‘Choose a niche focus!’ Oh man, you don’t want to know how many times I heard this. It’s certainly coming from the best intentions, but it’s usually advice which makes everything even confusing. Because how in earth can you choose a niche focus if you don’t know which niche focus has the biggest need for your solution? Exactly, you can’t! In this article I’ll share with you 5 steps to deal with this challenge.
We will cover how you can choose your niche focus in a sustainable way. The roadmap for finding your niche focus is the same for most entrepreneurs, with only a few exceptions (like some initiatives in health care). But the step from which you should start can differ based on your business stage. If you already partially found a customer-problem fit, you don’t want to start at the beginning. So use your common sense to determine which step you’re coming from and which one you should take next. Now let’s go through the steps.
Step 1. Utilise the insights from your past experience
The first step should be to look with which kind of audiences you’ve got experience. Meaning that you’re aware of their needs because you talked to them a lot. Maybe, in your previous work experience, you talked to a lot of coaches. If you were sharp in your observations back then, you can now use these insights about their needs to your advantage. If you don’t have a lot of experience with a certain audience, you can still get this experience.
A real life example of this would be that of Pipkin. He really loved computers. He began to look for gaps in the marketplace that would inevitably crop up as demand for PCs gew. He dived into the environment of other computer lovers by hanging out at local computer stores. By going to these places over and over again, he eventually saw a potential opportunity. In the 1980s, PCs and printers were not necessarily built to be compatible. Pipkin realised he could build a product to connect them. He manufactured together with his team connector cables for PCs and printers and became very successful doing so. He reached $180,000 in sales after their first full year of business. In 2018, he sold his company for $800 million due to his focus on a market niche which he found out more about because he immersed himself in the target audience which he himself was part of.
Step 2. Get inspired from your personal experience
These last few words of the last sentence (‘which he himself part part of’) can actually be very important as well. Of course, you know your own needs the best. If you came across personal needs from your own experience, the chances are that you won’t be the only one with these needs. You can come up with solutions which will be helpful to you and bring it to the market so you’ll, with the right efforts, organically attract the right people with similar needs. People who are in some sense just like you, but they are just one step behind. The big benefit of not having everything figured out yet yourself, is because you’ll be better able to identify with the needs of your customers because you’re still experiencing them yourself. And when you can better identify with your customers, they can logically better identify with your solutions.
Step 3. Be open to other target audiences
This step brings me back the the title. First of all, I want to nuance the title of my article. Or at least, help you to interpret it in the right way. A niche focus can certainly be helpful, we all know that. It’s a way to successfully deal with the intense competition in many industries. But this doesn’t mean you should just pick a well-defined niche focus right away. Although this seems the fastest way, it’s for sure the least sustainable way. Because later on you’ll probably notice that you’ve wasted a lot of your energy because it wasn’t flowing towards the people who needed it most. And the people who needed it most may have been excluded all the way from the beginning due to a well-defined niche focus. In that way you have deprived yourself of valuable insights. It doesn’t have to be this way.
The first two steps already helped you go get a good starting point for the audiences with certain needs which you can focus on. Which could be chosen from your past experience, personal experience, or both. But now it’s important to not clearly define your target audience already, although this may seem the most logical step. You want to define your target audience by sticking to the most important needs you’ve identified in the past or from your own experience. Because if you add many other characteristics to it, people who may be the perfect fit for your solutions are drop out early due to things they don’t identify themselves with. For example, a life coach with 10+ years of experience and certifications in NLP who want to scale up his/her business would be too specific in this stage. Rather, you want to focus on personal coaches & trainers with online ambitions instead.
But here’s the trick. People, including myself, want to be helped by people who have a strongly personalised offer and work experience with people like me. That’s just how it is. Then how to surpass this in order to still strongly convince people to do business with you? This can be achieved with the dynamic pitch. What is a dynamic pitch? It’s a pitch with some empty fields. You’ll fill in these empty fields with the specific needs you’re hearing from a potential client. But why shouldn’t you tailor your full pitch to the person? Well, you don’t want to come across as if you’re just free styling what you’re doing. Some factors in your pitch may be carefully chosen because many potential audiences will recognise these things. Based on those factors you want to make a pitch for on your LinkedIn profile, website, and other marketing materials so people know what you do and how you can help them. But in order to be better able to convince prospects, the dynamic pitch (which you can give during network events after talking to a potential client or intakes) is highly recommended.
Step 4. Choose a specific niche focus and double down on it
Now that you’ve been open for multiple audiences because you didn’t define it clearly yet, you know which ones are most likely to be attracted to your offerings. You want to double down on that by focusing all the way on the niche focus which is in most need of your solution. You’ll adapt your pitch to this specific focus and start developing yourself as the authority for a specific niche. You can create extremely relevant content for your niche focus without having to be afraid that you’re missing out on more beneficial audiences. Because by now you’ve tested it and received proof for the audience which is most interesting to you.
Step 5. Expand your focus to new markets with potential
After you’re really dominating a certain market, you can start looking for new markets with potential. Because staying in a market which is saturated by others or just yourself will eventually lead to a decrease in growth. You can just go through the steps all over again to discover new interesting audiences for your business. These steps will really help you to start with some focus without blinding yourself to audiences which are having the biggest potential. You may notice that these steps are really not black-white. It’s really about just starting out with some focus while being flexible enough to narrow down on the most beneficial audience.
Now there is really one more thing for me to say to you: good luck with your process for finding the right customers for your products or services. It’s a fun and interesting process, especially when you’re open and flexible enough to explore new markets once you’re getting promising signs. It’s a process of experimentation. And from having some focus to getting more focus based on clear feedback and data from the market. Enjoy your process!