Marketing & Branding Your Niche

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Transcript Marketing & Branding Your Niche

Presented by
August Aquila
•August is the CEO of AQUILA Global Advisors, LLC which specializes
in succession planning, mergers and acquisitions, compensation
plans and transformational strategic planning
•Selected as one of the “Top 100 Most Influential People” in the
Accounting Profession by Accounting Today in 2004, 2007, 2009 &
•AAM Hall of Fame member, founding AAM Board Member
•First marketing director to become a partner in Top 100 Firm (1985)
•Former partner in top 100 firm – Friedman, Eisenstein, Raemer &
Schwartz (FERS)
•Former executive with American Express Tax & Business Services,
Why niche selection is a strategic initiative
Niches and the Value Curve
Niches move a firm into true consulting
Common niche management issues
Major niche pitfalls to avoid
Marketing and branding issues
A niche market is a focused, targetable
portion of a market.
By definition, then, a business that focuses on
a niche market is addressing a need for a
product or service that is not being addressed
by mainstream providers. You can think of a
niche market as a narrowly defined group of
potential customers.
Niche work may be more project oriented
Will your partners support the initiative?
Will the firm structure support the niche?
Is compensation aligned with the niche
What special skills do we need to be
successful in the niche?
More nonrecurring projects with client
More cross selling to existing clients
Work done at client’s location
Everyone else is in the niche, shouldn’t we?
How does the niche fit into your strategic
Are you organized for a niche?
What should niche leaders do?
Non Profit
Marketing and Practice Development
◦ Becoming the perceived leader
Financial Management
◦ Make a profit
Client Service
◦ Create client centric culture
Employee Growth & Learning
◦ Develop competencies for partners/staff
High Value To Client
Unique Work
Hired for Experience
Hired for Brand Name
Hired for Price
Low Value to Client
Serving a niche requires that you know more
than just accounting and tax
Moves a firm from compliance to wisdom and
Creates specialists and experts
Needs passion for the niche
Lives and breeds it
Is a famous person or becomes one in the
Taking on too many niches at once
Not dedicating true leadership to our niches
Not developing written plans for our niches
Under-committing resources to our niche
Treating each niche like all other firm services
Not communicating enough about our niches
Not cross-serving our clients with our full service
Other (not specified here)
Avoid saying your firm has specialties in too
many areas, spreading your resources too
◦ A niche is an area where you have “deep”
expertise and more than just a concentration of
◦ How many of these can your firm size sustain?
Carefully select your true niche investment
You should choose your “true” niches based
on those that:
◦ Have the most upside in the marketplace
◦ Your firm has some experience and success serving
◦ You have some resources from which to leverage
(either internally or through talent acquisition)
◦ Hold promise for integration with other services
and/or niches
Not-forProfit (NFP)
Oil & Gas
Forensic Lit
Identify ONE owner at the leadership table
to drive your niche(s) forward
This person should be required to:
◦ Annually produce a true business plan
◦ Marshall and manage the firm’s niche resources
◦ Devise and execute the firm’s marketing and BD
strategies in this niche area
◦ Own the outcome of the financial performance of
the niche
The niche leader’s compensation should be
tied to meeting specific milestones and
They should have some amount of noncharge time allocated to grow and develop
the niche
We have written plans for each of our firm niches
and we review and update those plans annually
We have had written plans for our niches but they
aren’t reviewed or updated regularly
We have written plans for some of our niches but
not for others
We don’t have any written plans for our niches
We don’t have true niches as has been described
Other, not specified
Your niche initiative plans should include:
Market dynamics discussion
Existing business overview
Niche SWOT Analysis
Niche Competitive Analysis
Niche differentiation position
Ideal target client definition
Product/service mix offered within the niche
Pricing strategy
Marketing strategy (branding and lead generation)
Sales approach
Service Delivery approach
Staffing/training plans
Infrastructure requirements to support the niche
(IT, facilities, admin)
◦ Identification of critical success factors
◦ Specific financial and non-financial measures of
◦ The plan should call for specific commitments of
dollars, non-charge time and headcount needed to
be successful each year
 It should also project what ROI (or lack thereof) there
will be each year
◦ Your firm’s partners must agree to these “asks” and
commit the resources necessary to drive niche
growth – which can take 3 years to really “roll” in
some cases
◦ Patience and true commitment are required
◦ Each niche will present a different model for
managing and growing the practice
◦ Many niches follow more of a consulting model,
where the business is not an annuity and there is a
need for more practice development resource to
drive growth
◦ The approach to staffing can also vary widely –
some being lower leverage models like business
valuation and litigation support
◦ Understand the successful approach to your chosen
niches by studying the models used by other firms
◦ Ensure that your niche leaders appear at the partner
table regularly to share their status against their
 Regular accountability and communication of progress
and set backs help build partner confidence and keep
commitment high
◦ Ask regular questions of the niche leader when
“grumbling” or disappointments occur
 Often these grapevine complaints are a lack of
understanding or mis-set expectations and
communication can keep relationships on track
◦ The niche leader must build credibility and trust by
keeping their commitments and communicating
◦ One or two early adopting partner champions
should be identified and their top 25-50 clients
should be discussed for potential need
◦ Some industry niches do not lend themselves to as
much cross-serving in terms of incoming leads
 Instead, the industry team will bring service line
leaders in to support their leads
◦ In many cases, niche leaders have to build their own
markets, which is what we’ll explore in our next
By looking at what has worked in the
past, and what has not worked, you will
realize which initiatives have been
ineffective and avoid them in the future.
◦ Some initiatives may have been effective if
they were carried out in a different way in
the past.
The combination of your firm’s sales strategy &
marketing efforts
◦ Defining the current number and types of
clients and niche revenue
◦ Creating goals for the number and types of
clients and niche revenue
◦ Moving all relevant clients under appropriate
◦ Establishing team development plan (CPE,
◦ Creating client retention strategies for team (client
relationship management)(project management)
◦ Becoming recognized through speaking and
networking (client referrals)
◦ Becoming recognized in the marketplace (branding
and design)(website builders)
◦ Creating a prospect list (D&B, zapdata)
◦ Communicating with prospects, clients and referral
sources (meetings, phone calls, social media)
• (client relationship management)
• (project management)
Benchmark Email
Constant Contact
Mail Chimp
Sales Genie
One Source
Vendor Genie
Info USA
Niches pay more than general service areas
Clients today, want and demand that their
service providers have specialized knowledge
Successful niche firms/niche leaders have a
passion for what they do
What did we forget to mention?
What did you forget to ask?
For more information please contact:
August J. Aquila
[email protected]