by Ling Wong
Short answer is, Yes, and No.
No – because “niche” is somewhat an intellectual construct that helps us wrap our head around the marketing thing, and it is very useful. It gives us a starting point, a home base and a framework to do our research, communicate* our message and create our offerings.
(* communicate, not create – that’s why it should not be the driving force in my opinion. More on that soon.)
Yes – because it is an easy thing to label** and “package”, making it an easy “thing” to sell. Even though defining one’s niche definitely has its merit, some programs and trainings on this subject may be blowing it somewhat out of proportion – like, it’s the magic pill that will relieve all your pain if you just “find your niche.”
Sadly, the problem lies in many people getting “pushed” into a niche (because they were told they need to have one right here right now) before they are ready to “claim it”, picking something half-assed-ly from a “niche menu” (because someone told them it is “viable” or “lucrative”) only to find out it does not resonate with them after they spent months going down the rabbit hole of building everything around this “made-believe” niche.
(** in my opinion, labeling tend to limit our perspective and make us susceptible to preconceptions, so we got spoon-fed other people’s definition without thinking through what something truly mean for us.)
What do I do with my clients when it comes to this “niche” thing?
Since my schtick is to help my peeps find their passion and conviction, so they can nail their message, claim their superpowers and monetize their Truth, building a solid foundation with clarity is my priority.
A comprehensive approach to “niching” involves quite a few layers and multiple aspects, and is often a good starting point to get clarity. “Niche” is a term most people can put their fingers on, giving us a common ground to get going.
The concept is still very important and relevant, but I believe it has to be utilized from a different perspective.
“Find your niche” is never the be-all-end-all, and it requires more depth and self-reflection than just listing some demographic data, or going onto Google Ad Words and let some keywords (aka other people’s worldview) define the most fundamental piece of your business – your “what” “why” “how” and “who”.
Research Data Equals Other People’s Worldview
Many business and marketing trainings start with “niche” – with a lot of attention to the research bit – giving the impression that it’s “step 1” in building a business. Most of them gloss over YOU and jump into the potential clients, the market and the research. (Those are important, but they are the “cart.”)
But wait. If you start by looking outward and let the foundation of your business determined by external factors from research and data, you are negating the driving force behind your business – YOU.2 (That would be the “horse.”)
What do you think about that young kid who wants to get rich quick online by selling some pregnancy info product even though he has no clue what pregnancy is about, has not experienced it, has no passion in the subject matter and no interest in helping pregnancy woman?
If you allow data and data alone to determine your strategies, you are letting other people’s worldview drive your business (even your destiny.)
Data are representations of the past. They serve to inform. They cannot synthesize and innovate without human creativity.
In a way, data are “memories” – they are (interpreted) fragments of the past, not the “now.” There is a saying, if you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always have gotten.
If you stick with the marketplace’s collective memory, you will produce something that reflects the “what has been”, not something innovative that looks to the future.
ok, stop, and chew on that for a moment.
Is there a happy place between looking inward but risk “navel-gazing” and looking outward but risk having data drive your “what” “how” and “who”?
Where do we start? It’s not about tossing what we know about target market research out the window. It’s about not accepting it as “step 1” in your process. It is about putting the “cart” in its rightful place.
Start by asking what YOU and your business is about –
- Why the heck did you go into business in the first place? (Be selfish here. No body is judging, you don’t have to save the world.)
- What do you want your business to do FOR you?
- What is your passion and conviction? What are YOU about? What riles you up? What makes you angry about your industry?
- What are your superpowers?
- How are you going to blend desires, conviction, superpowers altogether and express it fully in your business so your personality shines through?
- Who do you want to work with that will really light you up? Don’t give me women 25-45, because I don’t think all women 25-45 will light you up.
- How does your conviction apply to these people? How can your superpowers serve them in a way that others can’t?
If you nail these questions with answers that are true to your core, you would feel a level of FIRE and conviction that will make you feel you’ve gotta make this work.
You are not going to bend your message to fit some market research data. You are going to wrap them around your message to make marketing work FOR you big WHY.
I find research data to be most useful in understanding human psychology and behavior.
