Overwhelmed with marketing? Start with your niche

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After people sign up for my ezine, I like to follow up with an email that asks them the biggest question that they have about starting their own business.  I get hundreds of responses, and one of the most popular ones is “How do I market my business?”

There are many components of setting up an effective marketing plan, but the first step is always clearly defining your niche.

Your niche is a specific group of people that you want to sell your product or service to.  You can define your niche by slicing a broad market segment into sections by looking at things like gender, age, education level, economic status, political orientation, occupation, extracurricular interests or personal histories. (there are many other things you can look at, these are just some samples)

Let’s look at an example:

Broad market segment:  Men
Niche:  Divorced African-American male entrepreneurs aged 50-55 who graduated Summa Cum Laude from a Top 10 College, make more than $250,000/year and live in the greater New York area.

The more specific you get with your niche, the better chance you have to reach them with your marketing efforts.  And you define your niche by asking yourself the following question:

Who would I really enjoy working with that would find my product or service extremely valuable and has the means to pay for it?

I am in the middle of teaching a class with my mentor and friend Suzanne Falter-Barns called Get Known Now.  Suzanne’s specialty is helping people identify their unique niche and build their brand so that they can attract media and increase their expert status.

Suzanne believes identifying your niche is not just a left-brained analytical process, it is also a right-brained creative and intuitive process.  She leads new students in guided meditations to see what words, phrases or ideas come to mind when they think about the people they are meant to work with.  It certainly worked for me – as a direct result of the work I did with her, the Escape from Cubicle Nation brand hit me over the head as I was walking around my house rocking my son to sleep.  I got crystal clear about the kind of people I want to work with, and now feel as though I have arrived at a party filled with vibrant, smart, creative and caring people that I really enjoy hanging out with.

The benefits of defining a specific niche are many:

  • You can immediately think of publications that write for this market, and target your PR efforts
  • You can identify which associations might cater to this market (in my example, you could explore alumni associations of Top 10 colleges or entrepreneur associations that target African American professionals) and try to get speaking gigs
  • You can identify websites or blogs that target this market and post ads or write valuable comments on blogs
  • You can be very specific in your marketing materials about the type of problems your product or service addresses.  And if you do it right, people will say things like “I read your website and felt like you were talking directly to me!”

Once you get clear on who you want to work with, you should do a thorough analysis of competitors in your market space.  Suzanne keeps a binder with information on her top 5 competitors and buys their programs, downloads free information from their sites and sits in on teleclasses or seminars they offer. All this is to get a clear picture of the specific and unique way they are serving her market.

Once you do your competitive research, you can define your brand and Unique Selling Proposition (USP) that speaks directly to how you solve your target market’s problems.

So get going on defining your niche.  Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section here and request feedback if you want some input.

For those that want to get a lot more detailed information about researching market segments, does anyone have other suggestions for tools, processes, resources or experts?

14 Responses to “Overwhelmed with marketing? Start with your niche”

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  5. Chuck Steak says:

    in re: your Ltr to ceo’s etc.

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    As it grows, administrators and bureaucrats stymie creativity and innovation in order to impose order and control.

    At that stage of the game – the corp needs a synergist

  6. Great Advice! I’m in the process of narrowing my market niche…it’s a tough decision…but I believe you are right…I’ll be able to target my marketing efforts much more effectively. Thanks!

  7. Intrepid says:

    Good one again, Pam! One of the other things that you could do is search engine optimization. If you’ve not narrowed down your niche, you could build a list of keywords, ensure your website is optimized to pop up for those keywords or phrases. Then track your website logs to see what search engine terms people are using to land up on your website. That would help you define further, whether this is the right niche of people you need to be targeting.

    For instance, we discovered a whole new niche of clients in this manner, when someone came along searching for a phrase we hadn’t really thought was something people would be looking for.

  8. How do you determine if you have properly defined your niche before you start marketing to it:
    – its population (size)?
    – an other metric?
    – or just common sense?


    Hi Jean:

    It all depends on how you are using the information. If you are a startup and are trying to get venture capital, investors may have specific criteria on market metrics to feel comfortable enough to give you money.

    If you are just operating as an independent person, I say your criteria of “common sense” fits the bill (although common sense is rarely common practice). You know you have defined your niche specifically enough is when you are suddenly able to think of 10 ways to reach your people with specific marketing vehicle and activities. You may attend an event targeted to your niche and find that everyone you talk to has the problems you identified and is interested in what you have to offer (ok, this doesn’t happen often, but if you get a handful of people interested, you know you have struck a nerve)

    You want your niche to be broad enough so that you have a good chance of winning enough business to meet your plan goals. If you are too specific and only want to work with one company in a geographic area, for example, you have gone too deep.

    But most people prefer to stay big and get overwhelmed.

    Other thoughts folks?


  9. Pam – Great commentary as always. You reminded me of one of my favorite sayings: A “NO” is better than a “Maybe”. Meaning that it’s often better (although not easy to accept at first) to hear a NO, rather than a client, market segment, etc. giving you a Maybe.

    This is especially important, I believe, when you’re working with limited resources or your direction/path has become cloudy due to the everyday shuffle of work and life.

    We are more likely to get concise and clear answers (yes or no) from a directed channel which we have targeted. This prevents us from wasting time as well as forcing us to constantly improve our message and delivery. Thanks again for another great post.

  10. argos says:

    I took my defined niche in apparel (active/ageless boomers who travel) and divided them into seven sub-catagories, with a different and targeted message for each.

    Writers and artists, stay-at-home dads, spa-goers, business travelers, cruiseshippers, public links players and 50’s plus. Have done the same for this last group as well.

    This will cost me extra money. But I definately want to speak very directly to these potential fans.


    Argus, this is exactly what I am talking about! GREAT way to segment your market. By doing so, it is so much easier to know how to reach your people.


  11. Thanks for posting this — very good advice. It’s worth thinking about before spending a lot of money on a less focused marketing campaign.

  12. Great post! Choosing a clear target market/ niche is something that I’ve struggled with myself, and something that I work with entrepreneurial/ micropreneurial clients on pretty ongoingly.

    I think most of us have a problem with the “less is more” aspect of niche marketing. It works, and it’s a path that clearly leads to success in business. But none of us like the initial process of (what fees like) cutting off options.

    That’s probably why many business fail to execute effectively.

    You’re on a roll! Every article is well worth reading. Thanks for your ongoing contribution to my thinking and development!


    Thanks Lawrence! With readers like you, who wouldn’t be motivated to keep writing?


  13. RTotla says:

    Hey your blog having very nice info.

  14. Pam,

    I agree with critically defining your market. A mistake I made early on when starting my company The Life’s Work Group was believing I had to market to huge market segments.

    After assessing my own strengths/weakness/passions/income assessment I critically analyzed and defined my narrow in focus target market. All areas of my business improved.