Leigh: Hello, and welcome to the Better Business podcast, brought to you by Employsure. I’m your host, Leigh Johnston, and in this series we tackle the big issues in small business with the industry’s brightest minds. This month we’re going to help you find your business niche. Anyone who’s run a small business knows that familiar temptation to think that everyone is your customer, and that you should sell to anyone willing to pay you. While offering products and services that meet a specific need is the reason we go into business, trying to sell to everyone isn’t always the recipe for success. In today’s environment, trying to be all things to all people actually dilutes your competitive advantage. But when you have a niche business, a business that services and markets to a very select group of people, you position your business as a specialist in the field and reach a subset of customers more willing to choose an expert business over a generic supplier.
Joining us for this episode is author, business expert, and entrepreneur, Richard Toutounji. You might know Richard from his appearances in the Sydney Morning Herald, Channel 10, and The Telegraph, or even from the Australian Amazing Race, where he and his wife, Joey, were contestants. Today, Richard works with business owners helping them build an online presence and developing their online marketing. Richard has a long history of turning established organizations into marketing machines. For this episode, he’ll help us explore niche marketing, how to identify your niche, and more importantly, how to reach them. There’s some great insights here that will really help you be more precise and effective in building your business, and marketing it to the right people. And with that, here’s my interview with Richard Toutounji.
Richard, great to have you on the show. Thanks for joining us.
Richard: Yeah. Awesome to be here.
Leigh: Let’s start with the very basics. What is a business niche?
Richard: Well, good question. A business niche is where you can basically take your business, whatever that is, if it’s a bricklayer, a mechanic, a personal trainer, whatever it is, and you can go and talk to a specific person. And when you can talk to a specific person, also known as an avatar, sometimes avatar language, it means then you can actually advertise directly to that audience that you’re trying to get to. And if you can advertise it directly to that audience, it’s really easy, or what I should say, it’s easier, to go market your business. And so to do that, it’s almost like niching down to a certain audience or demographic, if that’s a regional area, if that’s a specialized industry that you’re in, or just any industry, or a personality of what people actually like to do. So it’s just really going deep, really deep instead of wide, and owning that space. And so in your niche, you really want to make sure that you’re the top of the chain instead of number 40 or 50, that people actually know who you are in that certain, what we call a niche, in that certain field that you’ve chosen.
Leigh: You mentioned something there, a phrase I liked, deep instead of wide. So that’s kind of the idea of instead of being very general or trying to market to everybody, actually having a very clear idea of a subset of people that you want to identify through your business.
Richard: Yeah. It is being super clear, because when you’re really clear in the deep field, you understand what somebody’s pain points are, you understand what their problems are, you understand what their greatest pleasure is, and that’s when you can start to then, not just talk broadly to everybody, but really talk around their pain, their pain, their pain, or talk about their pleasure, their pleasure, their pleasure.
And in marketing, it’s always pain and pleasure, so when you understand a person … It’s like when you’re going through a life experience yourself. We work a lot with the fitness industry, and so when somebody’s maybe going … they’re a personal trainer, let’s say a female, they just had a baby, they have a really great understanding of training in a pre and post pregnancy, so they could niche their business down just to that audience, because they actually understand the problems, they understand the concerns, they understand the late nights, they understand what it means to now exercise and have this newborn as well. And that’s something that you only know that once you go down a certain niche in your business.
Leigh: Okay. So let’s talk to businesses who may only be at the start of this process. How do you go about identifying what a potential niche might be?
Richard: There’s two ways to look at it. You want to look back at your clientele that you had in the past, or something that you’ve actually liked being a part of, and you say, “Do I actually like that audience that I’m working with, that I have worked with in the past?” And the other way you can look at is, you can always look at, “Is there a gap in the marketplace, in a broad spectrum?” So again, if I stick on the example of fitness, you could say, “Well, I’ve identified a gap in the marketplace and that’s a gap that I have passion for, that I want to go down.” Otherwise, I said, you’re looking at people you want to work with, people that you enjoy working with, and that’s a really great way to basically find that niche, because when you can work with somebody that you enjoy working with, you’re most likely to stay in the niche and become really good at marketing and servicing that niche as well.
But if you have been in business for a while, you just want to go back and you want to look at the clients that you got results for, the clients you’ve liked working with, the clients that pay on time, the clients who respect that you do. That tells me that those people, and your product, and your service is a good fit. If you’re struggling with clients, and they’re hard to work with, and they don’t pay their bill, and they’re not getting results, well, it’s time to dump them and say, “You know what? I don’t want to work with that clientele, because maybe our product and service didn’t actually fit to what they wanted to do.” And so to me, that’s always the greatest way, is that I … You go into business, yes, to make money, but you got to enjoy the journey, so you might as well enjoy it with somebody that you don’t mind hanging out with.
Leigh: So niching is almost another way of focusing on the parts of the business that you enjoy the most. That’s actually a good excuse to kind of get rid of the things that perhaps you don’t enjoy doing quite so much.
Richard: Oh, it’s the greatest thing. I mean, if you’re a business owner, it’s not like you can say to your boss, “Hey, listen, I want to quit today and I want to start a new job tomorrow.” This is kind of maybe the business owner’s version of innovating themself, the business owner’s version of exploring more what they do, through the concept of niching, and say, “You know what? I have 10 clients, 10 random industries. I’ve got to create 10 different sets of services, and have 10 different languages, and 10 different ad sets, and 10 different conversations. I just want to go deep and talk to one or two, and then really understand that industry quite a lot.”
