"I don't niche down, and let me explain why it works for me."
This tweet caught my eye earlier this year while I was working on pt. 1 & 2 of this "Niche Down" series. I was intrigued. This statement challenged what I practice and promote, and, immediately, I wanted to know more.
It originated from an influencer who seemed to be doing extremely well. I always liked his overall message, although I'm not part of his target audience. So, I happen to follow him over Twitter.
Once I got to the post where he explained why & how not niching down was the way to go, I realized his definition of "niching down" was… a little off. In my eyes, he was totally niching down.
He just didn't see it that way.
Note, I have no intention of calling someone out just to make a point that I'm right or nitpicking on what “niche down” should be. Doing so doesn't give value to anyone, including me.
Instead, I saw this as an opportunity. I was so glad that I saw the tweet. This was an indication that the concept of niching down may not be so straight forward for some, and I needed to articulate more clearly as to how to get this done right, so that no one wastes time or effort.
The irony is that his business is clearly defined and niched down, but he tells his audience he does not believe in niching down. This can be confusing to many entrepreneurs.
In this final post of the 3-part series, "How to Niche Down Your Services When Your Business Has So Much to Offer," I'm going to lay out how to future-proof this process so that you are well on your way to success.
But before diving in, let’s address what is going on here with this influencer.
Niche down Has Nothing to Do with Limiting Your Distribution Channels or Platforms.
This influencer's definition of Niche down was as follows: one has to pick one job title, i.e. blogger, public speaker, consultant, book author, etc. and not get derailed. If you have checked out pt. 1 & pt. 2 of the series, you know this is NOT my definition of niching down.
In his mind, he wasn't niching down his offers because he kept multiple delivery methods of his core offering and multiple streams of income open, while his bread and butter was speaking engagements. The point he was making is not to limit yourself by just being known for one “job title,” and that it is OK to branch out.
On the other hand, if you asked me what his niche was, it would be, "being a motivational voice for millennial entrepreneurs." Not for Gen Z's, not for Boomers, and never mind Gen X.
That's pretty targeted & niched down, don't you agree?
To achieve his (newly defined) niche, he can choose as many delivery methods as he wants. Vlog? Sure. Podcast? Why not? Coaching? Of course!
In real life, I can see that his voice/message is crystal clear. Whatever he does, it's all about supporting millennial entrepreneurs and no one else. Despite how he feels about the act of niching down, his business is niched down the right way.
Your Niche = A Transformation Your Business Promises to Provide in Exchange of Money
On the flip side, let's say he claimed he wasn't niching down because his target audience has generational crossover. Then, and only then, he means what he says - he is NOT niching down.
Here's another example. If he says that he runs a media agency targeting corporate clients while he helps small business owners with their website design, and he occasionally ghost-writes memoirs for politicians, then he is NOT niching down.
Get the picture?
Just to recap, a niche does not equate to a specific job title or delivery method. To do this right, I strongly recommend you go back to pt. 2 of this series and follow my “niche diagram.”
3 Ways to “Future-proof” Your Niche
Now that the definition of Niche down is squared away, let’s go over 3 ways to future-proof your niche.
Do you remember the story of my acupuncture doctor? Unlike other acupuncturists, he positioned his practice to solve a specific skin problem with a combination of acupuncture treatments, herbal medicine, and special ointment he makes himself.
There are a few other things he has done to make his niche future-proof. Here, I am going to share 3 ways that will help you future-proof your niche.
#1: Clear & Consistent Messaging Throughout
Once you settle on your newly found niche by using the method I shared in pt. 2, you will move onto the next task of increasing awareness in your target market of your niche.
Especially in the beginning of this effort, you are going to repeat your message over and over again. You have to make a commitment to stick with your messaging and to ensure everything you do will be based on this message and the promise your business makes.
In the case of my acupuncture doctor, he does not do much PR or social media marketing, so it was easier for him to be consistent with his messaging.
For the rest of us though, we have many different platforms to showcase our services, such as our main website, various social media platforms, and occasional guest appearances for online/offline publications, other media outlets, and podcasts. Be sure that each contains the same message throughout all your platforms.
Every now and then, I come across people who blow my mind with their podcast episodes. When that happens, I check out their websites to learn more about them. Unfortunately, in some cases, I find myself being disappointed once I get to their websites, as I find nothing about their specialty in a simple, digestible format. Often, their sites are loaded with too much information.
On the other hand, when I see a website that is cohesive with the person’s message, I take some notes on it and incorporate them in my own way for my site. What you want is to create a seamless, frictionless customer journey, so that your prospects can smoothly move along their way to learn more about what your business offers.
The easiest test you can do is to pretend you are a random listener of a podcast or viewer of a video who just learned about your business. Walk through the journey of wanting to learn about yourself and your business more, and see if your website and all other platforms follow the same message you share on podcasts and other outlets.
If you feel that you are too close to your business, you can also ask your peers to do a walk-through or ask your existing customers for their feedback. They can provide less biased views on how aligned your message is and what they find out about your business online.
If you haven’t Googled your business, you absolutely should. Unless you are highly skilled with all the legitimate SEO strategies, you will be likely to find some random articles or pages that rank above your main site. Here, I am not going to go deep with this subject as this is a topic that calls for a whole other series.
