Many interior design businesses haven’t identified a niche to focus on or they have, but it’s not narrow enough. As a result, they’re not generating enough leads to sustain the business, marketing is a moving target and frustration is the norm. Sales ultimately suffer.
The reality is, marketing to a broad audience is near to impossible. If you haven’t defined a niche market you are likely marketing to too broad of an audience. Your message may not be resonating with any particular person, so no one is interested.
In this article, we’ll explore reasons why focusing on a niche, or specialization, for your interior design business will not only attract more leads, more easily but also allow you to command higher fees and simplify your life in so many ways. And, we’ll bust a few myths so you can rest assured focusing on a niche is the right way to go.
First, what really is a niche?
What is a niche?
Many people think niche is a specialization such as residential kitchen remodelers, Feng-Shui, restaurants, corporate, airplanes, RVs or yachts. While it’s true a common type of niche is a specialization within a field, it doesn’t have to be. In fact, an effective niche is much more narrow than an entire specialization.
For example, the following could be interior design niches:
- A geographic area (perhaps paired with a specialization)
- A type of style (traditional, contemporary, minimalist, etc), paired or not paired with a specialization)
- An element of style (lighting, colors)
The options go on an on as you mix and match various styles, elements, and other factors. As you will soon learn, a niche is what you make it. That’s right. Your niche is whatever you say it is!
My favorite definition of a niche is from businessdictionary.com. They say a niche is:
[a niche is] A small but profitable segment of a market suitable for focused attention by a marketer. Market niches do not exist by themselves but are created by identifying needs or wants that are not being addressed by competitors, and by offering products that satisfy them. – businessdictionary.com
Let’s break it down.
“small but profitable segment of a market”
This means your market is not every homeowner within your tri-county area (assuming, of course, you’re interested in residential interior design). Instead, your niche would be a much smaller segment of that geographical area. So instead of millions of people, your market might be several thousand.
If restaurant design is your thing, your niche may focus on lighting for fine dining restaurants or perhaps neighborhood bar & grills in Anytown, USA.
A word on the “profitable” part of this phrase…of course, you need to make money otherwise you wouldn’t be in business. Before you fall in love with a niche make sure it can support you. pay attention to economics surrounding the niche you’re considering and ask other designers about their experiences with this group.
“created by identifying needs or wants”
This means you don’t get to invent what you think your market needs or wants. Through market research, you learn what they want. We can assume we know what they want, but will almost always be wrong. The result? You’re trying to sell something nobody wants.
So, don’t leave it to chance. Find out what they really want. This will truly set you apart from the competition because most businesses are offering products & services that they want to sell, not what the market wants.
“are not being addressed by competitors”
The truth is, many businesses simply do not understand the benefits of defining a niche. Therefore, they just don’t.
This provides a unique opportunity to smarter businesses such as yours because when you do niche, you provide a service that is not currently provided by the competition – at least not in the same specificity that you do.
Little to no competition means an easier path to prospects with fewer obstacles standing between you and the sale.
Why it’s crucial to define a niche
You make more money
You become an expert, both literally and in the eyes of prospects, and experts command higher fees. Think about it. If you were a restaurant manager, responsible for the redesign of your employer’s restaurant, would you rather consult with a general interior design business or one that specializes in restaurant design? With your reputation on the line and desire to impress, of course, you’d reach out to the specialist and reasonably expect to pay higher fees for that specialty.
The same scenario could apply to any industry – the endocrinologist charges higher fees that the primary physician; a financial advisor that specializes in high net-worth clients will command higher fees than a general financial advisor. Specialists make more money.
Marketing is WAY easier, less costly and you attract more leads
Without a niche, you’ll spend more time and money getting a vague message in front of a large group of people with no results.
Narrowing your focus to a particular niche makes marketing exponentially easier allowing you to attract more leads. Better yet, these are qualified leads because they are drawn to your specific message.
Members of a niche often share similar challenges, hopes, dreams, and values. This allows you to craft a single marketing message to get the attention of your audience.
