Guest columnist

Column: Find focus, clients by finding niche

Guest columnistDecember 16, 2013 

Are you trying to get every customer? If so, that could be a problem.

Identifying a niche is one of the best things a small business can do. A niche helps a company focus limited resources and get the most bang for its buck.

Olalah Njenga, whose YellowWood Group helps companies align marketing strategies with sales goals, highlights the perils of not having a business niche in her book “37 What Were They Thinking Moments in Marketing.”

“There are some business professionals who are terrified of niching their services,” she writes. “The scarcity mentality kicks in and … they can’t imagine how narrowing down their focus to serve the needs of a segment of customers can be more profitable than serving every customer they can find.”

A niche gives owners the power to say “no” to work that doesn’t fit their companies’ goals and clients who aren’t ideal, Njenga said. “The best part is you’ll have the time, energy and excitement to serve those ‘yes’ customers with integrity and a keen sense of focus.”

Reversible Renovations in Raleigh is doing just that, because not having a niche “is suicide,” owner Heather Lord said.

Lord’s contracting company focuses on seniors and people with disabilities who want to modify their homes so they can continue to live there safely. Renovations include a plan for returning the home to its original state if the need arises.

Renovating a home with a curbless shower, wheelchair ramp or chair glide for stairs is typically less expensive than using a nursing facility, which can run from $3,000 to $5,000 a month, said Anne Showalter, head of marketing for Reversible Renovations.

“We don’t do general contracting; we only work with people who have a disability and who are aging in place,” Lord said.

When Lord owned a day treatment center for at-risk youths, others would ask her to recommend a contractor who could modify a home to accommodate residents with special needs.

Most contractors would “look at me like I had three heads.”

That led her to develop a niche contractor business.

Her friends and business contacts embraced her concept, Lord said. She gained an investor, a general contractor and a marketing director.

Now with strategic partnerships, Reversible Renovations builds elevator shafts and works with a company that installs the lifts. It helps security companies customize alarm systems so they are easily accessible. Medical equipment suppliers ask her how to make their products work in homes.

“It’s a very good way for them to build a clientele without having to do the (contracting) work themselves,” Lord said.

Digital content specialist David Baldwin said it’s smart to have a niche. He organizes meetups and classes aimed to help entrepreneurs create unique, expert online content.

“When you make the decision to draw a line in the sand and pick a specific niche,” he said, “you begin to actively look for opportunity rather than passively wait for it to come to you.”

Sheon Wilson is a personal stylist and writer in Durham. Find her on Twitter @SheonWilson.

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