The stronger your niche, the more successful you will be.  Heidi Richards Mooney

You’ve probably heard it before, but it’s worth repeating. If you don’t have a niche for the product or service you offer, it will be much more difficult to gain momentum and be successful.  Especially for the long term.  In fact, when you build your name in a particular niche, it is much easier to start building a business in a lateral market.

When first starting in business, many small business owners think they can and should market to anyone they can find.  But that is like throwing money from the rooftop running to the ground and trying to catch it. Most of it will be blown away by the time you get to the bottom. And if you hit the bottom, it is much more difficult to climb back up. Most experts would agree that when you try to be all things to all people, you dilute the value of your product or service and become in essence, nothing to everybody.

So just how do you find that niche?

To find your niche, you must first ask yourself a few questions. And answer them honestly. What do you like to do? What are you good at? What can you make money doing?

I like to write. And read. And I am good at organizing things. Connecting people. Providing information. And I have been listening to and discovering what topics others look to me for advice and information. Not only that, I have asked several people what they consider my strengths.Once I identified these attributes and the skills I had to offer it was much easier to figure out what I should be doing with my life.  What could I do that incorporated writing, connecting people AND provided information?
And here’s the list I came up with:

I could publish a digital magazine ~ the result:  WE Magazine for Women.

I could offer virtual events such teleseminars and webinars to women and bring together top notch experts in a variety of fields to teach women how they too could make money ~ The result: The Women’s Success Series.

I could create a system for women who wanted to know more about doing business online ~ The result:  The Women’s eCommerce Association, International.

I could write more articles and information products on topics I have an expertise in or sufficient knowledge of ~ The result: BLOGS!  Lots of Blogs!

I could coach others on how to market their businesses and take it to the next level ~ The result: Redhead Marketing.

So I defined and found markets to capitalize on my strengths and what I love to do. But the big question still remains. How to make money at all this???

And that’s where I’ve been stuck. Oh sure, I have made money with the virtual events and sometimes its been great and other times, not so much. You see there is a dirth of virtual events online today the competition is stiff. You simply must know your niche if you want to make money.

We sell advertising in our magazine so we do receive revenue from that, and membership in the Women’s eCommerce Association varies from the Free Basic member to the Global Lifetime Member.  Even though we have lots of great benefits for each of our levels, most people choose the basic level.

Blogs ~ that’s where I spend the majority of my time and effort and it has paid off. We have affiliate links, google adwords, cross promotion marketing as well as promoting our products and services via our blogs.

The big challenge is tying it all together and creating a steady stream of income.

So now I am reevaluating everything I do. In fact, I am doing it right here before your eyes because as the thought comes to me, I am processing it and sharing it with you.  This is an important step that I think everyone should take. Take the time to evaluate what you are doing, where the majority of your efforts are income producing. And do more of that.

Oh, and did I mention I run a retail flower shop?  Have for 30+ years. This was once our “cash machine” and earned me a nice living, paid my children’s way through school, helped me afford a nice home, car and more.  And the economy has changed. I knew I needed to make big changes to go along with the times and economy – especially if I wanted to stay in business.  In 2008 we took a look at all our operations with a magnifying glass and determined where to “cut the fat,” reduce expenses and begin to focus on our high-profit low energy products and services.  That’s where the niche comes in. You see, in my business, I have always been more of a generalist than a specialist. It worked for many years when the economy was strong, but in an uncertain economy, tightening your niche is even more important. We did just that, by defining what market can afford our services. Since flowers are not a necessity, we know that most lower income people will choose food over flowers most days.  But the rich!  That’s another story. The rich are getting richer. The luxury market is wide open right now. But you have to have something they WANT. Not need. They take care of their needs, but their wants are different. They want what others cannot necessarily afford. Things that stir their passions and bring a smile to their faces.

Which should I focus my energy on? I mean really! So many fingers in so many places. I have eight fingers (and two thumbs for those of you doing the math) and it looks like all eight are into something.  It’s enough to overwhelm anyone!  People often ask me “How do you do so many things, and do them well.” My flip response is that “I have adult ADD.” But the truth is that not one of these things can keep my focus all the time.   So I schedule time each day to work on one or more of these areas of my professional life. Some require more attention than others.  Here’s how I spend my time:

I spend about 5 hours each week writing on all 9 of my blogs (it was 12 until recently when I decided to combine a couple and delete one…)  It only takes about 8 hours because I have a library of articles from newsletters I wrote for over the years. Those articles are being repurposed to add content and value to my blogs.And I participate in a lot of social networking sites. If I like the topic of feel I can contribute solid advice, then I also repurpose that advice by posting it on the appropriate blog (and sharing the source of the post).

