Good question! If you want to run a successful web design business, it’s key that the market you enter is viable. Neither an outstanding person (that would be you) nor stellar creativity, design or marketing skills will compensate for a bad market. Picking a poor market often equals failure, while picking a good one tends to equal success.
To pick a viable niche market is your single most important decision, whether you work as a freelance web designer or own a web design agency.
Since 1988, Ilise Benun (founder of Marketing Mentor) has been coaching and helping web designers and other creative professionals choose their niche, so I asked her,
“What are the key questions to ask before entering a specific niche?”
She identified seven key questions:
1. Is THEIR Market Growing?
Is the niche you’re looking at growing?
Find out by asking potential clients in the market and by reading the business press. Look for publications specific to the market you’re researching to gauge the health of that niche.
Also, look into websites that provide statistics for industry growth, e.g. Statista. Many industry associations also produce their own statistics.
Good signs are:
If the market is shrinking, there is likely not going to be enough business for you to build a stable business.
2. What Size and Type of Projects Are Available?
Will available projects pay the fees you need?
If you need to need to charge $5,000 for a website and the market can only afford an average of $1,000, it’s not worth your time.
Also, do the projects fit with your experiences, skills and interests? Will you be able to handle the project size?
You will find this out by attending events and/or finding LinkedIn groups where you can ask your questions. This is usually the best way.
If people respond, that’s a good sign. If the information they respond with corresponds to your needs, that’s even better (and vice versa, of course).
Other online and offline resources through which you can find people to ask include:
3. Do They Know They Need Your Services?
Your marketing time is better used when you can speak to people who are already aware they need help from a web designer or a web developer, rather than spending your time trying to convince someone they need your type of services.
Networking can get you quick answers to this question.
Find prospects who look like they need your type of services. It could be companies with either no website or an outdated/bad one.
When you talk to them, the key is to find out if THEY think they need your help.
Also, visit relevant the trade association. Look for associate members or advertisers who you would consider your competition. If can find your competitors, it’s usually a sign that the market has a need for your type of services.
4. Do They Value Your Services?
This extends the previous question.
If your potential clients know they need your help, and they also value those services, then it’s a good sign that you’re looking at a viable market.
You will learn if there is interest through conversations with potential clients and by researching how they currently are using web design and web developments services.
Good signs are:
If you review websites of prospects and the web design generally is bad and/or old, it’s a bad sign. They likely don’t value design services.
5. Do You Like the People?
Business is about people and people like to work with people they like. So if you like them, they will be more likely to like you. And you can develop stronger relationships.
You’ll find out through personal experience.
It’s a bad sign if you find yourself judgmental and intolerant of your prospects.
6. Can You Reach Them?
If the resources to access your prospects aren’t available to you (or are cost-prohibitive) it’s better to know sooner than later.
In your market research, look for events to attend and directories with contact information for your prospects. If you can’t find the resources that provide access to your prospects (i.e. there is no trade association or events or directory), that’s a bad sign.
7. Are There Lists?
If you can find a list of your prospects with their contact info, that’s the holy grail.
A Google search using keywords, for example, “list of real estate companies,” should turn up the resources you need, whether free or paid.
If you find a lot of useful information, that’s a good sign (and vice versa).
A Final Note
The trick in niche research is to know what to look for.
It takes time to get used to what there is to find and how to find it. For example, on a trade association’s website, look for resources in this order:
- 1Does it have events I can attend?
- 2Do the events address the issues I can help with? For example, is there a session about website design?
- 3Does it have a list of members open to the public?
- 4Does it have a list of members available to other members only?
- 5Is my competition already pursuing this market?
Resources for Finding Your Own Niche(s)
The Pick a Niche Kit
In 4 simple steps, the Pick a Niche Kit shows you how to zero in on your target markets and specialize your way to more and better clients.