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Jim Higgins, ProForma Branding Excellence

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Niche Focus Pocus

I’ve been writing quite a bit about the highs, lows, and lessons learned in building my new online business division.  One of my very first challenges has been selecting my niche market focus.

Guess what I’ve realized?!  The same marketing principles in the face-to-face business world hold true in the online world!

niche networking photo for blog

I’ll explain…but first let me take you back a bit to the most unforgettable marketing lesson of my life.

A number of years ago, when I was an exec in the corporate world, I was responsible for product development and marketing women’s bras. (Yes, I know, a rather unusual industry).

Well, at that time I was a newbie marketer and I needed to find a way to get our products sold into department stores. (Remember those big buildings we drove to, where we tried stuff on, paid for it with cash or credit cards, and then took the stuff home?) There was intense competition to get bra buyers to buy new styles. They were trying to select out vs. add in – unless you gave them a darn good reason to buy.

So how to get our small brand bought and sold into a sea of bras?

Well at the time, sports bras were just starting to get talked about. And in the early 80’s, tennis was a very hot sport for women. This was the era of Billy Jean King, Chris Evert, and Evonne Goolagong.

Now, at that time, I didn’t play tennis or know much about it. But I knew sports bras were only going to get bigger and more important in the bra world.

And we didn’t have a unique product or brand direction in our entire line.

So I did a little research and found out that from a numbers standpoint, women tennis fans and players were a meaningful market- maybe not compared to the entire bra market, but appreciable nonetheless. More importantly, women who were into sports had a big need, and they were a very eager, enthusiastic market. Women tennis players were buying millions of dollars of tennis clothes and other accessories each year. Intuitively, I knew we were perfectly positioned to get noticed and capture our slice of the sport bra market – if we acted fast and smart. I knew we could carve out a healthy niche market.

Ultimately, we got Evonne Goolagang, winner of 14 Grand Slam tennis titles,  to be our spokesperson for The Tennis Bra. Our sales took off and we became known as a major player in the Sports Bra market.

Ok, that’s nice for the tangible product world. But what about the online marketing world? Is niche marketing as necessary?

Good question.

I’ll answer it in one word:


The online business world is filled with vast opportunity – almost endless in fact.

That’s the good news. The flip side of the coin is that it’s over-packed with products, services, and content.

In such a noisy world, the only way to gain traction is by FOCUSING.

You’ve got to focus on a niche, your slice of the market, to get noticed, attract an audience, and resonate with that audience if you want your business to succeed.

No Niche Focus? Your Biz Is Doomed

Many people believe that a niche is an industry or a demographic. Those factors contribute to a niche but my experience has shown that the more FOCUSED the niche, the more successful you can become.

Why? Because even a tiny niche is powerful IF the need and desire for products or services is high.

Some case studies:

My friend Marcia is in the business valuations arena  (she helps companies determine how much they are really worth if they want to be sold). Her clients are primarily attorneys who handle trust and estates matters. Her niche is NOT all lawyers – just trust and estates lawyers.

My colleague Kathleen has an embroidery business. She has an unbelievable niche that emanated out of her love of Cowboy and Rodeo related things. Her niche: women who love cowboy-related things: boots, hats, rodeos , etc. Her facebook page, Cowgirl Heart and Soul has over 15000 followers!

My friend Catherine has a love of luxury and travel so she’s turning her passion into a business and targeting the luxury traveler.

There Is No Niche Magic – Just Strategy

Whether or not to niche your business is not the question… The real question is How To Select The Right Niche?.

Well there are 3 things you must focus on when selecting your ideal niche:

1. You’ve got to find the niche interesting and appealing. If you don’t, you wont continue doing the work to cultivate and nurture this niche. David Geffen, music and entertainment mogul, was crazy about folk music back in the 70’s. Impassioned about this music niche, he helped folk megastars like Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, and The Eagles get their start in the LA club scene. The rest is history.

2. You’ve got to KNOW YOUR NICHE inside and out  – who they are, what makes them tick, what their problems are, what keeps them up at night, what they are hungry for, and how they purchase. That takes some research – but so does any business initiative if it’s to become successful. When your niche knows you understand their world and their issues and their buzz words, they immediately are drawn to you over others who are not as familiar with their world.

I didn’t know a thing about the public accounting profession when I started working with those clients. I learned quickly about their needs, their challenges, their busy season, their firm structures, and what kept them up at night (usually their clients). Then I was able to attract more clients in that arena because they knew I understood their business and challenges.

3. You’ve got to learn where your niche can be reached and communicate with them in their language, speaking directly to their needs and wants. Where are they congregating – online and in person. Where do they search, what articles do they read?

