Getting it right, the importance of establishing your niche! By Mike O’Sullivan

Establishing your niche is crucial to your success in establishing your reputation in the industry. As an individual, time will always be at a premium. Hard work has its merits, but so does working smart!

Trying to be all things to everyone generally means that you end up meaning nothing to anyone. Harsh? Bear with me!

The more focused you are, the smaller and more engaged your target audience, the more likely you are to reach and connect with them. To illustrate let’s look at a specific case:

Let’s call our fictitious character John. John is a security specialist, a title that effectively means nothing to anyone in the industry. To the general public it sounds impressive, but no one can be sure why. It will all depend on their perceptions of what a security specialist is, should be or what they might do.

John, realising he is casting his net too wide, rebrands himself and becomes an access control specialist. Better? No, not really. Access control how, to where, under what conditions?

So, John goes back to the drawing board and writes down exactly what it is that he is a specialist in. When John goes to work in the morning, he is responsible for controlling access to premises housing banking and other financial institutions! He manages a high-end access control system as an administrator and his work is externally audited to ensure that John is meeting the standards set in his audit control document.

So, what happened? John went from a generic job description to a narrative job description, explaining exactly what it is be is a specialist in – the narrative being, John manages access control for banking and financial institutions. He is now connecting with a much smaller audience.

THE question that does need to be asked very early on when deciding your niche is: Who exactly are my target audience?

In the case of access control to financial institutions this would lead to a list like this:

  • Type of financial institutions?
  • Financial institution security management
  • Financial institution security teams (physical & cyber)
  • Access control system administrators
  • Access control system users
  • Who are the budget holders with purchasing authority?
  • Are there professional bodies?
  • Are there user groups for the various access control systems?
  • And so on…

A second question is then, what is your aim in connecting with your target audience. Bear in mind, there has to be a reason for people to connect with you! Providing people with quality, up to date information is a good reason for industry professionals to connect with you, especially if you are helping solve a problem for them.

The more precise your list, the easier it is for you to remain focused!

The next piece of research you might consider once you have completed the above list is where do your target audience get their information from currently?

  • Who are the access control system software developers and installers? Do they have recognised business partners who carry out installations?
  • Do they follow any magazines or publications?
  • Are there any Podcasts?
  • Are there any networking meetings?
  • Is it possible to arrange mutual visits to each other’s premises to share information
  • Are there social media groups that they join?
  • Who are the industry regulators?
  • And so on…

The number of SIA license holders in the UK is about 350,000 (exact figures on SIA website). As a specialist there’s no point in John attempting to establish a general network among SIA license holders. Many of those license holders could care less about access control to financial institutions!

There are many layers that John can explore in order to establish his niche. Once he has completed the lists above another thing that he should build is an avatar of his ideal reader! It could be that a certain person that John knows springs immediately to mind?

It’s easier to write something if you have a specific reader or type of reader in mind. Establishing an avatar of your ideal reader (or listener if producing video or podcasts) can make the difference between being able to produce material or sitting at your desk wondering why so little is getting done!

It’s the same whether you are writing articles, producing a blog post, a podcast or video. The principle works the same!

One advantage of being as selective as possible and being very precise about your niche, is that you don’t waste other people’s time (or yours) by attracting attention from people who then discover that they have no interest in your specialism.

The big problem that this article addresses remains that limiting the number of people you aim to connect with is counterintuitive to most people.

Understanding the importance of establishing yourself within a niche can make the difference between all that hard work you put into networking actually paying off or just being a drain on your time and energy!

Mike O’Sullivan