If you think you might be suffering a bit of niche anxiety please read on. You’ll get a fresh perspective and I’ve got four simple strategies to help you get rid of the anxiety but keep some of the benefits of niche marketing.
What’s all this fuss about niche marketing?
The emphasis on niche marketing has skyrocketed in recent years. Ten or fifteen years ago few of us would have concerned ourselves with such things as niches. We’d use all the old school tools and hang up our shingle, put an ad in the yellow pages, print up some cards and a flyer and we were in business, so to speak.
But then the internet happened and now all the old school tools have got lost amongst all the ‘noise’. While it’s become easier to reach a wider audience, it also became harder to get through to that wider audience because everyone else is trying to do the same thing.
Luckily a few smart cookies in the internet marketing field worked out that, with a bit of tweaking, they could narrow their target audience and still reach a sizable market for relatively little cost. Instead of targeting women, the internet makes it possible to easily target post-natal women over 35 with an interest in yoga and above average incomes living in or paying off their own home. Instead of offering marketing services, you can offer marketing services to chiropractors who have been in business for less than five years.
The options are endless simply because there are so many ways you can slice and dice a market: gender, sexual preference, age, qualifications, income, hobbies, location, vocation, religion, relationship status, habits, health status, favourite celebrities, etc. Heck, you can even target folks based on dietary preference or restrictions – anyone for gluten free?
There’s no limit to how far you can drill down and create market segments within segments and still find a decent sized audience to market to.
What makes niche marketing so valuable is that it becomes relatively easy to find your particular segment of the market and get more bang for your marketing buck. You could spend thousands of dollars marketing to women in general and get no response or you can spend hundreds of dollars marketing to post-natal women over 35, etc and get a massive response. This can be done by segmenting through a database, Google or Facebook marketing, or by finding places online where your target market tends to gather (blog sites, forums, Facebook groups, etc). If you’re smart you can do it for almost no cost at all.
There are two main reasons why niche marketing works:
1) It costs less than mainstream marketing, and
2) When you do find your target market you can identify with their specific wants and needs, problems and frustrations, and you can ‘speak’ to them using language that really hits the mark and gets their attention.
Niche marketing is efficient and can work exceptionally well and a lot of self-employed small business owners are thriving because of it.
Niche marketing works so well that in some circles it’s being sold as a ‘must have’ marketing strategy for anyone trying to build a business, especially if they are building an online audience.
So why the anxiety about niche marketing?
A common complaint, especially among the newly self-employed or those struggling in business, is the perception that defining a niche will limit their potential market. “If I’m only banging my marketing drum over here, isn’t there a risk those folks over there won’t hear me?”
Of course there’s some truth to that but if you are banging your marketing drum everywhere, there’s a high risk that no one will hear you. Unless you have a marketing budget in the millions of course. So, purely from an efficiency point of view, niche marketing makes a truck load of sense. It costs less, it takes less time, and gets results quicker. That’s good for business.
However, until the small business owner has the experience to prove it for themselves, the idea of targeting a smaller market to get bigger results seems counter intuitive. It can be a very squirmy experience.
“What if I choose the wrong niche?” is the most common question arising. We’ll get to that soon but in the meantime there’s a bigger issue lurking beneath the surface.
In some cases, there’s a deeper fear, one that’s harder to pin down. Assuming you win the logical argument about marketing efficiency, you can still be left with a feeling that something’s not quite right. I know that feeling well. It took me a while to pin it down but I’m so glad I did.
Losing the niche anxiety
There’s been a couple of times in my coaching and consulting career where I’ve followed the prevailing wisdom about defining a marketing niche. Both times it worked out crap. It was a drag putting marketing material together and I just didn’t look forward to each day as much as I was used to. In fact I dreaded it.
The crap results may have been because I didn’t stick with it long enough or it may have been because I didn’t develop a robust enough system around it. Either way I don’t care because I’ve since worked out what that unsettling feeling was.
The real reason I was resistant to the notion of niches was because the very thought of it bores me senseless. The idea of dealing with the same issues and the same type of people day in and day out has no appeal for me whatsoever.
Part of the appeal of being a coach to me is the vast variety of situations I come across. On any given day I can be coaching a personal trainer in Sydney one minute and an HR consultant in Canada the next. An hour later I can be on a call with a musician in New Zealand and an hour after that I can be face to face with a tradesman here in Byron Bay. I thrive on this variety and am constantly cross pollinating ideas from one field to another. Without that variety I don’t believe I’d be as good a coach or enjoy my work as much.
