I work with many business-owning moms who come from a corporate background. These are brilliant women who have exciting ideas and amazing work ethics, but were frustrated with corporate policies when they started their families.
One of the problems that these women have is inconsistent sales. But that’s just a symptom. There’s nothing wrong with their product/service. In fact, most are amazingly good. I learn so much from my clients!!!
A major reason that I see is that these women are building their services and throwing them out into the general marketplace.
That’s like crafting modern gemstone jewelry and setting up a table at the kind of flea market where your neighbor sells tube socks and the bobble-head vendor is across the aisle. Most traffic isn’t even going to see your table, with it’s little items.
And if people are attracted to your table, they’ll assume your jewelry is costume jewelry because that’s what they expect to see. You’ll make no sales and everyone will tell you you’re charging too much.
Many formerly corporate business owners lack a niche. A place or wedge in the market. They’re trying to sell to anyone and everyone. And since they can’t target someone specific, their marketing tends to focus on the features of their product. In effect, they’re talking about themselves, which never sells as well as talking about the customer.
I explain a niche to clients as the intersection of the problem you solve for people, which people want that problem solved, and the way you solve problems. Even companies who seem to sell to everyone have a niche.
See if you can picture who the customers are for:
I left out some of the more obviously niched examples (Apple, Neiman Marcus, Bell + Howell, Abercrombie & Fitch) and I’ll bet you could still get a good picture!
The real problem is that the corporate world led you to believe that when you started up your own thing, you could just jump in, start working, and sales would take care of itself. It rarely works that way.
The Internet is a crowded place and everyone’s competing for attention. Nobody is going to “stroll by” your website storefront. And it’s not likely your marketing budget is big enough to compete with the corporations you just left.
If getting more focused on a niche is a solution, have you wondered why corporate life may have conditioned you away from that idea, even when it trained you well in process and procedure?
Why you may not think enough about your niche
Large corporations have many niches
Although it may look like a company such as Dell Computer doesn’t have a niche, what it really has is many smaller niches within its market. First, they focus on two large groups and market very differently to each – the consumer market and the corporate market.
But even within those, there are further breakdowns, and again, the ads and marketing for those breakdowns are very different. For example in the consumer market, there are two (among many others!) niches that our household falls into. Funny because it’s my son that has prompted both of these. And I’m the big spender on Dell computers, not him. But I tend to buy refurbished higher end laptops, so I bypass Dell altogether.
Our house gets paper mailers for low-end household computers and monitors because we bought a school laptop for our son. And even though he’s not really a “gamer” he’s searched for a lot of games and watched many YouTube playthroughs. So, I see lots of online ads for the Dell Alienware and G-series laptops. Those two campaigns are wildly different!
Because they’re so large, they can have multiple products and multiple marketing campaigns. But if you think back to the beginning of Dell, they had one market – people who wanted PCs at a good price.
Larger corporations have broad niches or general markets
Once a corporation grows, they can expand their niche. They have the money it takes to advertise heavily to different groups. And you can expand too, once you’re established.
But to get someone to pay attention to you in a general market, you need to have a big set of customers already or tons and tons of money to spend on marketing.
A good example here is your favorite college indie band. Remember them? You could get right up to the front row for every show, and you might have had a beer or two with the band. Their marketing was social media posts and flyers on bulletin boards.
But then, a few years later, as more and more people just like you saw their shows and bought their albums, other groups started listening to the band. And now, they sell out stadiums. They had to move from specific niches to a more general market.
For most people, when they started work, the niche was already established
When you first started your corporate job, the niche the company served was already established. You didn’t have to think about or decide on a niche (unless you were in marketing). It was there for you. If the company was smart, they had a vision statement and a mission statement that spelled that out for you.
Most of the niche-specific decisions had already been made for you.
The customer for most corporate folks was internal and was required to buy from you
One of the corporations I worked for was a major telecom company who had many niche markets and products for each of those markets. I led a team of developers for a few different products and offers over the years.
My client though, wasn’t the end user of the product. I was selling services to the internal product manager. And, that manager was required to buy development services from our group. So even though I did have clients I had to please, they were internal, and were a sure-thing. Even when we missed the mark completely.
You’re rewarded for being the best at your job
And I think the sneakiest reason that formerly corporate business-owners don’t think enough about their niche is that when you work at a company, you’re rewarded for a job well-done. You get promotions or raises for personal achievement (hopefully!). And if you’re known to be good, your group or division gets better and better assignments .
When you’re in the early days of running your own business, the market isn’t going to reward you for being good. Even if you’re the best ever at what you do, no one knows it. The market rewards the most compelling, targeted offer made frequently and loudly. And as business-owning moms, we’re not always comfortable with that.
So you do need to think about your niche. And you can just pick one and go. But my take is that you need to do a little work first to know where you want to focus your efforts. It’s one of those chicken and egg things.
We’ll be talking more about niche over in the Done by 3:00 Club Facebook Group, including my thoughts on selecting a niche. Join us in the group or go read more about the monthly challenges we’re doing in the group.
But if you’re someone who has been trying to reach “all small businesses” or “women” or “everybody,” start thinking about what groups of people need and/or want the products and services you’re providing. Keep those people in mind as you create, write, design, and market. It’s a good place to begin.