My whole column is about Power Niche Marketing – but this article is the “big” article – it is about how you can “own” a Power Niche.
By the way, I have written a manuscript on this subject – hopefully for publication later this year. Does anyone know a literary agent for me? Yes – that is a serious question.
In any case, in my first article of this Power Niche Marketing column, I explained the essence of a Power Niche and the importance of developing one if you want to have a successful career.
As a reminder, for it to be what I call a “Power” Niche, as opposed to just a plain old niche, you have really be top dog in that niche.
In order to truly own a niche, you need several characteristics that are important:
First – the niche should be an area in which you already have some expertise and should be in the industry you are already working. However, I will admit that this isn’t 100% needed, as you can decide to acquire the expertise, and change jobs and even industries, if the job or industry you are in just isn’t that robust. Then you would be starting from scratch, which is very tough and fraught with the risk that you will find out, after investing a lot of time, that you have hit a dead end. Without belaboring this, I suggest we presume that you are picking a niche in the industry in which you are already working and have a least a modicum of expertise.
Second – it needs to be something that no one else already owns. If you think about what this means, it typically means something that no one has thought of yet. As a quick example, if you are selling houses, perhaps you say that you are a real expert in selling houses for people who have a physical or mental handicap, as you have an understanding of the special requirements and needs.
As an aside, it is not 100% necessary that you be the sole player in a Power Niche, as sometimes there could be room for two people in a niche. In that situation, your power would be somewhat diminished, but depending on the niche and the circumstances you might be okay.
Third – it should be something pretty small so that you can become the dominant force within it. But of course it can’t be so small that it is useless. This is a judgment call, of course.
Fourth – it should be something for which you can hold yourself out as the world’s greatest expert, perhaps by becoming a thought leader, writing (super short) articles, webinars, even mass-mailings and whatever else you can think of.
In the law business, the Power Niche is by far the most powerful technique. Let me give you a perfect example of the power in a Power Niche.
I will talk about my firm’s litigation practice. I have ten litigators, and the practice is led by a really talented superstar lawyer. He hails from one of the most prestigious law firms (Cravath, Swaine & Moore) and one of the most prestigious law schools (Harvard Law School), and he is a former Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York City. This guy is “the real deal” in litigation! And he has nine partners and associates to boot, so we have a ten-lawyer litigation department led by my talented partner. Pretty good, huh?
Not so fast. There is another law firm that I have a lot of respect for. It is a global mega law firm with a powerhouse brand. I have a good friend there, and we had lunch last year. He told me they have 750 litigators. Yikes – that is a lot of litigators!
Using my math major, I calculate that we are down 75 to 1. How could I possibly “compete” with this firm in litigation?
To avoid this competition that I don’t really have a hope of winning, I use the power in my Power Niche. As you recall, I have branded my firm as The Pure Play in Real Estate Law, thereby trying to establish ownership of this niche as much as possible. The global firm I mentioned has a real estate practice and a really good one too; however, whether they like it or not, they are known for being one of the top litigation firms in the world. That is what they are and that is their Power Niche. And we are known for being one of the top real estate law practices in the world. That is what we are.
So, if the litigation at hand is just general litigation, then unless price is a consideration, which it often is whether I like it or not, the client will likely go with the other law firm. But what if it is real estate litigation? Could I maybe say something like the following?
Well Mr. Client, I can’t say we are comparable to [the other firm] in general litigation. They are just much bigger than we are. However, if you are talking about real estate litigation, it is a much different story. We are the largest real estate law practice in New York City – dramatically bigger than [the other firm’s] real estate group. We have a zillion real estate clients – including a Who’s Who of blue chip institutions doing billion dollar deals — and we know everything about the real estate world from all angles of the capital stack. Our vaunted real estate group often works with our litigators, thinking up unusual and creative legal angles and advising on how to obtain advantage. If this were just a general litigation matter, well maybe [the other firm] is a logical choice. But this is real estate litigation, and no one is better than we are here!
So, what do you think? Believable? Maybe yes – maybe no – but it is a lot better than my alternative, which is only to say that “we are smaller and cheaper.”
Sticking with the legal world for a moment, it is interesting if you look at the statistics. If so, you will see that a fair number of the most profitable law firms in the world – especially the ones that rose to prominence in recent years – are largely pure plays.
So if you want to get rich, own a Power Niche!