Beware Shallow Niching

Changing your value proposition is not enough to differentiate yourself.

Boutique consulting firms are, by definition, specialized. This means focusing on a small area of a subject, and working with a selected number of companies. But still, many consultants don't seem to leverage the full potential of niching down.

There's a phenomenon I call "shallow niching" - picking a segment or vertical in the market, incorporating it into your value proposition, but running the business as if you served the whole market.

There's an abundance of examples. As part of my volunteering activities, I donate a couple of hours of mentoring every month to small business owners in the UK, and see a case of shallow niching for every 3 or 4 calls.

Last week, I spoke to a struggling entrepreneur that was looking for help to find more clients for his social media management agency. His website consisted of a single landing page, with a clear value proposition: "I help black business owners to attract more clients with social media".

Apart from the poor quality of the proposition, I immediately suspected this was a case of shallow niching. Here's how the exchange went:

  • What kind of unique needs do black founders have when managing social media, that differ from the ones generic founders have?
    Answer: I'm not sure.
  • How is your service better for black founders, compared to the services of a generic marketing agency?
    Answer: I'm not sure.
  • Do you create unique content for black founders?
    Answer: No.
  • Do you have a community or some kind of specific resource that is helpful for black founders?
    Answer: No.
  • If you don't have a specific offering, can't deliver better results, and don't invest in creating specific resources, why have you chosen to focus on this niche?
    Answer: I had to differentiate, and being a black founder myself I thought this made sense.

Changing your value proposition is not enough to differentiate yourself. Niching down, when done right, should be the very foundation of your business.

Here's how you can leverage your niche choice:

  • It allows you to create a methodology and specific offerings that can generate better results for your target audience, in a reliable way.
  • It allows you to better communicate with your audience, by understanding how they speak and what their interests are.
  • It allows you to create relevant content and resources to your audience.
  • It allows you to package, productize, and sell your expertise for your audience.
  • It allows you to become a "category of one" and make competition irrelevant.

Specializing and picking a niche is the most important business decision you have to make, and it impacts your whole business - from marketing and sales, to operations and finance.

Make sure it's not simply an addition to your landing page or social media summary.

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