by Henry DeVries, Forbes.com
Are you a service business owner who wants to make it rain?
This is not about a sprinkling of right-fit clients, this is about a downpour. In other words, make it rain revenue by finding riches in the niches.
Many business owners are too frightened to even try to find a niche.
“What if I choose the wrong one?” they lament. The lamentations are because fear never sleeps.
But fear not. In researching a potential target market, here are four filter questions top rainmakers say you should ponder in the following rank order:
1. Are you interested in solving the problems this group has? If their problems do not energize you, that should be a nonstarter.
2. Have you worked with any already? Targeting prospects in a market you have never worked with is possible but not probable.
3. Can they afford you? Money isn’t everything, but it is certainly one important thing.
4. Are they willing to pay more for better service? There is no winning the low-price provider game. One person I interviewed called that strategy “the race to the bottom.” You cash bigger checks by providing better service to those willing to pay for it.
Karen Hunter Moraghan has a riches in niches story, which she shared when I caught up with her at the AT&T Pro Am at the Pebble Beach Resort in California (we met when we covered sports for our college newspaper at UC San Diego).
“My first introduction to working in the golf world was when I accepted the position of director of public relations and special events for Pebble Beach Company, a job that catapulted me into the epicenter of the #1 golf resort in the United States,” said Moraghan.
She formed Hunter Public Relations in 1990. When she was appointed championship director of the 1992 U.S. Open, she asked her sister, Kristen Hunter, to join the agency and hold down the fort. Her firm would evolve into the go-to public relations agency for golf.
“By day, I ran the U.S. Open and by night, Hunter Public Relations,” said Moraghan.
In the process, she met her future husband, who was on the championship staff of the United States Golf Association.
Following the U.S. Open, she moved to the East Coast—setting up bi-coastal offices—and landed a two-year project coordinating the centennial celebration of the United States Golf Association.
This multi-faceted celebration was comprised of special events, champions reunions, constituent interaction, volunteer outreach, and media relations, and led to work on behalf of nine additional state golf associations: Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New Jersey, metropolitan New York, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Southern California.
For several years, Hunter Public Relations handled all golf media relations for Donald Trump and his courses around the world. Additionally, they have represented clients from South Korea to the Dominican Republic, Mexico to Puerto Rico.
Today, her client base is firmly entrenched in golf—private clubs, communities, resorts, golf course architects, destinations and consumer golf products.
When you become an authority in a niche, you don’t chase business, it chases you.
“While we will occasionally respond to an RFP, 95% of our business comes from personal referrals,” says Moraghan.
At its peak, Hunter Public Relations had five full-time employees and several contractors on monthly retainers. These days, she has three full-time employees and a stable of contractors (editors, writers, social media experts) located around the country.
“We operated remotely, before it was fashionable, and prefer to keep it nimble,” she said.
According to Moraghan, no matter your niche, there are a few core tenets by which you must operate:
Cultivate relationships. “Relationships are at the core of any successful business. In our case, these are media, influencers and golf industry contacts.”
Never burn a bridge. “We live in a rapidly changing world and when working within a specialized niche—like golf—the same contacts frequently move around and change positions within the industry.”
Give back to the industry. “Serve on a board, volunteer at a golf tournament or charitable fundraiser. Mentor a younger person interested in the profession or the game.”
Look ahead, think forward. “I get tired of hearing about ‘the way it used to be.’ It’s up to us to keep up with the times, technologies, and trends. As media relations professionals, we owe that to our clients.”
Respect deadlines. “In today’s digital world, deadlines are compressed and nearly constant. To be a trusted resource for media, meet their deadlines. Deliver what is requested and if you cannot, communicate.”
Bottom line: In my business development research for agency owners, business consultants and entrepreneurs, I found a common denominator among the most successful rainmakers. The secret is to make yourself less interesting to the masses, and more intensely interesting to a select few. Moraghan certainly did that while teeing off a career in golf.