Promoting Your Consultancy Week: David Merves on Building a Niche Business and its Implications for Branding

Hello, my name is David Merves and I work for Evergreen Evaluation & Consulting, Inc. (EEC) in Jericho, Vermont.

What is a MARKET NICHE? Black’s Law Dictionary defines it as “a small, profitable market segment suitable for focused marketer attention.” Entrepreneur magazine says, “Niche marketing can be an extremely cost-effective method that targets carefully pinpointed market segments.” At EEC we viewed niche markets as an opportunity to expand and refocus our business, while competing against the scale economies that larger competitors are able to achieve.

This refocusing, rebranding, took the form of a name change and corporate structure. EEC was originally formed as Evergreen Educational Consulting, LLC and based upon our goals and with advice from our attorneys, accountants and mentors we shifted to a C Corp as Evergreen Evaluation and Consulting, Inc. The organizational realignment was linked to our objectives, resources, and capacities.  We spent a year discussing the culture of our business, our attributes, our strategies for achieving our goals and preparing our business plan, which included marketing.

Lesson Learned: It was imperative that we assessed the company’s strengths and weaknesses and aligned our marketing strategies to planned outcomes. We are a small company and our brand is our face to the world.  It is the perception of our values by our customers and potential customers that counts. Our brand is the principles woven into the fabric of our company. Our brand is not a flashy web site or logo. It is our promise and commitment.

Dawn Thilmany, Ph.D. at Colorado State University has written that there are five stages to fully addressing a niche opportunity:

  • Strategic Planning
  • Define Mission and Objectives
  • Strategies and Action
  • Monitoring Key Projects/Objectives
  • Organizational Realignment

After EEC’s rebranding experience we would suggest the following:

  • Think analytically
  • Don’t try to appeal to everyone
  • Be honest with yourself
  • Learn the lingo of your niche
  • Commit 100%
  • You will make mistakes; move on

Hot Tip: As you build your business, be mindful of revenue streams, contractual cycles and invoicing patterns. You don’t want your niche to be so narrow as to have an unexpected event, say Sequestration, impacting the overall viability of your company.  Try to layer your contracts so that you are replacing 20 – 30% of your revenue each year and not having to scramble to replace 75%. When negotiating your invoice schedule consider your cash flow needs. Can your business operate on quarterly payments or do monthly invoices make more sense?

Rad Resources:

Pinterest: Branding and Design books

My favorite, The Brand Called You by Peter Montoya with Tim Vandehey with a forward by Al Ries.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Promoting Your Consultancy Week with information on marketing and branding. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our colleagues who own evaluation businesses. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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