Finding your niche in business
When it comes to business, the common sense approach is that ‘bigger is better’. The bigger your audience, the more you’ll be able to sell. But sometimes – especially in small business – the opposite is true. Sometimes, finding a niche market can help you sell more and give you the perfect foundation to build a much more successful business. Just ask Steve Jobs who originally focused on making home computers. Or businesses like Drybar (blowdrys no cuts), CW Pencils (only sells pencils) and Dollar Shave Club (razor subscription service).
This approach can work because people like to categorise things. From a young age we start classifying animals, colours, and gender … or both, if my 3 year old’s current obsession with the gender of pets is anything to go by. “Mum is that dog a boy or a girl?” These groupings help us create a sense of order and enable us to remember the myriad of complex ideas that are in the world.
In relation to business this sense of memory, recognition and association are some of the main reasons why finding and establishing a niche for our businesses is so important in our noisy online world.
Deciding on your niche
For most people finding your niche can be a difficult task. While a few of us come out of the gates knowing exactly what our niche is; cutting out potential audiences before you know what you like to do and who you like to serve is generally not a good idea. So it is really important that you experiment in your business for a period of time to understand your strengths and audience better. Often the only way to learn, as with all things, is through experience. So if you are just starting out in business and you don’t know what your niche is – give yourself some time and space to figure this out.
In fact I have recently (after a year and a half in my coaching business) identified that the people I resonate the most with are mothers who want to build and grow their businesses. After working with many different people I came to realise:
- My own experience of growing businesses while raising a family means I can relate to the needs of mums and empathise with their frustrations. Mums — like all groups — are naturally drawn to someone with experiences like their own. For example, it is all very well listening to Tim Ferris (I do love his podcast and his thoughts on many things) but when it comes to practical implementation of ideas and strategies in my business Tim does not have the right tips for me, as he doesn’t have a toddler hanging off his leg.
- The strategies and ideas that I have around how to best run my business have many aspects that fit well with mums as an audience. This can relate to project planning, sustainable business priorities or the desire for women to recalibrate their purpose after having a child.
- I am passionate about furthering the businesses and voices of mums in our communities and beyond. I think as a group mothers have a huge amount to offer in many situations and conversations that they have traditionally been left out of.
- I just love coaching with mums.
Thus while the topic is fresh in my own mind I thought there is no better time to discuss how you can niche your services and attract the right clients.
1. Establish yourself as an expert
Narrowing down the projects you work on and the audience you serve is a great way to define your brand and the vision behind it. As an example of this, who are you more likely to trust with the repair of your fridge:
- A general mechanic; or
- Someone who works on fridges everyday?
I definitely want the fridge expert coming over to make sure my noisy compressor is fixed the first time, even if I have to pay more. Being an expert naturally builds more trust in your service.
2. Offer services that you are passionate about
Once you decide to specialise your services around your strengths, passions and audience several things will happen:
- You will attract people you love working with. They will feel like “your people” and better understand your approach, methods and views. They will also respect your opinion, embrace your products and work with you like a team member.
- You will work on projects that you are passionate about. So instead of being a “jill of all trades” you will actually play to your strengths and work on things that reflect your vision. For example, if you are a designer who is sick of designing website templates because your true passion is branding and logo creation, then focus on branding projects. You won’t have to keep struggling through work that you don’t enjoy.
- Content marketing and selling will become easier. Yes, that is right!! This focus will help you position yourself, show-up for your audience and be more confident about your voice and writing style.
3. Through association
As I mentioned at the start of this post people love to categorise the world around them. So a great benefit of niching your business is that people will start to associate you with that niche in their mind.
One of my fantastic coaching friends Katherine McKenzie-Smith niched her business last year to focus on serving introverts. She changed her services, marketing and brand to concentrate on this focus and message. Now when the topic of introverts comes up so many people (including myself) immediately associate her with that topic and recommend her for media interviews, client work and speaking opportunities. And with the age of social media this type of easy yet specific recommendation is so easy to make.
By clearly communicating her niche, Katherine has successfully associated her brand with it.
4. Fast recognition
Those that come to your website or across your products and services should be able to quickly recognise what your speciality is. Making it clear who you serve can quickly help them assess if you can serve them. While this might sound like it could scare off potential customers, really they’re not a good fit for you, and the people you’re really targeting will immediately know it and have a stronger motivation to buy.
I heard Jasmine Star on a podcast recently say “I’ve completely subscribed to the ideology of attract or repel.” This in many ways in our busy information rich lives is what we have to do. We don’t want to be culled from our ideal customers inbox or have them never buy our products. We want to attract those we love working with and give them the value they are seeking.
5. Know your niche
This should go without saying but do the work and research to actually become an expert. It is not enough to just establish yourself as an expert, you actually have to become one. Like in any profession make sure you take on the appropriate personal development to grow and develop in the area you have decided to focus on. In our online world there is sometimes a sense that you can become well known and gather a big audience, and that is reason enough for your opinions and advice to be respected. This is a dangerous line to walk. Do the work and learn everything there is to know about your niche. Whether that means formal study, reading books or expanding your experience and practice everyday.
Quick note: Shadow offers
I wanted to mention that if you are transitioning to a niche and are not financially ready to say no to potential customers or projects that aren’t part of your new service offering, then that is okay. At the end of the day our business needs to make money. But don’t market these shadow offers as they will:
- Attract more of that type of work that you don’t want.
- Steal time that can be used for taking on new clients and projects that do meet your niche.
- Muddy your message and the whole point of deciding to niche in the first place.
So while you can have shadow offers for a time – be clear that it is not a long term strategy.
Since it is human nature to categorise and put things in boxes, we might as well embrace that fact and define the box for our business. Narrowing down the projects you work on and the audience you serve is a great way to become known for something. Equally it will give you greater focus and satisfaction in the work that you do, including the ease at which you can market and sell your products/services. Who doesn’t want that?