Leigh: I want to ask, can you have more than one niche?
Richard: Of course you can have more than one niche. However, for example, if you’re going to go avatars on Facebook or go on avatars on AdWords, and go and market yourself, you got to remember that you got to talk to different niches in different ways. So it’s going to be easier to market an industry when you can really talk their language. So, yes, you can have multiples, but you also got to understand that you’re going to have to talk multiple different languages to those niches. And so I would always say … We always say to our clients, “Listen, start with one niche, master that, master the product, master the service, and then open up your doors to the next niche, and go to the next one then, because then you can really get your product, your service, clear, you’ve got some clarity, before you move to the next one.”
And I know what people are probably thinking out there, “But you know what? I’ve got all these clients. I’m going to lose clients. I’m going to lose business.” That’s the first thing that everybody thinks about. It’s easy to say, but it’s hard to do. And I guess for the people listening that may be having four, five, six, eight different niches out there, if you can just go look at the 80/20 principle, that 80% of your workload will come with 20% of the audience, and you’ve got to understand, okay, what is that audience, what is that demographic, that niche, that’s actually bringing in the greatest returns, the greatest income, the greatest fun, the greatest impact, actually having the greatest results, and think about, “Well, I’m spending all this time on all these other niches, it’s not really kicking on, so it’s time to dump something.”
So you can do it, but I mean, if you’re a startup, I’d only recommend one or two. And if you’ve been in business a few years, and you got a bigger team, and you got more funds, and the product is easier, then you can do that next stage. It’s like when you’re creating a product or creating a service, and then you got to market, and there’s two different things you got to go on. But if you’ve been in business for one, two, three years, and you’ve mastered the product and the service, then you have more time to spend and invest in marketing, so it makes sense to open a new niche, and another niche. But when you’re first starting out, I think that’s a big way that you can get into trouble really fast, is that you’re everybody to everything, and then you got to compete with people that are only solid in one niche. So I would always recommend to start small and then expand as you get better, and as the word becomes more. That’s always the way I like to do it.
Leigh: So you can add niches as you go. You don’t necessarily have to pigeon hole your business at the start and leave it stuck there as it is. It’s something that you can kind of evolve and grow, as your business grows and you get a better handle on the people that you’re selling to, and your products, and your services, and things like that?
Richard: Yeah. You can definitely add on. However, I mean, you got to also look at the downsides of adding on. And I’ll be straight up with them, because at the end of the day, if you have niched in one audience for 10 years, and your brand’s about a specific audience, let’s say, as I said, even a fitness example, if your brand’s about marketing to fitness professionals, that audience, and then you say, “I want to market to tradesmen’s,” well, you got to realize that as you open up that brand new, totally different niche, that your marketing, your images, your testimonials, your reviews, are going to take some time to build up.
So that’s something that you have to be careful on. That’s why I always recommend, if you go broad, let’s say we’re staying on the health topic, health is quite big, and you can go health into fitness professionals, you could go health into nutritional supplements, you could go health into healthy holidays, so there’s still a lot in one sector. But if you want to go from totally random different industries, that’s going to be a really tough call. But if you stay in some kind of vortex of a niche, of an industry, that is much easier to progress that way.
Leigh: So if you’ve been marketing, say, to new mums, or to pet owners, or something like that, and all of a sudden you want to market to tradies, you’ve got to be conscious of the content that might be on your website, or the content that might be on your Facebook page, or on your Instagram feed, and be aware that there could be some misalignment there, if you are looking at branching out into a niche.
Richard: Yeah. Definitely, you’re going to have to understand that you’ve got the right product and service, yeah, but you’re going to … and if that product and service has always talked to one niche, you’re going to have to make sure that you make the adjustments in the product and service, the way the language is used, and then adjustments in your marketing. You’re going to have to go and say, “Okay. Let’s go and do a test case and go get tradies, and let’s go and do some reviews and case studies in the first six months, then we have content to actually publicize on the site.” So a lot of the times, how you can do the transition is that you might get a referral. And that’s how a lot of businesses start. They get a referral, they get a referral, and all of a sudden they’ve got themself a niche, and they’ve gone deep into that. So a lot of the time, when you get those accidental clients, I can call it, or the ones that just done some great work with and they’ve moved over, and you start to get a bit more in that industry, and you realize, “Hey, this industry’s working. It’s working for us,” then you can start to publicize.
I always like to go, “Go organic first, and just go try it out, go test it out, and then once the systems are correct and it’s starting to work, then start to get better systems, then start to get better marketing funnels going, once you actually have tested it beforehand.” Because you know what? You might move into a different niche and your product or service actually doesn’t work in that niche.
Leigh: Okay. I want to follow up on something there. For the business that hasn’t done this sort of strategic thinking before, you mentioned about going organic first, can you elaborate on what that means for a business owner who hasn’t gone through this process before? When you talk about go organic, what do you mean?
Richard: So in marketing, and this is kind of the saying that we’d use back into, you could say, search engine optimization days, when you were trying to rank at the top of Google, for example, and you would pay for ads, so you’d pay, or you organically rank, meaning you rank for free, it wouldn’t cost you any money, it’d be a natural ranking that would take place instead of paying somebody.
