Marketing for service providers is a big, broad category of ways to continue to serve your current clients and attract new ones to your services. However, there’s one area of marketing that is a building block of all your other marketing, and without it, it’s hard to have a lot of success. And that is finding your niche–your ideal prospective audience.
In a market that’s completely flooded with content, speaking directly to your ideal client is what makes you stand out. When you use the right images and language that speaks to your target audience, they can feel like you are talking directly to them. Marketing to your niche allows you to rise above the noise.
According to Hubspot, “Working in a niche market is a way to stand out from competitors, helps you establish a positive reputation, and boosts your authority as an expert in your field of business — ultimately attracting more customers to your product or service.”
I couldn’t agree more.
Why finding your niche is so important
For example, think about needing a therapist for your teen daughter struggling with depression from social isolation over the last six months. (Hard to imagine, I know!) You’re going to seek out a therapist who works with teens and most likely is also female.
Now, imagine if you were referred to a few therapists from your pediatrician and you check them out online. One provider has images and language about helping married couples and a phone number you can call during business hours. The other has photos of teens and language that lets you know she understands the struggles your daughter is facing, and she knows how to help her. She has a form on her website that lets you book an intake call with her assistant. You’re probably going to go with the latter.
Finding your niche is easy, once you know who you’re looking for
It’s an unusual age for industry-tailored marketing solutions–one that our predecessors could never have imagined. Gone are the days of placing a print ad your audience is likely to see. Now, with a small budget you can find your exact ideal client by running a social media ad and a Google ad that follows them around everywhere they go. Want to reach Chicago women in their 20s who love cats and yoga for your new line of yoga clothing that features cat images? No problem.
Building a sales funnel for your niche
Once you identify your niche, you can nurture them into buyers. For example, here’s how you can turn these cat yogis into buyers. Once you get them to your site with your adorable ad, you display loads of clothes they would like. And after 10 seconds on your site, a coupon pops up in exchange for their email. Now you can continue to email them every time you have new merchandise or a sale. And you can nurture them with content they’ll love so they stay connected to your brand even when they aren’t buying. 10 tips to get your kitty involved with your morning yoga routine? Yes, please! (I’m a dog person, and I hate cats, BTW 😂 )
This is called the sales journey, and it’s essential to your marketing, especially when you provide services. Your services are likely a lot more money than a yoga shirt (unless you’re a brand like Spiritual Gangster where a simple tank top is nearly $60). This means people might not buy right away when they come to your site, so you have to capture their email and nurture the relationship. Here’s how:
You attract them to your website
You have two calls to action there: an obvious way to work with your for those who are ready and a softer call to action in exchange for their email
You get their email in exchange for valuable information they want
You continue to nurture them with blogs, tips and emails until they’re ready to work with you
What happens when you don’t focus on a niche
Now imagine if our cat yogi gets to the website, and there’s only one shirt there for her. It’s not in her size, and everything else on the website looks like every other comfort wear brand. Plus, it’s pricey and she’s never heard of the brand. She moves on, and she’s not giving her email. She sees their Facebook ad next time (thanks to cookies!), but it’s not even about cats anymore.
That brand lost its chance to get a devoted customer because it was trying to attract everybody. Sure, that works once you’re an established brand with some name recognition, but it doesn’t work when you’re a small boutique starting out now.
When you try to attract everybody, you attract nobody.
My struggle to find my niche
Now, I’m going to be totally honest with you and admit that this is one area of my marketing where I am still struggling. I clearly know I need to find my niche. And I know how to actually find them and serve them well. What I haven’t figured out is identifying who I want to serve.
No one talks about this part of serving your ideal clients, but I’m betting a lot of other consultants struggle with this. Prior to launching Sparkr, I worked in non-profit communications for 17 years. For 10 years of that time, I also worked in freelance digital marketing in a variety of industries. I’ve worked in healthcare, construction, B2B insurance, risk and reliability, architecture, fitness, nonprofit and more.
For all of those clients, I’ve done every aspect of marketing–print to digital. I’ve been a one-woman department, and I’m pretty good at all of it. Sure, writing is my original skill that I enjoy the most, but I’ve had clients where all I did was manage their social media, including $8,000 ad spend per month. I like that too.