The goal is to define a message that really resonates with them. You want your prospects to think “Hey, that’s me! This company really gets me. They know exactly what I want. I better look into them further”.
When you speak to everyone, you speak to no one.” – Meredith Hill
Not everyone is going to respond to your message and that’s ok. Not everyone IS your market. Nor would you want them to be.
Your prospects are easier to find
Through market research, you learn about your prospect’s wants and needs, challenges, desires, hopes & dreams and where they are most likely to hang out. This allows you to focus your presence rather than try to be everywhere.
For example, your restaurant prospects may spend more time on Instagram rather than Facebook. Imagine spending your time marketing on Facebook when your market isn’t even there?
Also, face-to-face networking is an essential part of generating business. Defining a niche enables you to find out where your people are real-time so you can be there too.
Back to the restaurant example… while it’s possible your prospects may be members of the local Chamber of Commerce, it’s more likely they are members of the NRA (National Restaurant Association) or a state level association. Imagine going to a chamber event and only 2% of the attendees are your prospects whereas an NRA event would have 90% of your target market. It’s a no brainer. It’s also very exciting if you think about it. You are surrounded by your people!
How to choose a niche
Things to consider when choosing a niche…
Passion is HUGE. What you love to do is a key factor, perhaps the most important factor, when choosing a niche. When you have a legitimate passion for your work, it shows in everything you do.
How you talk about your work to family & friends, how you communicate with clients and ultimately, the quality you deliver on your projects comes from your attitude toward your work.
Let’s face it, you can only fake it for so long. If your daily routine involves working on projects that just don’t excite you, it will be apparent to those you work with. Prospects will pick up on your unenthusiastic vibe and take their money to a different design firm that is stoked to be working on their project
Job dissatisfaction can have a big impact on your personal relationships as well. When you dread your work, your spouse, kids, friends and other family members can take the brunt of your attitude. It’s not fair to them and brews an unhealthy existence for you.
Client types you want to work with
Each area of specialty comes with its own unique nuances, such as the type of people you will be working with.
In residential work, you’ll likely be one-on-one with the man or lady of the house. In this arrangement, you develop a close working, and perhaps personal, relationship with the client. If one-on-one doesn’t sit right with you, you may want to consider a specialty that allows you to work with multiple people, such as commercial.
Working with commercial clients can involve an entire team of people to interface with. This can translate into dealing with a variety of personalities, more meetings, multiple layers of approvals and more peoples’ input to consider. If this makes your skin crawl, perhaps avoid the commercial design sector.
If you prefer a polished professional that knows what they want rather than an individual who may waffle between different choices, commercial may be your dream market.
Let’s bust some myths
“My market will be too small”
Think about it. How many customers do you really need? Millions? Hundreds of thousands? Tens of thousands? Your entire niche market only needs to be several thousand in order for your business to comfortably service hundreds or perhaps a thousand of them.
Besides, as we discussed earlier, when you focus your marketing message on a niche, you attract more prospects, more easily and will have plenty of business.
“I’ll get bored working with the same people”
If you selected a niche you are passionate about and people you enjoy working with, you can’t be bored.
Even within a niche, each project will be unique. If your niche was interior design of yachts in the San Francisco Bay area, how often would you come across the same exact project? I say it’s unlikely.
Don’t make judgments about a particular niche or client type unless you’ve had actual experience working with them. This is especially true if your passion lies within that particular area.
For example, let’s say you’re crazy about restaurant design but don’t fancy the idea of working with a team of people and all of the perceived red tape that comes with it. Don’t immediately dismiss this market until you’ve completed at least one or two projects.
You may find the client type is not what you expected – in a good way! And of course, with experience comes lessons learned, efficiencies gained and ways to deviate from negative aspects of the niche.
Talk with other designers and find out how they deal with the client type in question and learn new ways to manage them.
Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater – if your passion is in restaurant design don’t immediately kick it to the curb because you think the clients will be a PITA.
- Choose a niche.
- If you’re already working in a niche – Bravo! Consider taking a closer look at your niche to ensure it’s narrow enough.
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