I have learned a lot from the book, ‘Get Business To Come to You – A complete Do It-Yourself Guide to Attracting All the Business You Can Enjoy’ by Paul and Sarah Edwards. There are quite a few ideas in this section that are drawn from that. I recommend getting a copy yourself as it’s full of fantastic ideas and insights.
One of the first things that the book explores is the idea that many businesses fail simply because they aren’t focused enough.
Are you working in lots of businesses?
Do you hope that you can make money by doing a variety of different things and targeting lots of different markets? Are you are waiting see what takes off; maybe you think being flexible will open up more opportunities for you?
If so – STOP! You need a complete rethink.
If you are spreading yourself thinly across several activities the truth is that you are likely to struggle to get any work at all. You will probably be perceived as a jack of all trades and a master of none; be seen as unfocused and probably thought of as someone with quite shallow knowledge and skills in each of the areas you claim to work in. It doesn’t matter whether that is true or not – what matters is how you are perceived by potential clients.
Are you a graphic designer who also does house sitting, bookkeeping and pet walking? That sounds ridiculous, but I’ve met many self-employed business owners who have several business cards in their wallets; ready to present the appropriate one to whoever they meet at a networking events.
Inevitably after they present the first business card – talk about that business and if they sense that you aren’t in the market for what they offer – they will tell you that ‘that’s not all I can do… I also do….’.
At this point you are thinking, ‘hmm a bit unfocused and desperate for work’. That’s not the sort of first impression anyone wants to give to a potential customer.
Don’t be a generalist
Nobody wants to employ a generalist; what they want is someone who is an expert in their field – someone who has experience and is known for doing what they do – and doing it well. Potential clients/customers will instinctively feel that they will be able to rely on someone who is an expert in a narrow area.
In order to get a continuous flow of well paying work potential clients need to know what business you are in.
You want people to seek you out because they need a specific service and they’ve heard you are the best person for the job.
You won’t be ‘the chosen one’ – because you are the cheapest; or because you advertise more; not because you talk yourself up more than everyone else – but because they have been told that you are who they need to speak to.
To get to the point you need to become well known in the right places; and develop a good reputation. Do that and word of mouth will bring you all the work you need.
The authors of ‘Get Business To Come to You’ are perfect examples of their own message, they had been trundling along doing various semi-successful activities but it wasn’t until they fully focused on helping the small businesses that they becomes super successful themselves,
“We knew we had to make a choice, and so with some discomfort we put these projects away in the back of a filing cabinet. But we have never regretted making these difficult decisions, because once we committed to focus our work together on providing information and resources on self-employment, almost as if by magic, our careers took a significant leaf forward and have unfolded in rewarding ways. Of course it wasn’t really magic. It was commitment, dedication, hard work, and determination. It was because we were giving this one goal and this one dream everything we had to give.”
‘Getting Business To Come to You’ was the main book I read when I started up my own business. I took their advice and I can tell you that it works. Here are some testimonials I’ve got from clients,
“Our charity scoured the myriad of adverts offering accessible website designs; but which one, at what cost, a series of never ending questions, search after search.
One name Jim Byrne kept appearing, not in the form of advertisement and promises, but praise for the work he does in development, design and tutorials on accessible website design. ” Terry Moseley President British Disabled Angling Association
“When we were looking for someone to design our new website we literally looked the length and breadth of the country but Jim’s understanding of the sector and his superlative technical skill made him stand out from the crowd! Eleanor Brown Project Co-ordinator Lead Scotland, Get Connected and Lead
How do you make the choice about what to concentrate on?
Unfortunately there’s no guaranteed techniques to help you make a choice; you have to make a decision after considering the pros and cons as you see them. Ultimately the decision will be based on your gut instincts.
An idea that has helped me when trying to make a decision – is the notion that there are no wrong choices – they are all right – but each takes you down a different path. Each path will bring its own opportunities and it’s own adventure.
