There are many challenges that today’s startups, small businesses and even established companies are up against; however, when it comes starting (or growing) a PR firm the biggest obstacle is differentiating your firm in what seems to be a sea of competition. As a design PR firm, we attribute not only our success, but also the speed in which we’ve achieved it, to one single thing: specialization.
If you’re starting or growing a company in a saturated market, the only way to grow quickly is by strategically identifying an unserved market and focusing all of your efforts on positioning yourself to fill that need. It’s always easy to scale up and serve more industries once you’ve mastered one, but being the best at one thing out of the gate will build your core client base and provide the foundation for growth.
Find a niche within a niche
When it comes to choosing an industry, the decision can be based on a variety of things. Maybe you have a technology-focused degree, or you come from family of doctors and have always wanted to practice medical PR. No personal connection to a field? Even better. Take a look at the landscape and see where there might be a void. Once you’ve identified a need in the marketplace, take it one step further and specialize in a niche within that space.
For example, we found that there were tons of PR firms serving lifestyle, beauty, fashion, and even the healthcare and financial sectors, but that the design industry was underserved. Taking it one step further, we realized that we could break down the design industry even further by focusing on architects, interior designers and product manufacturers in the B2B commercial and hospitality arena, isolating ourselves from the few residential design PR firms out there.
Maintain tunnel vision
You’ve chosen your industry, specialized within that field, and now it’s time to commit. It was a scary move for us, but from the moment that decision was made, our firm turned away any business that didn’t fall within our specialized scope of work. You need to be able to sit in on new business meetings and say “we are experts in our field and here is why.” Of course, the bills need to be paid, so as long as the client or, better yet, project isn’t disruptive to your end goal, you can take it on. Just be wary of using resources for anything other than becoming the leader in your chosen field. Distractions will slow you down and potentially derail your growth entirely.
Infiltrate the industry
It’s a small world; actually, it’s a really small world, especially since you’ve chosen a super niche to focus on. The good news is that everyone knows each other, so you don’t have a lot of ground to cover, but the bad news is also that everyone knows each other, so the quality of work produced becomes more important than ever. Join organizations that are vital to the industry you’ve chosen, attend trade shows and network as much as possible. Once you have a few clients who are all in your industry, do right by them and word will spread… fast.
Hire experts in the field
Your first hires should know more than you. Identify the strengths of the founders and start out by hiring employees (or freelancers to help alleviate payroll woes) who are experienced not only in the areas you lack, but are especially knowledgeable in the industry you’re hoping to conquer. Finding editors who have written for the publications you’ll be working with, writers who have degrees associated with your chosen specialization or PR pros who have great experience dealing with clients in the field will give you the edge you need to not only attract the right clients, but also ensure that the quality of work produced will be on point. Additionally, hiring employees with industry specific insight will give the entire team the opportunity to learn strategic information that could have otherwise taken years to gain.
Control your growth
Now that you’re on the right track, the focus needs to be on calculated growth. Make sure that resources are going to the right places, don’t hire too quickly and, most importantly, don’t expand to another industry too soon. That last one is the most important. If you start trying to service another industry, you will force your team to split its focus before you’re established in one field, and the quality of work produced will suffer. However, once the foundation is there and you feel ready to expand, make sure you don’t move too far away from your initial specialization.