Should you narrow your niche? And what’s all this talk about niching, anyway? And if you’ve got a niche, how do you know if you should make it wider or narrower?
Let’s dig in.
What’s a Niche?
Think of your niche as your target market. Except that in this case, the smaller the target, the easier it is to hit.
Why is that?
Unlike Coca-Cola or Nike, spending billions of dollars on marketing every year, you’ve got to aim your marketing (and sales) efforts. The better you can aim, the easier it is to hit. The narrower your niche, the easier it is to:
- craft a message that resonates with the people in that niche
- find groups of similar people, in person (conferences, meet-ups, associations, etc) and online (groups on LinkedIn, FB, forums, etc)
- craft your offering so that it delivers exactly what your niche needs, so they get great value
- get referrals, because you occupy a specific category (When I meet yet another web designer here in Austin, I ask what their ideal client is, so I can refer people to them– I run into a lot of people who need web help. If you tell me, “anyone with a website, and, actually, if they don’t have a website, that’s an even better referral” **, you’re not getting referrals from me.)
- craft a message that keeps out people who are not a good fit, who would otherwise waste a lot of time and energy
Why don’t you narrow your niche?
Niching is hard because it means excluding people, and, by extension, their business. That’s a hard thing to say– not just to the market, but to yourself.
“Of course my solution could apply to lots of people”, you say.
And I’ve said it.
When I did pricing consulting, I thought that was a pretty focused niche. But when people asked what kind of pricing, I said “just about any kind.” While this was true, and we worked with folks from startups to Fortune 50 companies, and B2C and B2B, direct and channel, online and offline, I should have figured out how to say something like: “B2B firms where the sales team can set or request discounts.” That would have excluded a lot of awesome projects. But it would have made it much easier to get more projects where we added the most value. (And you’re always free to take a project outside your niche, if you want.)
How to Niche
If you’re just starting out, you may not know what your niche is yet. It’s okay to cast a wide net, or at least not be too fixed on a tiny niche, but do it one tiny niche at a time. That way it’s easier to find people to who may want your solution, talk to a bunch of them, and learn if it’s really worth pursuing that market. If not, go to the next micro-niche.
To actually figure out a niche, think about your ideal client. For example, suppose you sell SEO services to professional services providers. There are almost 10 million people in professional services folks in the US. But how do you reach them? And how to you get them excited to pay you? Let’s say you want to narrow it down to laywers.
There are over a million lawyers in the US. You’ve still got a big market. But it’s hard to market and sell effectively to a million people when you’re a small company. First, you’re not the only person to notice that there are a lot of lawyers who need SEO services. So there’s a ton of noise. How are you going to stand out against larger competition? Second, different lawyers have different needs, different ways of buying things.
So let’s say we want to get narrower.
- professional services (in the US)
- estate planning lawyers
This helps a bunch, but there are still a ton of estate planning lawyers, so let’s get narrower…
- who focus on situations with step-kids
- in Texas
- in solo practice
- in my zip code
Here’s a way to visualize this:
Now I can go find these people– online, through advertising, through LinkedIn, through asking around.
I can talk to these people (or person).
So to start, “nail your niche” as Aaron Ross of Predictable Revenue and From Impossible to Inevitable fame exhorts.
Should Your Narrow Your Niche? Here’s the question to ask…
Figuring out your niche and whether you should narrow it is one of the toughest questions an entrepreneur has to face.
So here’s the simple question to ask that will tell you whether you should narrow your niche:
“Is sales too easy?”
If the answer is no, narrow your niche.
If the answer is yes, spend more on marketing to bring those easy sales in the door. Then consider expanding your niche when you exhaust your initial niche.
This transforms “I’m limiting my market and reducing my prospecting pool”, which sounds negative, to “I’m making sales (and marketing) easier”, which probably sounds pretty good, right?
Want some help nailing your niche? Go play this positioning “mad libs”.
** That’s an actual quote.