Do you need a niche?

Chantal Cornelius, Appletree MarketingA while ago I wrote about how important it is to identify your ideal clients – the people you really want to work with and who really want to work with you. Click here to read that blog post. Once you know who your ideal clients are, you can take it a stage further, by identifying a niche.

What is a niche? It is a really narrow market in which you specialise. It is a way of positioning yourself as an expert in your field. It is a way of helping other people to network on your behalf and send you referrals to your ideal clients. For example, your ideal clients might be women in corporate jobs and your niche – your specialism – might be helping them to lose weight and get in shape after having children. Or your ideal clients could be companies that want to sell their products online. Your niche could be retail shops within a 15 mile radius of where you work. In my case, my ideal clients and my niche are very close – we work with coaches, consultants and trainers and provide them with marketing services to help them grow their businesses.

So why do you need a niche? Surely if your focus is too narrow, you’ll risk losing business from other potential clients? You might, but if they’re not your ideal clients and they’re not in your niche, chances are you won’t do a really great job for them. It’s a competitive market out there, so if you stick to your niche, you can position yourself as an expert in that field. This will help you stand out from the crowd of all the other people who say that they do what you do.

When you have a niche, you can use it to position yourself as an expert, and then you can do things like speak to audiences about your subject – click here to find out about a workshop I’m running for coaches, consultants and trainers who need help with their marketing. You can even write a book about your niche – click here to read about The Client Magnet – How to Market Your Services as a Coach, Consultant or Trainer.

So what’s your niche? Do you have a really narrow focus that will help you become an expert in your field? If you need some help working out your niche, tell me in a comment and I’ll send you some feedback.

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Is tweeting a waste of time?

Alice

To the uninitiated Twitter may be considered a useless pursuit. The idea of reading these little ‘messages’ that rapidly zip past your eyes, all seemingly unconnected with each other, blathering on about nothing in particular, would seem like a waste of time.

Until you analyse why people do twitter. Social networking is about being sociable, and forming relationships with each other. It’s about spreading news, sharing information, meeting new people, learning what’s happening, finding out what others are doing or have achieved, reading what others have written – all enabling you to engage without the expectation of gaining.

You could trundle along with your business totally unaware of what is happening outside your doors, or you could, from the comfort of your computer chair, be alive to all that activity online. It can be focused within certain areas: local issues, your niche, a particular subject, your competitors, your friends or enemies, your hobbies, political news, the latest gossip – and you aren’t expected to be able to follow everything, or it will drive you mad!

So how does it help your business? Of course raising your company’s awareness online is always good, and you can feed your blog posts onto Twitter to reach a larger audience, link up to your website to bring in more traffic, and connect from your other social networking sites (Facebook, LinkedIn) where you can write more than 140 characters. You can undertake market research by asking questions or following trends and topics, tweet your problems to receive immediate solutions or a link to relevant resources, find out the latest news before it breaks, and learn about other people’s thoughts and aspirations on particular subjects.

But all this twittering would be a waste of time if you didn’t have a focus (this is true for all marketing activity). Are you using it for brand awareness, or for research purposes? Do you want more visitors to your website, or to increase the subscriptions to your blog or newsletter? Are you curious enough to keep an eye on your followers, or just chancing on interesting conversations? Many networking meetings have been arranged through Twitter, with business formed from the results. Many conferences and workshops have gained increased attendances through focused twittering, and skills and expert statuses raised from poignant and relevant tweets.

So who now says tweeting is a waste of time?

What does a website review involve?

Alice

I’m doing several website reviews this week. The main brief is to find out whether each website attracts the right kind of customer, and whether the right message is being put across.

The first thing I look for is whether I understand what the main subject, niche or industry the website is representing. This may be obvious, but some businesses get so bogged down with trying to describe what their business is all about, flourishing as many jargonised words as possible in order to appear impressive, the true concept can be totally clouded and almost impossible to comprehend.

I have seen some websites that don’t even mention the actual subject, eg the word ‘marketing’ on a marketing site, within the first paragraph – in some cases not even on the front page! This is because the authors are so full of their business, they omit the keyword that matters most; it’s almost that because they have the subject in their brain, they assume the website visitors will also have it in their brains too!

