Is there value in targeting a ‘niche’ instead of ‘anyone and everyone’?

Well, if a 2008 college drop-out can start a firm that caters to ‘moms’ who want / need financial advice and last month raised $19 million to help it launch a round of new products, then . . . YES!  Yes, finding a niche seems like a damned good if not a great idea.

Started by Alexa von Tobel, LearnVest is an online site that caters to the unique needs of women to learn and practice financial principles for the good of their family and themselves.

Alexa’s choice of a well-defined, geographically-diverse and significantly-sized market segment is brilliant.  The fact that many companies and financial planners are not already targeting this rather significant group of household decision-makers is rather surprising!

Providing an easily accessed, women-centric version of financial education through a variety of highly interactive tutorials, checklists and other tools in a ‘cozy yet professional’ website seems to have been a smart way to differentiate LearnVest from the myriad groups of planners who all seem rather vanilla to most of us.

Finding a niche that needs what you offer and others aren’t = Ka-Ching!

I don’t usually tout some company or person.  The implications are often misunderstood or taken to be an endorsement beyond what was intended.  But today, my first day back online and with power since early Sunday morning, I had a great experience with a Matthew Smith over at

I’m publishing my note to Bob Walton, Founder of the company because I hope it helps him and  But I really hope it enlightens you, my readers, about what ‘good service’ looks like and what it does for all the parties involved — the consumer, the company and the brand.  Enjoy:

To:  Bob Walton, Founder /

I just had a great call with a Matthew Smith of your organization.  I had to recognize him as a super ‘Brand Ambassador’ for your company.  You’re very fortunate to have him making contact with people like me . . . a prospect for your organization.

Matthew’s responses to my questions were forthright, accurate and helpful.  But mostly, his attitude was most definitely customer-centric.  In a world where service is a lost art and a forgotten element of differentiation . . . Matthew Smith did you really, really proud today.  

I will be working more diligently to ‘test’ your system (kudos on your thoughtful website and design — most impressive, too!) and intend to reach a decision this week.  Not that it should make a difference, but if the other system I’m considering is ‘as good’ as your system, I will go with BigContacts because they don’t have Matthew Smith working for them.  

I may not have the good fortune to reconnect with Matthew again, but the fact that your management was smart enough to have him working for you in the first place tells me that you make ‘good decisions’ and that . . . is what makes all the difference in the world to a consumer like me.

Thank you . . . after surviving a couple of days without electricity, running water and limited ability to move around after our encounter with Hurricane Irene, speaking with Matthew was a true pleasure and a most thankful experience in the wake of a couple of really not-so-fun days of bad weather and no power.



 Ok, this may seem radical to suggest, but . . . do you have someone you’ve known for awhile . . . in the course of your business . . . whom you haven’t spoken to in some time?

If so, may I suggest you re-connect with them?  A phone call is best. An email will work, too. When you make contact, just ask:

• “How have you been?”
• “What’s happening in your world?”
• “What are you working on lately?”
• “How might I possibly help you?”
• “Who might I know that you’d like to meet?”

You’re sharp.  You probably picked up on the focus here. It’s not about you.  It’s about the person you re-connect with, OK?

What can happen when you do this?  Almost anything!  Mostly good.  I’ve had clients tell me they found work, referrals to people they’ve been trying to reach for months, insights they needed, answers to problems they hadn’t been able to solve . . . you get the idea, right?

Reconnect with people you haven’t talked to in awhile — good things await you when you do! 


Hawks . . .  Attacks . . . and Lead Conversion
I live in the country.  Deer, fox and other critters are frequent visitors on our property.  We also have a family of red-tailed hawks who patrol regularly — mostly in search of a quick meal due to our abundant supply of field mice.  The hawks are amazing.  Graceful.  Powerful.  Skilled aviators.  Deadly hunters.  I first see them flying in slow circles over our property.  Suddenly they swoop down to catch a hapless mouse and be off again before you know anything happened.

Hawks Not (Always!) Needed
Recently, my wife and I were seeking to buy some new furniture.  We visited a couple of stores.  But we didn’t buy.  The salespeople would ‘hover’ over us — like hawks seeking a snack — and it didn’t go over well with my wife.  She was a ‘looker’, not a ‘cooker’ . . . i.e. someone who was ready to buy.

In the end, we did find a furniture store that had a ‘no hawks’ policy.  We dropped a lot of money within 10 minutes of arriving there.  Why?  They didn’t hover and they didn’t go for the kill.  They sized us up and acted . . . appropriately.

Don’t Treat Prospects Alike
In marketing — and selling — it’s important to learn what someone wants from you and how they want it.  You can’t treat all prospects alike because, well . . . they’re not all alike!  Some are ready to buy today.  Some are not.  You must discern which is which and act accordingly.

Don’t treat all prospects alike — treat them appropriately  

Nick Unsworth, a local social media expert, speaks of content ‘curation’.  This means finding and sharing ‘refined’ information your desired audience wants to know about.

This could be as simple as creating a tweet on Twitter that references an article you know your people will find useful and . . . likely to share with their networks.  That’s just one way to grow your awareness and attraction factor considerably; there are many other options and that’s why being clear about your goals is so important to using social media effectively and efficiently.

