The challenge of determining when and how to grow is one that plagues many firms. This is especially true for “generalist” firms—i.e., firms that serve every type of business or individual. If your firm is in this boat, consider developing a niche practice.
A niche is a specialized market segment. Niches can come in the form of industries, service lines, or even sociological, environmental, or attitudinal shifts. Focusing your marketing efforts on a particular niche not only gives you a target market, it also allows you to develop unique expertise that sets you apart from your competition.
So, which niche is right for your firm? While you don’t want to expand beyond your firm’s capabilities or into an unprofitable niche market, you may need to take a few chances to determine which niche is best for your firm and clients. Thankfully, there are techniques you can follow to make an educated decision when the time comes.
To help you avoid uncertainty, here are a few strategies for developing a robust niche practice that’s relevant and reasonable for your firm.
Consider Your Competition
A good method of judging a niche’s relevancy to your firm is to examine the niches your competition has recently entered. Researching where your competition has found success can give you insights into the current needs of consumers.
Look at Trends
Another strategy for narrowing in on your niche is to look at what is trending. In other words, research newly popular or quickly growing market segments and industries. Which ones would be a good match for your firm’s service offerings and expertise? Could you easily pivot your services to serve one of these trending areas if needed?
By identifying trending niches and evaluating their relevance to your firm’s capabilities, you can focus on the ones that could be profitable for your firm.
Examine Market Data
Don’t forget data! Market data in the form of economic or industry data can be useful when identifying trending niches. Additionally, examining your firm’s market and client data can give you an idea of the types of markets and industries you currently serve. If you’re seeing an uptick in business from a particular segment, this could be the very beginning of your niche practice.
That being said, there’s more to developing a niche practice than mining data. For example, let’s look at Sensiba San Filippo, whose Director of Marketing and Sustainability Jennifer Cantero successfully launched a sustainability practice. While undergoing the B Corporation certification process for her firm, Jennifer realized that their clients might also benefit from this kind of service (i.e., assistance with setting up a B Corporation). At the time, no other accounting firms were offering this service, so she felt she had to at least give it a try.
Jennifer suggests that while market analysis is important, you shouldn’t let it get you down. Sometimes you have to take a shot in the dark to find out whether something will be successful. She recommends going with your gut, even when the odds seem against it.
Today, Jennifer’s firm is benefiting from her 2018 initiative to create a niche practice like no other. As other accounting firms scramble to catch up to Sensiba’s practice, Jennifer is thankful she and her managers attacked this niche when they did.
Analyze Client Needs
Client analysis is also an important tool to use when narrowing in on your niche. Your firm’s ultimate goal is to meet the needs of your clients, right? While you may have successfully fulfilled some of your clients’ needs, they may have other problems you can help them with as well.
When you determine your clients’ unmet needs, you can analyze where your opportunities lie. In doing so, you may be able to help them solve more problems, increasing the value of your firm—and strengthening these relationships.
Tap Into Your Team’s Knowledge and Skills
The final strategy for identifying the right niche for your firm is to consider your team’s potential. For instance, if you have a team member who holds a rarely-used professional certification, could you be doing more to leverage this individual’s expertise? How could your clients—or a specific market segment—benefit from a service line built around it?
When you recognize untapped talent and expertise on your own team, you open the door to endless possibilities. One possibility could end up being just the opportunity you were looking for.
Ready to Reap the Rewards?
Developing a niche practice for your firm can bring about several benefits, from establishing your firm as an unrivaled expert to making the most of your team’s talents and credentials. Focusing on the right niche is critical to developing a robust practice—and achieving meaningful growth for your firm.
About Christine Hollinden
Christine M. Hollinden, CPSM, founder and principal of Hollinden | marketers + strategists, is passionate about helping professional services firms distinguish themselves from the pack. Her forward-thinking approach has earned her industry recognition as evidenced by the firm’s nationwide client base. Her competitive spirit has helped hundreds of firms build brands, create niche practices, and expand their practices. In her spare time, you will find Christine playing golf, cooking a gourmet dinner for friends, or leading the Houston Chapter of Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, the oldest wine and food society in the world.