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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Taking your ideas for a ride – or why I can’t write a book (Part 2)

On 20 September I blogged about my client and riding instructor, Debbie, who thought I was joking when I suggested that she write a book. (Click here to read Part 1.) I knew it would be a great way to promote her services and to share her knowledge with some of the thousands of horse owners in the country.

Well, after Debbie stopped laughing, she agreed to spend half a day with me and Sarah Williams, The Book Consultant. Sarah has published many books herself and now helps business owners to write and publish their own books. She’s working on a clever process that will allow even more people to get the ideas out of their head and onto paper. Unsurprisingly, she’s writing a book about it and when it’s out, I’ll let you know. Without giving away too much at this stage, Sarah is developing a specialised thinking and planning process. She avoids putting too much structure into ideas too early on, keeping the structure as loose and provisional as possible, for as long as possible. The way she did this with Debbie was to start by asking her what riding is all about. The negatives and positives all went onto a flip chart – all carefully colour coded. Then she asked Debbie about the process she goes through with new clients (riders) and again the answers went onto the flip chart. All this took a couple of hours and really gave us time to explore the ideas and issues in plenty of detail.

Then we took a break for lunch (and a glass of wine – very important for the creative process!) After lunch we went back to the flip charts and suddenly things started dropping into place. From all the ideas and the loose structure, we could see chapters and sections of the book start to emerge. At the start of the day, if we’d asked Debbie what she wanted to write about, I don’t think she’d have known. But when Sarah asked her now, she could see quite clearly the important aspects that she wanted to write about. Out of the colours and words on the flip charts – out of the provisional structure – came a plan and a process for the writing. How clever is that!

Many people who want to write a book just don’t know where to start. 95% of the people who think about writing a book don’t ever do it. If you really want to write a book – to promote what you do and build your reputation or just to share your ideas – then don’t be one of that number. Get in touch and Sarah and I will see what we can do to help you get the book written and then promoted to the world.

How do you SURVIVE TEN years in business?

Chantal

This was the subject of the presentation I gave at a breakfast networking meeting on 16 June. If you missed it, or if you were there and you’d like a reminder, here are my 10 tips:

Smile – whatever happens, keep smiling. When times are tough or you have a difficult task to get through, find ways to keep yourself motivated and give yourself rewards for reaching your targets, however small.

Unique – what makes you different? Be clear about why prospective clients should work with you instead of your competitors. Don’t try to be unique in the same way that everyone else is!

Referrals – give plenty of referrals and you will receive plenty. Think about how you can connect people, even those who don’t need your services, because they will repay by sending referrals your way.

Voice – learn to speak in public, so you can promote your business with confidence and passion. Join a Toastmasters group and learn how to do it properly.

Ideal clients – decide who they are and then only work with them. “Attracting Perfect Customers” by Stacey Hall will help you find them.

Vision – draw your dreams! Write or draw them onto a big sheet of paper. Cut out pictures of where you want to be and what you want, as a constant reminder.

Energy – don’t run out of it! Look after yourself by taking regular days off and holidays. Eat well and get plenty of fresh air and exercise.

Team – build one around you, because you don’t have to do it all. You can take on staff, work with freelancers and outsource what you don’t like doing.

Empowerment – motivate your team and inspire them, so they work hard for you. Don’t just tell them what to do all the time.

Next – decide what’s next! Set more goals; look for more challenges.

All this and more will be included in my book, once it’s published. I’ll keep publishing excerpts on this blog, so please do let me know what you think! And if you’d like me to come and speak at your networking event, do get in touch.

Learning from your mistakes

Chantal

When we sent out a press release to local journalists, telling them that I’m writing a book about how to survive ten years in business, one of them asked me to send her details of some of the lessons I’ve learnt in those ten years.

I looked through the material I’ve already written for the book and pulled out some key lessons I’ve learnt:

  • Let go of clients if they’re not ideal. I had a client who wanted to send email newsletters to people he hadn’t met at networking events. I advised against it and he went ahead and did it anyway, doing damage to his business reputation. He was paying for my advice and didn’t take it, so I decided I couldn’t work with him anymore and let him go. This gave me room to take on more ideal clients who value my expertise.
  • Always be positive and generous in business. When you go to a networking meeting and you’re not feeling 100% or business is a bit slow, look for the positive aspects to talk about. No one wants to hear you complain about business. Offer as much help as you can to people you meet, without trying to sell to them and they will come back to you when they are ready to pay for your advice and expertise.
  • Keep going! I go networking all round the Thames Valley – in Reading, Newbury, Bracknell and High Wycombe – and often meet the same people in different places. The more times you meet someone, the more they will get to know about what you do. It’s also important to use the same message and branding, so that no matter where people meet you, they recognise you and your business.

