In episode 3 of Designing Growth, Sam talks about the five ways niching down can help supercharge your agency’s growth, shares his thoughts on when you should consider going all-in on a niche, and gives his tips for getting the most out of niching down.
5 Ways Niching Down Can Supercharge Agency Growth:
1. It makes attracting your ideal clients easier
2. It makes scaling up easier, enabling you to create repeatable processes to hire more employees and accept more clients
3. It reduces the amount of time and effort required to service each client, resulting in more revenue per client
4. It generates referrals that fit your ideal client profile so you don’t risk turning business away
5. It helps you understand what additional services you can reasonably offer to clients, creating upsell opportunities
Resources from the episode:
Welcome to designing growth. The podcast that helps owners and founders create the business of their dreams by thinking critically about the most important and often most challenging aspect of growing an agency, client relationships from first proposal to final delivery, the founding team of motion.io will share their own experiences alongside that of guests to help you market your services better, complete projects, faster and exceed client expectations at every step of the way.
Let’s get it moving.
Sam Chlebowski starts speaking, hosting episode solo:
Happy Thursday, everybody. And welcome back to the designing growth podcast. If you’re just joining us for the first time, my name is Sam Chlebowski and I’m one of three co-founders here at Motion.io. At Motion.io, what we are doing is building the solution to the biggest problem that our three co-founders faced when we were delivering over 10,000 design projects to clients in our previous businesses. What we each observed during this time is projects were getting stuck constantly.
And the traditional project management solutions out there didn’t help us improve that process of client communication and collaboration in a way that got projects across the finish. So, what we’re doing now is we want to solve that problem and specifically solve it in a way that doesn’t require you buy all of these extra tools and hook them together, or implement a ton of manual processes.
motion.io will provide you one simple dashboard that gives you everything. You need to manage a project with a client, allowing you to share files, gather actionable feed. But also show clients the status of that project. So they’re not left in the dark and know exactly what’s needed to get a project across the finish line on this podcast.
However, we take a little bit of a broader view talking about all of the other aspects that go into growing an agency, whether it be sales, marketing, hiring, finance, all sorts of stuff. I was really excited to record this week’s episode because it was directly inspired from our episode two, where if you haven’t listened to that yet, I went into detail about the top three marketing lessons I’ve learned during my time in marketing.
And while I was recording that, I mentioned something about how it can be really powerful for you to have a niche when it comes to marketing your services. So I wanted to run with that and. Share what I’ve learned about why having a niche matters when to choose one and also how to choose one. I think this is something that there can sometimes be confusion about, especially for new agency owners, because it can be unclear whether you need a niche or not.
When you’re just starting, I personally wouldn’t recommend you look up, you know, the best website design niche to choose. It’s a little bit more nuanced. Before we get into that. I do just wanna talk a little bit about where we are [email protected], because there’s been some really exciting things happening over the past few weeks.
About two weeks ago, as a team, we were able to view the first version of the motion dashboard, meaning the buttons were there. There was, you know, a settings tab. There was a view for projects and tasks, sort of the foundation of what we’re. This week, however, was really exciting because we were able to actually create logins of our own for each of our team members and play around with it a little bit.
So we have the basic framework in place and the infrastructure that’s going to become motion.io. The big thing now that we’re working on is our guided feedback system that is going to really streamline the process of having clients review files, also decision tracking. So. Everything that you request of a client can come to a decision and there’s no spinning the wheels, endlessly going back and forth about things like colors or things like fonts on a logo file.
What we wanna do with this decision tracking is provide a history of the decisions that were made, but also help you get those decisions made faster by providing the visual assistance that’s needed to make those things. These tasks wrapped up are going to be a really powerful thing. If I’m looking at a design project as a person driving a car from point A to point B tasks are the wheels on that car.