It’s a pretty simple formula. But most business people get lazy – or more commonly – fearful. They believe if they narrow their market they’ll reduce the business opportunity. Not! Your potential will only increase when you zero in on a target market plus it will make your marketing efforts SO much easier. You won’t have to be everywhere to get noticed – just where your ideal niche is.

I know – it is a bit counter-intuitive but the more focused your niche, the more you will get noticed and loved by your audience.

So start capturing your slice of success pie.

WAIT! Before you leave…  to help you “Know Your Niche”, I’ve got a special free gift for you

 A Super Simple Niche Selector Cheat Sheet!


Oh, and if you have a great niche story or a question, I would love for you to share in the comment box below!

The 3 Amazing Things That Finally Got Me & My Business Unstuck

The 3 Amazing Things That Finally Got Me & My Business Unstuck

There aren’t too many things that feel worse in career, business, or life than the feeling that you’re stuck. We hear about people feeling stuck quite a bit these days and there are a plethora of books and posts about the experience of feeling unable to move forward in life.

If you’ve ever felt stuck in your career or life, these feelings may sound very familiar:

Being stuck can make you feel empty, hopeless, wiped out, and downright pissed off. Being stuck can seem to you as though your life is meaningless while everyone around you has direction. You just don’t know which way to turn to fix things and move forward again. People around you try to advise you but everything they suggest feels off the mark.

Frankly, this is just what I have been going through for a long time now. Almost 5 years, to be exact.
And I’ve been keeping it a secret. Or trying to at least.

The irony of this is as an experienced coach and business advisor, I’m pretty good at helping other people get un-stuck on a regular basis.

So why couldn’t I do this for myself?

Good question.

So in order to answer this question, let me take you back to when it all started – this stuck-ness.

In 2010, I decided to move my coaching and training business, and my life, to California.

I had just ended a 5-year relationship, and I was soooo sick of winters back East. I am a summer girl and love being outdoors and being active. Tennis, and running, and hiking are things you can’t do year-round back East.  I would find myself waiting 6 months of the year for the weather to turn warmer. That’s an awful lot of waiting.

Moving to California was a no-brainer : great weather, lots of close family, I knew my way around having lived there before, and I had the networking skills and a roster of clients to work with virtually.

It all looked perfect.

Baxter the dog and I got on the plane and headed West.

I don’t remember being happier than during those first couple of months in California.
I was feeling successful, in the midst of a big extended family, opportunity was huge, and I was in endless sunshine and warmth.


Then, I went for my yearly mammogram at UCLA and I experienced my own personal earthquake.

For the next few weeks, doubt and terror filled me. But this wasn’t a typical breast cancer scare. If the diagnosis was positive, it would be my 4th bout of it.

Yup, #4.

The news was both good and bad.

The bad news was that it was a malignancy that required major surgery. The good news was that it was super-early and I wouldn’t need chemotherapy.
So, within 2 months of this move, I went through life-altering and body-altering surgery.

Being a very fast recoverer, I was very, very lucky.

But now let’s get back to the point of this post.

Back to being stuck.

You see, within 2 weeks of my surgery, I got right back in the saddle and went back to work with clients. I had the rent to pay, contracts to fulfill, and work that had to be done.

But somehow, I couldn’t get my mojo back.
Try as I might, I didn’t feel the same about my business.

Look at my backyard office and tell me I shouldn’t have been motivated.



I wanted to. And in truth, when I started working again there were some clients who did ignite a spark of enthusiasm again. (Thank you guys – you know who you are).

But mostly my business started contracting.
My eagerness to network and prospect and generate leads in the old ways just felt boring and inauthentic. It was much more difficult to cultivate my “tribe.”

So I started retreating.
A dear friend suggested I start tapping into my creative side to find myself again.
Being stuck and stressed to the max, I took her advice.
I started painting, distressing and refinishing furniture.

I did feel really good. But as for my business – STUCK!

I was in the most amazing paradox: Living in the most beautiful place with gorgeous inspiring views, but my life and my business were totally uninspiring.
I felt as though I was just doing the same thing over and over and not growing.

And here was the worst of it.

My confidence was in the toilet.

Over time, it got somewhat better. I wrote my book on networking, Network Like A Fox. I was happy to have a goal, complete the project, and enjoy the process. I had fun speaking all over the country on this topic and others.

Things started to get better. A little.

But the feeling of STUCK, not moving forward, being in a rut, pervaded.
And it was a very lonely feeling – being stuck and not having anyone to really brainstorm with. That was one of the worst feelings. I had always enjoyed being a solopreneur, but now I truly missed having a partner or colleagues to brainstorm with.

