Among agency owners, there's a well-known saying that goes like this: “All of your clients start to look alike.”
Because it’s easy to end up attracting prospective clients that look like your previous customers.
Based on your case studies, for example, you know, if you happen to work with a lot of software companies, other software companies take note. They see your case studies, your social proof, and how you helped similar companies in the past, and this makes them want to also work with you.
It's kind of like a circle that goes on and on.
This might sound great, but there’s a word of warning.
You have to be very careful with whom you decide to offer your services to; Especially in the beginning when you’re choosing your potential niche.
Why? Because it's going to be really hard to break out of this “cycle” once you start down this path.
Once you have identified who you want to serve (your ideal target audience), you'll find that the referrals come from a similar industry and your marketing materials end up supporting a particular niche, or client base.
So it pays to consider a niche market really carefully.
Is “no niche” ever a good idea?
Perhaps you’re thinking - “Fine… I won't niche down.. A generalist agency might have greater success."
But in my opinion, this is a death sentence for an agency because it's hard enough to stand out when you have a good service, but if you're not in a specific niche, it's going to make your marketing efforts so much harder.
So forget the no niche. At least in your beginning phases, it's important to have a core focus.
How to choose a niche focus for your agency
It’s important to start with your strengths.
Which industry do you have experience with?
Is it social media management? Real estate? Email marketing? Working with law firms? Do you love doing beautiful design for companies? Or really enjoy working in a digital industry?
What are you great at doing and do you have specific connections in a certain industry that you really enjoy?
Personally, when I chose my niche, my strengths were in B2B email copywriting (thanks to years of freelance experience) so naturally, I gravitated here when I forced myself to choose a niche.
Side note: I rejected choosing a niche for several months, but was frustrated with marketing efforts that felt were spread too thin. When I chose a niche, things went much smoother on the client-acquisition side of things.
Define a service
So when I started Salesbread I thought about a few options for choosing a niche.
First, I wanted a really specific service. A laser focused approach to my agency.
So I thought about either specializing in cold email outreach, LinkedIn outreach, or even content marketing.
But this thought process was still probably one really basic level. This was'nt much of a niche just yet.
Define your target market, industry type and size
On the other side, I had a second option which was marketing to a specific ICP.
I thought of setting up an agency that served a particular customer type and I would be flexible with the services we offered.
For example, we could have done for you digital marketing service for plumbers. We would do their website, their PPC ads, and even online reputation management.
And in my opinion, that's more of a well-thought-out niche.
Because it's focused on one kind of user.
We could even go a step further..
We could do marketing for plumbers looking to scale from the 250,000 mark to the 1 million mark in revenue. Now, you're not looking for every single plumber BUT rather plumbers of a certain market size.
This is where we start cooking and getting way more specialized as our niche agency.
You could even get more refined and say you would like to do marketing strategy for plumbers with more than four trucks on the road and 10 technicians.
So now you're going after plumbers of a certain size. This is where you really start defining your niche.
The evolution of choosing your niche - The Salesbread story
But when I started Salesbread I chose to combine both cold email and LinkedIn outreach for an even sharper approach.
(Just a quick backstory, Salesbread used to be called emailsthatsell.com. Some people like the name, but it was actually quite difficult to spell. People couldn't understand if there was more than one “S” in the name.)
Initially, I chose to offer a cold email and cold email-only service.
And, then I chose to offer cold email, but only to a certain customer type. And in my case, it was B2B SaaS companies.
That was when I looked at my first couple of paying customers, and this gave me valuable insights, based on current buying data...And bear in mind, when I just began I didn't even have a website for the service.
It was just me reaching out to industry connections, past clients, that kind of thing.
I didn't need a website to sell to that specific group, and frankly, if you're in the niche-choosing segment, I would very much recommend tapping into your LinkedIn network to get your first couple of accounts.
But here's the idea… Once I went through my network and some people said no thanks and others said yes, it turned out that a lot of them were in this B2B SaaS space.
And this is where I realized that this is going to be my niche, my ideal target market.
I'm going to do cold email for B2B SaaS companies.
Below is a screenshot of what our first website looked like and what we offered:
As you can see we only focused on B2B SaaS companies.
The Take away from this section
So I recommend picking one specific kind of agency service for one very specific kind of buyer informed by your first couple of clients.
If you don't have your first couple of clients just yet, that’s okay. Reach out to people you know and get them on a call so that you can start understanding what their needs and pain points are.
For example, if you're thinking of specialising in marketing development, you have to really understand the industry's pain points and see how you can solve it for them.
Just make sure you're charging money for the service upfront so that you're solving a need as opposed to having a previous connection tell you how great you are without actually paying.
You need people to pay before you share the insights they desperately need.
Think about the Pros and Cons of your niche
Initially, I was worried that my market was too small, but a small market is actually a blessing in disguise.
You actually really want a small market.
If you have a market of between 500 and 1000 companies to service, you could do exceptionally well.
The idea is that your case studies, marketing and pitch are going to have to be so much more targeted.
This is why choosing the right target niche is so important.
So when you're on this journey think deeply about the pros and cons of each option.
Do some testing and let your brand evolve with you
But in saying this… You will be able to depart from your chosen niche anytime.
For example, Emails That Sell has now become Salesbread.com, when we introduced LinkedIn Outreach.
We rebranded because it wasn't appropriate to carry on with only cold email outreach. So in hindsight, I recommend choosing a name that is industry-agnostic, so that it can morph with you.
Salesbread.com is still a lead generation business, but now I'm free to expand both the services I offer and the people I sell to because the brand is a lot more flexible.
This post really changed my mind about picking a name for my agency.
In conclusion - Looking ahead
Choose a really defined niche and remember that you can change it after serving a couple of clients and learning more about your industry. I personally think your niche should evolve over time, as this will allow for more growth opportunity.
It's best to start small and work your way broader and broader until you find the sweet spot. I think back to Tim Ferriss; He started with the 4-hour work week and built a following on business productivity hacks and then years later, thanks to his following, he ended up writing a best-selling cookbook. (How’s that for expanding beyond your initial niche?!)
So start small, evolve, and eventually you can grow quite a bit bigger after choosing your defined niche.