Meaning the wheels alone, can’t transport anybody, but also the car can’t move unless it has wheels. TASS are all of the various things that you might need to collaborate with a client. Whether it is sending a file that you want actionable feedback on. So you can turn it into something that they’re really happy with.
Whether it’s collecting things like content or information about their products and services. The way that we’re looking at tasks is we want to set them up in a way that is specific to that client agency, communication, and collaboration process. What we found throughout our previous experiences is that clients really do want to be involved.
The great thing about motion.io is that you’ll be able to scale that client’s involvement up or down, but either way that client has crystal clear visibility into the project, they know why decisions were made. They feel like they were involved and are able to see a history of how the project developed over time.
That’ll do it for this sort of company update part of this podcast. But one thing I would say is we would love for you to play an active role in development. What we wanna do at motion doo is build a product that thinks about our users and thinks about their clients first. And the only way that we can do that is if we hear from you, we get your feedback and you’re able to play a role in development.
We launched something really cool. A couple weeks ago, it’s called our founding customers program. And what it entails is basically we send out these opportunities through our new. And you can reply to those opportunities and it simply involves you donating some of your time, your expertise, giving us things like feedback, or even testing out the product to help us make motion.io, the best product it possibly can be.
Along with that, it does come with some pretty sweet benefits. When you become a founding customer, you also unlock exclusive discounts, free swag and lifetime white glove support, as long as you’re using, uh, the motion.io product. So now that I’ve shared all that, let’s get into the meat of the episode.
What I wanted to talk about first is the reason behind having a niche or niche. I think there’s a couple different ways to say this. There’s some disagreement depending where you are, at least in the US, on the pronunciation. I say niche. So I’m gonna go with that. Anyways. I wanted to talk about why I think having a niche matters by sharing what I see as the five most powerful ways that it can help you grow your business.
So, number one, it makes attracting your ideal clients easier. I think that this is something even more valuable today. During the pandemic, people got really good at researching these services and the products that they were using before they actually bought them. And I think that that has only grown since then.
I think the general idea behind this is why people look at reviews so much because they really want to find somebody that they think is similar to them that, you know, either enjoyed this product or got a great result from this specific service and. If they can’t find that they’re likely to seek out someone who can two, it makes scaling up your team easier.
I think this is a benefit that can apply to all types of businesses. But I think it’s especially impactful for agencies who are doing some sort of design work with clients. The reason behind that is when you have a niche and you are working, you know, with one type of industry, one type of. You get to learn a lot about them over time.
You know, what things that they expect from initial proposal to project completion, and also have an understanding of design styles out there. You can show them past work from other clients to help them move through the sales process. You might already have basic templates and things that you could customize, or at least use for inspiration to help move a project along faster.
This creates this immense value for scaling up your team, because it allows you to develop repeatable processes that can be easily trained. Three. It reduces the amount of time and labor to service each client. This one goes along with number two, but I did think it was worth it to break out into a separate point.
If you’re working with all sorts of. Sometimes you may be stabbing in the dark a little bit to try and find, you know, what is the best design style for them, or what are their expectations of the things that their website might need? You know, do they need a login system? Is it a business who needs a shopping cart?
Many of these things can be very industry specific. And once you learn about those things, you can be prepared with them so that when a client comes in, you either know how to provide that directly. Or you can refer out and have, and they can have that done by someone else who, you know, four, it generates referrals.
I see having a niche as really valuable, across a wide array of marketing and growth strategies you might have for your business. But I wanted to call this out specifically because it’s something that I’ve seen that was surprisingly powerful to me. What can sometimes happen is that as you start to grow.
Your previous clients who had a really great experience are referring other clients, but you’re not exactly equipped to take them on. It’s always tough to turn down an interest. It’s always tough to turn down an interested client or have to send them elsewhere. And I think having a niche is a powerful way to still generate referrals, but have them fit the profile of your ideal client a lot better because when you are focusing on one type of.
