The strongest companies — in a good economy or bad — know who they are, and they communicate that clearly to their customers. To find your company's niche in the market, you need to focus on what you do better than other companies.
I found this to be important when we were working with an advertising agency on a new marketing campaign a couple years ago. They performed some extensive customer research. After examining the results, the data showed that customers appreciate the courtesy we show them. They like how our service professionals clean up after they finish fixing the plumbing problem, and how they put on shoe covers before going inside their homes.
The aspects our customers liked were at the core of our company — our professional system. The Mr. Rooter corporate staff trains its franchise owners, service technicians and customer service representatives on these steps when they first join the Mr. Rooter Plumbing brand. Training then continues throughout each and every year.
Even though we were doing what the customer liked, we weren't using it in our message to customers. We completely revamped our marketing campaign, so customers would know exactly what our niche was when it comes to the plumbing field. Sometimes it is difficult to keep your focus on only what you to do best, but that's the key to finding your niche. A company can't be all things to all people, and they should not try to do this. We experienced this before our marketing makeover. Our newspaper ads would focus on one topic while our radio spots focused on another. This was the same thing for TV commercials and phone book ads as well as other marketing materials.
After finding our niche, we communicated this to our entire franchise network. Make sure your entire team knows your company's niche, as well as agrees with it. Your technicians and CSRs are your company’s frontline — those communicating this message to your customers. You want to know they are communicating this niche to your community.
In addition to agreeing with your niche, it's important your team believes in it as well. I enjoy seeing our new franchise owners excited about our position of providing courteous plumbing services. During our basic training classes, new owners talk about how it really resonates with them, and how excited they are to take this back to their teams. We refer to ourselves as a courtesy company that provides plumbing. I like to tell people that courtesy may not be the first thing you think of when it comes to plumbing, but for Mr. Rooter Plumbing, it's one of the most important tools our technicians carry.
Once you communicate your company's niche to your team, it's time to target your brand message to those who need your services. This includes setting your company apart from your competitors. Being the polite plumber is incorporated in one way or another in every aspect of our marketing. This includes TV commercials, newspaper ads, radio spots and other marketing materials like cards and flyers.
It just so happened that one of our TV commercials actually played out in real life. We have a technician in Detroit who was off work, in regular clothes and standing in line at a grocery store when an elderly man got in line behind him. When our technicians noticed the older man only had a few items, he offered to switch places. The elderly man asked our technician if he worked for Mr. Rooter Plumbing, and our tech answered yes. The man said the commercial is true! The technician admitted he hadn't seen the commercial, so the old man explained it.
For us, following a professional system and being courteous is our niche. I find that our company's Code of Values play a big role in our niche. One of our values is "treating others as we would like to be treated." From our corporate staff to our franchise owners, we live the Code of Values both professionally and personally.
Another way to find your niche is going back to your mission and vision statements. What are they? Are you and your team living them?
What about your specialization? Do you know exactly what you specialize in? If not, one way to figure this out is to look at the letters you receive from happy customers. What they compliment could be your niche. This rings true for us. When we receive comments on our service technicians, customers use words like courteous, professionalism and respect.
I want to leave you with this — remember who you are and what you do best. Find your niche, and share it with the world.
Mary Kennedy Thompson is president of Mr. Rooter, a franchised plumbing and drain-cleaning service company. Thompson is a former multi-unit franchisee and president of national franchisor Cookies by Design, a veteran of the military and a graduate of the University of Texas.