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“When in doubt, overwhelm a small niche.”

Antilope in her niche

Niche (noun) /niCH/

1. A position or role taken by a kind of organism within its community. Such a position may be occupied by different organisms in different localities, e.g., antelopes in Africa and kangaroos in Australia.

2. A comfortable or suitable position in life or employment.

I love the concept of finding your niche. It’s something that happens in nature all the time, as part of the evolution of healthy, balanced ecosystems.

But it is also a concept a lot of my clients struggle with.

You see, the people I work with have a strong drive to help. They are generous and open-minded people. Niching down to them sounds like excluding a lot of clients they could potentially serve. And they totally have the skills to serve a lot of different people.

So, why have a niche?

From the marketing perspective, the strongest argument is that identifying your niche will spark a lot of instant connections with potential clients and allies.

If you can say that you, for example, specifically serve families with young children on the autism spectrum, your whole marketing strategy can evolve organically from there. Parents who come to your website will immediately understand how you can help them (or someone they know), and other organizations and businesses will recognize you as a natural fit for their network.

Now, to address the risk of excluding people: For one, it’s really not as big as you think. The amazing thing is, people outside your niche will be drawn to you because of your niche, and of course you’re allowed to work with them, too.

And second, it’s just not realistic to think that you can serve everyone anyway. There are only so many hours in the day, and some people are just not a good fit for you or will go elsewhere for other reasons. You will overall be more helpful by focusing on the people you know you can serve best.

How big or small should your niche be? I’d say start very small – you can always grow or shift as your practice evolves. As always, Seth Godin says it well:

It’s entirely possible that you will choose a niche that’s too small. It’s much more likely you’ll shoot for something too big and become overwhelmed. When in doubt, overwhelm a small niche. ~Seth Godin

What niche will you serve overwhelmingly well?

{Photo by DeusXFlorida on Flickr.}

Standing up, reaching out.

in·de·pen·dent, \ˌin-də-ˈpen-dənt\:

(1) not subject to control by others
(2) not requiring or relying on something or someone else
(3) showing a desire for freedom

Independence vs. Connection?

What strikes me about this definition is that it is mostly about what our relationships with others are not, as if independence and connectedness were opposed concepts. But I think the more independent you are, the bigger your potential for truly awesome connections and relationships that won’t get in the way of your freedom. And the more awesome connections and relationships you have, the greater your chances of becoming truly independent.

If you don’t want to be controlled by others, why would you want to take on the burden of having to control someone else?

If you are not relying on someone else to have your needs met, you’re free to enjoy an equal partnership.

If you have a desire for freedom, why limit it to just your own freedom?

An Independent Approach to Marketing

And yes, that can totally be applied to marketing! Here it goes: An independent approach to marketing means that you don’t follow the scripts but lead with your heart.

It means that you have the guts to speak your mind, and to use your own creativity.

It means that you want empower your people to decide for themselves if what you have to offer is what they need and want.

It means nurturing real relationships with other human beings.

It means standing up, and reaching out.

{Photo by addicted Eyes on Flickr, who writes: “I took this while on the road in Rajasthan. I rememeber my mother and another lady were the only women to drive in our town (Erode, TN) 25 years ago; that had surprised many people back then. Its great to see Indian women’s self sufficiency these days; still there is a long ways to go. For me this picture screams self-sufficiency and freedom!”}

What’s in the way?

What's in the way?
From the Lightbox Communications exclusive series of Good Questions to Ask Once in a While, here is your June episode: What’s in the way?

If Your Offer Looks Good, Check for Obstacles

When people don’t come to our workshops, buy our products, or join our events, we often look for reasons our offer may not have been attractive enough. Maybe the title wasn’t very compelling? Maybe people don’t want another ayurvedic cooking class? Maybe your product isn’t as great as you thought? Those can be helpful questions to ask, but sometimes it’s eye opening to take another perspective. What obstacles do your people have to overcome before they can click your button or walk through your doors?

The Usual Suspects

Common obstacles are: no time, no access, no clarity. Starting with the last one, look at your offer and try your best to pretend that this is the first time you ever hear about your it. Do you get a clear picture of the event or product? Is it obvious why you would benefit from it? How can you join or buy? Are there too many options, details, or exceptions that might be confusing?

Next, how accessible is your offer? Is your event in an obscure location? Are you planning it at a time when your crowd might be busy or simply not available? Are your business hours accommodating their schedules?

And finally, let me make a sweeping generalization and say that most people don’t have an abundance of free time. (Which is really wrong on many levels, but that’s another blog post.) If you are expecting them to scroll down half a yard or click seven pages deep before they have all the information they need or get to say yes, good luck. You might also look at the time commitment you are looking for and make sure it is reasonable.

Clear the Path

Here is what the first steps to removing the road blocks might look like for you:

  • Rewrite and/or your copy.
  • Rearrange the layout of your webpage or print materials.
  • Reschedule.
  • Try a different location.

If you’d like some help with any of those, let’s talk.

{Photo by kBandara on Flickr.}