When “finding your niche” limits your opportunities

Person holding sign that says "find your niche"

I am well-aware of the ire of many a business coach when they hear the title of my book The Widest Net.

“What foolery is that,” they say, “to scatter seeds willy nilly in every available market, pitching to every person with a pulse and a purchase order?”

I agree.

It reminds me of many conversations I have had with prospective entrepreneurs over the years who share eagerly “I have discovered my niche! (pregnant pause) It is women!”

Four and change billion people later, that is not exactly narrowing your market.

What is a niche?

A niche (pronounced “neesh” when said with a French accent, or “nitch” which rhymes with “bitch”) is “a specialized segment of the market for a particular kind of product or service.”

Typically defined by terms like left-handed people or male grooming or chihuahua clothes.

When you identify a specific niche market, it makes everything easier like finding affinity groups, or locking in on search terms or doing ad targeting.

However, you can get so stuck in one niche, that you fail to recognize opportunities for growth that will not necessarily fragment your attention or energy.

Go wide to go narrow. Then go wide again.

The missed step for many entrepreneurs is evaluating enough of the potential market segments to eventually discover a highly effective and profitable niche. And then when you have narrowed to that niche, to find other segments that have similar problems.

In the method of The Widest Net, driven by Susan Baier’s thought leadership at Audience Audit, your niche is found not only in demographic segments (left-handed people, chihuahua owners), but in defining your audience by problem, challenge or aspiration.

For service professionals, this can be things like:

An accountant:  “I work with busy lawyers who have read Profit First and need to switch their accounting and banking systems to implement the method.”

A career coach: “I work with non-profit professionals who want to re-position their work experience for opportunities in high tech.”

A consultant: “I work with coaches who want to implement an equity-focused pricing model.”

The power of problem-based niches

When you do your work to define your audience by problem, challenge or aspiration, the demographic segmentation can be expanded and repeated to find new audiences without fragmenting your offerings or method.

In the above examples, the flexible areas of expansion are in parentheses, with expanded market ideas following them:

An accountant:  “I work with (busy lawyers) (expanded audiences: busy financial planners, busy marketing firms, busy event planners) who have read Profit First and need to switch their accounting and banking systems to implement the method.”

A career coach: “I work with (non-profit professionals) (expanded audiences: teachers, retiring professional athletes, musicians )who want to re-position their work experience for opportunities in high tech.”

A consultant: “I work with (coaches) (expanded audiences:  academic institutions, strategic planning firmslawyers) who want to implement an equity-focused pricing model.”

Your method becomes the niche, your audiences and earnings grow

By centering the specific problems you solve as your niche, and developing powerful and repeatable methods to solve them, you won’t get stuck serving a particular demographic for years on end.

This brings not only more income and partner opportunities, but also creative challenge and growth.

A strategic wide net is an ecosystem overflowing with opportunity.

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