With almost every employer I ever worked for, I would walk in to the initial interview and ask, “What is your biggest challenge?” They would almost always respond with, “I don’t know who my customer is.” Of course, I’d walk out of there salivating because that’s a great challenge for a marketer. In order to build a successful business of any kind you have to know your customer and be able to solve a pain point for them. In fact, research shows that 42% of startups fail because they don’t actually solve a market problem!
A question I get asked a lot is, “I’m thinking of starting a side hustle or a full-time business, but how do I find my niche?” Everyone tells you not to target too broad of an audience, but you also don’t want to start off too narrow either. So, what do you do? More often than not, you’re going to start off broader and then begin to refine your niche over time.
Before I even started my coaching business, I thought, I just want to inspire people to be their best selves and feel empowered to go after their dreams. How vague is that! Then I did a little soul-searching and with the help of my coach, I narrowed down my niche to helping Corporate professionals (like I was) escape their 9-5 jobs (like I did) so they can find freedom and fulfillment working for themselves (like I have). So essentially the formula is:
“I help/teach ________ (ideal client) to ________ (do or feel something) so they can _________ (benefit).”
Whether you want to launch a product or service, here are 5 essential steps that you’ll want to go through to determine your niche:
1.) Do some soul-searching
If you’re not passionate about the work you’ll be doing you definitely won’t be successful. Your niche should arise naturally from your interests, goals, values and experience. For example, if you’re a marketing expert and you love photography, maybe you can become a marketing consultant focusing on photographers as your target audience. The best niche ideas will come from your own experience. Is there a pain point you’ve been encountering that you’d like to solve for yourself and others? The first step is to do some self-analysis and ask yourself questions like:
- What special skills or knowledge have I developed?
- What would I love to do even if I wasn’t getting paid for it?
- What do I enjoy doing so much that I lose all track of time when I’m doing it?
- If I had all the time and money in the world and I knew I couldn’t fail, what would I be doing?
Then identify activities that you both enjoy and are good at. Once you have that list, narrow it down to those things that both have a need and a market where people will pay for that product or service. That exercise will help you get to the core of your niche.
2.) Identify pain points
Once you have an initial idea for a niche, survey your target market to uncover their pain points. Take a look at sites like Facebook, Twitter, Quora and Redditt to see what conversations people in your niche are having. What questions are people asking and what problems do they have? Facebook is especially useful because you can join groups where your target market is present and actually be a part of valuable conversations. Offer to help people with their issues and start testing your product or service that way. You can also do research on Google and see what trends or search terms you can uncover. Create a Meetup group so you can get ideas by personally interacting with your target audience. Surveys are another option to try to understand your target market better. Google Surveys makes it easy to create custom surveys without all the complexity
3.) Research the competition
No matter what niche or business you are thinking of pursuing, you should definitely take a look at the competition. Is there even a market for your niche? Start entering keywords into Google that your target audience would use and see what pops up. Is there a chance for you to stand out in the crowd? How will you plan to differentiate yourself? If you find a keyword that has a lot of traffic but little competition and paid advertising, that might be a great opportunity for you to insert yourself into that market. Also take a look at your competitor’s content and see how valuable it is. You might be able to uncover an opportunity to deliver a more high-quality product.
4.) Test your idea
These days it’s pretty simple to test your idea online. In fact, you don’t even need to invest in an entire website initially. Tools like Leadpages make it easy to set up a simple landing page promoting your product or service. You can even consider using paid ads to drive traffic to that page. Even if you don’t seem to gain traction, it could still be a viable niche. You might need to refine your messaging or find a better offer. Another option is to set up some A/B tests to see if using a different landing page template delivers better results.
5.) Go for it
Once you’ve followed the previous steps, just jump! The truth is, you can do all the research in the world but until you really get out there, you’re not going to know how your niche is going to respond to your product or service offering. Remember to stay flexible and continue to make adjustments along the way. Test different messaging so you can learn what works and what doesn’t. Stick with it and eventually you will crack the code that will lead you to that ideal niche.