And so we work a lot with small business owners in health, fitness, wellness, lifestyle industries, and a lot of people come to us and say, “Richard, I want to create this amazing email automation funnel, where I can lie on the beach and I can just have that money coming in my bank account 24 hours a day,” and we sit there and we go, “Okay. Well, that’s nice. That’s good. That’s the plan. That’s the dream. And that’s good, but let’s build the dream up first. So instead of putting all your money into a really beautiful website, a beautiful email automation sequence that pops out every day, taking payments online, and just automate the entire process, and literally firing everybody in your company and just automating everything,” I always say, “Before we get to that stage, what we want to get businesses to,” by the way it’s called a system stage, “let’s test out the theory first.”
So for example, if you want to see if your Facebook ad … So instead of creating an entire funnel and, “So I’m going to spend $10,000 a month on Facebook ads,” well, how about we spend maybe $10 and test out on organic posting. So if you’ve done a Facebook post, basically give it a boost of $5 on Facebook, and just sort of see what reaction that gets from the audience. And then you’ve only spent $5 and can just see, are you getting comments, is it getting a good reach or not. And that’s a good way to test if that image, or that offer, or that product that you had, is actually going to have some legs or not.
And so organic means just have conversations. So if you come up with … A lot of business owners, they start, and they, “I’ve got this great name,” and then they get a website, and they register it, and they go, “Oh,” and then down the line they go, “That wasn’t the best.” So I would always say, organically, go and talk to your friends, go and get some advice, and just start talking about, does that make sense to your brand, does that make sense to you. So organically, just test it out in having conversations with people, or very low cost marketing, and then see if that’s got some legs to it.
And a great way to do that as well now, with Facebook, is you could go and run a small offer, so you can put an offer together, like a sales offer that you have, and you can put a little bit of spend on it, 10, 20 dollars, on Facebook or AdWords, and actually see the reach that it got, see the engagement that it got. And I would still classify that all as organic, because you’re only going to lose $20. You’re not going to lose the $1,000 that set you to cost your CRM up, or your content relationship management system, the time and energy that you built a website with.
So before you get to that stage, always do some pre-testing to see if it actually has got some legs, before you go on full steam, the entire business plan, and go get yourself a loan, and just go and do all that stuff that they’re being told to do. It’s just, business moves so fast today, and we have items in place that we can test really, really fast, where before, you couldn’t do that kind of testing. And this works well for covers of a book, for example. I did this many years ago when I wrote a book, I put two book covers out, so I designed the book cover out and then I ran it out on Google AdWords at the time, and I basically ran which image was going to have more reach and get more engagement. And I didn’t even ask for anything, but I wanted to get the image that would look best, and for that, I just tracked the actual results that I got from AdWords, the reach that it got, and the clicks that it got, and then I could understand which was the best book title to have. So it’s a small test, we could say, before we go into the big pond.
Leigh: Okay. So what you’re saying is that I probably shouldn’t go and buy my yacht yet. Is that right?
Richard: Well, yeah, you could buy your yacht. We’ve got this Afterpay, it works quite well, now, so we could just get yourself sorted on that. But yeah. You got to test the waters a little bit before you jump.
Leigh: Something I want to ask you, and it might be really a difficult question to answer, because the sense that I’m getting is that there’s really not a one size fits all approach to reaching out and connecting with a niche, but once you’ve gone through the process of identifying your niche or having a feel for who you want to sell to, what are the best ways to go about reaching them?
Richard: Okay. So you’ve got a niche, it’s set up, and you’ve got your products out there, it’s all good to go, you’ve done some testing. So the best way to reach it, in today’s marketplace … I’m just going to go straight to, I reckon, the best way … what you’re looking for. And if you’re looking for a … I’m going to refer it to a service-based business. So if you’re in a service-based business, or even a large product-based business, you want to have a conversation. So you want to get to the conversation part, because a lot of the time, and I have an example for products as well, but in a service-based business, at the end of the day, if you’re not selling a really, really cheap service, and you got to come and visit someone or talk to somebody, it could be a consultant, a coach, it could be a plumber, a locksmith, whatever, you need to get them to give you a call. And I say that a conversation is pretty much a new lead. So don’t just think about, “How can I get a lot of email addresses coming through, or a lot of phone numbers,” just think about what you want when you get the phone number and when you get the actual email addresses, you want to have the conversation, because the conversation then leads you into a sale.
So right now, if you want to go low end, and you say, “You know what? I’ve got no marketing budget, it’s very small. Why don’t we test out something?”, then Facebook Messenger is a really great place to start those conversations up. So anybody that’s been following you on your fan page or your personal page, this is a great way to start having conversations and starting conversations. And with Facebook Messenger, you can pretty much start that conversation, and you can ask them what are their big pain points, what are they looking at achieving, things like that.
So for example, I’m going low cost marketing strategies right now, we have a client and one of our strategies is to do Facebook Live. So this particular client did his very first Facebook Live show. He’s never used Facebook before in the past, but what he did have, he had a fan page that was already set up for the last three, four years, had some people on it, wasn’t getting a huge amount of engagement, as we know Facebook pages have decreased engagement. And so what our strategy was, is to basically do your first Facebook Live on your fan page. You can also do this in a Facebook group as well.
And when you do that … He went live, and people started to engage on the comments, and people that he hadn’t spoken to for a long time said, “Hey, Tony. It’s great that you’re actually doing Facebook Live. How are you?” He had one person that commented and says, “Ah, Tony. I’m getting married soon, in six months,” and this guy was a fitness trainer. And as you can imagine, these kind of conversations led him to start engaging in more conversations. And so anybody that kind of reached out for the very first time or hadn’t seen for a while, he opened up Facebook Messenger and he started having just normal conversations. And out of his very first Facebook Live, he generated $35,000 of sales, just by engaging with people on Facebook Messenger, and that was a $0 marketing spend, because he started to then engage in conversations. Now, that went on … He’s up to episode, I think, 55, and he still continues to get business out of Facebook Lives.
