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Heather Townsend

The Excedia Group


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Six reasons why truly committing to your niche will boost your ability to win highly paid work in 2014


In this article, Heather Townsend, author of 'The Go-To Expert' and 'The FT Guide To Business networking', discusses why committing to your niche as a trainer may be initially daunting, but the best thing you can do to win work in 2014.

Reason 1: It helps you be referred and recommended more often

I was recently in a meeting with the head of L&D for a large consultancy. In this meeting, he expressed a desire to only have experts running any training for his firm. This head of L&D explained to me that they had been bitten badly by training providers using 'generic' jacks-of-all-trades to deliver workshops for their people. In fact, I was only having the conversation because I was seen as a professional services expert, rather than a leadership or commercial development expert.

It doesn't matter whether you are trying to get associate work or sell your training services directly, when people buy training services, it is a high-risk purchase. After all, there is nothing quite like an irate learner who feels that they have wasted their time on a training course. For this reason there has to be a high degree of trust before your services will get booked. As a consequence you are more likely to get booked, recommended or referred if you are seen to be a credible safe pair of hands - i.e. an expert in what you train.

Reason 2: It helps your marketing material be more effective

When you are clear about who you specialise in working with and the results you achieve with them, your marketing material becomes more effective. This is because you know:

  • Where to place your marketing materials and content so that it is read by the buyers and decision makers in your niche
  • The right buttons to press to build an emotional connection with your audience which compels them to take action quickly; e.g. contact you
  • How to package up your services so that they are a good fit to solve your niche’s problems.

Reason 3: It is fundamental to you and/or your firm’s future growth

Boredom is something which can often affect trainers. I don’t think this is just something that affects just me. Of course there are some trainers who can deliver the same course time and time again, week in, week out. I struggle to do this unless I am ultra passionate about my topic. This boredom and professional inertia can become incredibly damaging to our ability to deliver and generate new work.

Sometimes the route to escaping this boredom is to commit to a niche. Committing to a niche is a great way of giving yourself the motivation to become THAT expert, which you have decided to claim to be. I have a confession here. Before I wrote 'The FT Guide to Business Networking', my knowledge on networking wasn't much greater than the average commercial development trainer. However as a result of being commissioned to write the book, I researched and researched, and read and read and read. In fact I have read most of the published books and current thinking on networking which is available. In the last three years, I've written hundreds of blogs and articles on the topic of networking and referral generation. I know personally pretty much all of the thought leaders in the area of networking and referral generation. Would I have done that without wanting to be seen as an expert in networking for professional services? No.

This deep level of expertise has ignited a passion which has become the foundation for my personal, and our firm's growth. It also lead onto my third book, 'The Go-To Expert...'

Like me, you will find that the act of committing to a niche which motivates you to truly become that expert will be a business transforming decision and journey. It is amazing what doors will open when you are seen to be THE expert for a particular subject or niche.

Reason 4: It enables you to differentiate yourself from your peers

Five years ago I became a freelance trainer. It was at this point that I discovered exactly how many freelance trainers were out there. Far too many. If you look at any trainer's website, they all seem to say the same thing and offer the same services. You will find it will probably mention most of these services (even if they claim to specialise in commercial development)

  • Leadership development
  • Team effectiveness
  • Executive coaching

When you compare one leadership or commercial trainer, with a competitor, it’s often very difficult to differentiate them from each other. This is why you need to be niched. In the FT Effective Client Advisor relationships report published in 2012, they found that 40% of buyers of professional services have being a sector specialist in their top three buying criteria, and 67% of buyers want to work with an advisor who has a deep understanding of their business and marketplace. In other words if you want to get in front of corporate buyers of your services, or training companies looking for associates, you need to have a niche or obvious specialist expertise.

Reason 5: It helps you to form strategic alliances

One of the easiest ways for any trainer to win work is to form strategic alliances with other trainers and professionals offering complementary services. For example, if you specialise in leadership development for the retail sector, who do you know who also specialises in the retail sector?

Reason 6: It allows you and your firm to charge a premium fee for your services

From personal experience, we can relate acutely to the pain of submitting a proposal and worrying about whether you are too expensive or too cheap. Wouldn’t it be easy if there were a standard tariff that every coach or trainer conformed to? Sadly, this will never be the case. But, what makes the difference between an executive coach who can command £300+ hourly rates and one who struggles to get more than £50 hourly rates? Very often it is the perception of the value that each coach brings to the work. If you have the profile as the expert in what you do, clients are often happier to pay significantly more for your services.


At first, committing to a niche can seem incredibly daunting. However, if you bite the bullet in 2014, I am promise you that this will be the best ever business decision you will take for your training business.

Heather Townsend helps professionals become the Go-To-Expert. She is the author of ‘The Go-To Expert’ and the award-winning and best seller, ‘The FT Guide To Business Networking’. Click here to receive a weekly email from me to help you become the Go-To Expert and enjoy the luxury of clients coming to you


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Heather Townsend


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