Get your niche out of the closet

Niche“We’re the best-kept secret in town” – If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that phrase, I’d be in another tax bracket. And every time I hear it, especially when it’s said with a sense of satisfaction, I shake my head in dismay. Since when does being invisible lead to success? Since when does being a secret drive people to your shop door or website? Since when does a lack of name recognition get people to join or contribute to your organization’s cause, no matter how important? My point is that whether you’re talking about a personal relationship, a new business, or a nonprofit, being hidden from potential clients is a one-way trip to failure. Being successful in today’s fiercely competitive world requires nothing less than being a household name.

Your visibility score

The first step in getting your niche out of the closet, so to speak, is to check your visibility score. I long ago lost count of the number of potentially great business concepts brought to me by clients who were at their wits end. After all, they’d worked hard, had great ideas and were honest and good people. The only thing missing was they had no business – or, at least, not enough of it to keep things afloat, much less thrive or grow. Nearly all were ready to throw in the towel until I asked them a very simple question: On a scale ranging from 1-10 (with 10 being highest), how visible are you to your target audience? How aware of your existence are they? If your answer is anything other than 9 or 10, you are close to the closet and definitely moving in the wrong direction from your goals.

Alliance marketing to the rescue

Regardless of what your visibility score turned out to be, being a household name is a relentless job – relentless, but, contrary to popular opinion, not expensive. In fact, some of the best marketing can cost you very little or maybe nothing at all.

My favorite low-cost/no-cost, yet very powerful marketing strategy is what I call “alliance marketing.” It’s perfect whether you’re Disney or the mom-and-pop shop down the street. So, how to do it? Simply identify an organization or company that has a vested interest in the same audience you are after. That company likely will be very different from yours, but the target audience should be the same. Your potential alliance partner should have access to your target audience in a way that you do not.

One of my favorite alliances was the ‘partnering of the Kings” – Lion and Burger. In what proved to be one of the most profitable alliances of all times, Disney and Burger King partnered in a mutual promotion. You (and your kids) went into Burger King to get a Whopper and came out with Lion King toys, posters and excitement about the Disney production; a win-win all the way.

Moral of the story

Instead of dumping a potentially great business or throwing in the towel building your career, consider making yourself a household name by developing a no-holds-barred system that will be relentless, aggressive and capable of moving you ever closer to your most important goals. Inject extra energy into your system by implementing your own version of alliance marketing.

Dr. Lynda Falkenstein, business consultant and author of “NICHECRAFT: Using Your Specialness to Focus Your Business, Corner Your Market, and Make Customers Seek You Out,” invites your questions and comments. Reach her directly at: or 503.781.0966. Please note that the Vancouver Business Journal reserves the right to publish your letter or an edited version all print and electronic media.