Leigh: That’s a really fascinating case study, and I guess the lesson there is that successful marketing, and finding your niche and reaching out to them, doesn’t necessarily have to be a big budget exercise.
Richard: No. Certainly not. I mean, we can talk big budget if you want, and big budget also works well. And let’s carry on from that story a little bit, if you want, because this is one trainer that had $0 on marketing, but what happened is he started to use organic methods, and I’m bringing up organic again because that’s what I classify organic, is a non-paid marketing strategy using Facebook Live, and then from there, he said, “This is working great. How do I up the ante? How do I get my yacht?”, pretty much, right? And so to do that, we said, “Okay. Well, let’s now take the next level. Now that we know that your offer is good,” so the actual offer that you had, like a trial session, we made it a lot more fancy than that, but basically a place to come into the location first, “why don’t we just duplicate what we’ve got?”
And when you run your own Facebook ads, it means that you can get a consistent flow of new leads in your business. And this is where a lot of business owners rely on referral marketing, where it’s great, it’s awesome when you have referrals that literally come into your door, you know you’re going to close them and most likely get the business, 90% plus, but you don’t know when the next referral’s coming in. So the big danger here is that you’re relying on other people to bring clients into your door. So when you start to spend money on marketing, spend money on Facebook, it means that you’re going to be consistent with your leads. When you’re consistent with your leads, it means that you have a percentage of what you’re going to close to a sale.
So Facebook is not going to be the same close, or sort of, I call it, acquisition source. Like an acquisition source from referrals is going to be a really high acquisition source of closes, because they already, I call it, know, like, and trust you, they probably know, love, and trust you. Where, when you’re going from Facebook, they don’t have the same awareness about your brand or you than someone who’s dragged their friend or their partner into your location. So you got to understand that you need more leads to convert, maybe a 10, 20, 30, 40 percent conversion rate. So you got to understand that, “I’m prepared to get those leads.” And then you got to say, “Okay. What is a lead worth for me?” I always go, “What’s a lead worth for you?” If you know that you get 10 leads and you close 2 or 3, well, then you’ve got to do your calculations and say, “Okay. Well, if I’m going to spend $10 for every lead, and I’m closing 3, that’s $30 that I’m spending on that client.”
So it’s a good understanding to know, well, leads can be free, they could be organically, but as soon as you want to start to scale your business up predictably, you’re going to have to start to pay for that. And Facebook advertising is great. AdWords are still around. They’re still around, they’re still very effective, very effective in trade industries, in industries that are really need industries. There’s a thing called Google remarketing, you can actually put your banners everywhere, so you go to someone’s website, and you don’t buy anything, and all of a sudden you’re seeing ads everywhere for what you’ve shopped for. Do you know what I mean? So I was shopping for a bed the other day, and I didn’t make a purchase online, and all of a sudden I’m just seeing these bed banners everywhere.
Leigh: Yeah. That’s so annoying. It happens to me all the time.
Richard: And that’s what it’s about. It’s really ensuring that you can market that.
I’ve got some other tactics I could share, regarding specific Facebook tactics, but don’t be scared to pay for advertising. What I’m trying to say is that once you can test out your theory, your offer, your product, your service, and you know that you can close there and convert there, make the leap of faith and say, “I’ve tested out, I’ve done the organic thing. I’m ready now to scale up.” And know that you’re not going to get leads for a couple cents, like they used to be in the past, because I think that’s where people, in their head, “Oh, Facebook, I spent $20 and nothing happened.” Well, who were you trying to go for and what is the lead worth for you? If your lead is worth 6 or 10 thousand dollars over a year, well, you should be paying more than a few cents for that lead. So be realistic in what you’re willing to spend in that marketing piece.
Leigh: When it comes to niching, is it possible to go too small or to be too specific?
Richard: Yeah. Good question. We actually had a client, and she was trying to find people who liked The Game of Thrones and Messina ice cream, in one. So when you think about that, that was too niched, in regards to she’s trying to find the people that like not just one, but both together. So-
Leigh: I think I’m in her niche, by the way.
Richard: Well, there you go. She’s got a client right here. So that’s a niche. And when I talk about niching, you can niche really easy on Facebook, because Facebook allows you the opportunity to choose exactly who you want to market to, and you can choose their area, their post code, their speciality, how much they earn. Anything can be found on Facebook, even big groups, or public figures, you can find and you can go niche those people too. So I guess the question is, when you’re comparing our Australian market to an American market, you got to remember that we don’t have the population of other countries, so when you sometimes hear examples, like small business owners may hear examples about what’s working really well if they’re following anybody in America, is that they’re American examples, and so the population is much, much bigger over there, so everything over there will work better. Everything in Australia, if you’re going for an Australian market, sometimes you can’t niche too, too much, like that example I gave you, because the population is not there. So when you actually are selecting on Facebook, and if you are doing Facebook ads, it will tell you how many people you’re actually going to reach there.
So there is a possibility of niching too much. I think there’s something also, to understanding how big do you want to go. If you’re a small business and wanting to get 15 clients, well, you could niche, but if you’re a small business and want to really go quite big, and if your niche is not big enough to do that, well, you need to maybe expand the niche a little bit there.