Before getting overwhelmed, consider starting small. The first step is to update your website homepage & the about section, if you have it. It takes time for Google to crawl your site, so you want to get this one first. No need to get fancy. Just incorporate your new message and some helpful keywords.
Then, move on to updating your profile and bio for all active social media accounts. All other odds and ends can be done over time. See? No need to get overwhelmed!
#2: Laser-Focus on Up-leveling Your Authority
My acupuncture doctor started to volunteer for the US Acupuncture Association. If I remember correctly, he either started as the VP or the Secretary. Eventually, he moved up to be the president of the organization for a few years.
This association is an NPO. He never got paid for all the articles he published for the members. He never got paid for all the lectures he gave, either.
There are 2 things he achieved while he was donating his time and resources as the president of the association.
1. It forced him to be current with the trends in the industry.
2. While he focused on his niche in his practice, he was recognized in the industry as a leading figure in the area of acupuncture among his peers.
Why does this help him future-proof his niche?
There's no guarantee that your niche will be relevant indefinitely. Because any offers can be commoditized over time, your business must be able to adapt to any changes. This means you may need to upgrade your niche (to even be more specific), or you may need to pivot your niche to stay ahead of the curve.
For this reason, continuously building your authority over time in your industry can not only strengthen your referral pipeline, but it also makes any transitions much easier. Prospects would seek advice from a leading figure like you, regardless of if their pain points are within your current niche.
If you are viewed as an expert, you get to choose whether you want to help with their problem, as opposed to you chasing after prospects with a new niche, which would put you in the position of having to convince them with your offer. As you can imagine, this is a much harder route.
Here's the secret. There's no need to feel that this has to happen overnight. You can start by finding local business chapters or organizations where you can help, even if just as a member. Be sure to only commit to something that you can do while still running your business.
The biggest mistake is to assume a big role with serious accountability just because the title is EVP, President, Co-Organizer, etc. Needless to say, if you don’t come through with what’s expected of you, it will backfire.
Another way to build your authority is to start your own group. It could be online or offline. Note that this may take longer to establish, but the upside would be that you get to have full control of your own group.
By the way, these are not the only strategies to build your authority. Check out my post on DIY PR: How to be Recognized as an Expert in Your Industry to learn the 5 keys to increase your visibility for your business or personal brand. (link here.)
#3: Go Vertical Before Going Horizontal
Now, let’s get back to the story of the influencer. He was doing exactly this - stacking up vertical offers that all point to his core message (niche), which is "being the motivational voice for millennial entrepreneurs."
You may be familiar with "shiny object syndrome.” Entrepreneurs are particularly prone to this phenomenon, in which once they see one thing is working in their business, they get this itch to start something new & different from what they previously worked on. This is a horizontal move.
Instead, if you maximize your niche to deliver the best result possible in a few different ways, which is a vertical move.
The influencer uses different delivery distribution channels to deliver the same message to reach a wider audience. That's all there is.
If you recall the pt. 1 of this series, I presented the idea that your service offers should resemble that of a fine dining menu. There are some restaurants in the fine dining category that only offer one course with a flat rate, which may change depending on the season. But, there are plenty restaurants that offer up to a few different options, including a tasting menu.
Regardless of how many variations they offer, each restaurant has a distinct style, flavor, presentation, and atmosphere, which cannot be replicated by competitors. No matter which dish you pick, you know you are getting a one-of-a-kind experience unique to the particular restaurant you are dining at.
This is exactly what you want to do before you think of starting a new offer that's not aligned with your core offer. First things first, you focus on perfecting the main offer. Then you may consider and test supplemental or advanced offers. Only then, can you explore horizontal offers in the form of JV (join venture) or stand-alone offers.
From my experience, anyone who actually executes horizontal offers successfully has been in the business for an average 3 years before he or she considers going horizontal. It’s because perfecting one’s main niche and getting known for it takes time. If you ignore this and start stretching yourself (or your team) out too thin with random offers, your business will suffer.
So, if you must, go vertical before going horizontal.
Congrats! If you are reading this part, you made it!
As you know this by now, there is no quick formula to niching down. To make it even more difficult, this concept is quite counterintuitive. It takes a fair amount of discipline to consistently work at it. Understandably, many entrepreneurs sense overwhelming fears as if they are about to lose a small part of themselves by saying no to some leads.
But, before you set this one aside and go about your business, take a moment to reflect on what you can gain from doing this instead of focusing on missed opportunities. If you’ve ever dreamt of building a business that allows you to work less and make more, this is it.
If you are open to this idea and willing to commit to go through with this, my advice for you is to get others involved in the process. Maybe you open it up to your team and have them actively participate in the process. You may also want to round up a few participants to test your niche in order to gather feedback. The worst thing you can do is to work on this alone.
It’s because working alone will force you to make many assumptions that are not backed by any data or evidence. The last thing you want is to work on this alone for a long time only to find out that the niche you created is off the mark in the niche diagram.
Lastly, feel free to reach out to me for any questions that pop up during the process. Happy niching down!