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Marketing to a Niche

How do I get the word out about my business in a very specialized market?

This story appears in the October 2002 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Q: I want to start my own homebased drafting business That specializes in residential design. How do I go about finding customers? Do I put an ad in the paper?

Name withheld

A: The most direct route to getting started is apt to be working with and through contractors. Because most homes are not designed by architects, and a great many building projects are remodels or additions, contractors are either responsible for coming up with the plans themselves or will recommend their clients to a draftsman.

Advertising a service like drafting is not likely to do much more than reinforce your name with the people you have contacted. And unless you do it on a regular basis, it might not even do that. So you need to put your time into making contacts and building relationships with contractors.

In addition to looking in print and online yellow pages, you can identify contractors in The Blue Book of Building and Construction (www.thebluebook.com). This directory covers contractors nationwide; in the Dallas area, for example, you'll find 895 firms. You may also be able to meet contractors as well as homeowners who might hire you directly through networking groups and chambers of commerce.

Another possible source of income may be overflow work from architectural and engineering firms, and you may find hourly work through agencies such as headhunters and job shops.

Paul and Sarah Edwards' most recent book is The Entrepreneurial Parent. Send them your start-up questions at www.workingfromhome.com or e-mail entmag@entrepreneur.com.

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