See my problem? I’ve always done everything for everyone. That works for the side hustle, freelance world. But it doesn’t work when you have big dreams of growing your business.
How I work on finding my niche
I decided I’m going to share this journey with you. I welcome input.
But mostly, I want to help others who may be in the process of figuring this out as well. I know the advice from all the marketing experts because, duh, I am a marketing expert. But knowing how to do something doesn’t mean it happens overnight. Some things in your business take time. You have to sit on it, ponder it and wait for that spark of knowing.
No one can tell me exactly who I should serve and how I serve them. This is a part of my business I have to figure out myself.
Tips for figuring out your niche
Here’s how I’m working to figure out exactly who I should be serving. You can ask yourself these questions too if you’re also trying to find your niche.
What do you enjoy? I narrowed down my services to what I like best, which is digital content. Forget print marketing. I don’t like creating loads of versions.
What parts of your job are you particularly good at doing? Next, I narrowed down to the parts of digital content marketing I’m best at doing, which is writing and coaching. I’ve been writing since I was in college when I was a journalism major. In my first job at a newspaper, I had to submit 5-7 feature articles each week. I started a food blog just so that I could spend more time writing.
I’ll still do other parts of digital content marketing for clients, like social media, but only if they also want me to write blogs and content.
I also love coaching. I’ve always been a friend who offers advice, and I spend a lot of time coaching my clients as well.
What are you passionate about? Your audience can tell when you’re passionate about your topic. You can become an expert at anything you do long enough and hard enough, but without passion, you won’t hold a candle to the other woman who shows genuine enthusiasm for the topic.
For me, I’m passionate about healthy living, running, being outdoors, living sustainably and healthy cooking. I’m fairly certain that means my niche is somewhere in the healthy, sustainable living department.
What do you relate to? My first freelance client was in pediatric healthcare. I still work for Kids First Pediatric Partners, and I enjoy creating all of their content. I’m a mom of four, who is passionate about healthy living. I am their target market so I understand their target market. I also am particularly interested in research-based health information, so writing about this never feels like a chore.
Knowing all of this, I went ahead and focused on finding clients in health, wellness and lifestyle.
How can you narrow it down even more? Marketing for service providers is totally different than marketing products. In some ways, it’s harder. Remember our cat yogi coupon? You can’t exactly offer a coupon for your therapy session. I’ve always worked with service providers, so that is what I’m continuing to do.
What I still need to do to figure out my niche
You might be thinking, okay, isn’t that enough? I’ve already narrowed down to helping health and wellness service providers stand out with digital content writing. But, no. I’m still not done figure this out. First, health and wellness is a really big, broad category. Do I only do pediatrics? Geriatrics? Both? Do I help private practices, therapists, health coaches or support big marketing teams in hospitals or healthcare technology companies? So far, I’m still doing all of it.
And yet, none of it seems like enough. Because I also have this nagging feeling that I need to make a big, bold, positive impact on the world. I want to help as many people as I can be able to better promote their services so that they can make a positive impact on their communities and the world.
I’m still searching for that perfect overlap of where my interests, talents, experience and passion all intersect to help people in a way they need. If you want to understand this better, check out the new podcast from NPR’s Adam Davidson, The Passion Economy.
This podcast describes exactly what I’m trying to do with my life and career, and I get excited for every week’s new episode.
Here are questions you can ask your clients and people who turn to you for business advice:
I’m still searching, and I have a lot to still figure out. So, I’m reaching out to service providers who have come to me with marketing questions and asking them questions about their struggles.
I’m scheduling 15 minute calls with all sorts of people who have worked with me or reached out for a proposal. Some of them are just friends who I know I could help.
What are you biggest struggles in ________________?
What questions do you have about ________________?
What is one thing you wish you could figure out about ________________?
What’s something about ________________ you had to learn on your own that you wish someone could have just told you?
What would make ________________ easier for you?
I’m hoping that hearing what they need, in their words, will lead me to know the exact way I’m meant to help people.
And this, my friends, is something I can only figure out with time.
If you are a service provider in the health, wellness and lifestyle space and you’re willing to chat about your marketing struggles, I’d love to connect. I promise to offer any marketing tips you need in exchange for your time. Click here to schedule with me