Niche marketing is a simple yet effective idea. Done well it can deliver great results and for relatively little cost.
Marketing your business can sometimes feel discouraging. Perhaps you’ve already invested in a visual identity, website and other promotional items, or run or sponsored events, or experimented with advertising and the results have not been what you’d hoped. There may be a good reason for that.
The ‘too general’ trap
Marketing is at its most powerful when it taps into the specific needs, desires and characteristics of a well-defined target audience. But it’s easy to fall into the trap of marketing a general service (financial advice or planning to help you achieve what you want in life) to what is effectively a general audience (anyone locally with investible assets of £x or above, for example).
How niche marketing can help
Niche marketing is about zoning in on a very specific target audience. One you can get to know well, build your service around, target effectively and grow a reputation amongst.
It can make sense commercially, helping you get maximum bang for your marketing budget whether big or small. And there’s a potential compliance angle to it too.
Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has produced the Product Intervention and Product Governance Sourcebook (PROD) rules designed to help firms improve product governance and oversight, for example by ensuring products meet the needs of one or more identifiable target markets, are sold through appropriate channels and deliver appropriate outcomes. To that extent they can complement a niche-marketing approach.
You might be tempted to go with broader target audience definitions, to keep your options open and not exclude anyone for whom your services may have some appeal. But it’s a balancing act. The broader you go, the harder it gets to target precisely and effectively. You risk ending up in the generalist trap.
Your existing client bank, practice location and personal background can all be good places to start when developing a niche strategy.Have you already had success with a particular type of client you could begin to target more intentionally? Examples might include the recently divorced or those specifically looking to put in place an intergenerational financial plan for their family.
Are there any local groups you might naturally target and already have some interactions with? If you are based in a rural area for example, what about farmers and local landowners? How can you tailor your services to meet their specific needs?
If you have moved into the advice or planning business from a previous profession you understand well, and so have a natural affinity with and personal connections to, could you build on this?
It’s similar to developing a networking strategy. Some of the things you might do include finding out what societies (or their local branches) your target clients are likely to belong to, what events they typically attend, who their key peer influencers are, what publications and websites they respect and go to for resources and guidance and - of course - the financial planning issues that most challenge them and that you can build your service around.
One of the advantages of true niche marketing is that it is often possible to manage things so that time-overhead is your main cost. It’s unlikely to be necessary to spend large amounts on paid advertising or sponsorship for example. Where you do consider this it’s more likely to be for smaller events or publications where costs are not prohibitive.
Attending relevant events to network, offering free seminars to local branches of relevant societies or even helping to organise community activities can all be good ways of building relationships and gaining trust.
It’s likely to take a while to build momentum with any new marketing strategy so it’s important to keep focused on your strategic goal and not give up too quickly. But you also need to know when it’s sensible to call time on elements that are sucking too much resource for no real return.
The key is to keep things under regular review, build on what’s working and keep up-to-date with the changing challenges and priorities of your target niche.
Please remember the value of your clients investments and any income from them can go down as well as up and your client may get back less than the amount they originally invested.
Sara Wilson, Head of Platform Proposition, Alliance Trust Savings Limited
Sara joined Alliance Trust Savings in March 2013. Previously, she worked for Standard Life and Xansa, a technology outsourcing company. She received a BA Honours in International Business from the University of Teesside and a Post Graduate Diploma in Marketing of Napier University, Edinburgh.
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