Leigh: What if you’re a mechanic and you run a little workshop, wouldn’t your niche be just everyone with a car? Like how would a business like that find a niche?
Richard: Yeah. That’s a good one, actually, because this is a business where, again, it’s a need business, you need to repair your car, okay, it’s a much needed model. But again, when we look at cars, everybody has a different kind of car, first of all, so we’ve got luxury cars, we’ve got European cars, we’ve just got Australian cars, we’ve got all different cars, and we have an obsession with cars. When you look on the road, everybody has their certain brand, their certain car they love. It could be historical cars, it could be new cars, modern cars, sports cars, four-wheel drive. So right now I can already hear that there’s niching going on. There’s four-wheel drive as a niche. There’s Ferraris as a niche. There’s BMWs as a niche. So you can niche that way for the car, which I actually think is quite genius, because then you know that … like if you’re a car fanatic, a four-wheel drive fanatic, you know that that mechanic’s going to know the ins and outs.
We’ve actually got a client, and their business is called TLC Mobile Auto Mechanic, and they had an amazing niche, and their niche was female-only mechanics. So you had female-only mechanics servicing any kind of cars. But it was interesting, because when they came to us, they said, “Listen, I’m a female-only mechanic,” and I said, “Oh my gosh. You have the best niche ever.” And they said, “What do you mean?” I said, “Well, you need to then double up on your niche, and triple down on your niche, pretty much, because then you want to really focus around who do you think would want to get serviced from a female-only mechanic.” Well, I think about it, I mean, anybody that’s been ripped off by a mechanic. We know that’s a big problem, when you don’t know anything about cars and you feel like, “Ah, that mechanic, I think he’s charged me too much,” but you have no idea.
So they really went down the niche of, first of all, females. There was a lot of single females that didn’t have, I could say, a partner to take that car to, if we want to be traditional. And anybody that was a stay-at-home mum as well, they were able to now go to someone’s house. And what I’m trying to say here is that there’s a lot of females that felt way more comfortable in servicing with another female. Now, you can take it as you want, but the end of the day, that’s a market right there, and people want to feel comfortable who they’re servicing in. So she’ll service anybody’s cars, but she found that a big part of the niche was the female audience there. And then she started to get calls from female bloggers, female podcast shows, that wanted to promote her to their audience. And so she had an amazing niche, that way.
But that’s just one niche. Again, you can go to any specific car or brand and really say that you’re the biggest, the only, the best. And when you use those kind of words, the biggest, the only, the best, the first, the largest, the smallest, you’re basically calling out of how you can market in a much better way, that way. And using those terminologies, people go, “Oh, wow. You’re the first? You’re the biggest? You’re the only?” There’s so many different combinations that you can use to actually niche. You just got to call it out in the front end. And this is where a lot of businesses aren’t doing. I just believe a lot of businesses are the world’s best kept secret, because they’re not actually understanding that if they just put the word most experienced or … And when I say most experienced, then they can calculate how many cars they’ve actually serviced. So maybe they’ve service over 3,000 cars, or maybe they’ve changed over 3,000 oil filters, or maybe they’ve changed 4,000 tires. Using those kind of numbers on the front end, when I say front end, of their website, or social media, or marketing, it stops people, and they go, “Wow. You actually serviced 3,000 cars. You’ve changed 10,000 wheels.” That is a big number and people go, “Wow. That’s impressive.”
Leigh: It makes it more relatable that way, too.
Richard: Yeah. Exactly. It’s like personal trainers or gym owners that say, “We’ve lost 4 tons of fat,” or, “We’ve lost one football field of centimeters with all our clients,” like, “Wow.” So you want to stop people in their track, and that’s what marketing’s about. Marketing’s about ensuring that you can be unique on the front end. Not lie or anything, it’s just basically telling the facts in a very visual way, because we are visual people, 70% is through visual communication. So if you can actually really visualize in somebody’s mind what it actually means by having 10 or 15 years of experience, you will out beat the other competitors, you will blow them out of the water. Especially if there’s anybody new in the industry, because even if they’re new, and they’re innovative, and they’ve got a website, and their social media, and they’ve got all these Instagram fans, if you’re a traditional business that’s been around for 5, 10, 15, 20 years, 30 years, you could always out beat the new ones that are coming through, just by using your experience, just by using those really quotable stats on the front end.
Leigh: Going back to your mechanic example as well, you talked about how there’s different brands and different types. That’s actually a benefit to the business owner as well, or to the mechanic, because then they can concentrate on the particular kind of cars they love. Like going back to your earlier point, if they have a passion for Ferraris or BMWs, and they just want to work on those particular cars, they can niche to become a mechanic or a specialist just in that area.
Richard: Yeah. 100%. And I think it works for two ways. We’re talking about the Ferraris and the BMWs, I think people buy cars because that’s their personality. So if you walk into … you’ve got an Audi, you go into a specific Audi dealership, or a small mechanic that says, “We deal with Audis or BMWs,” you feel the sense of, “This guy knows what they’re doing.” And they might give you facts and information, they might have images, pictures, they might have little toys about Ferraris or Audis, and you feel a sense of, “This is where I belong.” And it’s always about, “This is where I belong.” People go to places, or they go to cafes, they go anywhere, because they feel a sense of, “This is where I belong.”
