Niche, niche, niche!
You have to have a niche!
Something that most business owners may hear from a number of people when starting out.
Where do we start and how do we go about it?
We know our business, what we want to do, our strengths and the things we need to work on.
Our business plan is drafted, our aims and objectives set, but who is going to buy from us?
Market research is all important, I don’t dispute that, but should I have really known, truly from the start, who would want to engage with me and my services?
I question this because I had a different outlook on who my ideal Client would be a year ago.
I had started working with my first Client who was far from who I thought I would start working with.
I had been in a corporate world for over two decades, suited and booted, in central London executive offices that exposed me to a different world.
Although I dealt with a wide variety of people within the business world (clients, senior colleagues, subordinates, mentors, mentees, service providers, stakeholders, the list goes on), it was most definitely corporate (even those that are less corporate than their competitors).
I knew that world and I knew it well.
So when I set up my business and was told I needed a niche, in truth, I wasn’t sure how I would do this.
Are we really creatures of comfort?
I thought I may be able to work with semi-retired consultants that were transitioning out of their corporate roles - a service I still provide and can do with ease because I understand the adaptations they have to make.
I could provide cover for senior executive assistants that were absent for longer periods because I was able to fire fight and pick things up quickly as I had been there myself for many years. I have had no take up on this and can see the many reasons why this may pose challenges (albeit not insurmountable).
Whilst continuing to ‘think corporately’, I never stopped engaging with people that were appearing on my other new avenues.
What I knew for certain is that I didn’t want to set myself boundaries of offering just ‘this’ or ‘that’ in any particular field.
For those that do offer one particular service or a variety of services within one particular industry, I applaud you. Your channelled focus allows you to do what you enjoy most and streamline that service to the nth degree.
I have never been used to working in one area and sticking to it; and having worked diversely, putting my hand to things I could already do and learning things I couldn’t yet do, drove me to create a different niche for myself.
A new chapter provided an exciting adventure for me to get to know a wide range of people from all walks of life. I was and continue to be keen to meet new people, learn from them and develop ideas collectively. My new business opened up a variety of new opportunities in a more natural and less contrived way by committing to being myself and doing what I knew best - working as hard as I could to create the highest quality results, offering more than a ‘does what it says on the tin’ service in a no nonsense way. Entrepreneurs, coaches, teachers, agents, not for profits, students, facilitators and consultants are a snapshot of people I now work with. I am fortunate to be able to work across various industries but that can’t be attributed to one thing alone. My transferable skills gained through a degree in Hospitality coupled with the hands on experience from working in senior roles, especially being part of the senior management team in a previous corporate role, enables me to view things from all angles. I can see things from different perspectives and I know the assets everyone can bring to a business will create a greater sum of its parts.
Can it come from experience?
A large part of it, though, is my life experience.
Having travelled extensively as a child, moving from one country to another every three to four years, fitting in with different cultures, travelling independently to and from boarding school in North Yorkshire from the other side of the world for over eight years has been a huge influence on how I set about doing things.
I had to 'just get on with it'.
When I started my business, I decided that I wanted to be known for offering people more than the box standard service they may find elsewhere.
Some people call themselves (OBMs) Online Business Managers or EVAs (Executive Virtual Assistants).
I was not fussed about a title, it is my experience and capabilities that are important: http://LinkedIn.com/in/anna-allan-
I set AKA Virtual Assistant up with a strong work ethic and a promise to myself and all those I work with to maintain my core values:
Honesty and integrity with professionalism, communication and commitment - with decisions based on the belief that every task completed is done with first class service and unfaltering dedication.
I feel so strongly about doing what I believe is right for others that it is on the first page of my website: https://www.akavirtualassistant.com/
I hoped that my logic, no nonsense approach, quality, efficiency and ease people get from me, above all things, would attract the ideal Client.
I decided that it is my service delivery that would be my niche.
The first year in business has been a learning curve.
I don’t disagree with those that say it takes a while for you to really understand where your business is heading and who will be on the journey, medium to long-term, with you.
My first Client enquiry was exciting, maybe even a little nerve racking. I challenge any new business owner to deny their first opportunity because they feel it might not be in their business plan.
It came during the first Covid-19 Lockdown. For me, my ‘niche’ being more centred on the way I deliver my service than who I work with or in what capacity, allowed me to work with anybody that needed me.
A year on, I feel more confident with who I would like to work with.
I have worked hard to build authentic relationships on social media platforms - I appear on LinkedIn, FaceBook and Instagram daily.
It is not about being the centre of attention or spouting for the sake of it. I made a conscious decision, early on, that my use of social media was about meeting new people, getting to know them better and building relationships naturally.
The ideal client
I have learnt a huge amount in my first year of being a business owner with Clients.
Through meetings and encounters I have had, I have naturally attracted a certain personality or sector.
I have found my ideal Client through the progression of my business without fully realising it until I reflected on what I have enjoyed since I started working with my first Client in June 2020.
I have learnt like-minded people are drawn to me and those I like working with most:-
They are determined, focused and know what they want to achieve.
They are committed to becoming more organised and want to remain so.
They trust me to help build relationships with their Clients, knowing I can positively represent them.
They listen to my recommendations for processes and systems to implement.
My niche is formed by my work ethic, attitude and delivery.
It's your attitude that counts
By offering a more strategic viewpoint, a more ‘giving’ result, I don’t ‘just do’ any given task. Through what I suggest and help implement for my Clients, I attract the type of person who clearly knows what they want but might not necessarily know how to achieve it. I can then deliver the top quality service that makes their life easier.
Is my niche set in stone?
Yes and No.
Yes, I will always maintain my core values and work ethic.
No, everything in life is up for adaptation and change.
As long as value is being added, I shall continue to do what I’m doing but as soon as I recognise that people don’t want what I offer, it will be time for a rethink.
Will I turn a prospective Client away because they don’t satisfy the checklist on paper?
No, however, I have recognised that, during conversations with a few people, we would not be well suited working together so I have politely declined the opportunity to work with them.
You see, for me, it’s not about working with anybody and making as much money as possible. If I feel a person’s values may be misaligned, or if I can’t see that I could bring value to them or their business, I do not feel it worthwhile for us to engage further at that time.
I continue to want to make a positive difference and make people’s lives easier.
It is rewarding for me to stick to my niche that I have discovered to be successful over time to attract and work with the kind of people I want in my life.
I consider myself lucky to have worked with a wide range of people with differing characters because it has set me up with a solid foundation on which I have used, and continue to follow, through my professional and personal life to do what I do.
So the question is: Do you really need to niche?
For me, provided that you have a clear understanding of what you would like to achieve in your brand-new business, it may not necessarily be mandatory to have a well-defined niche.
If you are true to yourself and follow your head and heart, together, in all that you choose to do, you won’t regret the decisions you make, even the wrong ones.
A new business will take you in all sorts of directions that you may not expect.
Provided you stick with your values and your mission, your niche might just come to you.
To discuss your niche and how I can help, get in touch for a free, no obligation chat.