An Excerpt from the Amazon Bestseller, An Introduction to Celebrity Protection & Touring by Elijah Shaw & Dale June
Celebrity protection is in some ways a unique market, however, in marketing, the more specific you can be, the more successful you will be in finding customers. This means that it’s helpful, sometimes necessary, to research, develop, and define a niche, carving out a select piece of a bigger industry to specialize in.
Consider that when a client has to select someone to go on an assignment, if most bodyguards offer (on the surface) similar services, how do you distinguish yourself from the pack? That is where niche marketing comes in.
Rest assured that having a niche does not mean that that is the only thing you do. My niche is celebrity protection. Having done it for close to three decades, it is what I am most recognized for in the business, in much the way my co-author is best known for his time having served with the United States Secret Service under multiple administrations. Yet celebrity protection is not the only thing I do; in fact, not by a longshot. My roster of clients includes everything from historic high net-worth families, to corporate executives at Fortune 500 companies, to politicians on both sides of the aisle. I’ve provided close protection for non-celebrity VIPs, having taken them as far as the Great Wall of China and to the back streets of Palestine. In fact, as of this writing, I’m beginning the initial pre-planning stages of providing protective services related to the 2020 Republican and Democratic National Conventions. I currently have six of those political conventions under my belt.
Still, what I am best known for is working with celebrities, and I am okay with that. Throughout the years, I have developed and cultivated the image so that when somebody needs celebrity protection services, they think of Elijah Shaw. It’s not to the exclusion of the other slices of the protection pie (corporate, religious, high risk PSD), but it helps from a branding perspective.
Think about your own niche, about what you can do to distinguish yourself from the pack. For example, do you speak a second language? All else being equal, a potential client who is going to spend three months in Spain filming a movie is much more likely to select an agent who is fluent in Spanish, as they’ll be able to speak and listen to the locals.
However, remember, even if you have something that distinguishes you from the pack, you have to figure out how to convey that information to the decision-makers, as those are the people who will recommend or hire you. Once you define your niche, make sure you communicate it clearly to those who may have a need.
If you speak Spanish, mention that on your website, your business card, and anything else that interfaces with the potential decision-makers. Let them know that you are a multi-lingual Spanish-speaking executive protection agent, so when someone is looking for an agent to go into Latin America, you can make it easier for them to find you.
THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX
I once had a student in one of my courses who, size-wise, would be considered of a smaller stature. While he did extremely well in the course, there was a noticeable height difference between him and the majority of the other agents. During a periodic follow-up call after the course, he said, “You know, Elijah, I’m having the hardest time here. I just can’t figure out how to get the traction I need to really break through into the industry. I work assignments here and there, and then the phone goes quiet. I think it may be because of my build. It’s kind of hitting at my self-confidence, and I don’t know what to do.”
Understanding his dilemma, we took it back to the basics. I asked him, “What is something that you would consider unique that you’re good at doing?” I was really trying to help him visualize and develop his niche. I kept bringing up examples, and at one point, I said, “Just think, what if you knew sign language? I would imagine that in the wide world of high net-worth individuals, there have to be more than one or two who are hearing-impaired or may have children who are hearing-impaired. If you knew sign language, can you see how that might give you the advantage over other protectors, all else being equal?”
He got really quiet on the phone, and then he said, “Elijah, my mother was born deaf.” Turned out that he was fluent in sign language, having been raised in a household where it was used regularly. I could practically see the light bulb go on in his head and the gears start turning. For him, his marketing plan would then go on to include identifying high net-worth individuals who were hearing impaired, or with an immediate family member in that category. I also had him research associations that advocate for the deaf, supposing that if one of their wealthy donors had to pick him or a different, non-sign language speaking agent for an assignment, say a mission trip to a riskier part of the world, he would have a clear advantage.
Your niche can be built around something that you do better than others, a unique skill that might even seem, on the surface, unrelated to close protection. Perhaps you are a long-distance runner. I remember reading of Anil Ambani, the billionaire who runs marathons. You can imagine that if a position opened on his security detail, they might give some additional consideration to an agent who had several marathons under his or her belt.
About a year ago, I received a call from someone looking for a protector. They wanted an agent who was qualified for scuba. The client was going to Miami and planned to do some diving while there. I recommended a former student who did scuba, and upon completion of what was thought to be a one-off assignment, that agent has gone on to work with that client on many different occasions. He has also kept earning additional scuba certifications and has established a foothold in that space. The niche, as distinct as it was, was his entry into a long working relationship with that client and others.
Think about the things within you that separate you from the pack, it is those separators that could mean the difference between a resume in a stack or being pursued by multiple clients or recruiters.
Keeping Your Edge – Develop A Niche
By: Elijah Shaw
Elijah Shaw is the National Director of the North American Bodyguard Association. As an CEO of ICON Global, Inc., he is a full-time security consulting having traveled the world for over 20 years providing services to a variety of clients ranging from Fortune 500 Companies to International Celebrities. Elijah teaches courses on Executive & Celebrity Protection for ICON and currently sits on the Board of Directors of Executive Security International (ESI) the oldest bodyguard school in the US. For more information visit