I asked for advice, coaching, input. I tried many things. I had a new idea every month to move my business forward.

But none took hold. None inspired me.

None held my attention long enough to develop any traction.

Then, I started to learn how to dance. How I found dancing, or it found me, was an accident.

A friend dragged me to a local country music dance hall (I had always hated country music) but, go figure, I fell in love with country music and two-step dancing. line-dancing-with-tall-jeff-2
A bit later, I also found West Coast Swing, a really fun but challenging dance.

The challenge of learning to dance, feeling myself overcome the hurdle of going from novice to not-so-bad and having so much fun brought new energy to my life.

As I made new friends, and my confidence started to come back, I also worked on getting into shape. I got stronger and fitter than I had ever been. I was running 3 miles every other day, playing tennis, dancing 3-4 nights a week, eating really well and enjoying a wonderful social life.

Yet my business was still in neutral.

And then the first amazing thing happened.

I heard a podcast with Anthony Robbins about living on purpose.

Amazing Aha #1:
I had been unclear about my purpose. This explained why all of the attempts at new directions hadn’t panned out. They were unconnected to my larger purpose and mission.

I now knew my search for purpose had to precede whatever I decided to do next professionally. I knew that I had learned and cultivated lots skills and abilities I wanted to share with people. I knew I wanted to make a difference with others in a much bigger way than I had before.

So I went on a Purpose Quest.

I created a vision board.

I started meditating every day and focused on detecting my purpose.

I started watching for signs and signals about what to do next aligned with my purpose – whatever that was!

On a strange whim, I registered for an online course in building new business models.

The course was terrific but in the beginning I still felt kinda stuck.

Then as I interacted with the community and the leader of the course, it hit me.

Amazing Aha #2: I felt a strong yearning to build and inspire a community of my own, helping them succeed. How? Well, I’ll share that a little later so read on.

As I learned and participated in this course, I found my community of amazing supportive business people to brainstorm with. My direction formed, and my ideas started lining up.

In my focusing and visioning exercises, I created the intention of living a life where my work felt like play.

And that’s what it started to feel like. My brain was challenged, my creativity was challenged, my connection to others in my community expanded.

But here’s the thing: as excited as I was, I knew, without a doubt, that I was going to have to pull the curtain back and share my personal story.

I realized that in order for others to be attracted to my community, they needed to know why they should follow me.  I knew that people follow those whom they can relate to, those with whom they resonate, those whose stories impact them and inspire them.

That is how connection is generated – and sustained.

Amazing Aha #3 – I was now ready to tell my story – all of it and trust that the story would not diminish my image or value to the business community. I had to trust that telling my story, reveal the truth, would not only help others see their value and purpose, but build the powerful community I envisioned.

I now could truly believe that I was capable of creating this, where before it was only a nice wish.

Looking back, the best way I can describe being stuck is

“it’s hell in the hallway”

I now feel like I’m back in the light again – most of the time.
I do get moments of doubt. That’s when my community reminds me who I am – for the community I want to build.

What I’ve learned, so far, about being stuck, and what it takes to get unstuck is the following:

1. We are stuck for a reason, usually because we’re supposed to stretch into something new, way bigger, way more challenging.

2. You can’t rush getting unstuck. It’s a process and all you can do is the personal exploration work needed until you gain the new awareness and readiness to move forward.

3. Having community whether it’s a coach or a mastermind group or a business community or a spiritual community – is so essential to get the support and smarts of others to help you.

You know, when I was in the worst of my stuck-ness, I did know that I would eventually come out of it. I just hated having to be patient, I hated that I couldn’t just take an action and have things shift immediately.

Being stuck can happen to anyone -whether you’re brilliant or not-so, successful or struggling, hard-working or a slacker. Lots and lots of people go through a career or life quagmire.

In fact, Tim Butler, director of career development programs at Harvard Business School recently authored a best-selling book entitled, Getting Unstuck:How Dead Ends Become New Paths (check out the itunes podcast here).

Now, with that “stuck” residue starting to wash away, I understand how my dead end was essential for me to see the green arrow pointing me to new purpose, passion, and productivity.

Soon, in an upcoming post, I’ll be sharing all about the project that I’m working on now and ideally what’s in it for you too.

After all, without being of real value to you folks, I’m right back in that hellish hallway.

P.S. In the meantime, this a personal invitation to visit me (and “like”) me on my Facebook Business Fox Page where I’ll be posting some meaty videos on some of the new business strategies I’ll be revealing. And I’ll soon be doing some Facebook Live video streams – so I’ll be at your disposal to answer business questions about getting unstuck, confidence in business, and new business strategies and tools to help you and your business grow in big new ways.

