People often freak out when they are asked to identify a niche. Of course, the reason that most people freak out is because they assume they have to change everything about their business right now. They are terrified that they will have to change their logo, their font choice, they’ll have to dump most of their current clients, reword all of their marketing materials and website, and divorce their spouse etc.
So, as you go through this virtual workshop let’s build on these assumptions . . .
FIRST: You can be explicit without being exclusive.
Just because you’ve picked a niche doesn’t mean that you can’t work with people outside of it. Let’s say you’re a massage therapist who focuses on pregnant women. That doesn’t mean you can’t also massage men or elderly women – it just means that you aren’t targeting them. It means that the bulk of the people you attract will be within your niche, but you will still attract other folks who don’t fit your niche – just because they like you, happened to hear about you first, or were recommended by someone they trust. That’s fine. There’s no need to turn them away.
SECOND: A niche can be phased in.
You don’t need to try to turn everything around overnight. In fact, that’s likely a bad idea. Better is to adopt an attitude of ‘playing’ with some niches. You can identify a few niches that you think might be a fit and attempt different promotions to each. When you find a niche that feels really wonderful (and meets the criteria I’m about to show you), you can try more promotions and those promotions can expand to become the bulk of your business. Of course, the more you focus and commit to a niche – the more it will expand.
THIRD: A niche may take a while to identify (and that’s okay).
Think of clarifying your ideal client as a long-term process rather than an event. You’ll be able to answer some of the questions in this virtual workshop easily. Others you’ll need to sit with; some for a few weeks and some for a few years. That’s the truth. Most people tell me that when they stumble across their niche – and stumble is really a good word – it’s like a light bulb going off and they think, “Why didn’t I see that before?” Because they couldn’t. It’s a process.
Since the niche is so connected to our nature – to who we are as people – it lifts up all of the places we’re not clear on our nature, not clear about our passions and our purpose. It can feel like such a huge decision. The reality is that we humans aren’t so narrowly specialized or defined as we are asking our businesses to be sometimes – we fear giving up on parts of ourselves. But remember, that your business is not who you are. It will, by necessity, be more narrowly focused than you are as an individual. That’s okay.
Before you even begin to look at any of these materials, please take 3 minutes and go read the following article by Robert Middleton . . .
FOURTH: You’re already losing people.
Perhaps the greatest fear that comes up for people when asked to identify a specific niche is that they will lose potential clients. This is true. But consider this. You already are. You will never, ever, ever, ever, EVER be attractive to everyone. Impossible. If you try to be everything to everybody you’ll just become nothing to everybody. You’ll become generic and thus invisible. No matter what strategy you’re using right now, you’re already losing people. Some people love it and others are turned off by it. That’s not a problem. The real question is: who do you want to attract? And are you doing everything you could be attractive to them?
FIFTH: Starting specific is better than starting general.
Imagine a funnel. At the top is the whole marketplace. Everybody. At the bottom is a single person. Now obviously, trying to reach everyone at the top won’t work, but a single person at the bottom can’t sustain you either. What to do. Most people come from the orientation of, “okay, let’s start general and only go as specific as we have to.” I’m suggesting an opposite orientation – starting at the very specific, targeted bottom and only going up as far as you absolutely have to. Start with a very defined target and only widen as much as you need to.
SIXTH: Don’t underestimate the size of your niche.
Most entrepreneurs do. You don’t just have to appeal to the hardcore, ‘true believers’. Sure, that’s who you might be most attractive to, but you can also reach those who are ‘on the road’. Plus, as you grow, you may need to tinker your marketing to reach a slightly broader niche. Now, if there’s enough hardcore folks to meet your needs then that’s fine, but sometimes people make the mistake of thinking, “oh there’s not enough people who are into ______.” Well, maybe not as a full time lifestyle, but there’s probably a bunch who are interested. The weekend warriors of camping for example – they’re not ‘hardcore campers’ – but maybe you don’t need them to be.
SEVENTH: It’s up to you. It’s your damned decision.
Don’t let any marketing or business consultant tell you otherwise. Yes, there are things you can do to pick a winning niche – and, a bit later – I’ll show you some criteria that I think you’ll love that might make your decision making process much easier – but, hey, this is your life right? All sorts of people will have all sorts of ideas about what’s best for you and your business. And, who knows, some of them are probably right (the bastards). But some are wrong. Your life and your business = your decisions. You’ll make some mistakes, but at least let them be your mistakes, not someone else’s.
EIGHTH: You like have more than one niche.
This is so important. Most businesses I know have at least three solid target markets to focus on. The important thing is to know who they are. Each group may require a slightly different approach. So many people get stressed because they can’t identify ‘the one’ niche. Relax. You might have several. I would invite you to get clear on your top three and focus on those.
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