Niche Hacking — when your ‘who’ opens the door to more
We’re in a season of change and everything is up for grabs from marketing to work practices, productivity tools to meetings and even the hours and place where we work. What we once considered to be the norm has evolved, adapted and changed according to pressing circumstances. We’ve had to innovate and innovate and then innovate some more and just because we are coming out of the pandemic doesn’t mean that the innovation cycle has to stop.
We need to future proof our businesses based on the lessons learnt and while we cannot predict the future we can become more resilient to it, even if the worst happens. We have a responsibility to re-invent ourselves. That means facing challenging conversations around ‘Getting back in the office’ versus ‘Can’t you trust me to do my job?’ Not everyone is comfortable with innovation when it affects them. What is certainly true is that this changing and challenging moment in history has meant a significant, global change to working practices.
So, what does the post pandemic marketplace look like? And how do you market your company in the right way, so as to be heard in this crowded, new marketplace, serving clients as well as retaining your existing workforce? People want more and they want change.
Are there new rules for approaching this brave new world?
When it comes to marketing investment, a rough guide is to commit around 10% of your turnover to ‘raising your voice’. Then, once you’ve discovered what works, re-invest for a time and scale around the new levels of income it produces. This gives you growth, and the more confident you become (and if it’s sustainable) you can increase that spend to 20%.
Added to your marketing investment should be your focus around future proofing. Simply put, building tomorrow today. Some of the major tech giants have adopted the 80:20 rule, where 20% of the time an employee invests is spent on research and development. So we should see re-invention alongside investment to market today’s products. Re-invention should be core to the business operations. Ideally, at least 30% of your business should be about the future and winning new clients, rather than being completely focussed on the present. Addressing the balance of being consumed by doing the day to day prevents us from being taken by surprise and ensures that we are keeping an eye on what our audience needs and how best to serve them.
I have shared many times that we re-invented ourselves internally by introducing the four day work week. Now trials of the four day week are taking place all over the country and I believe that within the next few years it will become the norm. I believe we will have a much better society for it too, by the way! Re-invention is in our DNA. When it comes to working practices it means that 20% of our time is now spent either innovating or just having fun!
30% of our business is focussed on the future and looking after the team with 70% on actual delivery of core products. We are ensuring that the business we work in continues to grow and scale while providing our clients with cutting edge solutions that allow them to deliver on impact.
How exactly do these changed working practices fit in with what our customer needs? Have you ever heard the saying, ‘Happy wife, happy life’? Well, I have a similar saying, ‘Create impact, scale income’. Happier and Healthier staff make for a better service and ensure people love working with us, allowing for Smarter and Kinder solutions.
So as we emerge wiser from the pandemic, how do we future proof our companies with new clients and continue to wow our existing ones? This is done through the power of two things.
Niche Hacking and the Macro Niche.
Many marketing agencies talk a lot about niching down. Niching is the simple practice of identifying an audience and building a business around their specific needs. Then you make sure your message and methods create empathy and add value. The tighter the niche, the more famous you become as it is easier for people to recognise who you are and how you deliver. Unfortunately, in the pandemic, those that were exclusively niched suffered the most. I thought about it a lot and, after much heart searching and head scratching I created a strategy that I believe could benefit any business!
Now, a lot of seasoned pro’s will try and argue against niching and the pandemic had them nodding their heads, saying, ‘Told you so!’ Guess what? You can be both right and wrong. Niche Hacking fixes the conundrum once and for all. Once you’ve got it, you’ll even go ‘next level niching’ with the ultimate Niche Hack, the Macro Niche.
In the heads of entrepreneurs, business owners and leaders the thought, ‘Am I missing out on potential clients by niching down?’ Has been replaced by the question, ‘If I niche down too far will I be really vulnerable and have to close?’ There is plenty of evidence to show that there has been a real danger of just this.
Let me give you a very real example. What if a lot of your clients were from the education sector and then a pandemic hit and they closed the schools, and not only did you lose school clients and revenue, you also lost much of the income from the supply chain? You’d be struggling right? Well, that is a true story, and that was us. Our schools work had made us famous but having to embrace Niche Hacking got us through.
‘Niche hacking’ sounds like another marketing term and yes, it is my buzz word and I’m claiming it. ‘Niche hacking’ works around three key areas and should even protect you from alien invasion, or at the very least, from another pandemic.
‘Niche hacking’ is a process where you allow your company three key niches rather than just one. It allows you to future proof your company. The saying, ’Don’t put all your eggs in one basket,’ for those against niching rings true here but so does ‘If you fail to plan, you plan to fail’.
NICHE HACKING — How it works:
You work in a sector you have the most knowledge and experience in. It was what bought you this far. In our case it was education — we helped to re-invent schools. In a normal world you build your reputation and scale your business around it. As you wow people with your insights and information your reputation grows and referred business takes on a life of its own. This is the power of the niche. Niche hacking, however, prepares you and mitigates sector challenges.
You work in a sector that can benefit the most from your knowledge and experience. They may serve a similar audience but not always be completely related. Think of the sectors that would benefit from your skills and insights if they were applied to this space. In our case, we understood education, but we also realised that with the knowledge economy exploding we could help businesses educate their audience as a fresh income stream. Property developers could show people how to build (rather than just doing it themselves) by building an education platform, complete with pre-recorded content. We took what we learned and diversified the application of our insights and saw business IP being monetised beyond just core services alone.
You work in a sector that you really want to explore, one that you have been curious about. Yes, it will be uncomfortable, but there is something powerful about coming at a new market with no preconceptions which means you think and act creatively without limitation.
