When building a micro-niche, it is important to understand the difference between small and boutique. Your micro-niche might be either or both. If it is both, it should be by choice rather than accident. _

By definition, a micro-niche is likely to be relatively small. The micro-niche serves the specific and unique needs of a narrowly defined clientele. The firm is small intentionally. It focuses on one thing. The CPA (s) involved in serving the clients of a micro-niche is an expert at what he or she does. The expert services provided to this narrowly defined clientele are not cheap.

An intentionally small micro-niche is different from the larger firm that it is part of and its work by the particular needs and client pains it serves and by the expertise of the CPA who provides the services. Customers are treated no differently in any other way.

A boutique, on the other hand, is by definition “a small company that offers highly specialized services or products” (Webster’s Dictionary). A micro-niche, by this definition, qualifies as a boutique. There are, however, other defining characteristics of boutiques. Typically, boutiques offer more than a very specific product line or selections of services. The products and services and delivered in a unique atmosphere and style that caters to the particular tastes and preferences of the clientele.

The micro-niche boutique can be distinguished from the small micro-niche by the unique experience in which products and services are delivered to a narrowly defined group of clients. Other definitions of a boutique point to the true distinguishing characteristics: exclusivity and customized service.

Whether one is thinking about boutique shops, boutique hotels or any other kind of boutique business, several defining characteristics can be identified.

1. Size — Boutiques are and must be small in order to provide the customized service and experience to their exclusive clients. Retail boutiques are physically small stores with a limited product line in limited sizes, colors, etc. Boutique hotels typically have about 100 rooms. A micro-niche boutique in an accounting firm focuses on the specific special needs and pain points of an exclusive group of clients who need these services.

2. Uniqueness – Boutiques do not look like other hotels, stores or accounting firms. Something is different and unique about the surroundings. In some cases, boutique clients might enter the firm’s offices through a separate door leading to a nicer lobby area. In other firms, the difference might mean CPAs meet with clients in plush conference rooms instead of cramped working offices. Instead of water from a public fountain, boutique clients might be offered freshly brewed coffee.

3. Personal attention – Everyone in the boutique — from receptionist to executive staff — recognizes every micro-niche boutique on sight. The tastes, needs and preferences of each boutique client are known. For example, the receptionist knows Mr. Jones prefers tea over coffee and that Mrs. Smith drinks only water. Everything that surrounds the client of the boutique conveys that he or she is understood and valued. The staff caters to the needs of the client.

4. Unique staff – Successful boutiques are staffed with people who have a profound commitment to personalized service every time for every client. From the moment the client enters the lobby, he or she is the focus of everyone he or she encounters. The staff is professional, welcoming, warm and attentive.

5. Surprise benefits – Boutique clients or customers typically discover some surprise benefit of doing business with the boutique they did not expect. This benefit need not be exceptional or costly. It must be unexpected in some way, however.

6. Comprehensive excellence – The boutique delivers its client the most and the best. As an expert, you are clearly in a position to provide the best products or services. Because you focus on the needs and preferences of a very small and exclusive group, you are able to provide a meaningful response to the most needs of your client.

The difference between small and boutique is in the customer experience.  For many firms and many experts small will suffice. For others, the characteristics of the clients or the services (or products) demand a unique and unparalleled customer experience. This micro-niche needs to become a boutique.

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