If you really can’t decide on just one thing; maybe you need a logical ‘umbrella title’ that explains a related set of skills and services
Maybe one single activity can’t make make enough income to sustain a business; consider how related activities can be marketed under a single umbrella title; just ensure that they would logically go together in the minds of potential customers.
A personal assistant for example will be expected to have many different skills as would a business designed to help other business startups. People will feel they know what these jobs are; they would have no problem in understanding that you specialise in helping new businesses.
Things you might want to think about when considering your choice of business:
- Of all the things you are working on which one are you most enthusiastic about?
- Which one do you already have skills and experience for? Maybe one of your potential businesses is training; are you a good communicator? good at putting you ideas down in writing; good at making complex ideas simpler and clear to understand?
- Which business elicits un-asked for compliments from clients/customers?
- What business do you already have the largest network of contacts in?
- Which business opportunity has the biggest potential demand for your services? Clearly you don’t want to start a business in something that nobody wants. However, don’t choose a business solely on the grounds that you will make the most money from it. If can’t get enthusiastic about it neither will any of your potential customers – and the rewards will remain potential and never be actual.
- What business are you prepared to commit to long enough that you make an impact; to the point where people know your name and automatically think of you first.
The benefits of specialising in just one business:
- You can focus your energies on a single activity. You will have the time to become the expert you claim to be.
- You can charge more for your services; people are prepared to pay for a specialist. The last thing you want to aim for is to be the cheapest, as that just means you need to work longer hours to make a living.
- You will be clear about what you do and so will your potential customers.You will be abel to explain why you are the best choice.
- You can be the guru at the centre of your own network of contacts and clients.
- It will be easier to create your marketing plan; your target market will be more focused.
As a specialist – you should also think of yourself as an expert and a ‘thought leader’ in your area. The ultimate expression of this approach can be found in the book, ‘Tribes’ By Seth Godin which is about leadership, and finding your community of followers. In the context of your business your job is to attract followers of your ideas, your values. Ultimately those followers will buy your services or purchase your products. http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/seth_godin_on_the_tribes_we_lead.html
Unusual niche’s to inspire you
I’ve also heard of businesses that sell CD’s containing songs and music aimed at dogs. if you met someone at a networking group who wrote songs for dogs would your remember them? I bet you would and you would probably tell everyone you met about them for the next few days.
How to find your niche
When deciding what it is you are going to specialise in you are looking for an area that provides and intersection between your interests, your experience and your opportunist.
- What areas of work do you find interesting and/or challenging?
- What type of people do you like working with?
- Is there something you’d like to do that will make you feel that you are making the world a better place?
Your Experience and resources
- What experience, contacts and skills do you have?
- What existing networks do you have?
- Are you aware of legislation that creates a need in the area you would like work in.
- If there is legislation related to your niche can you create a need for your work based on compliance with that legislation?
- What are those people in your target market complaining about; can you help?
- What industry trends are creating new opportunities and new needs?
Write down answers to the above questions and then look for overlaps between them. To give you an example, I’m interested in design, computers, computer programming, social equality and I like the approach and attitudes of people who work in the not-for-profit sector.
I have a lot of experience in computers – having started as a computer programmer back in the late 70s and early 80s. I also have qualifications in computer as well as more arts based subjects. I also worked in the Voluntary Sector for a number of years providing training to disabled people. While working in that sector I got to know a lot of people which meant I had a network of contacts.
The introduction of first the Disability Discrimination Act and later the Equalities act means that organisations have a legal obligation to ensure that disabled people are not discriminated again, including on the web. It’s agains the law to have a website that isn’t accessible to disabled people.
Putting all of these things together the niche I choose to pursue was accessible website design aimed at the not-for-profit sector as it fitted my skills and my existing networks.
TAKE ACTION: Do the above exercise and find your unique niche even if you are already in business; it may reveal new opportunities or a new market you should be targeting. Try to be as creative as possible, both in revealing hour interests, experiences and opportunities and in how these could be combined in a business.