Understanding your niche through marketing research helps you communicate your big message (which comes from YOU). It does not create your message. It helps you position your message so your ideal clients will understand the value you provide, in a context they can relate. It is not the driving force behind your business.
Your clarity and conviction birth your message. Mix it with your Who and your Superpowers, then, only then, add some data sauce, is when “niche” is nailed.
Don’t put the cart in front of the horse… don’t let “marketing” drive your big WHY.
Make marketing serve you. Don’t work for marketing.
Don’t pick a niche from the niche menu just because someone says it’s viable or lucrative, and mold your message (your Truth) around it. That rarely works because the conviction and the passion are not there. You won’t be convincing no matter how many “sales page templates” or “video script generators” you buy.
It is much easier to position your passion, conviction and superpowers in the market, than to stuff yourself into a box and call something not your passion your passion, because you can’t find freedom in confinement.
When you have that Trust and conviction, you are going to work around it to make it work. When you have that trust and conviction, you DARE to make YOURSELF the niche, if that’s what you need to do to make it work.
Here Comes the Scary Questions
Does your current “niche” fully and unapologetically express your highest value, conviction, passion, vision and superpowers? (“hmm, I think so…” = “no”)
If not, where does it fall short? Where is the misalignment? (Hint: you probably don’t feel 100% comfortable saying what’s not true for you, so where do you hesitate when you tell people about your business?)
Look at those misalignments – they are most likely to be where you are leaking money, time and energy. (Leaking money also means holding you back from making money.)
Tally that up… how much is that costing you? Are you ready to make a shift (not for feeling good, but for bottom line’s sake?)
Feeling Triggered? It’s Normal
It is scary, because it may ask you to stop what you are doing to reconsider everything. It may ask you to back track and redo a lot of the hard work you have put into the current version of your business. And resistance will come up. (Think about it this way, you can do this now, or you can do this 2 years later. Your Truth will win so why waste more time?)
It is scary, because it may require that you look at something you have denied; something you have buried; something that triggers you and make you want to just curl up and suck your thumb.
It is scary, because it may ask you to let go of certain identity that you hold onto for safety. It may ask you to leave your comfort zone because what is “safe” may not be the Truth for you. (The “letting go” bit can hurt. For me, it was a hollow feeling in the heart, like I just had a bad breakup.)
I know, been there, still doing that.
To start, see from a different perspective – sometimes, un-attaching yourself emotionally from your current business can do wonders.
Write down the answers to everything I have asked here, and journal to uncover the layers that are buried within you. Then walk away. WALK AWAY. Do yoga, get a drink, ride a bike, take a nap.
Let it marinate, sleep on it, make space for intuition and creativity to flow. Wait for the moment when the dots suddenly connect – trust me, it will come, usually in the shower.
The realization will come from your GUTS, intuition, higher self (or whatever you call that), not your logical “ego” mind. You can’t think your way out – I know, I am a recovering “Double-Ivy Type-A New-Yorker” Brainiac…
Don’t discount something if it “doesn’t make sense” – in fact, take note. If it “doesn’t make sense” and nobody has planted that idea in you head, it probably comes from somewhere deep inside you.
Good news is, you may not be on the dime, but you are probably not off by hundreds of miles. You will most likely be able to pivot and use what you have built to support your revisited vision and conviction. (It will be easier if your business is personality-driven, and not just about pushing “commodities” – more on that in the next few weeks.)
Here is what I know after working with many clients – your fears and doubts can get in the way and keep you safe and small. They will hold you back from seeing your passion and conviction because it is scary to step up and own the hell out of it.
You serve up some BS to convince yourself on why “helping everyone and anyone” is ok, or not being fully passionate about your current half-ass niche is just “business.”
If you don’t have those BS, you would have gone with your passion and conviction and done it already – whatever that big-ass vision of a business you have, no?
Through her unique blend of business + marketing coaching with a Mindset + Psychic Twist, Ling Wong helps Maverick Entrepreneurs nail their message, claim their superpowers and muster up the GUTS to monetize their Truth so they can build a purposeful and profitable Personality-Driven business that is a full expression of their creativity and individuality.