If I could go back and start my business again, I would start by picking a niche. Even just thinking about a niche gives me focus, saves me time, and helps me attract the clients I want to work worth.
Here’s why I think having a niche for my business is so important.
No Niche. No Focus.
Like many new business owners, I felt compelled at first to work with just about anyone when I first started out. But this tactic only exhausted me.
I couldn’t set up consistent and efficient systems because every project was different. Also, I spent a lot of time researching for each project because they all required a slightly different skill set and base of knowledge. Consequently, I also had a hard time pricing projects.
Even worse, I lacked focus when marketing my business. I felt like I was throwing darts into a dark tunnel, hoping to hit a target. Because I didn’t know who my marketing was actually for, I had a hard time even coming up with marketing ideas.
On top of that, I’m also not even sure at first people even knew exactly what is I do or who I can help. If I couldn’t really tell anyone what it is I do or who I serve, how would someone else know that?
Niches and Networking
I learned a lot about niches while going to networking events.
Have you ever been to a networking event and heard someone say a good lead for them is everyone with x, y or z?
My guess is you probably forgot what the person said not long after you left the meeting. Their pitch sounded like everyone else’s pitch in that industry. Also, you couldn’t probably really describe how this person could help a potential referral if you by chance thought of one.
But sometimes we actually hear someone say something really specific. For example, someone says “I help creative entrepreneurs set up their customer databases.” Wow! Now that’s specific. And now, we’d actually remember that person and what that person does.
And in fact, knowing what this person specifically does will help you refer people to that person. The next time you meet a creative entrepreneur struggling with a customer database, you know exactly who can help.
That’s why having a niche helps your business.
What Is A Niche Exactly?
Well, let’s start with a definition:
denoting or relating to products, services, or interests that appeal to a small, specialized section of the population.
“other companies in this space had to adapt to being niche players”
(Oxford Languages) https://languages.oup.com/google-dictionary-en/
In my opinion, a niche is not always an industry, such as dry cleaning, or photographers. A niche can also be a very specific problem you solve, such as helping businesses craft their first niche statement, or building bicycles designed specifically for transporting your children.
How Niches Help Small Businesses Like Mine
I think this section from Why finding a niche is the key to small small business success sums it up perfectly.
According to 2012 census data, there are more than 5.73 million small businesses in the United States alone. These startups and self-made organizations are often encouraged to “think big” to avoid limitations and find success.
But this all means that you have potentially thousands of competitors, all thinking big and vying for the same market, same customers, and same piece of the pie as you. It is possible for you to be just as successful as they are — but your chances drop dramatically if you all do exactly the same thing.
To recap, you should select a niche for your small business because:
- There’s a ton of competition out there, and it can be a challenge to stand out with limited resources,
- Having a specific product category or interest makes it easier to describe what you do, and
- Targeting a niche gets your site in front of online searchers who are almost ready to buy instead of casually browsing.
There are other benefits as well. According to Thrive Hive, some of those benefits include improved customer relationships, reduced competition, and more word of mouth referrals.
Why It’s So Hard To Pick A Niche
So, if picking a niche is so beneficial, why did I avoid picking a niche for so long?
I started thinking about my own experience, and here’s why I think it’s so hard to nail down a niche:
FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out
When we’re just getting started, we don’t want to turn away customers. I know I still sometimes struggle with this.
But what I need to remember is that when I sufficiently narrow down my niche, it’s easier for me to become an expert. I can get known for that One Thing.
And the funny thing is, once you get known for that One Thing, other people will start asking if you help them too, even if they don’t quite fit into your niche.
I know this to be true because I’ve done it.
A few years ago I was searching for some training on a new WordPress page builder I had discovered. I found some training from the WordPress expert, Dave Foy.
However, his website said he helped graphic designers build websites without having to use code. Well, that wasn’t me exactly. But because he convinced me he was an expert in what he was doing for graphic designers, I decided he was a safe bet for me (and I was so right).
You Don’t Know Who You Want To Work With
When we start out in businesses, we just don’t know yet who we’re going to mesh with. But, we can start with a somewhat broader niche before we get too specific. Then, continue to refine our niche over time.
For me, it’s been a process of figuring out what types of businesses I’m best equipped to help, and what types of business I enjoy working with. But I do know that once I started narrowing down who I want to work with, it got a lot easier to set up my services and plan my marketing because I had a clearer idea about who I wanted to reach and to help.
Picking A Niche Takes Time
It takes time. This has probably been my biggest hurdle. Starting and running a business is hard work. We need to get clients in the door. And, we may even understand we need to figure out a niche, but it’s not something that we can do in five minutes. So we just don’t take the time to do it.
A Niche In Progress
When I realized I needed to get around this hurdle, I started just working on my niche in bits and pieces.
First, I started reading about niches, what they are, and how to create one. Once I found a system for defining a niche that made sense to me, I started working on picking my niche.
Second, so I wouldn’t lose track of where I was in the process, I started a Trello board to help me keep track of my ideas and progress.
Third, I tested out ideas while networking to see if anything resonated with the people I already knew. I’d track it all in Trello, and used that along with my instincts to help me refine my niche even more.
Now, I have a system in place to help me refine my niche and reap more benefits by even getting more specific about who I work with.
How A Niche Saves Me Time and Helps My Business
Now that I’ve been working on picking a niche for awhile, I’ve noticed some clear benefits in my business:
- I’ve been able to develop processes for running my business. I’ve even been able to automate some of it.
- It’s easier to come up with blog topics and write the blogs because I know who I’m talking to.
- I’m starting to get better referrals. So, I’m not spending as much time weeding out people who aren’t a good fit. And, I know who to weed out!
- I focus on building expertise to solve the problems my niche faces, not every problem in my industry.
- I know who I work with best so I can avoid working with clients who drain me and waste my time.
- I’m setting more realistic goals for my business, and am actually simplifying my business by not trying to server everyone!
- I am able to charge more for my services.
What do you think? Do you think it’s worth the effort to pick a specific niche for your business?