What is a Niche? It's Not Exactly What You Might Think...Feb 02, 2022
Almost every day I talk with coaches who resist the idea of choosing a niche, or "niching down," worried that it'll limit them and that it'll ultimately keep them from getting more coaching clients. This resistance is often because there are SO many conflicting definitions about what a niche is, which leads to beliefs like...
- If I niche down, I have to turn away prospective clients because they don't fit perfectly in my niche.
- I can help almost anyone, so I don't need to niche down.
- If I choose a niche, I'm stuck with it forever. Choosing a niche is a lifelong commitment.
- People are going to think they're not part of my niche, and that's going to stop them from reaching out.
Fortunately, none of these beliefs are true, and in this episode, I talk about...
- What a niche is (and what it's not)
- The most common misconceptions about niching down
- How choosing a niche expands your reach, not limits it
Today's topic is all about niches, about niching down. This is something of a taboo phrase for some people, because there are so many confusing definitions floating around, and the idea of niching down for a lot of people is seen as limiting, because you're thinking, Oh, I can help anybody. I can help all of these people. Why would I narrow it down to help only this small group of people? Isn't that counterintuitive? Doesn't that do the opposite of what I'm trying to do in terms of reaching more people? That's the thought process that a lot of people, maybe even you, have around this idea of choosing a niche or “niching down.”
So today, we are going to talk all about niches, talk about some of the biggest misconceptions about what it means to niche down, and what a niche actually is, and how it can actually be more expansive and open up way more opportunity than limit opportunity. That is the central false belief that comes up a lot with niches: that it's this limiting thing, that when you choose a really specific niche, you essentially limit your marketing capability and targeting to only a select group of people, and that's going to result in fewer clients. That's what we're going to unpack today.
Let's go ahead and get started with what is the most common definition of a niche. The most common definition of a niche has three really central parts to it, and it's because of this definition that people do have these misconceptions about what it means to niche down and how niching down affects your business, for better or for worse.
So there's three parts of this definition: The first is a niche is the specific demographic of the people you help, specifically who you help. The second part of the definition is it's the specific way you help that demographic. The first is who you help. The second is how you help, whether that is coaching, consulting, or some other modality. It may be healing, for example. Then the third part of the definition is the specific demographic you are marketing to. So if part one is the demographic of people you help, part three is the people you're marketing to, and there's a difference there. Oftentimes, there is this misalignment between who you're actually trying to help and who you're actually marketing to, so we're going to dig into that a little bit later.
First, let's talk about one of the common misconceptions about what it means to niche down, and these misconceptions are entirely rational, given this definition that I just shared with you. The first misconception is that niching down means that you're limiting yourself and therefore can only help people who fit in that specific demographic that you've identified.
For example, I would say that my niche is high-impact LGBT coaches, and that's who I market to. My messaging is specifically geared towards those LGBT coaches. But are all of my clients LGBT? Well, they're all coaches, but they're not all part of the LGBT community. In fact, only roughly half of my clients identify as LGBT, but that means that the other half, the half that consider themselves cisgender or heterosexual, they are still ideal clients because at the end of the day, their sexual orientation or gender identity is kind of irrelevant. But what is important is the attitudes and the beliefs that come with that demographic. The people who aren't LGBT, they still share the same values of acceptance, for example, that my LGBT clients share. So even though my messaging was honed in for one specific demographic, that doesn't mean it only relates to that one specific demographic.
That leads us directly into the second misconception, which is that marketing to that specific niche is going to resonate only with people in that niche or in that demographic, because as you can see, there is a lot of crossover. It's not just going to resonate with, for example, LGBT coaches.
Then, the third misconception is that when you niche down, you can't help other people. Now, the reality is that your coaching, consulting, or healing can have a really big impact on a lot of different people and a lot of different demographics and a lot of different niches, and the reason that you niche down is more of a marketing and messaging tactic than anything else. What that means is that when your offer can help people beyond just that demographic, you're still able to work with them. There is no one standing over your shoulder, saying that you have to absolutely limit yourself to only working with people who fit in a certain demographic.
For example, if I said that I only work with LGBT coaches, that would be just a bad business move more than anything else, because there aren't a lot of coaches in the world compared to the world's population, and there aren't a lot of LGBT people in the world compared to the world's population, which means that I kind of am limiting myself. Now in some contexts, it could make sense to choose that demographic and hold fast to it. For example, I know a coach who really helps virtual assistants get their VA business off the ground. Now for her, it doesn't make sense to work with clients who are not trying to start their own VA business, and that's an example of when a demographic is actually really handy and important.
So if you view this idea of choosing a niche, or of niching down, as limiting, I can't blame you. With these misconceptions, it makes a lot of sense to think that, and honestly, I spent a long time really resisting the advice to niche down because I thought it was going to limit me. I thought that once I chose a niche, that it would be this massive undertaking to change or shift niches in the future, if I decided that that's what I needed to do. So I decided, well, I just won't choose a niche; I'll just call myself a generalist. And I'll be honest with you, again, that didn't really work for me.
I had to take this idea of what a niche was and figure out what it actually was, because with the common definition of what it is, it is, in fact, limiting. The definition of niche that I like to work with, in my own business and with my clients, is that a niche is the specific demographic, or group of people, that you're marketing your offer to and that you're crafting your messaging specifically for. And if you really compare this new definition to the one that I shared at the beginning of this episode, you'll notice that there are some key things that are not mentioned in this new definition.
The first is that it says nothing about who, at the end of the day, you're actually helping and working with. The second thing that it omits is the specific way you help that demographic, how you help that demographic, in other words, your offer, and that's because in a lot of ways, your offer is completely separate from your niche. They're very much so related in that your offer needs to be able to serve your niche effectively and help them solve their problems, but your offer is not limited to only serving that specific niche.
When you start to use this new definition, when you start to view a niche as something that helps you reach more people rather than fewer people, well, you're able to focus your messaging even further, without limiting your potential or limiting your reach. You actually start to create objectively better messaging that gets objectively better results because it's so specifically geared towards that niche. So if you have a, for example, broader or general messaging that is not dialed in to a niche and then compare that to better and more specific messaging that is dialed in to the niche, the more specific messaging isn't just going to get better results proportionate to the number of people it connects with; it is going to get more results, period.
That specificity is what makes it resonate with people, and it's what makes it resonate with people beyond who you might initially consider to be your niche. So it's not just better results proportionately, it's better results, period. And the best part is that your niche isn't permanent. It's not this one-time decision that you're stuck with for the rest of your life, and if you decide to change your niche down the road to shift to something else, it's honestly not that difficult. In fact, you can and should let your niche continue to evolve, without necessarily even having to change the way you actually help your clients, because niche, at the end of the day, is a marketing tactic more than anything else.
And so, to wrap up, the moral of the story is that if niching down feels oppressive or limiting to you, you might be taking an approach that's not serving you adequately. Instead, embrace niching down for what it is, which is an approach to help broaden your reach and not limit it.
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