And that’s the greatest thing, when you can niche down, is that you can now do some creative kinds of marketing. I mean, imagine that you have a specific Ferrari shop, and what do you do, you might have to wait for a Ferrari, and they bring in their kids, and you could have a Ferrari little bed, or Ferrari lounge, or tickets to the Ferrari show in Dubai. There’s so many different options you can do. And that’s just another advantage for both parties. And again, you’re going to get cheaper parts, because you can bulk order, particular tires, or engines, or whatever it may be, because you can niche in that. And then you become a good supplier from the particular wholesale.
Leigh: What if you’ve been in business for years, is it too late for you to identify a niche?
Richard: Well, I think, if you’re listening to this podcast and you have been in business for years … And I really love working with traditional businesses that have been around for a long time, because I don’t think there’s any time that restricts us from going down to a niche. But I think it just comes from a business owner’s mentality, and is it worth them to go and invest. And deep down, if they want to continue the legacy of their business, maybe they want to pass it on, they don’t want to sell it, I think there’s no better time to start niching. If you have the time, and you have the patience, and you can go and do it, I would say 100% go and do it, because the way the market’s shifting at the moment, we’re in the biggest change ever in business, because we have the thing called the internet, and that just literally flattened the world. So it means that now, there’s going to be more competition, there’s going to be more people that come in, and you’re, “Oh, my competition in my market is so much. It’s so hard.”
But I don’t think there’s any restriction of when you can niche. I just think it requires you to understand that if you don’t start niching, it means that you’re a pretty solid business and you’re backed quite well, and you can continue to spend more money on marketing etc. And if that’s not the case, I believe every business has to niche in some way, shape, or form. If they’re not going to niche in some level, I think competition’s going to be too fierce out there. So I think that there’s no better time to niche than now. And a lot of the time, we’re held back through fear, fear that, “If I niche, I’m going to lose business.” But a lot of the time, that’s not correct. And we’ve niched a lot of businesses down, really specific niching, and they’re finding they’re actually being able to increase their income up by 25 to 50 percent, and decrease their working hours down. We’ve done that time and time again.
So I think any age is okay to niche. It just means that you’ve got to have the right mind frame and the right advice to get there and start niching. And remember what I said before, you got to realize that you’re going to have to change a couple items in marketing, you might have to get some different case studies, testimonials, to ensure that you can niche successfully, okay?
Leigh: Okay. So let’s say a business has gone down the road of niching, they’ve identified some markets they want to work with, they’ve actually started marketing in that area, what’s the best way for them to measure success? And if they’re not getting the revenue or the leads that they thought they would, what should they do?
Richard: Okay. Great question. So they’ve gone down the niche, it’s not really working for them. Well, if it’s not working, it’s too late. I would, before that, do some test case studies. So I would run some specific niching examples, as I said, on Facebook, AdWords, before they go down that road. If it’s not working, and they’ve done that, you basically got to go back and you want to say, okay, you want to open up a little bit more in uniqueness.
But to answer the question a little bit more specific, is that when you go down to a niche, the fastest way to get some traction on it is I always go to trade shows. And I go to trade shows to kind of figure out, well, who’s in that market place and who are the top players. And so what I’d want to be doing is I want to partner with some top players in that industry already, and then you can get your spot much faster, that way. And especially if you’ve been in business for a while, you probably built up connections, and connections of who you can actually go and talk to. And so if you can partner with somebody that’s already in that niche, that’s working successfully, that helps you to kind of tag on and go down that line a lot faster, you’ll have more success that way, because you’re using that credibility of that person in that particular niche.
But if it’s not working, you’ve got to say, “Hey. It’s not working. Let’s get back and let’s just figure out, was it the people, the product, or the process that wasn’t working there?”, and figure out, “Maybe the product needed to be adjusted a little bit,” or, “Maybe my people, my staff, didn’t understand what they were selling,” or, “Was it my process, was it the marketing, was it the images, was that the incorrect model there?” So there’s always a way that you just got to look into the business and say, “Well, what parts weren’t working?”, and go back to say, “Well, the sales were working. Great. But maybe I had a high refund rate, and so maybe it was the product that was incorrect,” so go back and look at the product in that regard too.
Leigh: Can you give us some examples of some small businesses who have done some great niche marketing, like have got a great strategy behind them? What was the story behind their success?
Richard: I’ll give you some real case studies that we’ve worked with, if that’s okay, and I can go broader on other businesses.
Leigh: [inaudible]. I would love to hear your stories.
Richard: So I’ve got a client, her name’s Leanne, and Leanne has a company called Makeup Academy. She actually got domain name called makeup.com.au, and with a domain name like that, you can probably understand that she’s been in business for a while. They’re hard to come across. And so when you’re in that industry, it’s really competitive in the marketplace right now, because you’ve got YouTube, and YouTube’s her biggest competitor. And anybody that wants to be a makeup artist, they got to go through this RTO, registered training organization, and they’ve got to pay thousands of dollars for a makeup course. On the other side, we have YouTube, and YouTube you hit play, and you get free tutorials, and people teaching you how to apply makeup. So you can understand that millennials are coming through and they’re naturally going to YouTube. So her biggest competitor is YouTube, influencers on YouTube, and 15, 14, 16, 17, 18 year old girls that are teaching people how to apply makeup.
