As you try to figure out your brand position, focusing on specific sectors or industry verticals, or narrowing your niche can help. What do these terms mean, and how can they help you define your business and your brand?

Sector or Industry

The terms sector or industry are often used interchangeably. They generally mean one area of business. For example: healthcare, architecture, education, high-tech.

Your product or service may only have relevance for certain industries. For example, if you sell medical devices, you are selling to the healthcare sector.

Some products or services can be used across many sectors, for example: law services, computers, printers, telephones, marketing services, etc.

What is a “Vertical”?

“Vertical” is a term that you hear thrown around and means something very similar to industry to sector. It is often called an industry vertical. The idea is that as you build your client base, you could provide your product or service to a large, wide customer base, or you could go “deep” into one vertical. An industry vertical means a focus on one type of business that you serve. Some examples are: hospitals, colleges, B2B software companies, etc.

Niche

A niche is any focus for your business. While the terms sector, industry or vertical are almost always talking about business all doing work in the same part of the economy. A niche can be a different way to cross-section your pool of prospects. As an example, maybe you focus on business coaching for female business owners over age 50. These business owners may work in a wide variety of industries, but your niche is that they are women, 50+ who are business owners.

Why having a niche or vertical helps your branding

Your product or service may be something that could be valuable to many different types of buyers. Many professional consultants are in this role. For example, if you provide legal services, accounting, web design, etc. you could work for a wide range of clients.

It can feel good to know that you have a large target market, but it’s much easier to define your brand position and market yourself if you have a focus.

As you get more experience in one industry you get insider knowledge that makes you more useful to others in this same sector. If you are a service professional, you are able to get up and running more quickly with little time for training. Or if you are selling a product, your buyers will realize it’s tailored for their uses.

Finally, your prospects are able to recognize your expertise and more easily trust you. If they see that you specialize in working with other people just like themselves they feel confident that you have the experience to give them just the exact help they need.

Why do you ask me about this in Branding Compass?

We ask you about your industry vertical or sector as you try and define your ideal customer. If you all of our prospects are in one industry, it can be easier to communicate to them.

First, you likely all use the same industry jargon. While it’s never a great idea to use too much jargon, having that insider knowledge is helpful when describing the benefits of your product or service.

Secondly, if you focus on only one niche area, rather than a broad audience, you become the specialist in this area. You have fewer competitors who can make that same claim.

Finally, as you market your service, you can use things like industry-specific LinkedIn Groups, trade shows, publications or web sites to more quickly connect with your prospective buyers. Many people do not start with a focused sector or niche, then as their business matures they are able to define one. You may be able to accelerate your growth by choosing an industry vertical or specialization early on.

Tip: As you answer the questions in Branding Compass about your ideal customer, try to make it as narrow as possible. While you can serve many different types of people, focus on describing only your very best customers or those people most likely to buy from you. Some people get so focused they are able to imagine one completely idealized person who is their ideal customer.