The magazine is rather easy because we have a team of people who write for us. So I spend roughly 4 hours a week on that project and about 30 hours the 3 weeks prior to production. I do have an assistant publisher who puts the magazine together which is another 15 hours.

I go to my shop every day, just to have a place to hang out. Once a week my office manager and I get together for an hour or so and create a plan for our next marketing idea.  We like quick to implement, marketing plans that produce almost immediate results.  I also answer phones, design floral arrangements.  Another hour +.  (Except during peak times when I might spend 30 hours that week working almost entirely on the floral business.

I spend at least 4 hours a day connecting with the leaders and members of Women in Ecommerce, answering questions, promoting our events and writing our monthly ezine.  Some of that time is also spent communicating with other women I have met online and introducing them to our association, asking if I can interview them or seeing how we can help them make more money on the WEB. Part of those 4 hours is also spent on social networks.

In addition, I try to attend at least one networking/social event a week (another 3-4 hours).  And speak at an event at least once a month (prep time – 3-5 hours – time at event can be 2-8 hours, when local).

Did I mention that I run two masterminds?  One is with Christina Rowe and is the Virtual Business Mastery Mastermind. The other is the Author Marketing Mastermind Author Marketing Mastermind (my consulting niche).  The first takes approx. 6 hours every two weeks and the 2nd about 6 hours a week.

If you add this all up, it’s close to 60 hours a week. You gotta love what you do, if you are going to spend that much time doing it! For me, this is not work, its a lifestyle – a choice. The best of both worlds. Working for myself while working for my target market.

Are you like me? Do you have your fingers in several places and wondering how to make money at them all? I guess I’ve been lucky because I have been at most of these for long enough to make them work for me.  And I spent a lot of time at the beginning focusing on each one separately in order to do them well now.  What you need to know about me is that once I have “mastered” something, I tend to look for another project to focus my energy.  For most people this will not work well in the long run.  Trust me, I know.

So that’s when I decided it was time to look at just where the money is in all this (my niche) and answer the questions “Where should I scratch?”

Here are some steps you can take to define, produce and promote to YOUR NICHE.

Make a list of 10 to 5o things you enjoy doing, you are good at, special skills you have and things you would like to learn more about.

Rank that list in terms of which ones you’d be most passionate about pursuing and would make enough money to sustain your interest.

Then look at it from the consumer’s perspective. Is there an area or market on the list that is underserved or demand is high? If so, that is the place to begin.  Because you will generate the income you need to pursue other areas once you “own that market.”

Make sure you have some knowledge in the area you want to pursue, experience if possible and also that there is demand in the area.  For instance, if you were an event planner, you could specialize in yacht parties.  This would quickly help you build a name for yourself among other event planners and in your target market.  If you don’t know enough about the yachting industry, start finding events being help on yachts, contact the event coordinators and offer your help to market the event if its open to the public as well as volunteer the day of.  Check out a local marine industry association, or yacht club and see if there is a way to offer your services.  There are many ways to “get inside an industry.” It just takes a little imagination, passion and confidence.  Oh and chutzpah never hurts either.

Define your marketing message or USP. What makes you stand out among other professionals doing what you do or want to do. In my consulting business we focus on “helping small businesses bloom.” The USP is the promise of what you can deliver.

And you absolutely must have a website or web presence. If you sell a product, you would likely need a website with shopping cart software, if you sell information, you might be able to get by with a blog. Or a combination of the two which is what I do.  My other company, Redhead Marketing, Inc creates affordable websites that get results. If you need a new website or just want yours upgraded drop me a line.

Remember that niche marketing is the key to developing a sustainable business, one where you are standing out among the competition. You will see the investment of your time, talent and treasure will payoff in BIG WAYS.

Stay tuned for part two of my Niche Story.  In it, I share the system that works for me – and you can model to work for you.