This article was written by Ed Hatton for
the column the Start up Coach and published by the South African edition of
Entrepreneur magazine in February 2011 and is posted here by their kind
Growing a business in a niche market
needs a strong understanding of your clients.
A young entrepreneur has developed a personal PA service. Her company handles the
personal, social and home management aspects of her clients’ lives. She wants
to market her service to entrepreneurs, as she believes this is her ideal
target market: people who do not have time to take care of daily non-business
related chores themselves. However she is not sure how to cost-effectively
market her service to such a niche client base.
This entrepreneur has devised a service to support busy and successful people who do
not have the time to manage homes, social activities, gifts, pets, bills,
licenses and the many other activities that are a part of modern lifestyles.
She has identified her target market as successful entrepreneurs who do not have
support systems in place. As a typical start-up the company needs steady income
from contracted clients. Like many entrepreneurs she had developed a website,
and placed a couple of adverts in a lifestyle related magazine, but has had no
I wonder how often I have heard the phrase ‘and we didn’t even get ONE lead from that…’ Remember this: A single advert or
sign that describes your business is highly unlikely to bring sales leads.
Advertising is great at generating enquiries from prospective clients, but only
as a part of a campaign. Start-ups with limited marketing budgets usually need
to find alternate ways of finding prospects.
Start off by ‘fishing where the fish are’. In other words identify the target market very
tightly. In this case it is easy to define a likely client. He or she would
probably be relatively young, recently highly successful, a home owner in an
affluent area or moving to one, probably with children, a single parent or a
part of a working couple, hard working and away from home a lot. Older, more
established wealthy and busy executives are more likely to already have support
systems for their lifestyles, so are less attractive targets.
Defining the target market like this is worlds away from simply sending messages to an LSM
band, and often gives clues on how to approach potential customers. For example
young purchasers of homes in new affluent areas could be contacted by setting
up alliances with estate agents, removals companies or architects, all of which
could become service providers to other clients of her business. Success
profiles in the media, exhibitors at franchise shows and entrepreneur awards
could provide her with target clients. PAs could be a wonderful conduit to
potential clients, with many of them currently uncomfortably doing personal
tasks for the boss. She could join clubs and societies that such people are
likely to frequent, and attend seminars where they may be speakers and
attendees, and exchange lots of business cards and brochures that stress
She must develop an attention catching approach, remembering these are busy people. A
gift, an e-mail or a brochure designed to get an opportunity to present her
services are possibilities. An immediate
requirement is to develop an ‘elevator pitch’ – a very short and interesting
description of her business highlighting the benefits to clients. Gaining
publicity in a newspaper, magazine or on radio could generate interest.
Potential clients for this service are going to use the internet extensively, and her
marketing must use all of the possibilities this presents. Her website must be
accessible by search engines and links from other sites search engine
optimisation needed to do this is an absolute must. Social media marketing is
likely to be effective for this type of business, and is very cost effective. I
recommend she should learn about this and plan and implement a campaign. Like
most marketing effort social media will not produce a quick fix – results take
Now for the bad news. The first few clients of her business will be tough to get, and
approaches to potential clients who do not know her will be required. This
activity is embarrassing, demoralising and includes lots of rejection, so
entrepreneurs shy away from it, but she does need to learn how to make sales
from cold. She also needs to recognise that initial clients will make demands
which may not fit into her pricing and service model – she needs to be flexible
to develop happy clients, and then things will get a lot easier.
Right now she needs to get out there and take charge of the opportunities waiting for her
as opposed to sitting passively and waiting for people to beat a path to her
door. That will come later, and the sense of achievement of having made it
happen herself is one of the best rewards for an entrepreneur.
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