Experiencing High Anxiety when you think about picking a Niche? What exactly is Niche-Phobia, you ask? It’s when you start sweating from every orifice once someone tells you that to get more clients, you need to market to one specific client group (e.g. overworked IT professionals) and offer only one product or service (e.g. Work-life balance coaching). Sound familiar?
The concept of niching is very well-known and highly touted by not just me (see my previous post on this http://coachtactics.com/2011/10/14/e-zine-volume7-%e2%80%9cwhat-exactly-is-it-that-you-do%e2%80%9d/ ) but by all business and marketing experts.
So why is it that I run across Niche-Phobia (coined so cleverly by a very smart client of mine this week) as almost the biggest problem of start-ups?
Here are some of my thoughts on this…
I can offer more
My client Nancy was a sales rep at a community newspaper. She had a quota to sell 35 different products ranging from regular ad space to sponsorships to special events. Do you think she took kindly to being told to pick only one type of customer to target and to speak about only 1 of those 35 products as our first step to getting her more clients? She thought I was crazy! Soon enough, she found out for herself that confused minds don’t buy. When she niched herself properly and in a few months became known as the go-to gal for car dealerships in Oakville to run special promotions on-line, she found her sales going up for ALL of her 35 products.
I’m no expert!
Richard, a highly intelligent owner of an ad agency refused to pick a niche even though he was keenly interested in the environment and knew of ways that his business could offer green products. I was thrilled with the discovery of his hobbyhorse because Richard clearly knew so much about and had such a passion for everything recycled. Richard wasn’t so sure however, no matter how long we discussed it and how much we talked about how to close his perceived gap to become an ‘expert’ in the environmental niche, he never felt good enough to call himself a ‘green’ ad agency. Years later after we’d ended our work together; I got a delighted call from Richard. After all that time rejecting to niche in a green positioning, because of a few things we’d changed on his website and his own lifelong involvement in all things green, Richard had been hired by an environmental paper company as a brand ambassador based on their belief that he was an expert in the field! I had to laugh at that one. Life is funny indeed and niching works!
I will starve
Feeding into the Niche-Phobia here is the thought that only 1 target group and 1 type of service or product sale of that single target group won’t pay the bills. This just isn’t so. Picking specifically what type of people you will be helping will REDUCE your confusion and INCREASE the effectiveness of your marketing. Do you have the resources or even the energy to invest in 2 different industry trade shows? Are you strong enough to network with several different professions consistently and simultaneously so that they’ll get to know, like and trust you? The truth is that without a clear decision on who you help and what you offer, you will end up confusing your audience. Remember, a confused audience doesn’t buy. Someone who is crystal clear on who they help and what they do to help will be much more attractive to your competitor who did bit the bullet and made the tough decision on how to niche.
More to the point, I am not saying you can’t sell more than just 1 thing to more than 1 group of people. I’m suggesting that you pick 1 of each to just start with and just get out there. After all, if you don’t know who specifically you want to sell to, how will you know where to go to find them?
Light at the end of the tunnel
I’ve been teaching my clients to niche for a good decade. Ironically, I only felt Niche-Phobia once I left my day job and launched my business full-time 6 months ago. I found myself paralysed by indecision about whether I should pursue Leadership coaching or Brand Coaching. I was equally qualified and passionate about both niches. After doing 15 talks to hundreds of people about Leadership in the past 5 months, I found to my astonishment that all the clients I was getting were for Brand Coaching regardless of how or why they met me. My niche found me!
Now as I speak and market to small business owners in helping them to brand their businesses, my only advice is don’t let niche-phobia paralyse you. Regardless of what you do or who you serve, get out there and get what I call “Human Face Time” meaning network, meet old colleagues for coffee and tell them a few things you can offer. Speak at any association about anything you’re passionate about and sooner or later I promise, your niche will find you. I only hope that I can convince you to do it sooner.
With kindness as always,