Statistically speaking, it’s due to arrive in my inbox any day now. The “it” I am referring to is the more or less, once a year request that I receive from a parade of strangers who share my name.
The email usually goes something like this: “Hi, my name is Michael Katz too and I see you own michaelkatz.com. Would you consider selling it?”
I’ve owned that domain since 1999 and my answer to these inquiries is always a polite, “Sorry, but no thanks.”
As for how many of us Michael Katz’s there are out there, I really don’t know. I’m no John Smith, and yet, if LinkedIn is any indication, there are dozens of us. There’s the Michael Katz of Atlanta who works as Director of CRM and Email Marketing at Equifax. There’s the Michael Katz of Gainesville who is Founder and Co-CEO at Cuffed (don’t ask, I don’t know either). There is even the Philadelphia-based Michael Katz who is both doctor and – I am not making this up – 2020 presidential candidate. I guess we know who I’m voting for.
The point is, there are a lot of us. So here’s my marketing question for you: Would it be possible for somebody to make a business niche out of all these Michael Katz’s, targeting their services specifically to just us?
For example: “I’m a financial planner, I specialize in working with Michael Katzes.” Or, how about, “I’m a copywriter. When Michael Katzes find themselves in need of high quality writing, I’m the one to call.”
I agree, kind of ridiculous. But you must concede that the Michael Katz specialty does contain many of the elements one looks for in an attractive niche:
- It’s simple. You don’t need a lot of words to explain it.
- It’s unusual. I can pretty much guarantee that you’d be the only Michael Katz-focused professional on Planet Earth.
- It’s easy to remember. Tell me once and it will stay with me.
The fact is, if you staked out this territory, it would be just a matter of days (hours?) for you to become the dominant player and acknowledged “World’s Leading Michael Katz Expert” (some might refer to you as a, “Michael Katz Guru”).
That said, this strategy does have two big problems – one obvious, one not so obvious.
The obvious one (as you’ve no doubt already guessed) is that there really aren’t enough of us. You don’t need millions of potential clients in a chosen niche to make it work; you don’t even need hundreds of thousands if you’re a small firm or solo.
But you need a lot, enough to fill a good-sized football stadium, anyway. (In which case, by the way, you could cause all kinds of bedlam by announcing over the PA system: “Michael Katz, your headlights are on.”)
The less obvious problem is that staking out a niche – even a good-sized niche that is simple, unique and memorable – needs to be about more than just owning a piece of business turf.
The best case niche scenario contains two additional elements.
1) The people in it self-identify as part of that group. Dentists. Pot smokers. Fly-fishing enthusiasts. These people read the same publications, join the same groups, and attend the same events … specifically because of their affiliation with the niche.
Michael Katzes do none of this. Our shared name is more coincidence than anything else. Which means that it’s hard to stay in front of and talk to us efficiently.
This is not a trivial thing – effective marketing requires ongoing communication with a target audience. If your niche members don’t already gather and interact on their own (virtually or otherwise), communication is difficult and expensive.
From a marketing perspective, for example, it’s much harder to be a life coach who specializes in working with introverts than a life coach who specializes in working with airline pilots.
2) The people in it have particular needs relative to whatever it is you do.
If you’re a mortgage broker who specializes in working with “newly divorced women,” you’re not just speaking to a specific slice of people. You’re speaking to people who, based on their membership in that group, have particular needs relative to buying and refinancing a home. Your approach and solutions can (and should) be geared to those needs.
Once again, the Michael Katzes of the world don’t share any common problems (other than distractingly good looks, I’m guessing). So even if you could find us and talk to us, your services wouldn’t be any different or more appropriate than what your less-niched competitors might offer.
Here’s the bottom line. I’m a huge fan of the niche. There really is no more important element in the effective marketing of a small or solo professional service firm. But a good niche is more than just a label that people apply to you. To be effective, it also requires real world application, in terms of both finding your people and solving their problems.
As for me, I’m off to campaign headquarters: katz2020.com