If you have invested in creating a niche practice, we have highlighted a few steps you will need to take help your niche practice succeed.
- Make a plan. Each niche leader should develop a written business plan each year for the niche and gain buy-in to the overall strategies and objectives from your firm’s decision makers. Developing a detailed plan will pay real dividends and provide focus for the niche practice leader and other firm leaders who will learn a lot reading the plan. Ideally, the niche plan will include the following elements:
- SWOT analysis
- Market dynamics overview
- Existing business analysis
- Competitive analysis
- Ideal target client definition
- Differentiation positioning
- Product/service mix
- Marketing activities
- Sales approach
- Service delivery approach
- Staffing/training plans
- Infrastructure requirements
- Critical success factors
- Measures of success
- Invest in marketing. It’s critical to invest in niche marketing activities because the messages can be highly targeted and therefore yield better results than marketing traditional services. Marketing activities should reflect your chosen positioning, tell the niche story, and reach your ideal target niche clients as defined in the niche plan. Social media is a cost-effective choice to invest niche marketing time, and a niche presence can be built quickly using platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and blogs to deliver valuable content. Target account selling, leveraging intelligence garnered from social media and web research, is also highly effective. Niche leaders should also invest time in internal marketing by educating firm employees on their niche’s service offerings and ideal target prospects and helping fellow team members understand how to identify opportunities with existing clients when appropriate.
- Set and manage realistic expectations. Delivering a written niche plan and budget each year as described above and then communicating progress at least quarterly will enable the niche practice leader to manage the partner group’s expectations for performance. It’s important for all firm leaders to understand that patience and persistence are required to develop deep expertise, gain a significant number of clients, develop the trust of referral sources, and develop thought leadership in a niche, which can take two to three years minimum to achieve. While the niche is developing, celebrate the achievement of shorter-term, smaller milestones like creating a section of your web site for the niche or developing an internal CPE course related to it.
- Allocate more resources as the niche develops. Firms are often conservative about hiring and adopt a “sell the work first” approach. But, when developing a niche, this approach can quickly stifle growth, burdening the niche’s few experts to deliver the work and leaving no time for practice development. Instead, anticipate your niche needs and hire or allocate people in advance as the niche is building. This will maintain the momentum and keep the niche leader focused on leading, marketing, and selling.
When you invest disciplined focus, dedicated leadership, detailed planning, and diligent communication into your niche development efforts, you will achieve real and lasting niche practice success!
Jennifer Wilson is a partner and co-founder and Krista Remer is a consultant of ConvergenceCoaching, LLC, a leadership and marketing consulting and coaching firm that specializes in helping leaders achieve success. Learn more about the company and its services at www.convergencecoaching.com.