By James Crook – Originally published in the Massage and Myotherapy Australia Journal, Spring 2020 edition
The impact of specialisation
Imagine you’re a rugby player who’s been injured over the weekend, and you’re looking for a massage treatment. You Google “massage in my area” and a few results pop up.
You click on the first listing and arrive at a web page that uses a pale green and white colour scheme, has a flowing font logo and features a photo of a woman with a pregnant belly enjoying a beautiful sunset on the beach.
Will you book in here to treat your sports injury? Probably not.
Instead, you’ll click the back button and go to the next listing. This time you’re greeted with a black and red logo, solid font choices and photos of gymgoers working out, and you feel excited to book in for a treatment.
This is a simple example of why knowing your niche and marketing to them specifically is so important. The connection you create with your potential client is much stronger when your branding speaks directly to the person’s need and identity.
But if we take this one step further you’ll see there’s an even better lesson. Because imagine our rugby player clicks to a third website, and this time there’s a generic business name and all sorts of different images and a list of services that includes pregnancy massage AND sports massage… and hot stones, deep tissue and Indian head massage.
The mixed message here dilutes the relevance to our rugby-playing friend and even though it mentions sports in the list, he is much more likely to go back and book in with the obvious sports specialist.
Strategic marketing leads the way to successfully specialising into a niche: By drawing an imaginary line around the type of clients you want to work with you are able to concentrate your marketing efforts into that sphere, which gives a deeper connection and also allows specialised skills to grow as you gain experience with the niche. In turn you’ll find this increases your bookings, reputation and referrals.
What could my niche be?
A niche specialisation in this sense doesn’t have to be something that requires high-level skills, although it’s fine if you have those too!
Instead, think of your niche as your ideal clients.
It could be that the problems they have are pretty normal, but you define them by activities they do or common characteristics. For example, maybe you like to treat office workers with poor posture, or long-distance runners, or the elderly.
Or it could be that you choose to niche into treating a specific type of condition or injury, like focussing on the shoulder or stress-related migraines.
Either way, when you can define your niche clearly you will find it easier to design your services to meet their needs and create marketing which will show that you understand them and provide what they want.
A brilliant way to define your niche is by developing a “client avatar” which is like a profile of who your ideal client is. You give them a name, gender, age, job, family etc and then aim your marketing activities at them as a representative of who you want to speak with. This can help you to be more direct and creative when you are writing ads or finding social media images, because you imagine yourself speaking to a specific individual rather than a vague group.
Even if you don’t go to this level of detail, you can still benefit by writing down the demographic characteristics of your target niche and any defining features that will help you identify and connect with them.
How do I choose?
There’s four things you’ll need to consider when selecting the niche that is right for you.
1. Hands-on Skills
Perhaps the most basic thing to ask yourself is if you have the hands-on skills to work with the niche that you’ve chosen.
For many people this won’t be a problem: your qualifications and experience will have already given you skills to work with a wide range of clients. However if you are thinking of a niche with specialist requirements you may need to ensure you have the skills to match, for example working with oncology patients, scar tissue or complicated cases.
2. Help Is Valued
Some people absolutely love their treatments, and rave about how much better they feel and the improvement you’ve made for them. When this happens you know you’ve found a good match! Even better when they’re happy to pay for your services because of the outcomes they’re getting. It’s great for your confidence and also shows you are making a real difference in people’s lives.
3. Love & Passion
If you develop a niche client base, one result is that you’ll be working with similar people day in and day out over the long term. Do you have a love and passion for them that means you’ll enjoy this? Are you part of the community outside of simply providing services to them?
4. The World Needs It
For practical reasons you’ll need to make sure there are enough people in your niche to make a business out of this. Think about the location you work from and do some research to find out how much need there is in the area, and see if there are other professionals serving the same niche nearby. Then get started: the most solid research is to start marketing to your niche and see how they respond.
If you’re having trouble identifying a target niche then think back over your past or existing clients and ask yourself a few questions. Who do you enjoy working with the most? Who gets the best results from your treatments? Who are your raving fans? Who do you naturally connect with?
If you can identify a common thread through your answers you can arrive at a clearer picture of who to aim at as your core clients.
Reaching your ideal clients
To connect with your niche and start booking them in for your services, the first thing you’ll need to get clear on is your message.
Your message is basically defined as what you want to say. It’s the content you want to give people.
Even the simplest social media post has a message of some sort, and other content will have different types of messages for different purposes. Some of it might be educational, some light-hearted or funny, and some might be advertising your services more openly.
Knowing your target niche well means that you know what sort of messages they’ll respond to. You know the words they use and the pictures that will get attention. You know the topics that they are interested in and the jokes they’ll laugh at. This is why knowing your specific niche is like secret sauce for your marketing: it makes everything work better.
When you plan and arrange all the different messages so that they form a consistent picture of you and your services over time, it means that your audience gains a fuller and deeper understanding of who you are. This is one reason to create a marketing plan in advance, even if it’s a simple one: it helps you be consistent with your messages over time.
Once you know what you want to say, you can decide how you’re going to reach your audience with that message.
Be where they are already
The next step is to connect with your audience in a way that they will see.
It can seem like there are so many options: social media like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and even Tiktok, plus all the other channels like email, blogs, Google, print articles and live events. Even things like signage or business cards can give people a message about you.
Luckily, you don’t need to do everything. All you need to do is be in the “right” place… and the right place is simply the one where your audience will see you.
Are they on Facebook? Then you should be too. Instagram? Then get those filters ready. Maybe you want to work with golfers? Sponsor the local club and see if you can speak at one of their meetings. Networking with other health professionals or service providers in your local area who also serve the same type of people you do is another great way to connect.
It takes experimentation and practice to find the best way to reach your people, because each niche is different. A great way to get started is to speak with your existing clients that fit into your ideal, and learn about where they spend their time and what their social circles are.
Then go out and start being involved with the circles that they talk about, so you can see for yourself how it feels to connect with people there. Test what type of communication works best – some channels are very casual and social while others require a more formal or promotional style.
Boost your results
As you grow you’ll discover that identifying a niche that you want to work with doesn’t mean they have to be your only clients. For example, a pregnancy specialist might also get referrals from her pregnant clients so that she starts seeing their partners, family members and friends.
Think of your niche instead as a way of doing more effective marketing that can then lead to bigger things. It’s like the sharp blade on an axe being used to split wood: it has to be sharp and pointy to get deep into the log, then it can split it open.
Your communication is most powerful when you are clear on who you are, what you do and who you do it for. By targeting a specific niche you gain clarity and direction to electrify your marketing and make it easier to grow and sustain your business long term.