What is a niche?
You’ll hear a lot of marketers telling you to ‘Find your niche’ and you may be wondering what a niche is, and how you can find yours so let me explain.
Google defines a niche as: “services, services, or interests that appeal to a small, specialised section of the population”. Put simply, a niche is a smaller part of a market with specific needs.
What that means in real terms is that a niche focusses on a narrower audience of your ideal clients who share common characteristics or requirements.
Once you find your niche, you’ll have your own little corner (or segment as marketers call it) of the market that you can dominate. The more specific the niche, the easier it is to become the go-to-expert in that segment. You may also narrow down your audience geographically.
Finding your niche step 1: Start with a category.
If you want to find your niche, you’ll need to identify the main category that you’re working within and then narrow it down. Ideally, you want to find a niche that is not too general, but not so specific that you’re missing out on opportunities.
Say you provide cloud accounting solutions using Xero Accounting to female entrepreneurs. That’s pretty broad, but if you narrow it down to female entrepreneurs in the craft industry in South Wales that starts to become a niche in which you can become well known.
For now, you can just choose a general category. Then in the next steps to define your niche, you will analyse two key aspects of your business: your clients and your services. The more you know about your clients, the more you’ll learn about how they see your services. That can help you promote your services better, or perhaps even develop new services with their specific needs in mind.
Finding your niche step 2: Narrow your audience
Why target a smaller audience, rather than a bigger audience? The fact is, when you try to compete across a whole category, your attention to detail is limited, plus your audience contains a wide variety of people — that makes it harder for you to meet your audience’s needs, and it makes it difficult for you to stand out.
On the other hand, by identifying the kind of audience you want to target, you can make a much bigger impact. This is partly because the more niche you go, the less competition you will face, so it’s already easier to stand out. But knowing your niche also means you can identify your audience’s needs more easily and understand how your services help them, too!
Trying to be all things to all people is never a wise choice, so it’s good to be selective. Still, although it is sensible to narrow down your audience, you don’t want to limit your success by narrowing it down too much. Doing some research can help you to compare the different niches you’re considering: you could estimate how many people might be interested, for instance, or how much competition there is already.
Who are your ideal clients?
It might help you to consider these kinds of questions: Are you (mainly) selling to the entrepreneurs, or to larger businesses? Where is your audience located? How old are the youngest and oldest people you think might be interested in your offering? Is there a large majority of a single gender in your audience, or is it a mixture? What kind of values do they have, and what kind of lifestyles?
If you already have an audience, you can carry out some user research to find out more about who these people are. Alternatively, you’re just starting, then you might need to use a bit of imagination and/or common sense to start exploring which audience you want to target. That’s okay just to get started (especially if you don’t have the time or budget to carry out a lot of research), but it’s no replacement for real data.
Finding your niche step 3: What’s your specialty?
A niche isn’t only about your audience — you also need to think about what your services are. It’s important to really know your services to be able to find and narrow down your niche. Most likely, your offering already has some unique features. You can start simple: do your services look different from competing services? Does it have additional features that other models don’t include? Where are your services available? Is it a premium service, or a budget option?
When thinking about the features of your services, don’t forget that you’re part of the package too! What gives you authority to talk about a particular topic? Perhaps you have specialist knowledge or personal experiences that make you different from your competition, or maybe you’re a local insider. Asking yourself questions like this will help you to build up a more detailed picture of what you’re offering to people.
How do your services help your niche clients more than a generic service?
If your business is already up-and-running, it’s a good idea to do some user research. After all, the most effective way to understand your clients is to talk to your most satisfied ones! You could also check your biggest fans on social media or take a look at the comments and reviews on your website. Are there a lot of enthusiastic people there? Try to contact them and talk to them about why they love your services.
Ask questions like: What problem did your services solve for them? Why did they choose your services over other competitors? What feature or characteristic of your services did they find most useful? And, which other options were they considering when researching similar services? In other words, who was your competition? You will find lots of valuable answers with this approach, some of which may surprise you!
If you don’t have any clients yet, take a look at what your competitors’ clients are saying about them instead.
The final step of finding your niche
Now you’ve spent some time considering your category, your audience and your services, it’s time to put it all together. It’s likely that you’ve come up with more details than you need for defining your niche. Pick out one or two details that really stand out to you, whether they’re features of your services or your audience. You can come up with as many options as you want to compare! Remember — your goal is to find a niche that’s not too general, but not so specific that you miss out on opportunities.
One last thing about niches: your audience and business will tend to evolve. The evolution of your niche should be a continuous process. Be sure to monitor that evolution to keep the right focus!