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The Art of the Niche

Mike Schertenlieb

Think about the products, services, and brands you use the most… How many of them seem geared toward people in your exact situation, your field of work, your demographic?

Chances are, the companies you identify with the most are doing it on purpose. If you’re an adamant fan and a frequent buyer, you probably fit right within their target market. It isn’t an accident. This approach to attracting a certain (and typically small) cross section of humanity is the art of the niche.

Before we dig into exactly what this means – and how to find your own – let’s think about this in a broader context… Niches are everywhere. The music you like, your social sphere, the kinds of events you choose to attend – all of these represent various “niches” that you’re a part of.

Any kind of identity marker is representative of a niche… Vegetarian, soccer player, Buddhist, stone mason… Whatever. The things you’re interested in, the activities you partake in, how you identify yourself, each represents a potential niche market. Like a Venn diagram, the areas where these separate identifiers cross paths represent even smaller niches (soccer playing stone masons, for example).

From an entrepreneurial standpoint, these niches represent markets. There’s even a common saying: the riches are in the niches. The better a business can reach and communicate with the niche that represents their best buyers, the more successful they will be – but how do you know what niche you should be trying to attract?

1. What problem do you solve?

One of the best ways to begin identifying your niche is determining how your business helps people. Generally speaking, we’re all in the business of solving problems. If you sell t-shirts, you really sell the solution to shirtlessness – the solution to “not having a cool enough t-shirt.” If you sell financial services, you actually sell the solution to confusion about money management. 

At LongerDays, we sell remote business services – but we really sell the solution to too many things on your plate, the hassles of hiring in-house, and not enough time in the day… See where this is going?

If you can identify the problems you have the solutions to, you can see that your niche is, of course, the people that have those problems!

2. Subtractive Reasoning

To further refine the niche you should be pursuing, figure out who you’re NOT serving (or can’t). If you’re a BBQ smokehouse, vegans are probably out. If you’re a high-end business coach, then plucky startups probably aren’t your best customers.

This extends out even further into belief systems, modes of communication, aesthetic preferences, and beyond. If your style is blunt and unapologetic, your best customers are those receptive to (and in tune with) that approach to communication – and more sensitive communicators are not.

Whittle away at the vision of your niche by determining who isn’t going to be the right fit – for whatever reason – and don’t waste time or money chasing after customers that aren’t excited about the way you do things.

3. Study The Competition

Take an honest look at your competitors, the companies you’d like to be like, and the companies (even outside your industry) that seem to have it figured out… Who are they serving? What do their customers have in common with one another?

For your competitors, what seems to make customers like them? What about your business is similar, and more importantly, what makes you different? Microsoft and Apple effectively “solve the same problems,” but their niches are drastically different. They may offer relatively similar products (specifics aside), but the way they market, the people and industries they appeal to, the aesthetics of their products… All are quite separate.

You can learn a great deal about what to do – and what not to do – by studying your competition, but you have to be honest with yourself. Even if your most successful competitor is appealing to a certain demographic, think seriously about whether that fits your ideals, your style, and so on…

If not, don’t force it. If so, be sure you also find a way to be different. You may share a niche, but somewhere in the thin slices of your niche Venn diagram, there’s a section of the market perfect for you – and that’s where you’ll find your best, most loyal customers.

4. Refine As You Go

Maybe you won’t have a handle on your perfect niche when you launch your business – heck, you’re probably in business already! If you’ve got a product or service, as well as some customers, you’re well on your way – but you have to pay attention as you go!

Take stock of who does the most business with you, who stays a client the longest, who purchases in the highest quantities (whatever your metrics may be), and study what they have in common. Test different methods of communication to see what’s the most effective. Keep an eye on things like clothing choices, car preferences, average income, and any other factor that can help you determine common traits among your customer base… All of these things are clues about your niche.

At LongerDays, we’ve been gradually defining our niche (it’s pretty broad) based largely on real-time experience. We do all kinds of tasks, so it often comes down to the types of entrepreneurs that get the most out of our services, that match our communication style and outlook on life, and seem to click with us as people…

It has been a long road, but we’re actively refining our niche (and because of it, how we do business) every step of the way. It’s ok to work on this stuff as you go!

You can find all kinds of information across the internet about testing demographics, reaching certain markets, what preferences can be associated with various groups, and so on… And while all that helps, it’s first critical to know who you are, what you offer, and who you’re best positioned to help. Settle into your niche and watch your business thrive!


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