How Do You Build a Niche?

About five years ago, David Scarlett asked me who I liked working with best and who I felt I did the best job for. I had absolutely no answer for him. I liked working with most of my clients and couldn’t really see a common thread between the ones I liked working with best.

I liked people who had nothing in common:
  • The retired couple who had spent their working lives travelling around the Middle East
  • The couple one of whom was retired and the other handed her notice in after our meeting where we showed her that she no longer needed to work.
  • The young couple who spent a lot of money on cycling and wine but were happy to work to perpetuate their lifestyle.

Fast forward 2 years and I was a divorced, single mum to two amazing kids

I had spent time supporting my friend through her divorce and had also consequently worked with one of her colleagues to help to implement her pension sharing order. The more I looked into the area of working with clients going through divorce, the more I realised how well the work that I did for clients would translate to make a huge difference to clients divorcing and separating.

At this stage, I didn’t really know where to begin in attracting clients. I hadn’t really figured out what “these clients” looked like. However, the more I spoke about it, the more I realised how important it was to me.

Flash back to my youth

As a 12 year old, I remember sitting underneath the piano in the dining room of our family home, listening to my parents arguing. It wasn’t something I witnessed a lot and I had a feeling of doom.

What was to follow was a pretty messy divorce. I don’t know the details but I do know that I felt that I was very much in the middle. We were discouraged from speaking about the other parent and they were not good at being in the same room.

Why is this relevant to the story?

Well, it is the reason that I am so dedicated to helping couples to separate and divorce amicably, so that they can:

  • Continue to co-parent
  • Attend parents’ evenings, school plays, sporting matches
  • … together.

My ideal clients were beginning to take shape.

They would be in their 40s or 50s, be parents and want to, or at least be willing to try, to separate and divorce amicably, without the need for court.

Phil Bray and his team at Yardstick, created a website in the image of my vision for this niche and Smart Divorce was born.

Understand Your Clients

I was advised early on by Phil O’Connor, who has been a rock in my journey, to immerse myself in this world. I believe this is essential in whatever niche you select to work in. You need to live and breathe the experiences, pain points, issues, fears and joys of those you want to work with.

I wanted Smart Divorce to work largely with local clients.

Using Twitter

I followed businesses and influencers in our town. I retweeted and engaged in conversation. Working slightly further afield, I followed family lawyers, mediators, barristers and divorce coaches. I attended every event possible where I might meet more of those working in divorce. I engaged with them on social media (this led to a prominent family barrister introducing me as his Twitter friend to a colleague on our first meeting). Smart Divorce’s Twitter concentrated on being “on message”.

Then came Facebook

We produced a guide, again with Yardstick’s help, and began a campaign, which is still running, to attract potential clients. People who have no idea where to start until they are scrolling one day, and our advert appears in front of them like a mirage. From this, we collected names and emails and created a mailing list.

We created blogs

A team of bloggers wrote about every aspect of divorce; from day one where you just need a hug and a G&T, to taking the kids on holiday on your own and online dating. We started sending these in their entirety but have since learnt to turn them into a newsletter so that readers have to go to the website to read the blog and might find something else interesting while they’re there.

The Podcast

I know that everyone seems to have a podcast these days and I didn’t want to have another Financial Planning podcast.

However, there is not a lot in the way of divorce podcasts in the UK.

I knew a lot of people and felt that we could help people and engage with our audience this way. The Smart Divorce Podcast began January 2020. We have just completed series two and are pondering the next series.

In the first series, I interview the professionals. I wanted people to know who to turn to, what different professionals did and how they could help. I wanted them to understand the options available to them and the whole time, I was learning as well!

On its own, the podcast has not generated clients. However, using layers to engage with people definitely has. Clients have often seen us on Facebook, downloaded the guide, listened to a podcast episode and read a blog when they contact us.

How to Charge

I know that this is an ongoing debate within our profession, but I believe that you need to structure your fees in a way that works for your clients. For my clients at the beginning, it is often best to charge them an hourly fee and bill them monthly. They are used to this method of charging because it mirrors the way in which lawyers charge and so they expect to pay this way.

Continue to Learn

Smart Divorce and me, continue to evolve as I learn more about divorce and about what our clients need from us. I don’t believe that we will ever be the finished product. Every day I learn new things about marketing, social media, writing, recording videos and what our clients need from us and I hope that this will continue.