Despite the efficiency of niche marketing and the effectiveness of the results, it comes at a ‘cost’, a loss in variety. For a lot of people, this is a price they are willing to pay in order to get quicker results from their marketing. In some cases it also makes them better at their work because their specialisation makes them more expert in that particular field
So that unsettling feeling I was talking about was the tension created by my head telling me to go down the niche marketing path ‘because I should’ and my heart saying ‘screw that, I need variety’ and pulling me in the opposite direction. This is the niche anxiety that can be harder to pin down but it’s very real and can keep you in limbo for months or even years.
But all is not lost – there is a middle ground where you can still get some of the effects and efficiencies of niche marketing without fencing yourself in.
Compromise strategies for niche marketing without the anxiety
Here’s some strategies I’ve used for myself and with clients. Feel free to adopt any or all of these.
1 – Re-frame Niche marketing
Niche marketing is a tool to help support your business but the trap a lot of folks fall into is they think their niche has to ‘define’ their business. Unless you actually name your business after your niche – The Poodle Trainer for example – there’s no reason why your business has to be married to a particular market segment.
Even if you use a tagline such as ‘Your local poodle specialist’ , you can always adopt another tagline later on that invites a wider range of dogs.
You can change your niche as market conditions change and even as your interests change so don’t feel like you are locking yourself into a life long deal when you choose a niche. Even if you get it ‘wrong’ and choose a niche that isn’t working out for you, just go ahead and choose another.
In my case, I’ve chosen to target the self-employed in my coaching. While that is a niche, it’s broad enough to give me the variety I need. However, if I wanted to change that at some point I could certainly do so.
2 – Use an implied rather than a stated niche
An implied niche simply means that your marketing material focuses on the preferred niche without actually stating what that niche is.
Continuing on the dog training theme, if you did want to train poodles but not limit the business, you could call yourself, The Local Dog Trainer, but use images of poodles in your marketing material. Your logo could perhaps include a representation of a poodle.
Even though you may not be calling yourself a poodle specialist, poodle owners will pick up on this and will gravitate towards you. Other dog owners will of course continue to be attracted to you as well.
3 – Target a specific audience
If you haven’t done so already, think of your ideal client.
Depending on what your product or service is, it might be broad, like poodle owners, or it might be specific like, post-natal women over 35 who like yoga and have above average incomes, and so on. If you are keen, you might even like to create a client avatar, an invented personality who has the attributes of your ideal client.
Now give some thought as to where your ideal client might hang out. Where does she go? What magazines or blogs does she read? What podcasts or radio shows does she listen to? What groups does she belong to, both face-to-face and on-line such as Facebook or other forums. What experts or celebrities does she ‘follow’? Where does she shop, train, eat?
These are the places you want to be seen. These are the places you want to focus your marketing efforts and effectively create a niche without necessarily stating that this is your niche.
Our intrepid dog trainer who wants to focus on poodles could write articles and make training videos that feature poodles and post them in poodle magazines and websites. Sponsor the local poodle association is another option.
You’ll find the affluent post-natal yoga women at yoga studios, yoga boutiques, baby boutiques in affluent areas, coffee shops near yoga studios. On the internet she’ll be watching YouTube videos about post-natal yoga and reading blog posts by yoga teachers on the subject.
4 – Create short-term niches
In this interview with Marie Forleo, Derek Halpern from Social Triggers talks about how he decided he wanted to target massage therapists and teach them about email marketing. Derek’s target market is very broad but he saw an opportunity to get exposure in the massage therapist community and build a reputation there in a very short time. So he circulated an article he had written specifically for massage therapists to leaders in that community and had it published multiple times. He not only got more subscribers to his email list but he also got offers of free massages in 42 states in the US.
So thinking about your business, what are the subsets of your market that you could target on a short-term basis. Can you write a series of articles or videos that speak to that segment? Can you target your pay-per-click advertising so you are repeatedly popping in the same places that your target market is going to on-line?
Niche marketing is great but building a business around a particular niche isn’t for everyone. Using strategies like these you can still get the efficiency and benefits of niche marketing but without having your niche define the business as such and without locking you into a focus long-term.
What’s been your experience with niche anxiety and how have you resolved it? Comments welcome below.
PS – If niches are still causing some anxiety send me an email and let me know your situation. I’m sure we can resolve it.