The next thing I look for is what the website can offer me. Just me, an everyday, ordinary person who just happened to come across their site. This doesn’t mean banging on about how wonderful the business is, how long it has been running for, how much experience it has, bla bla bla – it’s about what the business can offer me to make my life better.

To be honest, visitors don’t give a tinker’s toot about your business, they only want what they can get out of it for themselves. Customers are notoriously selfish, self-centered and greedy, therefore you must take advantage of these traits and change the way you deliver your product or service. This means you must work out the benefits of what you are offering, and plug those in an easy-to-understand language and layout.

For example, if your business is about printing, why not work out, through marketing research, exactly what your customers want, and give it to them. Such as, offer a simple ordering system for quick and easy business cards, or for several thousand leaflets to promote a pizza bar; adapt your services to make it as easy as possible for customers to get what they want.

Then I assess the website’s call to actions. This involves how visitors respond to these three options:

1) the visitor goes further into the site to find out more (a conversion from the index page);

2) the visitor signs up to something such as a newsletter or gives their contact details for a special report or e-book (collection of data for future communications);

3) the visitor disappears (a bounce).

Of course the website owner doesn’t want the third option to happen, so how the index page is constructed should be geared towards the visitor deciding on one of the first two options. This means the main content should act like a signpost to the benefits the website is offering, how the business recognises the pain or problems the customer has, and what solutions it can provide.

The navigation should be designed so that the visitor doesn’t have to think about what to do next, he just clicks on an obvious link to find out more; and the sign up forms for the contact details need to be so compelling and accessible, combined with the necessary incentives, the visitor provides his information effortlessly, and receives his prize quickly and efficiently.

So, take a look at your website and see if it complies with these criteria, and if it doesn’t, then get in contact for a website review.

Does blogging have an etiquette?

Alice

People have various concepts of what constitutes blogging etiquette. Of course there are the obvious ones like being nice to other bloggers, and much of these suggestions are just common sense, so no etiquette is set in stone and does rely on the goodwill of the bloggers themselves.

Here are some to consider:

1. Don’t be rude, show respect and be polite to other bloggers and commenters.

2. Don’t copy other content without asking first. If you are given permission, fully acknowledge the author.

3. Remember to link to your resources and expert sources.

4. Don’t expect anything in return from linking to others, it’s not compulsory.

5. Respond to your comments in a cheerful, positive and thankful manner.

6. Don’t leave spammy comments on other people’s blogs.

7. Use your identity when blogging, don’t hide behind a persona.

8. Own up to your mistakes, it makes you more human and therefore likeable.

9. Stick to the subject of your posts or blog’s niche, don’t go off at a tangent.

10. Use correct punctuation, grammar and spelling, avoid text speak or colloquial language.

11. Don’t pepper your post with jargon.

12. Don’t overdo using keywords for SEO purposes, less than 10% is acceptable.

13. Check what you say is true by researching your facts properly, and never lay claim to content that isn’t yours.

14. Share good posts liberally on social networking sites.

15. Remember everything you publish is on public display, so check whether you really want to say it.

16. Don’t swear or use bad words, it isn’t impressive and can offend.

17. Make sure your pictures are suitably resized, to prevent lengthy downloading of your overlarge images.

How many others so you know of?

Bring your business to your customers, not the other way round

Alice

Gone are the days when customers came to you. The internet may be compared to a massive shopping-mall, but it is, of course, so huge, there is no way anybody could possibly walk pass your shop (website) unless they knew it was already there.

There are some websites that capitalise on this phenomenon, due to their reputation. They may display a select niche unavailable elsewhere, or provide a service that is second to none. They certainly will have a select following who sing their praises, and word-of-mouth and referrals can be the backbone of a business’s survival.

The alternative, while you are trying to obtain these dizzying heights of recognition, or fine-tune your reputation, would be to increase your visibility. To confirm my first statement, you need to go where your customers are, as well as being very easy to find.

