Sarah Juliusson runs My Birth Business where she helps midwives and doulas with their business and marketing.
I was really excited to chat with her about this whole business of figuring out your niche in the lead up to my Niching for Hippies program.
Below is the audio for the interview and, below that, is the summary of what she had to say.
What do you think is missing in the conversation about niching? What do you see that you think others are not seeing that could help people find their niche?
Niching is a tricky area to explore as on the surface it can seem quite simple. I consistently see examples of niching gone wrong, usually by creating a surface niche, choosing a single characteristic that defines your niche and your care. Initially this may seem like a niche – for example “I am a birth doula serving pregnant women in Seattle.” So here our niche to the beginners eye can seem quite specific: pregnant women in Seattle seeking birth doula care. In fact, this is a broad stroke that doesn’t come close to defining her true niche – using single characteristics such as geography and pregnancy may seem to paint a clear niche, but in fact these are only foundational characteristics for a true niche. Without further definition, this niche will not serve her practice.
When I actually talk with this imaginary doula, however, I may learn that she has a particular interest in supporting families planning a home birth with midwives. As well, her ideal clients will be interested in taking advantage of her complementary skill of aromatherapy. She herself is in her 40s, and has a special draw to supporting women over 35 who are pregnant for the first time. She finds that clients of this nature have a real hunger for quality information and research about birth and loves helping them get connected through her large library of resources. I could go on, but you get the picture, yes? It is easy to paint the niche with characteristics that may seem specific but in fact are only broad strokes that just barely begin to capture her niche and unique selling proposition.
What’s most important in niching? What’s a distraction?
IMPORTANT: Years ago I built a website for one of my childbirth education businesses. As I worked on the site vibe, the phrase that kept coming back to me was that I wanted the site to feel like a really comfortable couch. I wanted my ideal clients to find the site and instantly feel so at home that they would want to have a seat, drink some tea, and take their time learning more. When i think about niching, that comfy couch is really what we’re going for. If I have infused my marketing vibe, language & imagery with key elements that speak to my niche, then when they arrive on my site they will instantly feel at home. Without that virtual couch provided by a clear niche, those ideal clients will arrive at your site or pick up your card and have no particular reason to want to stick around and learn some more.
DISTRACTION: When defining their niche i see many clients hit almost a wall of fear – concerned that by defining a niche for their practice they will be shutting out potential clients. When your income is dependent on each and every client that hires you it is easy to get caught up in saying yes even when it isn’t a great fit. By tailoring online and print marketing materials to a niche, many holistic professionals worry that they are closing off too many options and it keeps them from defining their niche in an effective way. Instead, I find that a well developed niche opens doors.
Can you list three of your favourite examples of successful, niche businesses?
Birth Swell – http://birthswell.com/ - Jeanette & hilary have brought their unique skills & perspective in social media and communications and identified a major gap in the birth industry. Their niche market is a blend of practicing birth professionals and birth advocates who want to learn the theory and the practical how to’s for using new media and social media tools to build a business, change policy, and spread their birth (and breastfeeding and maternal/infant health) genius.
The Nesting Place – http://thenestingplace.ca - While Amanda Spakowski and the Nesting Place team of doulas & childbirth educators are providing similar core services as many other birth professionals in their region, the Nesting Place website does a great job of conveying their focus on parents who are seeking a guide, someone to help them feel less fear, and more confidence and connection, while supporting their birth choices without judgment. Their unique selling proposition stands out within the birth community, representing a model of care that goes far above and beyond standard prenatal class & doula care offerings in the area.
I have a new client right now who is going through an interesting discernment process regarding her niche. While she currently offers group prenatal classes at two great hub locations, she is increasingly feeling that the population at these locations is not a good match for her practice. As well, she is feeling a strong pull to focus her practice on the needs of families who are seeking a private prenatal class, wanting to cultivate a relationship-based practice that allows for more in-depth support than a group class would offer. It’s exciting watching her go through this transformation. It’s a great example of how when we are aligned with our niche, we enhance our own personal journey as a practitioner.
How do people know if they have a good niche? What’s the most important criteria to know if you have a solid niche?
It is very important to me that clients have a solid niche defined for themselves as a foundation before doing any website creation (or revision) or creating marketing materials.
Characteristics I look for include:
How specific is it? Could we create a persona based on this niche description? Personality, relationship, home decor, education level, income, etc… I like clients to create a pinterest board representing their ideal client to get a better sense of who she is.
Is the niche an excellent match for the nature of your care – both the services provided & your practice style and philosophy. Are you excited about working with her? Are you clear on what you have to offer her and why it is a great fit for her needs?
Understanding the relationship between the niche and the community – where is she likely to hang out? What other complementary services is she likely to be using?
Perhaps most importantly, you should feel excited about serving your niche!
What’s the simplest, most direct and most effective approach to finding your niche?
First you have to Believe in your Niche, and know that your Niche wants to find You.
I think the absolute foundation of finding your niche is believing that clients want to find you. Think about the massage therapists you’ve seen in your life – most of us have had a handful of mediocre massages before we find the therapist whose hands & spirit match what our body is craving. We walk in the door each time hoping that this will turn into a long term massage therapy relationship. Years ago my husband did an advanced business mentorship program and one of the lessons learned as he developed interview skills was that the person conducting the interview actually Wants you to be good. People are out there who need and want your help. Not just the service you provide, or the training & skills that you have cultivated, but the whole package of what you offer because of who you are.
The 2nd step is to Understand your Niche.
For me, this means creating an in depth portrayal of your ideal client. Making her so real that that you could meet her at a party and recognize her instantly. Let yourself understand her needs, desires, cravings, what she is seeking and what she will resonate with.
The final step is to Serve your Niche.
This means crafting our practice to truly match our niche. It’s not just about tailoring marketing materials to your niche. It’s also about taking a close look at your services, packages, and pricing to align with your niche. From a marketing perspective we are cultivating as many clues as possible to help our ideal clients find their way to the services they need. And finally, it means getting clear on what it means to serve your Niche – this means taking care as you grow your business to be sure you are adding services & products aligned with your niche, and sometimes saying no to clients who simply aren’t a good fit.