As a creative business, you will have given some thought to how you position yourself in the market. Regardless of whether you run a website development agency, a film production company or a branding firm, your competition will be strong and plentiful.
At the cheaper end of the market, you may find yourself competing with those who choose to tout their services on marketplaces such as Fiverr and Upwork, or, depending on your industry you may find yourself having to articulate how your services and the value you provide is better than what can be generated using AI-assisted service providers.
For a creative business with a solid reputation and a portfolio of work behind them, likely, your revenue comes as much from recommendation and referral as it does through advertising and thought leadership, however, consideration should be given to how you position yourself in the market.
For those of you that are familiar with the 2bobs podcast, (a highly recommended listen for all creative entrepreneurs), their advice is built on the belief that ‘the world does not need another generalist creative ‘agency’ and the phrase ‘full-service’ is seen as both cliche and cringeworthy.
The path, therefore, to a strong market position, is to choose your niche.
“When you speak to everyone, you speak to no one.” Meredith Hill.
The quote above by marketer Meredith Hill is often mentioned in conversations about why businesses should consider niching their audience or service. At AO Accountants we’re one of the few accountancy firms that do niche, our speciality, of course, is helping businesses in the creative sector.
But what about the benefits of niching your creative business? Is it worth doing, and in what ways can a creative business develop a deeper level of expertise?
According to the book ‘The Win Without Pitching Manifesto’ by Blair Enns, very few creative businesses choose to niche their audience or service, afraid that they will become stuck in a creative rut, destined to offer the same thing to the same audience day in and day out.
However, deciding to niche, either vertically (by audience) or horizontally (by service offering) allows the creative business to develop a deeper expertise in its chosen area, and, by extension, the ability to offer greater value and charge a higher price for doing so.
Broadly there are two options for niching:
Vertical niching refers to the practice of choosing a particular audience and providing that audience with a wide range of services that cater to their particular needs. For the context of this blog let’s assume you are a creative agency niching specifically to solicitors, offering brand strategy, brand identity design and website development.
As we discuss later in this article, you may even describe yourself as a ‘full-service agency for legal firms’, but because you are niching in your audience, you will naturally begin to recognise and understand patterns in how solicitors generally approach their branding and website development. In other words, you are developing insight within your specialism.
As you lean into your audience and define your positioning as ‘the creative agency of choice for legal firms’ you will be able to advise your new clients on matters of brand differentiation, how to avoid common industry cliches and, therefore, how your clients may stand out in the marketplace.
Through your repeated exposure to this kind of client, you may then begin to develop deeper insight into very specific pain points for your industry, such as employer branding, and employer value propositions for example.
It is easy to see therefore how your agency can develop its reputation as the ‘go-to’ creative agency for legal firms because you can offer brand insight for your audience like no other creative agency can.
To summarise, the concept of a vertical niche is to have a narrow audience to whom you provide a broad range of services, but crucially, your repeated exposure to this audience allows you to identify the patterns and trends which provide you with a unique insight.
Horizontal niching is when a business decides to specialise in a very specific discipline and offer that service to a wider, non-specific audience.
In the context of the creative industries, this is the opposite of the ‘full-service agency’. For example, a creative firm that chooses to only specialise in brand language could be described as having a horizontal niche.
As a creative agency, depending on your horizontal niche and its popularity, it may be harder for you to develop your position in the marketplace. For example, becoming known as ‘the’ website design agency of choice would be a difficult task, given the amount of website development agencies that exist, whereas if you specialised in film post-production, or animation for example, you may fare better.
Whether you decide to niche vertically in an audience or horizontally with a creative discipline, niching is a highly recommended path for any creative business. You should of course niche in an audience or discipline you are passionate about, and you should create regular content that resonates with that audience and speaks of your expertise.
Advantages of niching:
There are many advantages to niching your creative firm, and you may experience them in a roughly chronological order starting with your website.
Narrowing your creative focus and engineering your website around keywords you want to be discovered for will, of course, reap benefits in terms of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). In the example of the agency specialising in branding for legal firms (who write on this topic) they should, over time, see their firm ranking highly for that specific search term.
Conversely, it would be almost impossible to rank organically (i.e. without using paid-for advertising) for the phrase ‘branding agency’ because the search terms will be too general.
Develop a deeper expertise
The more you work with a specific client, or within a creative discipline, you will notice patterns and develop insight in that area. You must then write blogs, or create other content to demonstrate that expertise.
Be seen as the experts
Over time you will gain more clients in your niche, or deliver more projects in your specialism. You will develop a body of published content such as blogs, or videos, and therefore you are becoming the expert in your field, developing a solid reputation.
Niching also allows you to produce higher-quality content on your social media pages. Consider your targeted blog articles, which of the following do you think the solicitor who is considering investing in their brand would choose to read? ‘Ten branding mistakes to avoid in your business’ or ‘The ten most common branding mistakes we see in solicitors’ websites’.
A larger geographic footprint
As your website continues to rank for your specialism, and you are clearly offering your visitors valuable content, you will reach a larger audience, over a wider geographic area.
Charge higher fees
Ultimately you will be regarded as the desired agency for your target audience. You have researched your audience, and you can give them insight that no other agency can, addressing their pain points and advising them based on your experience. At this point, you can begin to charge higher fees to those who wish to benefit from your unique insight. Charging higher fees can of course bring other considerations to the fore, such as company growth or whether you need to register for VAT, which are things that AO Accountants can advise creative businesses on.
Clearly defining your position as a creative business is a vital part of your business strategy. At AO Accountants we specialise in helping creative businesses with all aspects of their business planning and finances, and our experience in this sector allows us to understand the challenges that business owners face in all stages of their creative business journey.
Get in contact with us here to find out how we can help your creative business thrive.