SMALL BUSINESS: Expanding the Niche


My client specializes in placing legal and business support staff in temporary, temporary-to-permanent, and permanent positions. Hard work and outstanding service had earned the firm respect and repeat business from a cadre of clients.
The small team has had a knack for figuring out both clients’ needs and candidates’ expectations, and then matching clients’ specific assignments with solid performers. The firm’s success and need to expand into other staffing services led the CEO to retain me to help position the business outside its niche.


  • The move to diversify could pit my client against more muscular, national competitors.
  • Expansion could jeopardize the company’s reputation for exceptional, personalized service.
  • The client was timid about promotion.

Fortunately, the client CEO trusted me based on previous work for the firm. She knew that I could be imaginative, would stretch their confidence, and yet would create a communication message and style appropriate to the firm’s style of doing business. The first step was to extract a bold story and build the client’s confidence to tell it. I interviewed the CEO and staff on:

  • what they thought they were selling;
  • how clients viewed them; and
  • why they were better than competitors.

I translated their comments into messages and language that prospective customers would want to hear – reliability, personalized service, guaranteed quality — and then had the CEO review my work. The copy emboldened her to restate more precisely and aggressively the firm’s story. To that story was added a renewed and emphatic promise to deliver everything the customer expected.

  • With a solid story to tell, I next needed a convincing story-teller and central image. The CEO was the obvious choice, not by title but by profile. She was a seasoned, professional, affable, smart business woman who would appeal to the firm’s primary target audience of college-educated, career-minded women in their 40s. Although somewhat reluctant at first, I convinced her that she would like the results.
  • Given the limited budget, I set out to use the same content, design, and photography in both a booklet for mailing and handing out, and a website that would allow the client to easily add information about new services and staff.

Specifically, I:

  • converted the client’s core offering into a theme: “Quality over quantity, Solutions over simply résumés.”
  • selected a designer whose work I knew to create strong but playful illustrations, rich colors, and a clean layout.
  • hired a photographer who could capture images of the CEO and staff that would portray experience, customer-focus, and approachability. My role during the shoot was getting everyone comfortable enough to produce photographs that would connect emotionally with prospects.
  • brought in a highly talented, affordable digital communicator to construct a simple, visually appealing and easily navigated website.

Front and center was a full-frame photograph of the CEO reiterating the firm’s 17-year promise “to respond consistently to clients’ needs with flexibility and honesty” and confirming that “we have never wavered on that promise.”

In both the booklet and website, the content outlined what customers should look for when bringing on staff from a temporary agency, and also described the credentials the firm required from the its candidates.

The client was impressed by how accurately and convincingly the communication pieces portrayed the company’s professionalism and personal style. She and her staff were enthused by the potential for attracting new business through the booklet and website.

I was subsequently asked to turn the messages and content into text modules that the client could integrate into letters, emails, ads, presentations, and other communication.

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