Market Analysis for Your Genealogy Business
[Editor’s Note: Bob Rettammel is a professional genealogist and owner of Rettammel Genealogy Service.]
Recently, I have been spending time thinking about how to market my genealogy service better. As a small business owner or sole proprietor we all face times of market flexibility or business life cycles. We also have times where our plate is full of client projects which also limits our availability to manage and organize for the future. As a small business owner we have to continually work and evaluate our marketing strategy. Where are those customers?
As a business owner I sell a service. This service has a product, but not in the typical business sense, i.e. a computer or widget, but a report or documents that are useable by a specific family or individual. Usually this product is definable, produced only once and never used again except as a reference in the future. So under these conditions the key for revenue and use of service is marketing yourself the best and potentially broadest way.
In the rest of this article I will discuss three parts of marketing that I have recently begun to re-evaluate and amend in my own personal business plan-advertising, market planning and customer engagement.
Advertising You and Your Services
One of the challenges when starting out is how to develop a marketing plan that will reach the people who will use your service. As I started the first step to become a genealogist for business, I contacted a genealogy reference librarian and did an interview to learn more about the daily activity of a working genealogist. I also wanted to learn what areas or niches might be under-developed in my home area that I might turn my interest in genealogy into a business. My goal was to learn more about being a professional genealogist and also to see if I could play a role and also earn income. This person provided an honest description of what they offered and how clients are always interested to learn about another person’s family history and the records that a researcher (genealogists) used to discover hidden treasures that lead to new knowledge or opened a brick wall in the research. I also learned that giving talks and doing a webinar are wonderful to do and allows you to reach a wider audience who might contact you or be interested in using your research skills.
One way of starting is to give talks about your own genealogy story. At the time I started to outline my search for learning more about my paternal grandfather and where my surname originated in Europe. Once I had developed an outline and had other people review it, I started to develop a PowerPoint presentation that would include the various genealogical records I used to learn more about my grandfather and his family (going from what I had and moving back in time collecting all the vital records, etc). Along the way I learned more about genealogical standards, records and what methods to use to verify that my family was in Chicago in the year of the Great Chicago Fire (1871). All this information was included in my PowerPoint presentation for future talks I was hoping to give.
So once you have a presentation plan to reach future clients/customers where do you give a talk? Who would be interested? I was fortunate in this endeavor at first since I looked for a genealogy mentor who gave me encouragement and also was willing to talk with genealogy societies in the area who would be interested in my talk which I called Finding the Old Country – the German-American connection. A local genealogy society soon contacted me about a future availability to speak. This speaking engagement ultimately led to another county society reaching out to me about giving a similar talk. This also provided a platform for potential clients who wanted me to do research for them.
So one of the ways to advertise yourself is by getting out there and doing what you love, talking with other people, networking, building those relationships and having a basic plan prior to taking the leap. You will need to at least define who your target audience will be for your services.
The core of this article is to talk to you about my re-evaluation of the market plan that I originally did in my Business Plan. I recently pulled out my Business Plan to see how I was doing in the last year and also where in the future I wanted to be (Projection). It is late summer and now is a good time for me to do an assessment of my genealogy business. There were many questions I asked myself: Did I achieve what I wanted in the last year? Did I reach potential clients, and did they use my service?, and; importantly were they paying clients?
Market Plan is Key
In my original market plan, I said that I would locate clients through three areas: as a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG), my WordPress website (www.rettammelhistory.com) and through local interactions, like my local coffee shops I go to. This last item pertains to building relationships in the community.
I noted that my service will offer timeliness, integrity, reliability for my clients and strive for validation of findings with organized results (a report, genealogy log, etc.).
I said I would promote my service at first in my local area (which I defined as a region in my state), and later assess this promotion/engagement area (why I am doing this article).
In the last year I was able to engage with potential clients or users of my service through giving talks about genealogy, being an active member at professional meetings, and being a board member of my local county genealogy society. I met or exceeded my personal goals by giving talks to interest groups, gathered a couple clients from these talks and found that being a member of an association or professional group really pays off. Being a member of APG provides contacts and allows for a new business to gain legitimacy and potential clients you may never reach except through this platform or relationship.
My link to the national APG also lead to me joining a regional chapter in the Chicago area. Though it is of distance from my market I find that expanding your network is so rewarding through gaining knowledge as well as contacts.
My three biggest ways I found clients is through professional associations, reference librarians, and local historic societies. I recently learned about other ways and so am re-evaluating my outreach giving talks to senior centers, social or religious groups, rotary and service clubs, having my business featured in a local/community business magazine, developing a local genealogical interest group and developing a plan to be involved in nearby community festivals, with cultural and ethnic interest (i.e., German festivals).
Conclusion – Takeaway
The takeaway from this article is that having a plan for your business that includes how you will reach your market is important. Also using this plan in the future, once your business has been established is also important for learning and adjusting to market changes that naturally occur for genealogists or any small business owner. How will you sustain your business and also change or grow to meet your clients’ needs?
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About Bob Rettammel
Hello my name is Bob Rettammel, I have been interested in genealogy since I was a teenager, while working with my uncle, who brought out boxes of old pictures that were in upstairs rooms of the family house. Those days 40 years ago brought to life family members on my paternal side that I never met, especially my grandfather. That summer I put together a photo album of old pictures and that was the start of my interest in the past.
I am a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists and Dane County Area Genealogical Society (DCAGS), in Madison, WI. I recently became President of DCAGS.
I have visited Europe a number of times and Germany in 1990 (Austria, Bavaria and southern Germany) and spring 2014 to Berlin and Hamburg, where I visited some German genealogists that continue to help with my own family search.
I have a Masters Degree in Sociology from Marquette University.