A funny thing happens when you start paying attention to basic marketing and business advice, it starts to all sound the same. And there is a really good scientific reason for this - it's because it IS all the same! If you spend an hour doing internet-based research on virtually any topic BUT ESPECIALLY with marketing and business and do a squat every time you read a piece of unoriginal advice. I promise you, you'll be cursing my choice of time duration for this experiment before you're even a dozen articles in!
The thing is sometimes things are repeated over and over because they are really good advice and sometimes they are repeated over and over because we live in a capitalist society that requires us to be productive to earn the right to eat and content pays for carrots!
This of course means a well-meaning researcher, can fall victim to being oversold bad or underperforming advice. The largest culprit of this - at least in my recent experience - is the notion that NICHING is the secret to success. This advice is not all bad but it's certainly not all good and it's exactly what I'm ranting about this month! So let's get at it!
Small Business Niching 101
In case you've escaped this advice (first of all, how?) let's cover the basic notion. The idea is that the more specific of an audience/customer you are trying to reach the better you will be at reaching them and thus the more successful you will be. The advice states that if you get specific enough the following will occur without effort:
you'll eliminate competition by way of shrinking the market
you'll establish yourself as an industry expert by way of making a market only large enough for you
you'll be able to tailor your messages and marketing efforts to one hyper-specific customer avatar
you'll have a better understanding of who you're talking to and why
The thing is - as you can see from my sarcasm-laden bullet list - a lot of these perks feel a lot like cheating. Being THE industry-leading marketing expert for small dental practices in Dallas that sell All-On-Four dentures just doesn't seem that impressive to me. #urbanfamous
So Ditch the Niche?
No, of course not! But it is important to remember it's only part of the equation. Knowing your niche is incredibly important and it can be useful when you put together the real McCoy - your Audience funnel.
Your Audience Funnel: The Real McCoy
Your audience funnel is made of three basic pieces the top of your funnel, the middle of your funnel, and the bottom of the funnel.
The top of your funnel is the widest part of your funnel and encompasses your ENTIRE target audience. Your target audience is the entire group of people to whom you could offer services. In the case of The Clever Catalyst our target audience/top of funnel would be businesses or solopreneurs looking for business or marketing help.
The next step in your funnel - your middle funnel - is the IDEAL Audience. Your ideal audience is the segment of that target audience that would ideally like to work with, easy enough right? This is slightly smaller than the target audience because it's less than everyone you could help and limited to only those you would like to ideally help - if there were enough of them to keep the lights on. These rarely make up the entire audience you serve.
The final step in the funnel - the bottom of the funnel is your niche! Your niche market is made up of the hyper-specific customers you are uniquely suited for. In our case, it would probably be something like a service-based small business with an owner/operator who occasionally gets passionately involved in strategy, is looking for branding, is open to developing a WordPress website, and has a desire for a strong social media presence with the potential to either start or build towards running paid ads and growing together into a 5+ year long mutually beneficial working relationship/friendship. As you can see this can get pretty specific.
The trouble is as you can see is the niche makes up, by design a very small portion of your target audience and which means if you're tailoring all of your messaging around this tiny sample size of your overall attainable population - you're missing a lot of potential customers and thus a lot of potential income.
I can hear the gurus screaming at their screens from here - BUT IF YOU'RE NOT NICHING YOUR MESSAGING ISN'T GOING TO BE SPECIFIC ENOUGH TO RESONATE. IT'S BETTER TO NAIL THE MESSAGE WITH FEWER PEOPLE THAN FAIL WITH MORE CHRISTIE!
That is not, entirely true though. First of all, if speaking to your target audience wouldn't also resonate with your niche - a subset of your said target audience - then I'd argue maybe you need to reassess your target audience. And second of all, people have a tendency to take things entirely too literal, and far too often niche markets are far too specific to even justify producing content to speak to on a regular basis.
You can create a solid content calendar that allows you to speak to various levels of your audience funnel and guide people through various stages of your sales funnel without having to dedicate yourself to speaking only to one person all the time!
You should know your niche, and you should speak to your niche but you should never speak ONLY to your niche. Unless of course, you are just calling your target market a niche but that would be dishonest.
What to Align with Instead of Your Niche?
So right about now, you're probably thinking "okay maybe lady but now what?" Well, see that's the fun part! Now we put on our chiropractor's hat and we get to aligning!
Instead of aligning your marketing with your niche, you should be aligning your messaging with your business at large. This means creating content that tells your story, shares your values, states your mission, and in general, is in alignment with those things about you and your business that are unique. It requires a bit of a nuanced approach but that's why those RA RA Marketing coaches don't sell it to you.
Why is aligning with your brand messaging more effective?
People don't like being sold to and because of this a lot of your niche is being turned off by your thinly veiled sales approaches looking to solve your niche's problem.
You'll be reaching a MUCH LARGER audience.
Your niche might change and by definition is limiting.
You will come off as more genuine and approachable.
You will be letting them come to you, and the ones that come to you usually stay. #speakingfromexperience
It's just good business.
If you look at any large successful company that sells something other than just intellectual courses and they did so without niching. Have you seen a Nike ad? I promise you wouldn't be their niche customer, but you'll buy them. I see McDonald's ads on a regular basis and I've been a vegetarian for almost 20 years. I am not and have never been their niche and they target me all the same.
Putting it all together!
To conclude you do not need to ditch the niche all together but we do need to get clear on what a niche is and what it isn't; a great tool but it is a horrible roadmap. It will NOT be the secret weapon to making a million dollars or getting a million followers.
A solid marketing strategy relies on strong brand messaging and a varied content calendar that provides value, education, and space for the market to come to you - NOT making a room small enough to hold only you and calling yourself the king.
And for the love of all that is holy in this world remember the person you're looking to buy the answers from in the form of an online workshop or by buying into a program is looking to apply SOMEONE ELSE'S secret to success on you in that exact moment.
Capitalism gotta love it!
Still, have questions? Our answers won't cost you a CENT!
As you can tell we are pretty committed to doing business and marketing RIGHT, here at The Clever Catalyst. So if you're on Team Good Business and you're looking for sound business advice or maybe even some non-commital help. We offer FREE consult calls, no strings attached with me, Christi, the CEO - not a sales team member.
Not a fan of calls? I respect that. You can also email us or send us a message on any of our social media channels. Or text us at 614-233-1943.