Critical Distinctions To Make About Your Niche

A few years ago I led a weekend workshop in Calgary.

And it taught me a lot of niches and targeting.

On the Friday night, I had everyone write out their niche in a single sentence (like we described last week). After they left, I reviewed them and wrote my commentary all over them. The next morning, from the front of the room, I reviewed them – giving people targeted coaching on their niche.

Then I invited them to take another crack at in on the Saturday night if they still wanted help. And Sunday morning, I gave more notes from the front of the room.

It was a really valuable exercise and I saw people’s niche’s become clearer and clearer over the weekend because of it.

But it also taught me a lot about what makes a good target and what doesn’t.

It prompted me to write out the following distinctions.

Important Distinctions:

ideal client: your ideal client is sort of a subset of your target market or chosen community. While most folks in the community your choosing to serve would likely make fine clients – would they all be your ideal clients? Probably not. Your ideal clients are the ones you wish every client was like.

explicit vs. implied niche: your product might only be used for a very specific purpose (e.g. menstrual pads).Your product might come with a predefined niche. This is an implied niche – you don’t even need to say who you’re targeting – it’s implied in the type of product. Even so, you can often afford to narrow the niche down even further or at least come up with other ways to differentiate your product or service (e.g. organic cotton, chemical free menstrual pads). And differentiating your product may actually change the niche. Sometimes it can be very powerful to pick your niche indirectly like this. There’s a chain of boutique hotels that each have their own very distinct flavour (each on modeled after a different popular magazine). The vibe and aesthetic each hotel has is so strong that the niche is implied – instead of overtly selecting their niche – their niche sort of selects them. But most products could be used by a variety of people in a variety of contexts. For example: who is massage good for? Who needs a realtor? Who could use a car? A blender? Lots of people – there’s no one implied niche. In these cases, it’s recommended to select one or two that you will focus on.

geography vs. affinity: there are two central dynamics in picking a niche these days. In the old days you had to work in your community of geography. You did business where you lived. We lived in communities defined by geography. But, now, with the internet, ubiquitous travel and postal service we are living increasingly in ‘communities of affinity.” In fact, as the internet becomes more well defined, we are seeing the rise of what is known as the Micro-Niche – this is a group of people who are obsessed with the most bizarre and minor of things (e.g. a certain movie or even a certain scene of a movie). The point is this – the narrower your geography – the wider you will have to cast your net in terms of affinity. The wider a geography you work in – the more narrowly you can likely afford to focus. In other words – when working locally you need to be more of a jack of all trades. When working globally you can afford to be an ubernerd.

targeting individuals vs. groups: one of the core premises here is that it’s much easier to find clients if you can find the places they already hang out together than to try to find them and sell them one on one. So, when we refer to a ‘target’ – we’re referring to a group of people not an individual. A target is a group. What kind of group? You know it’s a good target when people in the group all share similar situations and experiences. You know it’s a group when membership to that group means something to them.

the target vs. the problem: identifying your niche is really a two part equation. You must first identify your target – your target will be some subset of ‘everybody’. See the end of this workshop for an extensive (but by no means exhaustive) list of potential targets. Secondly, you must identify a problem that they are currently experiencing that you can help them with. Target + problem = niche.

a bad target vs. a good target: how do you know if you have a good target? You should be able to describe an average day for them with relative accuracy. You should be able to tell me about their life and the struggles they have. With a good target, this is easy to do. A good target will share common needs, values, experiences and situations. They would be able to relate and empathize with each other if they met. You’d hear them saying things like, “Me too! I totally know what you mean. I’m dealing with the same thing.” This shared experience is the bottom line of a target – without it, you have no target.

a good target vs. a great target: a great target will not only share a common set of needs that you can help them with – but they will also share two other critical characteristics. First, they have already established communication hubs – meaning: you can find them. They have common places they spend their time, money and attention. Second, there are enough of them.

a great target vs. a perfect target: a perfect target will meet all the criteria of a great target


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