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  1. #1
    SitePoint Zealot clnewbill's Avatar
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    Niche marketing and separate business names

    Here is a question on which I'd like some opinions.

    I have made my name doing websites in a particular niche -- primarily related to fine art and artists' supplies. Most of my clients are middle-aged or older and almost all are female.

    Through a referral I recently acquired a new client who runs a joke website. Most of the jokes are fairly risqué, some cartoons and videos are not particularly safe for work, and I don't find much of it very funny, but I haven't seen anything so far that would violate a webhost's terms of service concerning out-and-out pornography. He's skating on the right side of the law.

    He seems to be a nice guy, he is ecstatically happy with my services, he is working very hard to get new clients for me, and he pays immediately. So what's the problem?

    Well... his sense of humor is appropriate to a 12-year-old boy (bodily functions and boobs) and I am not particularly comfortable with my personal and company name being associated with it. It doesn't fit the corporate image I'm working so hard to build.

    So I've been mulling over the idea of setting up a separate name to use on his site and any similar ones in the future. I don't know how difficult it would be -- I'd have to ask my lawyer about whether to set up a subsidiary company or how to handle it -- but that's not the question. I really want to know this:

    Am I worrying needlessly? Is a fine art client or an art supplier likely to be put off by my also working for a guy who loves potty humor? Would you be, or would you even notice?

  2. #2
    Can you describe the ruckus? silver trophy MissLee's Avatar
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    Hey there & Welcome to SitePoint.

    This topic is of particular interest to me because I have a similar situation and after much thought, I've decided to create a different version of my business geared specifically for those clients whose content or design requirements might raise an eyebrow (or cause a heart attack). I have registered a domain name that is a little like my mainstream business but do not plan on linking the two in any way.

    Why did I decide to go that route instead of just leaving some work out of my portfolio? Essentially for two reasons; client comfort and marketing, in that order.

    I've been fortunate that much of my business comes from word-of-mouth recommendations and referrals and while I am sure that a good percentage of them wouldn't be offended (or worse) by some of the projects I've done, there are those that might and it simply isn't worth the risk of awkwardness and certainly not worth the risk of losing their business. Sure, there is some cross-over; I've had clients with very mainstream projects recommend me to friends who have more risque' ventures and the reverse has been true as well...moreso, actually.

    I wrestled with the question of duplicity; would I be representing myself honestly if I did not disclose the full scope of the projects I do? Taking into consideration client confidentiality and that a fair percentage of clients don't want their projects represented in portfolios anyway, I felt that I could represent myself with my ethics intact and truly, it really does come down to exactly what you said....niche marketing.

    As far as how I handle it business-wise...I work under my own name, dba the company names so it really didn't present an issue .

    Now, after all that, you're right...the question is are you worrying needlessly? Based on my personal experience I'd say no; you're worried for good reason, particularly with the two personality types with which you're dealing. You could just opt to keep the joke site out of your portfolio and the art crowd would probably never be any the wiser but if you're interested in expanding your client-base then promoting that joke site, crude though it may be, might come in handy as well. The tricky thing is that if you do decide not to keep the two facets separate; you'll never, ever know if you lost a potential client because they saw the other site and were put off. It's not something you'd be able to track and for the effort it takes to ensure that never happens, it seems like niche marketing is the 'obvious' answer.

  3. #3
    Serial Entrepreneur
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    You're correctly worrying about your personal "branding". Pretty much this is just like your personal reputation: once you screw it up, it's pretty difficult to repair.

    If you think having both types of clients (or any other types of clients) would conflict with the way you are branding yourself, you can definitely split your company into two and create branding for each.

    In fact, what you may want to do is have an "umbrella" brand that covers ALL the work you do and then specific brands for the fine art side of business. You focus your fine art marketing on the fine art brand and your general marketing on the umbrella brand. In that way, you show that you work in both worlds.

    There are many organizations out there doing great work for multiple types of clients. You don't need to limit your activities in order to please all of your clients, just protect your brands by not having them directly conflict.
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  4. #4
    SitePoint Zealot clnewbill's Avatar
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    Thank you both, so much. (I should really remember to subscribe to threads so I will know when there is a reply!)

    I've decided to do just that and have registered a couple of new domain names to set up a new brand. I'll talk to my attorney and banker today and find out about creating a new dba business name. Onward!

  5. #5
    SitePoint Enthusiast imagineinternet's Avatar
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    I may be a little late to the party here, but here is my 2 cents.

    Yes, I think you are worrying needlessly. The simple way to handle this would be to not "claim" this client. I have several clients that just don't make it into our portfolio and never will, and we don't list our company on their site. We got paid and did the work, we just don't advertise it. I think that you can make a lot less work for yourself if you just do work for them but don't promote it as yours.

    Now, there is the questions of different brands if you think you are going to have this type of work in the future. We actually have 2 companies, both under the same LLC, that basically perform the same services but are marketed to different people as different brands. In this case, dba's are invaluable. We registered the dba's with the state and with the county.

    Interesting situation - hope the new brand works out.
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  6. #6
    SitePoint Zealot
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    I would give my 2 cents, but imagineinternet stole them.

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