When you niche hack you give yourself permission to explore, expand and protect your business from the worst. You still service your niche but you are protected and prepared and you never lose your purpose. Purpose can be ONE thing, but its application can come through multiple channels.
This saw us move beyond education and into fresh areas that would demand a different approach to acquiring customers. This saw us work with companies who had a dormant database and we helped them address their audience’s most pressing need. In the middle of a pandemic an insurance company worked with us to create and deliver content to help their audience go digital (get online). Using the Facebook Challenge model they delivered 5 days training with a clear product to purchase at the end.
This exercise allowed us to connect with more creatives and to help professional services companies get famous for helping their audience in their time of need (not the standard for insurance companies). So, rather than get focussed on the payout, they got focussed on the value add. It created a community and brought hundreds of new clients onboard! A win-win!
This approach is something every business can take if they are brave enough to mitigate the risks and innovate even in trying times. Learn to plan your Niche Hack and protect you and your clients from quitting. Help them to pivot towards better things.
Here are some rules to keep you focussed on the journey of Niche Hacking…
DON’T GET DISTRACTED
Don’t do work that is not aligned to purpose.
When you know what to say yes to, you should find it easier to say no. Be braver about saying no. Some clients are not the right fit, they might not be bad people, but it just doesn’t work. The product is wrong, they seem to know better (time tells), or most importantly, they distract you from your core mission. We had clients that were ALL about MONEY, (by their own admission) and needless to say, we moved on. Nonetheless, the strategies we gave them are now core to their business model!
Don’t work on things you don’t enjoy.
Life is too short to work on projects that you hate. There is more to life than money and chasing money alone will stall your enthusiasm. You can only fake the enjoyment for a moment and you’ll find it harder to bring momentum. Your team will also like working on certain things so include them in the prospecting process. Ask them what they enjoy and you might discover a NEW niche hack.
Don’t work in a space where there are no competitors.
There are always competitors. Even if you have discovered a new product that is so new no one has heard of it, you will still be competing for spend. Think Apple iPad when it came out, the spend was being used on several pieces of tech, each doing similar things. The difference with the iPad was that it did it all.
Don’t dismiss the power of next.
Life changes and what used to work doesn’t work anymore. Only recently, the iPod was discontinued because now we do everything through our phones, but Apple survived because they learned to predict what the customer needed ahead of time. They consult mid teens about what tomorrow should look like and that gives them the confidence to meet the needs of both today and tomorrow.
DO GET CONFIDENT
Do build your business around three key niches
You ARE already an authority in one space which allows you to refine your processes and transfer them to other niches. To become more of a specialist in a new niche, fill in your knowledge gaps by asking the right questions. For instance, if you started by following people in one niche on Twitter, and started to read their blogs, watch their YouTube, listen to their Podcasts and even read the odd book on their subject, you can do the same for the new niche. Knowledge creates confidence.
Do everything you can to maximise your IP
Your knowledge is transferable across multiple mediums. So if you write blogs, learn how to write books. If you do Podcasts, film them and become a story teller on YouTube. If you teach principles and patterns, start teaching them to camera and earn money while you sleep, as people can do your courses without you in the room. One piece of content can be distributed in many different ways, but as you gain traction, the other channels may signpost people to the main one. Social media, email and app can point people to your podcast.
Do your best to connect with specialists
Yes, we only have so much brain power and time. Some people are exceptional in one area and thinking diversely will send them into melt down, but as you look to scale as an entrepreneur, business owner or leader you will need to make alliances with specialists. Invite them on a podcast, join you on a summit, co-teach, or stock some of their product on your website to help you reach more people.
Do realise that everyone can win
Seriously, in the UK alone we have 68 million people so we all have room to do a spectacular job. The tighter your niche, the more you make it a space for only you to play in. Rather than compete, we can learn to complete one another. Insecurity is an ugly place and purposeful business has no space for it. We don’t want to waste time fighting for value, we want to spend our time giving value!
And now for the power move…
DISCOVER THE MACRO NICHE HACK
In my life, Niche Hacking helped me enter the pandemic with one company and exit with three. I learned to serve my target audience with multiple businesses (I’ve dubbed this the ‘Macro Niche Hack’).
A Macro Niche Hack is where you have served your niche audience so well that it gives you room to serve them in different ways. It meant that I was able to mix marketing with software and personal development. Furthermore, if you’ve served multiple niches you have the ability to go BIG but ensure that everything is linked, so you can serve businesses wherever the need arises, from a place of scaling to a place of distress. You can serve them no matter where they find themselves with products to ensure they get through the storms!
Doing this allows you to launch with less risk and retain expertise in a group of businesses around your core purpose. The Macro Niche Hack is the ultimate entrepreneurial hack, with a much lower risk than starting from scratch.
Here is how the Macro Niche Hack worked in my life…
25 years brand marketing experience helped me build a team that put purpose at the heart of business with a team of epic storytellers.
We built great websites, and developed more and more complex software solutions. Then, with a member of Cre8ion’s staff we launched a new company with some great clients who now benefit from the input of two sister companies.
As an entrepreneur I was well aware that with all the grind it can be hard to be Happier, Healthier, Smarter and Kinder. So I co-founded a company to do just that, with one of my coaches in the entrepreneurial space!
In a world that demands more of the innovators, the Niche Hack gets you traction while minimising risk and the Macro Niche Hack allows you to build a group of companies with less risk and serve your audience on a deeper level.
I hope this makes sense to you! If you’d like some help to identify new target markets and work out how best to serve them, contact us today for a workshop.