In this here episode, Rahul Alim discusses identifying and validating a niche, plus how to optimize focussed niches to scale your business.
About Rahul Alim…
Rahul Alim is the founder of Custom Creatives, a Digital Marketing Agency that connects companies with their dream clients. Throughout his career, he has helped brands such as Realtor.com, Geico, Advertise.com, Reach Local, and 1,000’s of local businesses.
With 16+ years of experience running his agency, Rahul now coaches agency owners to grow 6 figure businesses with his proven G$D Sales Method. In short, his real talk yields real results.
When he’s not helping to connect dream clients, he spends time with family at Dodgers games and Galaxy games.
Points of Interest…
- How Rahul Cornered Agency Niches 1:18
- Key Aspects for Agencies to Consider when they Niche Down 4:13
- Vertical and Horizontal Niches… 6:04
- View Problems as an Opportunity to Niche 9:16
- Niches; What They Could Mean for a Company 11:19
How Rahul Cornered Agency Niches
So, why exactly did Rahul start Custom Creatives and what has the growth trajectory been like for the business over the last sixteen years? Again, you guessed it; like almost every entrepreneur I have the pleasure of speaking with, it was all by accident.
“Yeah, so it was all by mistake. I used to work at a company called Realtor.com. I thought, when I applied, it was their corporate name was called HomeStore at the time. And I just assumed it was an online furniture company. So, I blindly applied. Then, when I got the interview, things worked out. I was like, whoa, this is actually pretty cool. Online advertising for real estate!”
“But Marcel, what has this got to do with Custom Creatives?!’ I hear you cry. Well, it’s an intrinsic part of how it came to be. In short, Rahul became one of the top salesmen at Realtor.com before deciding to quit. On his way out the door, he touched base with a number of real estate clients suggesting he could manage their Realtor.com system for them. While this formative model wasn’t ultimately scaleable, it gave Rahul the opportunity to niche his way into the real estate space.
“Ultimately, a couple of years after starting my agency, Realtor.com became my core, anchor client and turned into a multimillion-dollar deal, year over year. That’s how I got my headstart, just working one single niche, simplifying our systems and our products.”
This deal gave Rahul the luxury of an initial financial buffer, providing the self-funding to be able to make as many mistakes as he possibly could, as early as he could.
Key Aspects for Agencies to Consider When Niching
Unlike a lot of digital agencies, Rahul started with a fairly specific niche and actually stuck to it to a large extent over time. As avid listeners/readers of APP are well aware, niching down is something of a hot topic; becoming an expert in your space.
Given Rahul has been an expert in niching down, I’m keen to learn how he personally defines the practice of locating one’s calling in the agency sphere. More importantly, what are the aspects to consider when moving in this direction for agencies who feel the need to zone in on specifics a bit more.
“From my perspective, the reason I had my niche is that I already had experience, already knew the audience; plus I already knew they could pay for what I was going to offer. And I enjoyed what I did. Those are the aspects that I would tell other people is; ‘are you already familiar with something you can actually work with?’… the reality is, you have to like what you do because you’re going to be doing this for over a period of time.”
As Rahul says, he’s been in the real estate business for over a decade, so you’ve got to genuinely enjoy the work, otherwise, you’re chasing a pipe dream. Or, worse, you’ll reach burnout far quicker, resulting in numerous elongated monastic retreats to recharge.
Vertical and Horizontal Niches
At this point, Rahul is using a lot of vertical language to define a niche; discussing things like dental, and real estate. Another way is looking at horizontal slices. For example, you could serve the C-suite at Fortune 500 companies, or serve SMBs, right?
Given the horizontal and vertical ways of thinking about niches, I’m interested in finding out how Rahul defines what a niche actually is? How does he define how one should structure a niche, like codify that as a specific area that you’re going at it. And what is the most important part about figuring out what that is for an agency? In Rahul’s experience…
“It depends on the talent level of the agency owners. When we’re coaching newer agencies – if they’re coming to us fresh, raw, just starting out – we categorize them by industry. So they can be an industry expert in the realm of real estate, or dental, or whatever it may be. Then, we categorize them by avatar. We ask them if they want to work with brand new people, or experienced people, or perhaps people of productivity. Then there is your specific service to consider.”
Remember, you don’t have to be all things to all clients. For example, you could be a Facebook ads expert, or a videographer, or an expert in branding. It doesn’t really matter what your expertise is as long as you stay true to that.
**Rahul dives further into the super simple productized banner ad services he became familiar with via Realtor.com at the 7:17 mark**
View Problems as an Opportunity to Niche
The common thread I’m hearing is finding a solution to an existing problem. When Rahul left Realtor.com, he saw a problem that wasn’t being solved and swiftly set about resolving that issue. The same could be applied to Custom Creative’s evolution, which ultimately led him to devise and expand on service offerings by starting a SaaS company.
The pervasive anchor point is the ability to view a “problem” as a conduit, an opportunity to filter pivotal decisions about what your service offering needs to look like. In short…
- Identify the problem
- Understand what industry/who in that industry has said problem
- Design your services around solving that problem
** Rahul brings his unique insight into this theory at the 10:00 mark**
Niches; What They Could Mean for a Company
Perhaps you’re looking at your business and thinking; ‘Yeah, you know, there are a couple of core problems that we solve really well, plus seemed profitable for us. We have a good process for the next pushback.’ But what does it mean for the company, the workforce as an entire entity going forward, though?
When I encourage people to think about focusing and niching down, there is a palpable fear that it’s going to create a vacuum in their business. That you’re going to miss opportunities, you might have to downsize… In Rahul’s experience, the perceived vacuum isn’t actually all that bad…
“The biggest misnomer out there is that you are in a vacuum. I think it’s advantageous to be in one because, when you try to spread yourself thin, you’re not going to make it. Because it’s your scale and your future, it gets harder.”
Once you make that decision to niche, you can productize your service, you have this step-by-step system that anybody can take on – that is what agency owners should be striving for. Should you require further convincing, Rahul has this handy analogy…
“The key is, when you’re a specialist and you can prove it, you get paid more than – for example – an orthopedic surgeon versus a generalist. This orthoscopic surgeon specializes just in knees. He doesn’t get jealous of wrists and ankles, because knees are his focus. He tells himself that ‘This is what I’m going to be the best in the world at, and I’m gonna get paid well for it.”
This is where niching really creates a significant advantage in profitability; the specialist always gets paid more than the generalist. You can charge more for the same service offering because you specialize in a certain industry – like, “we build landing pages, but we do it for the legal industry.”
**I dive headlong into this topic of custom specific work Vs all-encompassing job specs from 15:10**
Key Takeaway… Get More Niching Knowhow
It is possible to move away from an unsustainable “do it all” mentality to building a rockstar team that gives them the ability to create an assembly line in their business to create growth and freedom in their business.
For further insights, Rahul and his team host an Agency Foundation School, which is entirely free. If people follow his roadmap and follow the advice that Rahul provides in these online videos alone, you should get to your first 10 K MRR recurring revenue, or add another 10 K on top of it. Additionally, he provides Sales Training, how to productize your offering, and how to create a “scary offer” – which is imperative to making your marketing work…
Intrigued? Find out more here.
Want more from Rahul? Check out…
Did you learn anything new from this episode? Let us know in the comments below! Our next installment of #APP, on August 11th, will see us chat with Robert Patin. Our previous blog with Joe DiSanto is here…
Agency Profitability Tool Kit
If you’re looking for more resources to help you improve your agency’s profitability, check out the Agency Profitability Tool Kit. It’s full of templates and checklists we use when consulting clients, helping them improve profitability by over 100% – in under 60 days.