One of the toughest questions you’ll ever have to wrestle with is the question of your niche, or target clientele. But the question, “Do I niche or not?” may be the wrong question to ask.
Some people will tell you that you must have a niche practice. Others will tell you not to bother, or that it will limit you. As a business owner, it can be difficult to know what to make of it all.
To Niche or Not to Niche
Over the past 15 years of working in this field, niching is something I’ve given a lot of thought to. I wrote a book about it, The Niching Nest, led workshops on it and created a website about it. I’ve led 90-day online courses about niching and talked with hundreds of clients about it.
Countless times, I’ve seen so many people get stuck on this issue, and I believe the main reason is that the word niche is defined too narrowly. A niche practice has come to mean only who we are trying to reach. By who, we mean target market and by target market, we mean demographics, such as age, race, gender and other identifying factors.
Often, this method of thinking will lead people to say, “My niche is middle-aged women who go to yoga classes regularly and who make between $80,000 and $100,000 per year.”
While that sounds like a precise goal, it misses the mark in a lot of ways. That methodology leaves out psychographics, or the inner world of the clients, including their loves, hates, values and worldviews—and doesn’t even touch on what problems clients may be struggling with, or what results they might want to achieve.
Find Your Niche Practice
Allow me to offer an interpretation of this word and see if it doesn’t help to clear things. The term niche is derived from the old French noun “nichier” which means “to nestle, nest, build a nest,” according to the Online Etymology Dictionary. Sit with the implications of that for a while. Niching seems to have to do with the finding and making of our home.
If I were asked to sum up niching in a sentence, I would say this: Your niche is your role in the community. When translated for business, this means: Your niche is the role you most want to be known for in the marketplace.
This role includes not only who you want to work with, but also what it is you offer and how you offer it. This includes your style, point of view, aesthetic, personality and vibe.
In other words, you cannot not have a niche practice.
You cannot not be known for something. You will always have a reputation. The only question is whether or not it is the one you want. Is it attracting the people you most want to work with?
The other aspect people get stuck on is feeling like they need to make an immediate decision about their niche and never change their mind about it. This would be akin to asking someone to marry them on the first date. It’s too stressful. As my colleague, coach Bill Baren, says, “It’s OK to date your niche.”
It is OK, and even important, to do small niche experiments and projects. Rather than rebranding your whole business tomorrow on a niche you’re not really sure about, you could attend a workshop on that theme or do a week-long promotion focused on a particular issue or group of people.
It is possible to be explicit but not exclusive. You could pick a narrowly focused niche, such as Swedish massage for migraine relief in office workers, and 25 to 50 percent of your clients would still not fit in that group. Why? Referrals and word of mouth are the main reasons.
Your Retail Niche
Once you have identified your niche market, you can support clients by offering home-care products to support their health.
- If you focused on those with carpal tunnel, for example, offer some helpful stretching videos and suggest apps for their phone to help them take breaks.
- If your focus were on migraines, offer clients high-quality essential oils known to help with that condition. You can also offer a meditation CD focused on easing migraines, free or discounted passes to a local yoga studio, an informational book about migraines, or self-massage reminder cards.
- For pregnant women, offer a discount on prenatal yoga classes, referrals to doulas you trust or a pamphlet with some at-home stretches to enhance your work. Products such as books about taking care of the body, mind and soul while pregnant may also be beneficial to the client.
You can start small and experiment to see what you like and what the market responds to and work to become known for these things.
Remember: you can’t not have a niche. So, what do you want to be known for?
About the Author
When he isn’t hosting potlucks, spending too much time on Facebook, designing a new product or puttering on his laptop, Tad Hargrave (nichingspiral.com) is likely working on The Local Good, a website he co-founded in 2008 that has become one of the leading hubs for green and local lifestyles in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Hargrave also wrote “Revolutionize Your Payment Model: 6 Steps to a Sliding Scale” for MASSAGE Magazine’s February 2017 issue.