And so this is a great example in regards to innovation and niching down. So she had to figure out, well, instead of going broad and selling courses to everybody, who’s really going to pay for the course, because you’re going to have a lot of people that are liking videos and things like that, but are they going to pay for a course? So she’s got, first, to establish herself and go, “Well, who’s my market that will actually pay?” And we figured out that people that were going to pay were the ones that didn’t really have time to go and search the whole internet, and come up with a lot of different stuff but go nowhere. And the audience that she came up with was basically mums, so young mums, that had to stop their career to have a baby, and they’re getting back, now, to their career. And that was a really tight niche for her, because they were time poor and they wanted to not waste any time.
So she really honed down on that audience and niched her entire business down to, obviously, females, but females who wanted to change their career, females that weren’t happy, females that kind of their kids have grown up a little bit and now they want to get back into the working force. And so we had to change all the marketing, all the ads, to focus around their pain problems, to focus around their problems, and focus around the pleasure. “If you take this career, this is the flexibility you can earn,” because she was pushing the line of, “This makeup creates flexibility. You can do it whenever you want. You can do it when your kids are at school.” And so that’s the angle that she went down with. She just highlighted the benefits to a particular niche. But she could have done that to school leavers, but she didn’t, she chose that particular niche. So that was Leanne.
I’ve got another client called Face of Man, and they’re Sydney’s only male-only grooming salon. So again, a grooming salon that’s done really well, but actually treating male only. You always hear about females, but you never hear about males. So what kind of males? We’re targeting executive CEOs, we’re targeting guys that just don’t really look after themself, but they don’t have that convenience. And so it’s repositioning that grooming is actually important for males only. Now, yes, there’s a massive market actually. And she’s located in the Sydney CBD, and the reason why she’s located there, because her market is there. She’s marketing busy males that are executives, CEOs, generally speaking. But then on the weekend, she’s really busy too, because people have their weekends off and they want to actually treat themself.
And you’d be surprised, it’s not just your executives, and your males, your CEOs, it’s really getting quite diverse. And she’s started to use influencers, like football players, she’s started to use anybody that’s been on reality TV shows. As an influencer, they come, they take a photo, and they’re on her Instagram account. And she’s been picked up many times now, through mainstream media, because that she niched down. And again, she could have said, “Well, you know what? I’m losing a massive audience there, females.” But again, there are plenty of other businesses that will take females only. So niching really worked well for her, quite a lot.
Leigh: And there’s also, she might have, like you say, missed a massive audience, but she’s picked up a new audience, and not only a new audience, one that’s ready to buy as well.
Richard: Ah, a super amazing audience, because see, guys and girls will shop very differently, they’re a very different buying style. Because I know when I go into a store, if I’ve got a female assistant, or any kind of assistant, and I say, “I’ll try that on,” I’m guilty for not buying it. Where, my wife will go into a store, and she’ll try on 40 things, and not buy anything. And that’s females, they’ll shop, shop, shop. Guys just want to go in, and get it done, and move. And so the audience there is a great audience to purchase as well. So they’re the ones that are just going, “Okay. I’ve got this money, I’m just going to spend.” Where, sometimes females will shop around a little bit more and wait for the bargain. Guys just want to go in and get it done, and especially that kind of audience as well.
I mean, you can look at also other examples. You can look at teeth whitening examples. I mean, a great company there, HiSmiles, and they’ve just dominated the market over the years, just by going in and saying, “We just focus on teeth whitening.” Where, before, you’d have to go to a dentist, and you’d have to go through the whole rigmarole, and pay $1,000, and they made it really, really easy. And they went to an audience of Instagram, and really went to an influencer market there. So I think anybody and any business can niche. It’s just about sometimes taking that product, a single-ised product out as well, and just focusing on one product, because a lot of businesses have multiple products. And what they did is one product, and they added more and more products.
I’ve got another client who’s a dentist as well, and he’s just focusing on reconstructions and that’s it. He’s not doing whitening, he literally just does, they call it all on fours, rip out all the teeth or put new teeth in. And he’s specializing himself in a certain service offering of that, not just everything, a dentist of everything. So by niching, he’s done very well on that. He’s just did very well with Facebook, spent $5,000, got $100,000 return, recently. And that’s literally just by the sake of really focusing on being really, really good at what he does. And that’s the messaging part that I was talking about. Really going deep in your messaging, going deep in your avatar.
Another great way to maximize the reach of somebody who wants to niche is use things like badges, and awards, and “as seen in”. Anything like that helps to qualify the niching and qualify the experience of somebody. And that’s worked very well for a lot of our clients, when they say they’re, “Only the biggest,” they’re “as seen in.” And that’s a great way to maximize what you’re trying to sell on the front end, so it’s not just you saying it, it’s other people saying it as well.
Leigh: Some wonderful examples of niching there. For small businesses that haven’t started this journey yet, how should they begin? What’s the first step for them?
Richard: Well, so I think the first step is to go and figure out what they really love to do. I think if they’re in a small business and they’ve already been there, as I said, I would go back and go through their accounting records, possibly, go through your Xero, your MRIB, and just go split it up in industries, and first of all, discover what industry’s really bringing in 80% of the income. And it’s like that Gordon Ramsay episode. Have you ever seen, I think it’s called, Kitchen Nightmares, or one of those shows, they go in and they pretty much just rip the menu in half. Do you know what I mean? And so if you’ve got 50 things on your menu, cut it down to 10.
And I would say the same thing with any small business. If you’ve got too many items that you’re selling, and especially when you’re a service-based industry, if you’ve got too many of those items you’re selling, cut them down. Again, focus on which items are actually working for you, and then eliminate the ones that are giving you stress, no income, or they’re giving you income but no profit, and focus on those few items, you will already niche down your business. And then do the same with the clients. It’s not like you’re not going to say … If you don’t want to go to the full extreme, don’t say, “I’m not taking anybody on,” but now start to slowly focus your marketing around a certain niche.
