Finding Your Niche as a Small Business
Part One in the Branding Small Business Series
This is the first part of a series of blog posts about branding small business that I hope will help you to build more confidence in your brand.
First, a quick bit about me: I'm Rhiannon, and I work exclusively with small business on their branding as a brand strategist, content strategist and brand photographer. I believe in people who chase their dreams and carve their own path in life and supporting small and local is my most important brand value.
One of the most important aspects of building a strong brand is about telling your story- and storytelling happens to be my area of expertise! So here we are: part one of my actionable plan to help you strengthen your brand, no matter what stage of business you're in, from start up to growing to well established in your industry.
Finding or Re-Evaluating Your Niche
Niching down is a term used a lot in small business chat, and it simply means finding your place in your industry. For many entrepreneurs when they start out, they want to keep things as broad as possible: if you ask who their target market or ideal client is they will say "everyone". But they will quickly learn, as did I, that it's near impossible to market to everyone, and if you started a business to do more of what you love and less of what you don't love, the sooner you niche down the better.
Your niche will probably change as your business develops and grows, and typically speaking, the more specific your niche, the stronger your brand will grow. It's important to re evaluate where you are in your industry, and where you want to be, to make sure you're still on a path you're excited about. After all, that's one of the best things about running your own business- you get to choose your path.
Here are three steps to helping you determine your place in your industry- and help you see if any changes need to be made to get you to where you want to be.
Step One: Thinking About the Scope of Your Work
Most of us have a scope of work within our business, offering more than one product or service to our clients. If you love absolutely everything you're doing- well done you (and why are you even reading this post?!). If you're like the majority of working people though, there are probably some things that you LOVE about your work and others that you'd happily stop doing.
Ideally, we would want to do ONLY the type of work we love. I'm not talking about the different hats we wear as business owners (that's for another post), but rather the different types of projects we work on/services we offer/ products we make.
For example, if you were a jeweller and you made engagement/wedding rings, occasion pieces and classic everyday jewellery: do you love all three areas of that work or is there one you would love to get rid of if you could?
Thinking out loud, honestly, about the types of projects we do and which ones we get most excited about or feel most passionate about, the types of projects that almost don't feel like work- those are the ones we want to focus on getting more of.
On the other side of that, are those that feel more tedious, don't come naturally to us or that we just don't get excited about doing- those are the things we want to move away from, take on less of, or perhaps get rid of all together.
EXERCISE PT 1:
- Make two columns on a piece of paper: "LOVE" and "DON'T LOVE"
- write down each different type of work you do under the appropriate column (if there are some that fall in the middle, add a third column for "like")
- take a moment to reflect on this: how much of your workload is in the "LOVE" category? If most of it is, that's great! Keep doing what you're doing, but consider promoting the work in the "Don't Love" column less, until ALL of your work falls into the areas you love. If most of your workload is in the "don't love" category though, think about how you could change that. Could you promote the services you love more and promote the others less? Could you create different types of content that bring in more clients in the are of work you love? Could you stop offering those products and services completely to give you more time to focus on what you love?
Strong, strategic branding will help you get more of the work you want and less of the work you don't love- and identifying those things, and then creating a plan of action is a great place to start.
Step Two: Thinking About Your Audience
When was the last time you thought about who is actually in your audience- the individuals that make up your community? Your audience probably encompasses both your professional network and your clients- past, current and future- a group of people who consume and engage with your content, and on the other side of that who create the kind of content you are interested in seeing too.
Every time you share content, you want to have your audience in mind: how will it benefit them? Will they be interested? Will it entice them to engage? Will it lead to new enquiries? These questions are all easy to answer if you really know who your ideal clients are, where you fit into your market, and what your USP (unique selling point) is- and if your audience is made up of the kind of people you love to work with.
Most of us aim to build our audience, especially on social media, but having a large following doesn't mean much if it's not converting to business. In short, it's so much more important to have the RIGHT audience than it is to simply have a large one.