Look, it’s called ‘social’ media for a reason!  Traditional marketing (i.e. advertising) was, necessarily, a one-way rather than a two-way conversation with prospects. Social media invites you to engage in a ‘dialog’ or ‘conversation’ with your prospects, clients and centers-of-influence.  And social media is perfect for that.

A blog not only invites people to engage in the conversation with you, it also provides the basis for helping interested people to find you in the first place!

Quality content invites and sustains an ongoing conversation!

Social Media is the topic of a business meeting we’re hosting tonight.  So I thought I’d share some of what I’ve learned are some keys to using social media to build profitable relationships.

Actually, there are six of them . . .

  • Intention . . . means to have goals for doing ‘social media’ in the first place
  • Content . . . is ‘king’ in the digital world; the bait that attracts attention for you
  • Curation . . . is the ‘distillation’ of data into interesting and useful information
  • Conversation . . . means to engage with your visitors, fans and others who ‘like’ you
  • Conversion . . . not always a transaction, but a degree of deeper connection with you
  • Community . . . a following of people who ‘know, like and trust’ you . . . PRICELESS

In the coming days, we’ll take a closer look at each point.  Why?  To help you use social media to build profitable relationships for your business or practice.

Social media is a KEY media you want to use in your marketing 

Being crystal clear about WHAT your business does and WHO you serve is a key to attracting the interest and response of people who could do business with you.

A business is in one of 4 ‘Clarity Categories’ based on the mission and market it serves.

MERCENARY — this firm is focused entirely on providing its customers with anything they want but at the expense of what matters to the firm’s owners. Mercenary firms are ike the character whose coat reveals pens on one side while revealing watches on the other.  These firms do very well financially but they fail to fulfill the owners personal sense of purpose.

MARKETEER — this firm perfectly aligns both its mission and market.  It first finds and honors its mission and then finds the market that finds its mission attractive and affordable.  In the end, this is what we all aspire to be in our business . . . personally fulfilled in what we do and financially profitable for doing it, too.

Balancing your MISSION and MARKET . . . builds your business value

I don’t often tout a product.  Today’s an exception. 

I found a really cool little online service this week.  ContactMe. This cloud-based service makes it easy for people who find you online to contact you and it helps you manage your follow-up with them, as well.  Very nice little app — Check it out on the right side of the page!

I also found another service called “Notebook“.

This little app organizes all kinds of information that I find on websites, in emails, Word documents, etc. in a way that’s very intuitive and extremely easy to use.

Where’s The WOW Factor?
These apps exist because they solve problems. Period. And these apps are . . . FUN!

“Easy and Fun” Beats “Difficult and Complicated”
I’ve given up far more sophisticated CRM software because ‘hard-to-learn’ or ‘difficult to use’ is going to LOSE . . . every time.

Form and Function (Should!) Go Together 
Both these apps are GOOD LOOKING,  INTUITIVE and SIMPLE.  That’s not easy!   It takes a lot of thought to create something you can use easily and effectively without thinking about it.

In the ContactMe blog there’s a post where they introduced an innovative change in their service.  They wrote, “You Asked.  We Listened.  We Delivered”.  That reflects their attitude of CARING for the relationships that make their business successful.  Do that for your business.  It is a beautiful thing to see.

Demonstrating you CARE about what matters to your client . . . is a competitive edge 

Peter Montoya is the author of a book called, The Brand Called YOU.  Peter’s a very insightful person who understands that, as a service provider, what people buy before anything else is . . . your brand.

Makes sense.  Afterall, it’s the first thing a prospective client learns about you — often even before they meet you in-person.

Prospects, clients and centers-of-influence use the brand called ‘YOU’ to help them identify you and your business from your competitors.  How?  By triggering an association of ideas, thoughts and feelings that your brand represents or suggests.  Your challenge is to ensure those associations reflect what you want and not . . . something else.

Your Personal Brand:

  • triggers . . . an association of thoughts and feelings people have about you
  • reflects . . . the cumulative effect of all the contacts people have with you over time
  • prepares . . . people about what to expect / not expect about working with you
  • occurs . . . by design or by accident and that . . . is always YOUR choice

Your brand . . . is a key factor in shaping expectations of key people for your business

“All things being equal . . .”
You know the expression.  It’s said just before an UN-equal fact is about to be introduced in a conversation.  That’s how many people are ‘wired’ to perceive reality — ‘similar with exception’.

Stand Out or Sit Down
Naturally, you want to ‘stand out’ from the crowd of your alleged competitors.  And there are ways to do that.  But most require time and money — the two biggie assets that no ever has enough of, right?  Well, here’s how to save your money, use a little bit of your precious time and be seen as a ‘preferred provider’ of your problem-solving expertise.

Write . . . a “Thank You” Note
I get these.  Rarely.  But everytime I do, I am more impressed with the person who sent it and, (taking notes?) more inclined to do ‘something nice’ in return.  I just got a great note from Jody Ferrer, President of The Perfect Promotion thanking me for a referral I’d made to her business.  Included with the card was a smaller ‘bookmark’ branded for The Perfect Promotion.  I am so impressed with Jody, her business and her business acumen that reflects her social skills.

If you want to ‘Stand Out’ . . . send a “Thank You” note!