A member of the Kninja community, whom we’ll call Valerie, wrote to us a couple of years ago with a challenge.
She lived in a rural area of the country and her goal after achieving her bookkeeper training was starting a bookkeeping practice from her home office during the time her children were at school.
She wanted to lay the foundation over a two-year period for a solid business so that she could expand as her kids got a little older and less dependent. Her spouse was supportive of her endeavours and even created a lovely office in a spare room, but he couldn’t help a lot because he worked long hours as a farmer.
“Where am I going to find clients? I live kind of in the middle of nowhere,” she asked us. She said she could drive to the nearest town but what she really needed was a lot of repeat business from about 30 good clients to sustain herself.
Set a goal that works for you
We liked her problem, because it was a modest and realistic goal as she got her business started, and she had potential for exciting growth down the road. Her story was not unique among our members either. Some people want to build a huge empire, but the vast majority just wants a good, sustainable business that is workable for them and provides a solid and reliable family income. They don’t necessarily want an office in a high-rise tower in the heart of a big downtown area. We are respectful that many members have different goals and our aim is always to support them in building the bookkeeping business that is their dream.
What we suggested is that she look around her area and try to determine a niche that would distinguish her from other bookkeeping businesses in her area.
We asked her to honestly answer these questions:
- Who in your area do you feel is not being adequately served by the existing bookkeeping businesses?
- Do these potential clients have anything in common?
- Do they have unique issues that require special knowledge to handle their books?
- Do these clients likely have the money to pay for your services?
This was the initial dialogue we had with her. Our goal was to get Valerie to consider a potential niche for her services, since her farmhouse office was probably not well positioned for drop-in traffic and it would take time to build good clients from referrals.
The other factor that added to her rural challenge at that time was the reliability of the Internet. It was still very sporadic in its service and so the thought of a cloud solution just wasn’t realistic at that time.
Identify a market niche in your area
We were also trying to determine the best way to market her business so that she could pique the interest of a customer niche that would help get her business started.
Her answers were provided the solution.
She told us she thought that the farmers in rural areas were not being well served.
“Besides being interested in bookkeeper education, one of the reasons I decided to take my training in it was to help my husband. He couldn’t find anybody near us who really understood the nuances of his business, the cycles of business, the exporting angle, and all of that. He needed his books to be kept meticulously so he wouldn’t have big issues at tax time. He also needed advice in what he could claim and not claim with regards to his specific business.”
Having grown up on a farm and now being married to a farmer, Valerie understood as well as anyone the business intricacies of the industry.
“What they really need is a bookkeeper to handle everything through the year and also to do their taxes,” she concluded. “They also have the money to pay for this kind of help and many of them have no interest in doing it themselves.”
Enhance your training as you grow
She had found her niche. She studied further to learn all she could about taxes in the farming industry and started to market her bookkeeping business as specializing in the farming industry.
Today her home office has expanded to have desks for one assistant and her business is solid and thriving. She has been able to expand her work hours to two nights a week. All family members pitch in on other chores and her family and a neighbouring family alternate week-by-week on driving the children to sports and dance practices in the evening.
“Once I figured out what I really wanted to do, it was much easier to build a framework that made it possible to carry out my plan,” she said.
Valerie’s story is a good idea of the importance of finding your niche as you grow your bookkeeping practice. When you are getting started in a competitive or challenging area, it can be a real bonus if you have insight and expertise into a particular area that is different from the others.
Maintain future-oriented goals
Valerie’s business is at a manageable and profitable place for her right now, but she is already thinking ahead to the time in the near future where she will expand to starting a Cloud bookkeeping practice so she can broaden her client base geographically, yet maintain her special niche. Yes, her Internet provider has now joined the 21st century. J
If your business is already up and running but you would like to expand it, spend some time categorizing your clients and determining if there is an obvious niche that you could consider expanding your focus on. Are there similarities to the clients you enjoy working with?
You can even pick a type of client to market to, such as solopreneurs or mining or technology or hospitality. Clients who work in specific industries often feel more comfortable working with someone who really understands the industry jargon along with ups and downs and cycles of their business.
Once you have identified a niche you want to move into, there are important ways you can promote it.
- Develop industry-specific content for your website. For example, if you are running a weekly blog and you want to grow a certain niche business, make sure every second blog or a special downloadable feature is geared specifically to that business.
- Gather testimonials from happy clients in the niche that you want to pursue. You know what you want people to say about you, and while your clients may be well-intentioned, they may not know what to say other than “good job!” It is okay to draft a few testimonials that make reference to your specialized knowledge in your niche and ask a good client if they would mind providing their name to such a testimonial. Most clients are relieved because they want to help you out, but they aren’t really sure what to say.
- Go to the places where your niche clients are most likely to go. Set up a booth at an agricultural exhibition if you are trying to court farmers. Have your brochures and a booth at the local farmer’s market and in the farm equipment stores (offer to put their brochures in your office). If a special interest magazine serves them, contact the editor to see if you can write an article about the bookkeeping challenges or tax tips for people in your desired niche. Be visible at all the places they visit.
Building a niche market doesn’t happen overnight. You have to build organically as well as through your marketing efforts. One happy client in your chosen field is more effective than the largest billboard you can buy.
Set realistic targets and assess your progress at least three times a year. If you are not moving forward, consider what other ways you could approach these clients, or determine if there is enough of a market to really make this niche work for you.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. Until next time, take care.
Please let us know if there are any specific topics you would like us to address in the future
Copyright: Maciej Maksymowicz / 123RF Stock Photo