Define a new niche to seize a big competitive advantage

friday, 11 may of 2007

Define a new niche to seize a big competitive advantage

by Trey Ryder

In marketing, generalities fail and specifics persuade. The same is true when you decide which services you wish to market. When you practice in various areas of law, your prospects and referral sources see you as a generalist. Often, they don’t remember you for any particular area of practice. In their minds, your image is blurred.

On the other hand, when you practice in one narrow area of the law, your prospects and referral sources know exactly what you do. Your image is clear and precise. So even if you want to practice in a broad area, or offer a broad range of services, you’d do well to define your niche in narrow terms so prospects and referral sources see it as one specific niche. The more narrow your niche, the easier it is to establish yourself as the authority in that niche and for people to perceive you as the expert. Also, the easier it is for clients, prospects and referral sources to remember exactly what you do.

The more narrow your niche -- and the more effective your marketing program -- the more your law practice will soar. It's no exaggeration to say that when you specialize in a narrow niche, the sky’s the limit.

So, how do you "specialize" when you're good at many things -- and when you may want to do many things?


When I started in marketing, (a long time back), I was overwhelmed with all the skills I needed to learn. I thought no one person could possibly know how to write powerful ads, generate publicity, design seminars, create newsletters -- and do it all well. (Obviously, this was long before we knew what a web site was.)

Now, 33 years later, I see the bigger picture. I realize that basic principles apply across the board -- and view marketing much differently from the way I viewed it 3 decades ago. Today, I know how one person can understand how to create a powerful marketing message -- and then deliver that message using a number of different methods.

So today, I use a wide range of tools, including advertising, publicity, seminars, newsletters, tapes, web sites, and more. Yet these many tools all fall under the one umbrella of Education-Based Marketing.

Here's how you can create and profit from your own unique niche:

Step #1: Determine the areas of law in which you want to practice. Do you want to practice family law? Estate planning? Commercial transactions?

Step #2: Determine the types of clients you want to serve. Do you want to work with affluent consumers? Business owners? Doctors? Or all clients who need specific types of services?

You can approach your law practice either from the service point of view -- i.e. the services you want to provide. Or the client point of view -- i.e. the clients you want to serve. Or a combination of both, providing these types of services to those types of clients. Then write down your clients/services statement, so you can see clearly -- in writing -- exactly who you want to serve and what you want to do for them. Next,

Step #3: Create a new playing field. Don’t accept everyone else’s parameters. One problem lawyers have is that they practice in areas of law that are nearly identical from one lawyer to the next, and from one law firm to the next. If you want to hire a personal injury lawyer -- or an estate planning lawyer -- or a divorce lawyer -- you can probably find a dozen up and down your city block.

True, the generic label helps prospects identify the type of lawyer they need. But the generic label also reinforces the perception that all personal injury, or whatever type of lawyers, are the same -- just because they all share the same label.

Don't accept the playing field defined by the marketplace, tradition or other lawyers. Create your own niche. Rise to a new level. After all, if you’re investing money and time in marketing, you have the right to call your own shots. That means you get to re-define the playing field so it benefits you.

Step #4: Name your niche or area of specialization using fact-oriented, descriptive words. The old marketing adage is that people buy benefits and not features. Even so, when naming your niche, don’t use a benefit title because it says nothing and arouses suspicion. When I named education-based marketing, I wanted a term that clearly described what I do. I could have called it Power Marketing, Marketing That Works!, Brilliant Marketing -- or some other ridiculous combination of cute, meaningless words. But, instead, I wanted a term that accurately described my marketing process in terms my prospects could relate to and understand. Hence, education-based marketing.

Name your niche so it describes what you do as factually and accurately as possible. At the same time, make sure your new name covers all the services you want to provide. If you use a narrow name, often prospects will think you provide only those services, not realizing you can and want to provide services outside that narrow area as well. So you want a niche name that creates the impression of specialization, yet is broad enough to include everything you want under that umbrella.

Step #5: Market like crazy. From a competitive point of view, a new niche is worthless if your prospects don’t know it, understand it and see it as a major competitive advantage. You could be the only lawyer in that niche -- and the only lawyer using the term -- but who cares if your prospects don’t see why they should hire you instead of your competitors. As a result, your new niche should become a key part of your marketing message. Then you need to educate prospects about why a lawyer in your niche -- who provides the services you offer -- is exactly the lawyer your prospects need.

Step #6: Reflect your new niche in all your marketing materials. If you create a powerful niche -- and believe in it -- then shout it from the mountaintops. All of your brochures, seminar materials, advertising, publicity and web sites should reinforce the existence and importance of your niche. The more traction your niche develops, the more validity prospects attach to it -- the more prospects and competitors talk about it -- and the more real is becomes. Soon, prospects see it as a genuine niche, as opposed to a term you made up after a little wine. At that point, the niche you created moves from perception to reality, which, for marketing purposes, is the same.

SUMMARY: In a marketing sense, you should specialize in some area of law. You’re in the strongest competitive position when you create your own narrow niche. You should create the perception that you specialize in exactly what you want to do. Make sure your niche is broad enough to include all the services you want to provide -- yet narrow enough so your prospects perceive you as a specialist in that area.

IMPORTANT: Take your time and make the decision about your niche’s name carefully. Create terms for your niche and ask clients and friends for their reaction. See which niche names do and don’t appeal to them. See if they have an idea what the niche name means. The name you attach to your niche determines whether it fails or succeeds. So make this decision slowly, carefully, wisely.

I first wrote the term education-based marketing in 1984. Today, 20 years later, I still use it because (1) it describes exactly what I do, (2) it’s the only marketing method I use, and (3) my prospects hire me to provide those services. That’s the test of a good niche.

Now I urge you to develop one for yourself so you gain a significant advantage over your competitors.

© Trey Ryder

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