It’s beyond a buzzword now: The concept of a business niche is everywhere. Chances are you’ve either tried to find your niche or you’ve planted your feet firmly on the broad ground you’re used to and refused to narrow anything down.
In working with small business owners, solopreneurs and freelancers, I’ve found that avoidance is the more common response to the challenge of finding a niche.
How to find your business niche
Let’s take a look at a few ways you could narrow down your focus—or find your business niche—so your marketing and sales efforts will result in more clients.
1. Who are the customers of your niche business?
Who is going to buy your product or service? This is where I challenge you to think “dream client.” Who would you absolutely love to help? Who would really—and I mean, really—benefit from your help? These are the people you should be helping. Could their cousins and neighbors also benefit? Maybe. But they aren’t the ones who will see rapid, amazing transformations thanks to you.
Aim for the people who have the means to apply your work. That doesn’t mean crank your prices up for only the wealthy clients—you can offer discounts, promotions and even scholarships if you want. But the main focus of your time and money should be the people who are capable of paying you and doing the legwork to get the results they want. Niche down your audience.
2. What do your customers actually want?
What questions are these buyers asking? If you already have a narrow audience, make sure you understand how they think about their problems. Business owners can try to sell to people by focusing on what they see as the problems their customers face, but what they should be focusing on is what the customers themselves are saying about their issues.
For example, maybe you have a social selling business and your focus is nutritional products. You know with the help of your products, people generally lose weight, have more energy, sleep better and have improved digestion. But do most of your potential customers even realize that their nutritional intake is their problem? Or do they think they just need to get more willpower around carbs, take a sleeping pill and keep popping antacids? Probably the latter, right? So if you go at them with a lot of information about how to up their nutrition, you’ll fail to capture their attention.
Instead, narrow your promotional language, including social media posts, to the issues they’re having and how they think about them. Niche down your marketing.
Not sure what your audience actually wants? Try one of these methods and ask:
- Segment new subscribers. When people opt in to get your emails, ask them a question to see what interests them.
- Post a poll on social media. Facebook has a ready-made polling format you can use.
- Send an email. Be sure to offer an incentive for filling out 2-5 questions.
- Use a tool like Survey Monkey or Typeform to create a multiple-choice survey. This works well if you have a large list or need help compiling the answers.
- Create a survey funnel. Ryan Levesque’s book Ask offers insight into how asking the right questions can direct people to your solutions.
3. What solution does your business offer?
What solution are you focused on? I drove through a small town in Texas one time and saw a business called Auto Parts & Laundry. How are those things even related?
Are you confusing your potential customers with what you offer? Sure, you might have access to a wide variety of products you could sell through your business, but do you need to talk about all of them? Or maybe you have varied professional experience and offer differing services to maximize your potential earnings. But is that the best use of your marketing time and money?
This is where an audit of your previous sales comes in handy. Take a look at what you sold last year. How much did you sell in each category? How often were those sales directly related to any promoting you did? If you talked your head off on Facebook about your new products but no one wanted them because they initially came to you for the old, unrelated products, you’ve got a decision to make.
Ask yourself what services or products you can really get behind and put your focus on providing that general solution. Keep a clear message. If you’d like to offer other items to your existing clients, go for it. But keep your cold message to prospective clients streamlined. Niche down your offerings.
By narrowing your focus in these three areas, you greatly improve your chances of attracting the right people for the right sales.
Finding your business niche when you have various skills/interests
I don’t mean to brag, but I can do a lot of different things well. It’s made it hard for me to decide what type of business to run. Can you help?
That’s what I’d call a nice problem to have, my friend. But I also know how hard that can be when you’re trying to get a business plan in place. First, review the business niche pointers I talk about here in this month’s column. The ideas for narrowing your audience and offerings apply to you too. Really put some thought into who you want to help and how you could help. Then try these steps:
- Make a list of everything you love. This can include professional activities, but it should also include activities or interests that you don’t see as viable business ideas, such as coaching your kid’s soccer team or doing charity 5k runs.
- Now make a list of everything on your résumé. This list should include your skills, talents and experience as a professional. Make sure you break items down enough to see what actions you’re able to take and how you take them.
- Ask yourself. How could I apply my skill to one of my loves? You might be surprised to see the results if you stay open to mixing and matching.
Keep in mind: A lot of people make the mistake of thinking they have to feel super-duper passionate about their chosen field before they ever make a go of it. The truth is, a lot of small business owners started with one niche and altered course as they went along and discovered their passion.
So my main advice is this: Stop overthinking and just try something. Sometimes, we find our destination on the way to something else.
This article originally appeared in the March/April 2020 issue of SUCCESS magazine and was updated May 2023. Photo by mavo/Shutterstock
Amy Anderson is the former senior editor of SUCCESS magazine, an Emmy Award-winning writer and founder of Anderson Content Consulting. She helps experts, coaches, consultants and entrepreneurs to discover their truth, write with confidence, and share their stories so they can transform their past into hope for others. Learn more at AmyKAnderson.com and on Facebook.