which company and salesperson would you give extra consideration, one with a generic brochure or one that demonstrates his or her expertise in your industry?
Place Ads Your Niche Prospects Will See
People buy what’s familiar. Given the choice between some person or product they’ve heard of before and one that’s unknown to them, they’ll go with what’s familiar. If you don’t believe this, next time you’re in the grocery store, watch yourself make buying decisions. We all buy what’s familiar. That’s why advertising works.
And advertising does work, depending on what you want it to do. Once you have progressed in your niche marketing activities, perhaps six months to a year down the road, consider well-placed, targeted advertising to your market audience. I say “consider” because I’ve seen so many reps waste money on advertising. Advertising generally does not bring new clients. Advertising creates an impression, and sometimes those impressions are very valuable if you are trying to present yourself as an expert in the industry. Your ads in the industry publications create familiarity.
Use Industry Publications to Stay in Touch
As you read the trade journals, clip and mail the articles that support your activities or that contain valuable information for your clients and prospects. Don’t assume they’ve read that publication or article yet. Jump on the publications as they come in the mail and call your clients’ and prospects’ attention to specific articles they’ll find valuable.
Do You Know Anyone Targeting a Specific Market?
Do you know any financial advisors who are targeting specific industries with success? Do you know any salespeople in other industries who have created an expert status in their chosen niche market? If you do, I suggest you make an appointment to have lunch or dinner with them—to learn from them. What have they found that works and doesn’t seem to work – for them.
Think Long Term
Selecting a niche market, researching it, and then creating a reputation in that niche does not happen quickly – it’s a long-term approach to building your business. Many producers don’t have the patience to work these strategies. However, the ones that do, reap rich rewards. High quality referrals come much easier when you’ve established your reputation within a niche. You’ll be living a “referral lifestyle” and having a great time in the process.