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Specifically Speaking

Do I need to niche or no?

Question: I understand the need to focus and find a niche. However, when I come up with a good niche, I think of all the reasons it won't work and I'm back to square one. Is it better to begin marketing my business to a more general audience, so I can get started and then find my niche, or vice versa? Help!
Heather Malecha
Northfield, Minnesota

Answer: We strongly believe in identifying with a specialty or niche when you're starting out. It creates the impression that you have know-how, so even people who aren't interested in your specialty will respect your skills and ask "Do you also do . . . ?" or "Could you also work with . . . ?" Through having a well-defined niche, your first clients may not even be in the specialty you've identified. It's possible that your initial client or clients may lead you to a different specialty or niche market.

This is not to say you should pick any specialty just for the sake of having one. Your niche must be one in which you are qualified and thus a believable expert-one in which you have contacts, work experience, a high degree of interest or a lot of potential clients who really need what you offer. For example, selecting a photographic editorial service for your niche might not fly in Wichita, Kansas, but would in a publishing center like Manhattan. Take a look at community spending patterns and how much is spent in the type of niches you could choose. The local chamber of commerce may have this information, and many government statistics are available on the Web (see www.fedstats.gov, which has great links to data). A specialty need not limit you, but it does give you a way to both stand out from the crowd and remain flexible as your business takes form.



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This article was originally published in the July 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Specifically Speaking.

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