I’m sure you’ve been in those convenience stores that sell everything from bug repellent to tennis balls. I remember being at a gas stop in Barstow, California (in the middle of almost-nowhere) and it was selling road maps to any place in the world: Paris, Tokyo, Rome. Why? The store also had an amazing assortment of ceramic squirrels. I was just trying to buy gas and a diet coke. I remember wondering, “what in the world is this store’s niche?”
Wait – what is that you do again?
If your customer has to ask that question of your business, you may be having “niche focus issues”. I like to call this business “The Jack of All Trades”. The mistake that some business owners make is that they want to be everything to everyone. They want to turn away no customer, so they offer a wide selection of options. The problem with this is that customers have a hard time understanding your business. They can’t define what you sell. They can’t determine if you have a specialization that will fit their need.
7 Steps for Creating a Niche
Defining your niche is a very important part of your branding. You must be able to communicate in a focused manner what it is that you do and how your business is different. Lynda Falkenstein, author of Nichecraft offers 7 steps for creating a niche:
1 – Make a Wish List
Who do you want to do business with? Describe that customer in great detail: age, geography, sex, marital status, income level, etc. What are their likes? What are their preferences? What is their personality like?
For example, a wedding planner in Portland, OR may decide that they really enjoy working with outdoorsy casual engaged couples between the ages of 25-35. This couple are two well-paid professionals who want to blend their traditional backgrounds with their easy-going lifestyle.
2 – Focus
You need to narrow down your focus. Your niche should represent your strengths and interests. It should incorporate “what you are good at”. Falkenstein recommends the following:
- Make a list of what you do best and the skills that they require
- List your achievements and accomplishments
- Identify the most important lessons you have learned in life
- Look for patterns that reveal your style or approach to resolving problems
In our example above, the business owner may determine that she has strong people skills and is highly organized. Her past experience as a paramedic shows that she can think quickly on her toes and can handle any crisis. She too enjoy the outdoors.
3 – Describe the customer’s worldview
What does the customer see? How do they perceive the world? By understanding your customer’s mindset, you can get a feel for what they need and want. It’s hard to know what they really need and want unless you put yourself in their shoes.
Let’s go back to the example… Our ideal couple is very environmentally conscious. They love the outdoors and want to preserve it. They also come from traditional backgrounds so they deeply value their friends and family. They believe life is about working hard to achieve moments of celebration.
4 – Synthesize
You should see a pattern here and you should be able to blend some of information into a niche. A good niche satisfies your long-term business plan. It is unique and special. There should be very few, if any, others that have the same niche as you.
In our example, the niche is pretty clear. This wedding planning business caters to Oregon couples between the ages of 25-35 who are about to host a wedding. The planner will blend the Northwest style of its clientele into a chic yet casual celebration. The planner has a strong alliance with environmentally-friendly vendors who will respect the client’s desires for eco-friendly products. This wedding planner is in the business of selling eco-chic weddings!
5 – Evaluate
Here is where you make an evaluation of your niche to make certain that what you have defined satisfies the criteria you established in steps 1-3. A good niche:
- satisfies what you are good at and what you want to do in your business
- satisfies the needs of the customer (someone wants what you’ve got)
- is one-of-a-kind
- it can evolve
6 – Test
Do a test to see if your assumptions about your market work. Put your product or service out there and see what sort of reception you have. You can start out by asking people you know (especially those you trust to be most honest with you). What do you think of this? Is this saleable? Do you understand what I’m selling? Do I have a clear message?
7 – Go for it!
Implement. Your niche should be a the core of your message to customers. It should be in your marketing and branding. Your logo should reflect your niche and your “elevator speech” should communicate your niche.
One final thought
I’m going to reference one last resource here, because I think this is an excellent post. Wendy Robinson, who authors the blog Aspire to Plan for Aspiring wedding planners shares with us her “aha moment” regarding her business and her niche. She offers a great exercise to help in defining your niche.
And, there you have it… Mr. and Ms. Jack-of-All-Trades-No-More! See you back here tomorrow for an awesome industry insider!