Yesterday I had a meeting with a friend of mine and he said, “When I read your blog posts, I feel like you’re speaking directly to me.” I replied, “I am speaking directly to you.”
The reason why it happens that way is because I have a clearly defined niche and target audience.
Because I’m clear about my niche, I can speak directly to people who share a common set of characteristics, challenges, and problems.
And when you’re clear about these things, amazing things happen:
- It gets their attention
- They feel as though we’re reading their minds
- We earn their trust because we understand what they’re struggling with
The result? We attract the right people to us.
The amazing part is when you’re so specific in describing someone’s problem — they automatically perceive that you’re the one to help them solve it.
I’ve written blog posts that inspired complete internet strangers to reach out to me and hire me. There was no drawn-out “sales funnel” or “nurturing the relationship through email sequences” or anything like that. The words resonated, I hit on a pain point, I helped them in some way and they took immediate action.
Trying to address all the things with all the people means they’ll all get confused, and your message will go unnoticed by everyone.
You won’t be seen as an expert in any specific area, so you’ll be in direct competition with every other generalist out there.
If you offer a service, and you’re looking to attract clients online (versus in your local market), it’s pretty crucial to get specific about which part of that big ocean of people out there you want to attract.
Before I get into the strategies for defining your niche, let’s kick things off with some definitions:
What is a niche?
Your niche is the problem you solve
It’s that thing you do in a way nobody else can do it. When you’re offering a service, this should be the intersection between what you love doing, what you’re really good at, and what people need and will pay you enough to meet your financial needs (your “one thing‘ or your “zone of genius”)
This plays a huge role in the work I do with clients. Once we figure out the work they’re meant to be doing, we create a signature service offering and a plan for promoting it with the right people.
Which leads me to…
Everyone is not your customer.
The ideal client you want to solve that problem for is your client niche or niche market
This is is the segment(s) of the market you’ll focus on to offer your solution. You can have more than one niche market, but your message may need to be adapted for each.
In a nutshell, it’s taking the ocean of people out there who potentially need your services and narrowing it down so you’re swimming in a lagoon instead. There, having a narrower audience allows you to be more targeted in your message.
The more specific your message, the easier it is for people to “self-select.” In other words, when they hear from you, it doesn’t appear to be just for anybody, it appears to be specifically meant for them.
This typically includes making decisions about which specific industries they come from, demographic categories, lifestyle characteristics, and psychographic profiles.
The following is my best advice for defining your niche in three steps…
Step 1: Visualize Your Future Dream Business
Listen, I know if you’re struggling to niche down, it’s scary as hell. But forget about market size and profitability and demographics and being “practical” for a minute and take a look at your life and your business from 10,000 feet.
When you envision your future dream business — what does that look like? Take a pause here, close your eyes, and think about a scenario where you’re completely fulfilled in your work.
What kind of work are you doing when time seems to just fly by?
Who are you doing it for? I don’t mean “women between the ages of 25-45” I mean what kind of person is it? What type of person do you absolutely NOT want to do business with? What are their qualities?
These are the questions “marketing exercises” always fail to address … but to me, they hold the key to everything. I’m not just being “woo woo” here, I’m actually being completely practical.
If you’re not jazzed up and psyched about the work and if you don’t adore your customers, you’re going to have a hard time:
- Sustaining any kind of marketing initiative in the long run
- Creating an amazing customer experience, which means your customers will be “meh” and they won’t go out of their way to leave you five-star reviews and rave about you to all their friends
- You won’t be inspired to “go deep” and develop expertise, skills, and authority
Building a brand that attracts clients means creating a consistent, amazing experience. How you feel, and how they feel matter in that equation. So getting niche starts by getting yourself a vision for how you want your business to be.
Step #2: What is the problem you’re uniquely qualified to solve?
This can be answered superficially too, so let me help frame your thinking:
What we usually say when we’re asked this question is some version of what we sell. I’m a designer, so I might say, “People need websites, so I build them websites.” Or, “People need logos and business cards, so I design brand identity systems.”
But is that really their problem? Is that what they need? What’s the outcome they’re after? It always takes a bit of digging deeper.
- Why do they need a website?
- Why do they need a logo?
People have millions of options to choose from if they’re thinking, “I need a website” or “I need a logo” — but there’s always more to it.
- Maybe they want to sell books.
- Maybe they want to attract clients.
- Maybe they want to position their business as the go-to authority on executive recruitment, family law, or pediatric dentistry in their local market.
“What is the future they want?” is one of my favorite questions — it helps you crawl inside their minds and join in the conversation that’s going on in there. Then, how can you help them get that future?
Don’t feel discouraged if the answers don’t come to you right away. It may take a bit of ruminating.
Step #3: Now, who do you want to solve it for?
Now you can start thinking about who you want to solve that problem for specifically. Because if you say “anybody with this problem,” you’re competing with everybody else on the planet who solves that problem.
I like to start with personality traits because I think it’s important for you to work with people who you really, genuinely get excited about helping. There are loads of potential customers out there, why not work with clients you love?
What groups or categories do they belong to?
Once you’ve decided the problem you solve, the type of person who you can get excited about working with… think now about what groups or categories they fall into.
- What demographic traits do they share?
- Do they come from a particular industry? Which industry’s problems do you understand the best?
- What size is their business?
- Are they business owners? Decision makers? Freelancers? Bloggers?
- What values do you share?
Is this a viable market?
Just identifying your ideal customer isn’t quite enough. You want to make sure your target group:
- Needs your solution (already knowing they need it is ideal)
- Includes enough people who need your solution (getting “too narrow” is rarely a problem, but it could happen)
- Can they afford to pay you what you need to charge in order to meet your income goals
If you don’t know, do some research. Find people who fit your ideal customer description and ask them. What they’re struggling with? If you were to create a service, what do they most need help with? What would they be willing to pay for that service?
If you get stuck, it’s normal. You can’t rush clarity. But you can head on over and read 4 Tips To Find Your Niche When You’re Stuck
Was this helpful? If you have questions or comments, hit me up in comments!
Taughnee Stone is an award-winning designer, brand strategist, and location-independent business owner for over 15 years. Originally from Anchorage, Alaska, she now lives in Croatia with her husband, energetic Samoyed, and three bossy cats.