Early on, many of the entrepreneurs I worked with had no idea what niching even was. Although (happily) with each passing year, more and more of them have walked in the door having already encountered this idea in some other marketing course they’d taken.
Some knew what a niche was, but didn’t realize that they were actually missing a clear niche themselves and that it was the reason they were struggling.
Some knew it was at the heart of their troubles in theory but I began to realize that they didn’t really know what a niche actually was, what a good niche looked like, or how to get one. I also realized that I didn’t know a lot about how to help people to figure their niche out. And neither did most of my colleagues.
Some knew what niching was but had given up on really settling or finding theirs. After years of trying hard but still failing to figure their niche out, they had mastered the art of utterly avoiding the issue (only to be tapped on the shoulder, none too gently, by the apathy of the marketplace and reminded how confusing and generic their business has become). Ugh. That’s a hard moment.
I found that regardless of where people were in their business struggles, the one constant absence was the presence of a clear niche.
My Early Niche-Finding Experiments
The first eBook I ever created was about niching. I didn’t want to create it, but I truly couldn’t find anything out there that made sense to me about niching (which is, in itself, a lesson about how niching works).
In the early days, I would spend a solid hour of my weekend workshops on this idea of niching. And then a full morning. And then a full day. Finally, one weekend, we spent two days on niching. And it still wasn’t enough.
For many entrepreneurs, it felt like banging their heads against a brick wall. I heard more than one person say, “I’ve already tried niching and it didn’t work.”
Workshop after workshop, I found people who were so deeply discouraged by the idea of niching. And I didn’t blame them. They were lost in the woods alone with no map and no support. They were out of ideas not only on what their niche might be, but on how to even approach the issue of finding their niche in the first place.
Those who weren’t discouraged yet, were terrified of niching. After all, niching means we need to narrow our focus, make choices, and stop trying to appeal to everyone. For many reasons, obvious and otherwise, this leaves many entrepreneurs in a cold sweat.
If they got past their fear, I found many clients were immediately in the overwhelm of: “Where do I even start?”
Those were the seeds of this work.
But there were other seeds too . . .
When It Worked, It Was Like Magic
There were those beautiful moments at workshops when we would solve this issue for someone.
And it was like a switch got flipped.
Suddenly, everything was easy.
The room would come alive, ideas would start flowing, ridiculously attractive offers virtually created themselves and the questions of “where to market?” and “where do I find clients?” became immediately and blindingly obvious. The entrepreneur in question would breathe an incredible sigh of relief while beaming with excitement as the path before them became clearer than it had ever been – as if the sun had suddenly appeared and the clouds had vanished.
It might sound dramatic, but that’s honestly how it was.
I wanted to help those lightbulbs go on for more entrepreneurs more often.
When It Didn’t Work, It Was Devastating
But, after taking an honest look at my own process for helping people figure out their niche and what was being offered by my colleagues and peers in the market place, I began to wonder, “What if the way we are trying to help people find their niche is wrong? What if the problem is not that people are inherently resistant to the concept and process of niching or need to ‘get over their fears about niching?’ What if the way we are teaching niching and the processes we use are actually creating that very resistance?“
I remember leading one of my early workshops in Seattle, asking people to pick a niche for their business. In my mind, it made sense. You need a niche to successfully market so . . . just pick one. I was, of course, greeted by many a deer-in-the-headlights look, and some incredible resistance as participants stared at the blank page before them and tried to imagine what might fill it that wouldn’t feel like cutting off a limb.
I remember attending a colleague’s workshop where they were encouraging people to just “pick one.” One lady stood up to share her niche, quite excited by what she’d come up with. She got on the microphone and shared it, only to have him say, “Nope! Not specific enough!” She sat down, totally deflated and embarrassed. She didn’t say another word the rest of that workshop.
How could it be that the journey of niching, for so many entrepreneurs, began in terror, moved to overwhelm and ended in discouragement?
I thought to myself, “There’s got to be a better way to do this.”
That was the sobering and eye-opening sentiment out of which The Niching Nest was born. My hope is that, with this book, I have brought something different to your table.
The Niching Nest is the result of a solid year of writing and re-writing, testing and trying out ideas, working directly with over 100 entrepreneurs, teaching these ideas in workshops and wrestling them down to the mat with the help of trusted colleagues to see if they had any worth at all.
Why is niching so hard?
People struggle with niching because they don’t really understand it. They have so many misconceptions about it. And because they don’t understand it, niching ends up being stressful and ineffective and therefore many people give up (and so they should).
In some ways, it’s less that they struggle with niching and more that they’ve never actually tried niching. It would be like someone driving a tractor around a field and then, months later, wondering why they have no crops coming in. It’s not that they did a bad job at farming, it’s that what they did wasn’t farming at all.
This is what I so often see with niching. People thinking they’re doing it when what they’re doing is the farthest thing from niching.
The other thing that sabotages niching is “hope.”
Many people come to niching hoping for an epiphany. But, given how fickle even the best of muses throughout history have been, hoping for insight is not a very reliable strategy. It’s easy to be seduced by the idea that one day you’ll hit a home run and figure it all out. And it may happen that way. But making the home run your plan is part of the problem. I began to see that the frustration of “I just want to figure this out once and for all” was actually the biggest barrier for lot of entrepreneurs in figuring out their niches. I saw that what was needed more than anything was patient persistence. Not planning on home runs, but going around the bases one at a time.
When people really grasp what niching is and is not, and they have a step-by-step process that works, niching can be effective and feel good too.