Got Doubt?

   Allison is about to land the client of her dreams when the last question asked by the prospect brings up a huge wave of DOUBT. Doubt seeps into her answer, and she loses the job to another candidate.

A client decides he wants to upgrade his business and signs off on your agreement on Friday. On Monday morning, he backs out.

 He tells you he thought about it and “can’t afford it.”

He has what I call “buyer’s remorse.”

What really happened? He began to DOUBT. He isn’t really doubting your ability, but rather his own decision-making ability. Unfortunately, uncertainty about himself is what will prevent him from having the very results he says he wants to produce.

It is so easy to DOUBT – one’s choices, one’s knowledge, one’s worthiness, one’s persistence.

DOUBT destroys enthusiasm, creativity, innovation, joy.

DOUBT diminishes performance.

Ask any professional athlete and he or she will tell you that as soon as doubt creeps into the mind, the scoreboard swings in the direction of the opponent.

We stop ourselves from the very things we say we want by doubting our choices and our ability to do those things we truly yearn for in business and life.

Second-guessing ourselves and others is a national pastime that serves no one.

Have you ever noticed how your friends and family will so easily endorse your uncertainty, but not be quite so free to endorse your bigger dreams and desires?

I am not saying we should indiscriminately do everything we feel like doing. Yet there is a huge distinction between being thoughtful and DOUBTING oneself.

Now consider this: where would we be today if Bill Gates had let doubt trump his decision to drop out of Harvard, or if Steve Jobs had allowed doubt to stop his decision to leave Apple or if J.K. Rowling had doubted her passion for writing ?

Common wisdom says your first reaction is the right one. This is because you intuitively KNOW what is right for you. If you listen carefully to your inner wisdom, you will hear what it is that is right for you. It is when you refuse to listen to this inner voice that this lack of trust in yourself eclipses your confidence.

I say it’s time to dump DOUBT from our minds and prevent it from destroying the joy and passion for the things and experiences that make life rich, juicy, and joyous.

It’s time to transform your doubt into determination.


Where have you doubted a choice, doubted yourself, doubted others and robbed yourself of experiencing something you’ve really wanted? Were DOUBT right or wrong?


10-Min Way To Stay In Touch & Pump Up Sales

It’s that time of year when we naturally stay in touch – with family, friends, clients and colleagues. It feels so wonderful to be in connection with the people in our lives.

So, why don’t we do this year round in our business when it would maximize our results?

Case in point:

My client, Eric is an intellectual property attorney.

He was disturbed because his referrals seemed to be drying up.

I asked, “When was the last time you put a stay in touch campaign out there to your connections?”

He said, “I know, I know. You’re right. But I’m so busy.”

You know and I know:

Busy won’t grow new business for you.

(this is a good one to tweet- just click!)


Eric and I put a put together a simple but powerful STAY IN TOUCH CAMPAIGN. It was comprised of content and other high-value communications, some digital and some more personal, “dripped out” (consistently, regularly sent out at designated intervals) to key referral sources, colleagues, current clients and past clients over the next 6 months.

This sounds like it would take a huge amount of time, right? It is a campaign, after all.

Not so.

Each stay in touch effort took no more than 10 minutes! Less time than drinking a cup of coffee.

The results? Not surprisingly, Eric’s referrals started to flow again.

But so much more happened:

  • A past client engaged Eric for two new matters.
  • A connector friend of his invited Eric to speak at his national conference – an entire audience of targeted ideal prospective clients.
  • A referral source asked him to meet with his top two corporate clients – great new leads in his ideal target network.

However, one former client told him, “I wish you had contacted me a couple of weeks ago. I just hired another attorney.”

When Eric asked him why, he said:

“Because he reached out to me at the right time when I needed the advice.”

All of these results demonstrate how necessary it is to stay in touch with people in your professional life, and the high price when you don’t.

Did a smart stay-in-touch campaign take a little time and thought? Yes, of course.

But look at the payoff.

A consistent Stay In Touch program will:

  • Get you more business with current clients and reactivate previous customers and clients.
  • Help you land more leads with key prospects.
  • Entice new referrals and
  • Open doors to lots of unexpected opportunities in your current business and beyond.

I’d going to make it super easy for you to create your own Stay In Touch/Pump Up Your Leads & New Clients Campaign with a simple 5 steps/10 minutes roadmap.

Just click on the link and you can download your complimentary Roadmap. It’s a smart and easy way to ramp up and stay up in your business in 2014.