That sort of language is all over your website and in your marketing. What happens is that businesses you work with associate you to their market. And when you have a niche and those referrals come in, you know, you’re not gonna have to turn them away. My fifth and final point of why having a niche is a powerful growth vehicle for your business is that it creates opportunities for additional revenue.
For example, if customers are asking you for pay per click services or some other advertising or marketing service that you don’t provide, maybe you. Maybe you hire someone to begin offering those services. This is something that would be a lot harder to do. If you were working with all sorts of industries who have different expectations about this new service that you’re adding and requires you to reinvent the wheel every time, which I don’t see as being scalable or sustainable by having a niche, I think it makes the path to what services you might want to.
What you should refer to is a lot cleaner and clearer. So those are my top five reasons for why I think having a niche is something that every agency owner should do eventually. I’m not recommending that you should feel like you need a niche today, because sometimes it is a process for getting to that point where you’re ready to go all in.
So that’s what I wanna talk a little about, about next, the sort of when behind, I think you should have a niche because ultimately it’s gonna be different for every person and every business out there before recording this podcast, I did some research into what types of questions folks online were asking about choosing a niche and I’m laughing, but I’ll tell you why in just a.
As I was poking around online, the two questions that came up again, and again were first, how do I choose a niche? And two, do I need a niche? Which I think says a lot about there being a wide breadth of opinions around this. There were two threads in particular. I read where the original posters were asking these questions more or less verbatim.
One post was asking, how do I choose a niche? The other post was asking, do I need a niche? As it goes on the internet, very few comments, you know, were actually helpful to the poster, but it was strangely hilarious. I forget the name or number of it specifically, but there’s this law of the internet that states the best way to get the right answer on the internet is not to ask a question, it’s to post the wrong one.
When I was reading through the comments, it was like a modified version of this law. If somebody was asking a question about how to choose a niche, the commenters were all responding, saying the poster was asking the wrong question and they should be asking if they needed a niche in the first place. But on the flip side, when the poster asked if they needed a niche, the commenters would respond.
Yes, they do. And here’s how you. Outside of this, one of the few helpful genres of responses that I did see a couple times was people telling specific new digital agency owners to not rush into choosing a niche, basically take whatever clients you can get, develop your process, understand your business model and continually reassess as you start noticing trends.
When you do start to notice your trends and there’s one you feel good about, then it might be time to niche. I think that this is generally really solid advice. Uh, but there is one thing that I’d add to this advice. And also one exception I’d make, what I would add to this advice is that even for brand new digital agency owners who are just getting, going and not necessarily going all in on a niche, I think it’s critical to start the process of niching down or at least exploring things from your early days.
Coming up with ideas around how you can categorize what you do and who you do it for. I think that this is not only valuable later on, but it’s also basically going to be a requirement to build even the most basic website for your agency. So you’ll probably have to do it at some point. Some early examples of this might be things like marketing solutions for small businesses or web design.
X Y or Z city, as you grow, as you learn more about specific types of clients and their specific needs, you’ll be able to trim that down, to make it more specific and also make the way that you describe your services and even how the services are offered. Speak to a narrower category of client over time.
That’s the thing that I would add to this advice of take what clients you can get, develop your process, understand your model. And then once you notice trends, then it’s time to start thinking about your niche. The exception that I would add to that same advice is if you are jumping ship from another business to start your agency, because in that case, I also think your process for niching down takes a much different time frame, depending on a couple of factors.
A lot of times, if you jump ship from, you know, working for somebody else to working for yourself or starting your own agency, it’s probably because you have a basic sense of your clients already. Maybe you already have some clients that you’ve worked with and you have a deep understanding of their problems.
This sort of information gives you a huge advantage early on to break into this industry where you’re noticing these problems. And it means that you don’t necessarily have to Wade through the waters to find your ideal clients and eventual niche, you can probably do so right away provided that you have the clients it takes in those early days to at least keep the lights on while you start growing things for a quicker example of this, let’s say you worked on a team within an agency that designed websites for hospital.
