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It’s a noisy world out there! If you have a business, there’s probably been moments where you struggle to find leads or maybe you’ve experienced a race to the bottom in price with the competition. No matter the obstacle, you’ve certainly learned that it’s a challenge getting the attention of great clients who understand the value of your products and services–especially in a time where attention spans are short and distractibility is high.
So what’s the answer? How do businesses set themselves apart from the competition?
Three simple words: pick a niche.
What is a Niche?
To put it simply, a niche is a tightly defined component of a sub-category. A niche can be established within an industry or related to a specific kind of problem that only affects a closely defined market. In other words, there is great power in building specificity around the people you serve, problems you solve and expertise you bring to the table. This approach will allow you to distinguish your business from your competitors and attract your ideal audience at a much quicker clip.
Let’s use the example of a personal trainer. Personal trainers–on the surface–are a dime a dozen; it can be difficult to tell what sets each practitioner apart from the rest.
Let’s say you are training for a Tough Mudder Race. You run a Google search and quickly realize that there is a personal trainer just a few blocks away who specializes in Tough Mudder Training. Boom! No brainer, right? As it turns out, this personal trainer niched down; they found something they were passionate about (Tough Mudder-ing), realized that there was a growing market for these participants and tapped into that need.
Now does this mean that the trainer in question has to turn people away who are not training for a Tough Mudder? No way! But will this focused niche help to set them apart? Absolutely!
Let’s consider another example.
This one comes to you from the wilds of the internet. Lefty’s Left Hand Store tapped into a massively underserved community, which is another terrific approach to selecting a niche. Lefty’s recognized that the left-handed folk of the world (10% of our population) often have to use products specifically designed for the right-handed majority. So Lefty created a store that designs products and swag specifically for left-handed people. This approach allowed them to tap into an existing community that has gone largely ignored. Brilliant!
Important Questions for Finding the Right Niche for You
First things first: just because a niche is profitable doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the right one for you. There are a few questions you should ask yourself before digging into any kind of keyword or competitive research:
- What are you good at? What kinds of expertise do you have currently? Are you already known within your field? If yes, perhaps you can leverage these connections with the next iteration of your business.
- What are you passionate about? Just because you are good at something does not mean you are passionate about it. And that passion is key: if you don’t enjoy the work that you’re doing, you are at a much higher risk of burnout. Besides, who wants to work for 8+ hours a day doing something you don’t really like?
- Who do you love to help? Hopefully you are in business to make the world a better place in some small way. Getting into business purely from a financial standpoint simply isn’t sustainable; caring about the people you serve and feeling genuinely invested is key to a sustainable business. So be sure to think about who you love to help!
Finding a Profitable Niche That Works for You
Now that you’ve considered the important questions above, let’s put a pen to paper: make a quick list of 10 interests and passions areas as quickly as possible.
Here are a few questions to get the creative juices flowing:
- How do you spend your free time?
- What kinds of tasks do you enjoy doing the most during your work day? You might want to check out this post on identifying your work style.
- What magazines and books do you read? How about podcasts? What do you like learning about the most?
- What clubs and/or organizations do you belong to?
Now that you have your list of 10 things, let’s take a close look at that list and drill down a bit more. In order to create a profitable business, it’s critical that you’re able to identify specific problems related to these categories and determine whether you would be able to help solve those issues. Here are a few suggestions for identifying those problems:
- Interview as many people within your potential niche market as possible. For instance, if you were considering a personal training gig for Tough Mudder participants, try to get as many introductions to Tough Mudder fans as possible. Draft a list of questions and use that feedback to inform your decision.
- Check out online forums. There is a group for everything under the sun! Spend some time in Facebook groups, Subreddits and on Quora.com to get a sense of questions people are asking, problems they have and the kinds of solutions they seek.
- Conduct keyword research. The quickest way to determine competition online and beyond is by running keyword research. By using free tools like Google Trends, Google Adwords Keyword Planner, Ubersuggest you can get a sense of search volume, competition and keyword combinations that may have gone overlooked!
Research the Competition
Now that you’ve identified a potential niche, it’s critical that you do a thorough audit of the competition. First, don’t panic if you have what appears to be a significant number of competitors. In fact, this is often a good sign of a profitable niche. But you do need to take note of what their doing and how you can differentiate. The following are a few signs that there may be opportunities with the niche in question:
- Low-quality content. Content is huge and a primary draw for online businesses. If the content within your niche is poor and/or lacking detail, this could be a huge opportunity to step into that void, allowing you to enter the market.
- Approachability/relatability. Often there is a lack of transparency or brand personality from other businesses occupying a specific market. If you have a unique approach or branded process, or a truly authentic spin that you could apply to your offerings, you may be in a position to disrupt the market and attract the attention of your competitors’ customers!
- Lack of competition with paid ads. If you’ve managed to find a keyword or string of keywords with a high search volume but very little competition, you are likely in a great position to corner that niche and upset the market.
Create Your Unique Message
If you only had 10 seconds to state what your business does and how it improves the lives of others, what would you say? Otherwise known as a Unique Value Proposition, this statement is at the very heart of your future success. You need to make a memorable impression as quickly and simply as possible. So thinking back to your niche, what’s the one thing you want to be known for? What’s going to get someone’s attention in the shortest amount of time?
Make the Magic Happen
Of course, identifying your niche is only the beginning of this adventure; you will also need a unique customer journey, a brand that speaks volumes, an amazing website and a tribe of people who come back again and again (hopefully becoming brand ambassadors for life). Just remember, it’s not about the destination–as long as you’re helping people and enjoy what you do, success (however you choose to define it) will happen. Enjoy the process, ask lots of questions and stay true to yourself!
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