By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
There is nothing wrong with being a generalist, but if you are a broad-based telephone answering service, you might decide to grow your business by pursuing strategic niches. But how do you determine which niches to pursue?
Look at the types of accounts you currently handle. Do you see any trends or groups? Poll your staff. Ask them which accounts they like and why. Also consider items such as profitability, customer service needs, and payment history. These factors often vary by industry or subgroup. If so, they should be easy to identify.
Ideally, you want to pursue a niche that you are already good at, you have proven yourself in, your staff enjoys and serves well, can be charged profitable fees, doesn’t overtax your support team, and pays on time. It is unlikely to find a market segment that matches all these goals, but seek to match as many items as possible.
Pursuing a niche, however, is “putting all your eggs in one basket.” If that niche experiences a downturn, so will you. The key is to develop multiple niches. After you establish yourself in one niche, pursue a second and then a third.
How many niches to pursue? You need at least three. That way if one niche tanks, you have the other two to prop up your answering service and maintain some degree of stability. Of course, this assumes each niche represents an equal portion of the business. A general guide is that it is unwise to derive more than half of your business from any one industry or market.
When pursued strategically, niches can provide a means for growth and stability.
Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of TAS Trader, covering the telephone answering service industry. Check out his books How to Start a Telephone Answering Service and Sticky Customer Service.