A few years ago, I met a public relations guru in Chicago who was just starting out at her own firm. Like most people in her position, she ate up any and all new business opportunities that came her way, even if she wasn’t entirely passionate or interested in their field.
As time went on, most of her clients turned out to be hotel-related, which highlighted what she loved working on and what she was good at. Flash forward to the present day, and her PR company is now entirely selective and concentrated only on the hospitality industry. She is now known as “the go-to girl” for any new open, renovation, or special event going on at hotels across the country, making her one of the most successful female business owners in the Midwest.
While this sounds easy to accomplish in an industry like public relations, you may wonder how someone in the design industry can experience the same type of niche-based success. For that, we turned to Shay Bocks, the Founder and CEO of Feast Design Co., who has a 100 percent proposal acceptance with clients in the food industry and whose top-selling product has been a number-one seller at StudioPress almost every month for more than three years.
First off, why is it important for a designer/design agency to choose a niche? For starters, it showcases your value from the very beginning to your potential client.
“When niching down, it limits what kinds of clients you take on, but it also makes you highly valuable to that small group of people. It’s the difference between pleasing everyone and having die-hard fans.” – Shay Bocks
While Bocks’ business isn’t a catch-all across multiple industries, it has allowed her to work faster and smarter on the one subject she’s a pro in. This means that naturally, her company takes half the time to churn out a project compared to a competitor who is a novice in the trade. “This provides an opportunity to charge more because of expertise and speed,” says Bocks. She also says clients prefer working with her because they don’t need to guide her through the process; she is already the expert.
By making themselves subject matter experts in the food industry, Feast notices trends before they become trends. “This means you get to be the one to help your clients get ahead of the game,” says Bocks. “Your specific insight helps them establish their authority as experts in their niche and puts more money in their pockets.”
But what about money in your pocket? How does that work as a niche-based designer? By tapping into the needs of a particular audience and providing solutions – that is the trick to being successful and commanding in your category. True success comes by recognizing the needs of a specific group, then jumping at opportunities that arise from them. That includes word-of-mouth referrals.
“Don’t underestimate the power of referrals, especially in the age of Facebook groups,” said Bocks, who saw her business boom after word spread that she was the person for the job, every time, in this specific industry.
“People kept asking for minimalist food blog themes,” said Bocks of how her business expanded. “Listening to that request was the most powerful tactic in deciding my niche.” In essence, Bocks saw a need and filled it.
For someone as busy as Bocks, her biggest productivity tip is to define your process and automate it as much as you can.
“Almost every step of our new project request and onboarding process is automated, which means I get to dedicate even more time to creating online brand identities for my clients.” – Shay Bocks
So while other designers might be chasing the next big design or prototyping software or researching every productivity app in the marketplace, niche-based designers are perfectly content to keep it simple and focused.
“Working in the same industry, with the same kinds of clients, on the same kinds of projects is what makes you an authority on what you do,” said Bocks. “This is the ultimate scenario for being incredibly valuable to your clients and successful in your business.”
What do you think about finding a niche for your business? Have you discovered who your ideal clients are yet?
This article was originally published on June 12, 2017. It was last updated on July 31, 2020.
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