 And here are some of the bigger mistakes I’ve made:

  • Letting go of the finances. When my business was about 4 years old, I used a virtual PA who also did my bookkeeping. I thought this was a great thing because I didn’t really like doing the numbers. Then I had a VAT inspection and it turned out that the books had been doing incorrectly for about a year. It took time to sort out and I had extra VAT to pay, which I thought I’d already paid. After that, I took on a proper bookkeeper who sends me monthly management figures that I can use and understand. They help me keep track of the finances and help me make decisions about the business.
  • Working too hard. In 2007 I got quite ill because I was working very hard and trying to do everything.  By the end of the year I wanted to sell my business and give it all up. I’m glad I didn’t! Now I can recognise when things start going downhill and I take time out to look after myself and recharge my batteries. Riding my horse over the Berkshire Downs is one of my favourite ways of doing this!
  • Don’t do something if it’s someone else’s idea. I was encouraged to organise a large business event at an expensive venue, because they thought it would work and thought I could pull it off. It didn’t work and cost me a lot of money. Now I follow through ideas that are mine or that really inspire me to give them my all.

We all make mistakes along the way and I think that’s OK and only human. Just remember to learn from your mistakes and do what needs to be done, to make sure you don’t do them again.

3 more tips from my book

Chantal

Having just sent out a press release about the fact that I’m writing a book, to celebrate ten successful years in business, we had a request from a local journalist for more information. She wanted to know some of the lessons I’ve learnt and the mistakes I’ve made over the last ten years. Here’s some of the more positive things I told her!

  • Let go of clients if they’re not ideal. I had a client who wanted to send email newsletters to people he hadn’t met at networking events. I advised against it and he went ahead and did it anyway, doing damage to his business reputation. He was paying for my advice and didn’t take it, so I decided I couldn’t work with him anymore and let him go. This gave me room to take on more ideal clients who value my expertise.
  • Always be positive and generous in business. When you go to a networking meeting and you’re not feeling 100% or business is a bit slow, look for the positive aspects to talk about. No one wants to hear you complain about business. Offer as much help as you can to people you meet, without trying to sell to them and they will come back to you when they are ready to pay for your advice and expertise.
  • Keep going! I go networking all round this area and often meet the same people in different places. The more times you meet someone, the more they will get to know about what you do. It’s also important to use the same message and branding, so that no matter where people meet you, they recognise you and your business.

What are the key lessons you’ve learnt from being in business?

How to write a book

Chantal

Last Friday morning I took myself out of the office and away from its distractions, so I could spend some time working on my book. Unless I set aside specific time and go somewhere peaceful – like my kitchen table – I just don’t seem to find the time to write. My poor book isn’t getting the time and attention that it deserves, so I’ve decided to treat it like a client and allocate time and space to it each week.

Last week’s task was to finish the proposal for my book. I want to find a publisher who will take it on, to handle all the setting, printing, promotion and distribution of the book, so I need to write a good proposal – a sales pitch – for it. My proposal talks about who should buy the book, what they will get from it and why any publisher would be mad not to take it on, because it’s going to sell so many copies! It talks about how I’m going to promote the book – through this blog, my newsletter, twitter and through running workshops on topics I’m covering in my book.

I’ve put together a table of contents for my book and this was a really good exercise to go through. It got me thinking about the main issues I want to write about – the chapters – and the topics within those chapters – the sections. Now each of the ten chapters (one for each year of my business) has four sections. I’ve written a summary of each chapter, explaining briefly what each chapter and section is about.

Now that I have that structure, writing the book is going to be much easier. Any time I have an idea of something to write about, I look for where it fits into the structure and write it into that chapter and section. If I’m stuck for inspiration, I can just pick a section and work on it. And all the time I’m writing, I remind myself that this book is about how to survive the first ten years in business; and that I want to inspire and motivate others to do the same. With that focus, I’m less likely to go off track and forget what I’m writing about and why!

Have you thought about sharing your experience and expertise through a book?