So for example, the next Facebook post or Instagram post you do, talk specifically about the audience that you’re trying to go to. So don’t just say, “Attention, everybody,” go, “Attention, mums,” “Attention, males,” “Attention, females,” “Attention,” whatever it may be, and just use the attention, and that will get that particular audience’s kind of attention, if I use that word again. And that helps. And then you can start testing out, just by organic postings, just by using different words in your posting, and just thinking about who you’re talking to, who is the end person you’re talking to. And it’s like this podcast, or like any videos that I would do, it’s like I always think about, “Who’s actually listening to it?” And it’s the same thing when you’re putting an ad on Facebook, or you’re on the phone, or something, ask yourself, “Who’s on the other side that’s watching or reading my content, and who can I talk to?”
And anybody can do this right now. You don’t have to say, “I’m going to niche down and I’m going to be this person.” Just slowly start to adjust your images on your website. And I guess, if you want to make one change and one change only, all you have to do is adjust images on your website. And you’ll figure out very fast that, if you’re servicing a certain demographic and you’re putting their images on, straight away, people are going go, “Oh yeah. That’s who you’re servicing, that’s who you’re aiming for.” It’s literally that easy. So you got to be careful as well that it can be done very, very fast. You can transform your business, literally overnight, if you’re to change all your socials, all your websites, all your reviews, all your case studies around, you can adjust that. But I always say just go through what you’re currently being successful at and focus more on those 80% that’s actually working for you straight away.
Leigh: Richard, I want to cycle back to something you mentioned earlier about fear. Why would that hold people back from niching?
Richard: Well, fear is the biggest thing that holds anybody back. It ruins dreams for you. And I think when it comes down to niching, there’s reasons why we’re even having this conversation in niching. Niching means that there’s something that’s fearful or holding you back in your business. So something’s happened to your business, competition has come, someone’s opened up next door to you, or close by with you. It has to decrease your price, and there’s competition price. It means that cashflow is not as good as it used to be. It means leads have dried up. It means that even the leads that are coming through, they’re not as quality anymore, and they’re taking longer to close. And so right now, business owner is saying to himself, “Well, hang on. I need to do something. Is niching the thing that I need to do? Will that help my business?” And the answer is, yes, it will help your business. But you can’t kind of half, half do it.
If you’re going to niche, go and test it out organically, and then really go and focus around how you can serve that niche better, and go and partner with people, go and change your content around. Because a lot of the time, when you do niche, there’s big wins with niching, because with niching, you want to become number one, two, three in the marketplace. I don’t think it’s worthwhile niching if you’re still going to be number 50 on the list. If you’re number 50, and you’re going number 60, well, say, “Hang on. I want to get to the top three in my industry or my community,” and that’s why I would niche. That’s the only reason why I would niche. I wouldn’t niche to half step into a bit of water here. I would niche to really be an industry player, a market leader, a key person of influence, a dominator on the top. That’s why I would niche, to pretty much save your business, grow your business, expand your business.
Leigh: That is wonderful advice. Richard, before I let you go, what’s the best piece of business advice you’ve received and why?
Richard: The best piece of business advice I’ve received and why. I think it’s about just believing in yourself and going with what’s in the heart a lot of the time. I think there’s a lot of competition, a lot of experts out there, a lot of noise now on social media, and I think it really comes down to finding your own uniqueness, the reason why you went into business, the reason why you’re amazing, and really understanding that you’ve got something to share, you’ve got something to give out there in the marketplace. So go and give that. Don’t get sidetracked because someone else is doing it that way. I believe that everything that you need’s pretty much in yourself. And so a lot of the time you’ve got to think about why you went into business for and, “Hey, is this the right move for me, personally?”, not anybody else, not your neighbor, not your competitor. And if you trust yourself, you trust your gut, I think that’s the best that anybody could ever do.
Leigh: Richard, we love you, we love your work. Thank you so much for your time. Tell us, if we want to learn more about you and your work, where can we find you?
Richard: Thank you so much. If you want to learn what we do, our company’s called COM Marketing, it’s spelt C-O-M and then marketing. Commarketing.com.au, that’ll be the best place. You can check me out anywhere, richardtoutounji.com.au. I’ll spell the last name for you, T-O-U-T-O-U-N-J-I. So we’re around on socials, that’s the best place. We run a lot of workshops, we run a lot of social media courses, and we’re really just here to educate and support business owners to really impact what they’re amazing at, so that’s what you’re going to find when you go do a Google search on us.
Leigh: Excellent. We’ll link to all of your stuff in our show notes as well. Richard, thank you so much for your time.
Richard: Thanks so much. I appreciate being in this podcast, Leigh.
Leigh: Well, there you have it, my interview with Richard Toutounji, Australia’s niche marketing expert. Thanks again to Richard, for being so generous with his time, and showing us how finding a niche can give small businesses a competitive advantage. And before I go, don’t forget that if you need help with your obligations as an employer, or just want some advice on any aspect of workplace relations, give Employsure a call on 1-300-651415, or you can visit us online at employsure.com.au, where we have a stack of free online resources. That’s it for this month. Thanks again for listening. I’m your host, Leigh Johnston. And tune in again next time when we tackle another big issue in small business.