Of course the optimum place would be on the first page on Google (every Search Engine Optimisation provider’s objective), but this is notoriously difficult to achieve. Google positioning is as unpredictable as the British weather. Research into patterns of how visitors use search engines show that many don’t pan below the ‘fold’, the area underneath what is visible, and approximately 80% don’t go further than the first page of their search.

You could spend some money on a pay-per-click campaign (Google Adwords) to achieve your first page position, but bear in mind that only about a third of surfers look at the sponsored ads. And unless you know exactly what you are doing, a huge portion of your marketing budget could be whittled away, especially if you don’t know what your objectives are.

There are alternatives to raising web-visibility. Social networking sites (Facebook is the most visited website online; Twitter is aimed at increased PR and brand awareness; LinkedIn is aimed at professionals and their Answers section could certainly raise your expertise status), blogging (which should act as an interactive hub of your online presence) and YouTube (where adverts are watched far more than on TV, and are searchable for criteria and keywords) should certainly be added into the equation, and form a considerable part of your online-marketing stategy.

So my questions are: what are you doing to bring your online presence to where your customers are? And if so, are you reaching out to the right kind of customer, or are you frequenting the correct social media for your target market? (This sounds like a subject for another post – watch this space…)

10 top tips for Twitter

Alice

These tips were compiled for a social networking seminar given last week, so I’m sharing them with you:

1. Write quality tweets

It’s extremely important to write good content. If people read contributions that are relevant, educational, entertaining and useful, they are more likely to follow you. Build up your audience from worth-while tweets and try to write in full; not everybody can read text-speech easily.

2. Share content

Retweet (RT) anything you think is valuable; it’s both sociable and polite, as well as increasing the tweet’s exposure. If you want your tweets to be retweeted, write them in no more than 120 characters to accommodate your username at the beginning. Remember to acknowledge anybody that retweets yours.

3. Be sociable

Join in conversations if you’ve something good to say. Don’t just lurk in the shadows watching the world go by; make yourself more visible by contributing and people will answer and maybe even follow you. After all, Twitter is a ‘social’ networking site.

4. Monitor mentions

It’s natural to want to know if your username has been tweeted, especially as a reply to your tweets. There are various methods of monitoring this, and this phenomenon can be used for other usernames, keywords and hashtags as part of your marketing research; perhaps for a competitor, a particular service or product, a location or an event.

5. Keep to your subject

Focus on your niche or area of expertise, don’t stray into tittle-tattle or irrelevance. As you gain in experience then you’ll know how to cross over the lines, as that’s part of being sociable, but never lose sight of why you’re social networking or who you or your company are.

6. Maintain your profile

It’s important to complete your biography with a weblink and a suitable up-to-date picture. The picture ideally should be the same which you use throughout all your social networking sites to aid recognition. The bio should be succinct and contain all the relevant keywords necessary to promote your business or cause, and maybe your weblink should go to a specific landing page for your Twitter followers.

7. Be consistent

I read somewhere that the optimum number of tweets a day should be 13. This is better than tweeting furiously one day and then do nothing for the next few days. Automate your tweets to space them out through the day, and pop in now and again to acknowledge any responses and to add in extras that are relevant.

8. Get more web traffic

You can automatically feed your blog into Twitter to increase its audience, and vice versa: your latest tweets can be recorded on a blog widget on your sidebar. The more exposure you give your website’s and blog’s URLs, especially with incentivised calls to action, the more people will visit and hopefully interact. All this increased activity will heighten your SEO levels.

9. Don’t sell

Twitter is a social networking site, so don’t adopt the hard sell, or you will be blocked by other users. The idea is to make and form relationships with your followers, so that they learn more about you and you about them. Make yourself useful by tweeting linked information that would be interesting for your followers, which hopefully will be retweeted to a larger audience.

10. Find and follow

Use the friends follow pages to find new contacts. Follow someone you admire and then follow who they follow; some of them might follow you back, particularly if you have good quality tweets. The more followers you have, the larger audience your tweets will have, which makes you more attractive. You could also use Twellow.com to find more corporate followers if that helps you with your marketing research.