In a competitive market, setting yourself apart is critical. One effective way to differentiate yourself is to specialize in a niche, says Michèle Soregaroli, CEO of Transformation Catalyst in Vancouver.

"A generalist cannot have the same kind of impact or deliver the same level of expertise as a specialist," says, Soregaroli, who coaches business owners on how to carve out their ideal niche.

The benefits of specialization are well known. For example, the clients of financial advisors who specialize in a niche are usually more loyal than clients of generalist advisors. And these clients  are more likely to provide referrals.

Here are some tips to help you make the transition from generalist to specialist:

> Consider our own characteristics
Instead of identifying a void in the market, look first to your own aptitudes.

"[Specialization should be] focused on your value set and your belief system so that you can be more naturally aligned with the clients you're trying to attract," Soregaroli says.

Your niche can be a specific profession — an approach that works well for advisors who want to target members of a profession they once worked in. A niche can also be more intangible: for example, an investment principle, such as socially responsible investing; or clients who follow a particular lifestyle choice, such as snowbirds.

Read: Become a specialist in a niche

> Ask yourself what kind of clients you like working with
Specialization means being more selective about your clients. To help you determine the kind of clients you would enjoy working with, think about how you communicate and who you already have in your inner circle. Making connections with a specific group of clients should enrich your experience as well as theirs.

David Bluteau, vice president at Bluteau-Devenney-Caseley Wealth Management Group in Halifax, specializes in medical professionals.

"We decided to gain more leverage and, as opposed to trying to be all things to all people, focus on the niche we're good at, and clients [we wanted] to work with," Bluteau says.

> Expect to alter your schedule
In a niche practice, you must be prepared to shape your business around your clients' needs, and that includes your schedule. If your timetable doesn't align with the typical day of your desired client base, arranging meetings will be a problem.

Bluteau's team is used to early-morning and late-evening client meetings, working around doctors' jam-packed schedules.

Read: Differentiate your practice

You must ask yourself how you can make your clients' lives easier and save them time, says Bluteau: "It's a matter of knowing your client very well."

> Focus on trustWhile trust is fundamental to any client/advisors relationship, Soregaroli says, establishing a deep level of trust is especially crucial in a niche practice.

One way to deepen your connection is to weave your niche into every area of your practice. Soregaroli suggests hosting client appreciation events that focus on your specialty, or integrating it into your daily operations. For example, an advisor who emphasizes mindfulness might begin each meeting with a moment of meditation.

Read: Marketing to a niche segment

> Weigh the risk
Declaring a niche means passing on potential clients who are outside of your area of specialization. That risk, Soregaroli says, is well worth it.

"You absolutely will alienate some clients," she says. "But by doing so you will make room and attract the clients who are actually profitable, are actually fun, who actually want to be there and who will become advocates for your practice."

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