You already know that focusing on a specific niche is a powerful marketing strategy. No surprises there.
But most people struggle to actually decide on what the right niche is for them.
Here's my guide to figuring out what your ideal niche is.
Step 1: Brainstorm Potential Niches
I find the best place to start is to look at your previous clients and try to identify common factors between the very best clients you worked with. Clients where you did your best work, enjoyed working with them, and got paid well for it.
Ask yourself these 3 simple questions to come up with options for potential niches:
- Who are the types of client most likely to have the problems or goals I can help with?
- Who are the types of client I have the most experience and expertise working with?
- Who are the types of client I absolutely love working with?
That should generate a decent shortlist of different types of client you might be able to focus on. For example, perhaps the clients who most often have problems you can help solve are marketing and sales teams in the pharmaceutical industry. Or perhaps you've got the most experience working with new startups or turnaround situations or with newly-promoted executives. Or maybe you enjoy and get the most fulfilment working with young leaders.
Your next step is to look at each of these options you've identified and evaluate how viable they really are.
Step 2: Evaluate Your Niche Ideas
There are really three factors you need to weigh up when you're trying to settle on a niche.
The first is the Economics of the niche. Or in real terms – can I make money from this niche?
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Are there a significant number of potential clients who have this problem or goal?
- Is this an urgent problem for them? Is it near the top of their priority list? Will they be willing to pay a premium to have it solved?
- Do they have the money to pay for professional support? Are they used to hiring outside help? Are there others doing this type of thing and being successful with it?
- Can I reach them? Are they active on social media platforms? Do they visit certain websites? Read certain magazines? Go to certain conferences? Can I buy a list of them or find them on a Linkedin search?
This final point is often overlooked – but it's vital. For example, it's all well and good identifying “managers who've lost their mojo” as ideal clients for your motivational coaching services – but how do you find them? How can you tell from outside whether a manager has lost his or her mojo? What methods or media can you use to connect with them?
If you can't reach your ideal clients (or they can't reach you), they're never going to be able to hire you.
By the way, here's a quick tip to see if there are potential clients actively looking for solutions: harness the power of the web. There are a couple of free tools you can use that tell you what people are searching for on Google.
The first is Ubersuggest which will tell you the approximate search volumes for keywords and related phrases you put into it. Put in your services, the problems you solve and related phrases as keywords. you'll often be surprised at what people are really searching for and what they're not.
Another good source of ideas is answerthepublic.com. This site takes a keyword and looks at the typical questions people type into Google about it and turns them into a visualisation like this:
Perhaps the ideal situation is to find a particular problem or issue that many people in a particular sector or industry have.
The problem provides the motivation to hire you. The sector specialisation makes them easier to reach.
The second factor is your Expertise and Experience.
What knowledge, skills, relationships, experience or other factors do you have that will set you above your competitors and make you the first choice for your niche.
Sometimes just focusing on the niche is enough in the early days if you're the only one doing it. But if the niche is attractive it won't be long before you've got company. There seem to be an awful lot more marketing consultants targeting consultants and coaches these days than when I started up, for example.
To prosper in an attractive niche you need to stand out in some way. To be able to deliver better results to your clients, or do it in a different way to your competitors. I'll be coming back to this important area in a future article.
The final factor is your Enthusiasm.
Why is enthusiasm so important?
Well, if you're passionate about a niche, you'll go the extra mile or two to succeed in it. You'll continue to grow your capabilities and stay ahead of the competition.
You'll have a natural interest in your clients – so you'll get to know them inside-out.
You'll stay focused during tough times. You'll spend your spare time talking about the subject on social media and making connections.
Your passion will rub off on the people you meet.
And eventually, it will pay off.
You'll become well known in your niche. Someone people go to for help and advice. You'll be the first port of call.
And so when your clients need services like yours – you'll be the first person they call.
Of course, passion on its own isn't enough. It's perfectly possible to be passionate about something no one is willing to pay for. Or that you're a real novice in and don't have useful expertise to share (you should see me trying to play football, for example).
And don't be lulled into the popular notion that you somehow need a “calling” to a certain area or to feel like you were born to do it to be passionate about it. The evidence from many studies on career satisfaction has shown that what we really need is to do work where we have autonomy, where we're working with good people, where we have a chance to master what we're doing, where we get feedback, and where we feel we're contributing. You can get that in many areas.
My first passion at work was IT (yeah, they had computers in those days, though admittedly some pretty big ones). When doing an MBA to improve my management skills I got more and more interested in business strategy and then over time in marketing. If you'd asked me back in 1988 when I entered the world of work whether I was passionate about marketing I'd have said you were crazy. But now, it's the thing I get most excited about.
So for a profitable niche, you need all 3: something you're passionate about, you have distinctive capabilities in, and where the economics work.
Step 3: Focus Your Efforts on Your Niche
This is the key step.
Now you have to turn your ideas about your niche into reality.
Start by reviewing and refining your marketing. You may have seen my advice on using Customer Insight Mapping to really understand your target clients and get inside their heads. Make sure you do this for your newly defined niche clients.
Next, figure out how you're going to reach those niche clients. What will work best: networking, referrals, direct mail, pay-per-click. Pick the approach that will reach your target clients and that you can do well.
Most importantly – ruthlessly cut out all your marketing activities that aren't directly focused on your niche.
That networking event you go to every other week: how many of your niche clients go there? Enough to justify you going?
Your website: does it clearly state the sort of clients you work with and how you help them? The same goes for your Linkedin profile.
Make sure everything is aligned to your target niche and cut out the activities that aren't.
Now if an attractive client drops in your lap who's outside your target niche I'm not saying you shouldn't work with them. But you shouldn't be out actively targeting and courting clients outside your niche.
This step can be hard initially. But once you get going you'll be shocked how much time it frees up, and how much more productive and decisive you can be once you know what you should really be focusing on.
If you want an in-depth guide to finding the right niche for you and the best marketing strategies to win clients in that niche fast, Momentum Club is your best bet for getting results.
You'll get all my best strategies and practical tips to help you attract and win more clients.