But during this time, you continually notice that the cost of these services that the agency you’re working for is offering is more than smaller private practices. You know, things like physical therapists, eye doctors, chiropractors are willing to spend. And you notice that there are some of these folks who are coming in, who are interested.
They don’t get through that initial proposal stage and back out before committing, because the initial quote was ultimately too expensive for them and out of their price range in situations like these. And if you have a similar story of your own, I would recommend, you know, dialing into the niche further and really making your services specific to these types of businesses because you know them already and you know how to service them and it’s gonna make scaling up your business.
Uh, I think ultimately a lot. All that said, I think the knowledge that you have about the industry, about the type of business about the vertical that you might be niching down to is ultimately going to be one of the biggest driving factors of when you decide to niche down to illustrate how this process of discovery that ultimately leads to niching down can play out in real life.
Wanted to give another anecdote from my time at brighter. Which actually happened before I joined the team. So when Perry had launched brighter vision in 2014, they were servicing small businesses. Generally it was not focused on therapists. It wasn’t focused on anything to do with mental health. It was simply small businesses in Colorado.
It wasn’t until about 50 clients in that he actually made the decision to target mental health therapists. The reason why he was ultimately able to do this is because he was experimenting. He had built a website for his mother-in-law’s practice and then decided to go to a larger conference with a much bigger pool of mental health therapists.
From that they landed a couple clients and it was like a light bulb went off and they were ready to dive head first into this niche and go all in to niching down that brighter vision would now be website design for therapists. When I joined the team a few months later, all of the language on our website had already been switched to talk about website design for the.
I had no idea that we had these 50 other clients that consisted of jewelers, lawyers, home remodelers, and even a mobile dog washing company. This process of going all in on a niche so much so that you would have never known that you serviced another type of customer is how I believe that you can ultimately unlock the largest amount of benefit.
I think that the true growth opportunities, those ones that will take you from $10,000 in monthly revenue to a hundred thousand dollars in monthly revenue and help you reach that next level are gonna come from going all in on a niche. Once you pause and just provide a little bit of additional clarification on what I mean by going all.
And that is that you’ve not only defined a niche and seen an opportunity, but that you are confident enough in your agency’s ability to attract, sell, and service a specific type of client that you are okay with potentially turning away. Other types of clients you’ve worked with in the past. That said when you are ready to go all in to me, it means you are adjusting the website, the language in all of your various marketing initiatives, even your internal processes and the services you offer to be specific to a type of business, a customer persona, and allowing you to go from saying you offer marketing for small businesses to saying you provide things like brand strategy and website design for restaurant.
There may be risks, but in my mind, the growth, potential and associated benefits of settling on a niche and more so going all in on it far outweigh those risks. What’s more is that as a generalist who works with all sorts of clients, carries risks of its own. If you remain as a generalist too long, it can result in you landing on a plateau where a steady stream of clients still comes in for a while, but it’s mostly from referral.
Once those referrals dry up, sales also begin to dip as you don’t have a foothold within a larger industry or a larger segment that allows people to find you organically when they’re looking for some of those specialized services. So to sum it up, Niching down and looking for opportunities for a niche is something that I think every agency should be doing.
But in order for you to unlock those benefits, you need knowledge. You need examples. You need to have worked with clients in your niche so that, you know, you are making the right decisions and it’s okay if it takes some time to get there. So that does it for episode three. I hope you found the information I covered.
If you disagree with it, if you agree with it, either way we would love to hear from you head to our [email protected] and reach out. If you did find the information in this episode, it would love for you to give us a five star review on Apple or Spotify. Also on a final note, I’d mentioned the beginning of the episode, but would love for you to join Motion.io launch list, to open up opportunities, to become a founding customer, as well as get weekly updates about what we’re doing and all the content we’re putting.
Just go to motion.io/launch and enter your email. Once again, that is motion.io/launch.