If you have 10k followers, but have less than 1% of them engaging with your content, the majority of them are probably not your ideal clients. If you have 1k followers though, and are getting 5 or 10% engagement on your content, that's a lot more beneficial.
Focusing on building an audience of likeminded people will make your content that much more effective- which is the whole point of creating content- rather than getting caught up in vanity metrics (on this point- buying followers is a HUGE no no).
EXERCISE PT 2:
Take a look at your followers on social media channels (or email list if social media isn't your game):
- who engages with your posts most often?
- who creates similar content/ has a similar perspective on things?
- whose content do you engage with most?
Take a look at your posts:
- which types of posts do you most enjoy creating?
- which posts have the most engagement?
(side note: use your "insights" info to get the actual figures on these- you might be surprised!)
From here, you should be able to see if your ideal client is who you thought they were, and you can amend your profile accordingly. You can also see who loves your content, and whose content you enjoy and keep that in mind when you are seeking new accounts to follow and deciding who to follow back.
From a content creation perspective, you can use this new info to make sure you are creating content that suits that updated ideal client profile. You can also start to plan your content around what is working best: creating more of the types of posts you enjoy creating/your audience most engaged with and less of the types of posts that aren't getting much response.
Sometimes re-evaluating your audience gives you the insight to take things a step further, not just with the content you create but also with the products and services you offer- more on this in step three.
Step Three: Thinking About Your Strengths
As a small business owner, you solve a problem (or several problems) for your customers. I love thinking about business this way- it's about helping people who are in need of your products or services. I don't just "do branding" I help small business owners build confidence in their brands and stand out online.
If you make artisan chocolates, you don't just "make chocolates" you provide ethical, handmade chocolates with locally sourced ingredients for those who care about the world around them.
You get my drift- we offer more than just our basic job title and we started small businesses to provide a product or service that we saw there was a need for. For many of us, we started businesses doing the things we are most passionate about and feel we are best at- and those things can change or evolve as our businesses and our skillsets grow.
EXERCISE PT 3:
What problems are you currently solving for your community?
- which problems do you feel most confident solving?
- which ones do you most enjoy solving?
- what do you get the best feedback on?
Once you've assessed what you are doing best, you will have a better idea of where to focus your work. That might mean just continuing doing what you already do (in which case, good for you- no need to reinvent the wheel), or it might mean offering something new, or more of something you already do.
My Own Experience: how re-evaluating my niche led me to focus on small business branding
To finish things off, I thought I would share my own experience here and let you see how this played out for me. I have always been told I have a gift for storytelling, which I am passionate about, and it has been the basis of everything I've done in my professional life. From studying film and photography, to getting a degree in Journalism & Comms at uni, to starting a business as a photographer and then to building this business, first focusing on brand photography and now moving into brand strategy as well.
When I started this business, I assumed brand photography would be where I would stay. As time went on though, and I re-evaluated all of the things I mentioned above: the type of work I was most excited about doing, the type of people I love to work with and the audience I had built, and the feedback I was getting from clients, I realized I was missing a trick by not offering brand strategy as a service. It became very clear that I was doing a lot of brand strategy already, in the way I researched and planned my photoshoots, in the advice I was sharing with clients about content creation and the plan I was providing for how best to use their images- almost all of them came back and said how valuable that knowledge was, naming it as one of my biggest strengths.
By evaluating the work I loved the most, really getting to know my clients and their needs, and listening to what they had to say I was able to identify a hole in the market and a new service to offer. I solved a problem I didn't know existed, one I had no idea I would excel at solving.
I hope this helps- make sure to do the "homework above to make sure you make the most of what you learned!
Need some more help with your small business branding?
If you're feeling stuck on evaluating your niche, an impartial, outside perspective can help! I offer power hours to dive deep into one specific aspect of branding, as well as full brand strategy, content strategy and brand photography services. Get in touch for a complimentary discovery call to find out more: firstname.lastname@example.org (or fill out the contact form below).