Everybody is talking about niching down
It seems like everybody is talking about niching down these days, so it must be the best thing to do. But what if the thing that everybody is claiming to be the truth, actually isn’t. If you want to stand out from the crowd you have to be different. If everybody is doing something, than the way to stand out is to not do what everybody else is doing. If everybody in your industry is niching down, is it possible that there might be room for you to not niche down? Could un-niching possibly be THE niche, when everybody else is niching?
What if your definition of a niche was totally different than that of your potential clients
Do you believe that everybody agrees on what a niche is? What if you are a photographer like me. You could also be a web designer, or an SEO expert, it really doesn’t matter what your skillset is, this concept will apply to all of us. Would you believe that my niche is photography? Or, more specifically advertising photography? Or maybe, with the concept of niching down, my niche is advertising photography for brochures in the tourism industry, in the Florida Keys, which it actually was until I retired at 38.
So you would think, rightfully so, that my niche was doing advertising photography for brochures in the tourism industry, in the Florida Keys. Right? But in the Florida Keys where I spent most of my career, there were lots of photographers, all of whom would gladly take photographs of your motel room for your brochure. Photographers were literally a dime a dozen. And I was just one of the crowd. No matter how much I “niched down” I was still just one of the crowd, I was still JUST another photographer. And that is how every motel and resort owner in the Keys saw me too. Photography, and photographers, were just a commodity to them. And they were the potential clients, who hired the photographers to photograph their properties. So what could I do to stand out from the crowded field of photographers in the Keys, all of which would cut their rates to get a job, because every other photographer was also willing to cut their rates.
The right question to ask turned out to be not what I thought my niche was, it was what niche that the potential clients were looking for. My concept of my own niche made me just one more photographer in a very crowded field. If I could fit what potential clients saw as a niche, I would stand out from all other photographers. They would just be photographers, a commodity. What could I do to have a niche in their eyes, to stand out from everybody else?
What the clients idea of a niche is
I started listening to what clients, and potential clients said. I asked questions, and I listened some more. What I learned was surprising. None of the clients I had, or potential clients I talked to, wanted to hire a photographer. They didn’t want photographs of their motel rooms and beaches. They didn’t even want brochures at all. I was confused, for a while, then I started thinking like a client.
What the potential clients wanted was more customers, so they could make more profit. To get more customers they had to advertise. And brochures were how they advertised. They didn’t want brochures. They needed brochures! Brochures were just a NEEDED business expense. Brochures were just one of many business expenses that they had. They didn’t want to spend even one dollar on brochures, and photography. They needed to, but they didn’t want to.
Photographers, and they’re photographs, were just a commodity in the eyes of the clients. So were graphic designers who designed brochures, and the printer who printed brochures. All of them were just commodities that every motel owner had to deal with in order to have brochures to advertise for more customers. And they hated dealing with photographers, graphic designers and printers. They had to do it, but they hated doing it! And they hated spending the money. But the thing that they hated most was the headache of dealing with photographers, designers and printers.
Then came the next question that I started asking. Why did all of the motel owners in the Florida Keys hate having brochures made. Today we have digital cameras and everybody can take decent photos, even if they know absolutely nothing about photography. But back then, before digital cameras, photography was something that most people couldn’t do. It took lots of knowledge and experience to get good photographs. And guess what? Those motel owners were intimidated by photographers because they didn’t understand photography. They were also intimidated with graphic designers for the same reason, and the same thing for the printer. They were intimidated because they didn’t understand anything about making brochures. And they didn’t feel comfortable even asking questions because they felt so ignorant of the entire process.
I found my niche. I became a sales rep for a printer that specialized in printing brochures for the tourism industry. For that day forward I was not a photographer. I was “Dan- the brochure guy”. I provided a turnkey brochure production service. I took the photos and took care of designing and printing. The motel owners only had to deal with one person, me. And I made everything so simple for them they loved the experience.
They didn’t seem to care about how much I charged, which was awesome, because my day-rate was twice as high as any other “photographer” in the Keys. I made pretty good sales commissions too from the printer. I never advertised, my business was strictly all by referral. I made a lot of money. Enough to retire when I was 38. I traveled the world and did everything on my bucket list, except seeing the northern lights.
I had seen my niche as an advertising photographer specializing in tourism in the Florida Keys. My clients saw me as the “brochure guy”. As the “brochure guy” I stood out from all the “photographers” in the Keys.
What is your REAL niche?
Are you a photographer like me? Or are you a web designer? Or SEO expert? Or maybe another speciality? Do your potential clients see you as a niche like you see yourself? Or as just a commodity? Are you clients wanting your services? Or are you just another commodity to them, that they need to help them make more profit? Is there anything that you can do to stand out from the crowd, no matter what field you are in, so that potential clients see you as a real niche?
To learn more about Dan Baker, you can read his bio and client list. You can read all of Dan’s articles at his archive. He uses the techniques in the Super-Niche to build the website for Fulltron Aviation, which is an umbrella of several aviation related businesses: Flight School, private airport, a social organization called the Hillbilly Squadron, and How-to GoPro videos.