Finding Your Niche… In Life, Love, Work & Otherwise

20 Apr

The first thing I learned about marketing my coaching business was to “define my niche”… my target market, aka the people or groups who are going to be the ones most benefitting from and investing in my product.  And by “product” you can be referring to an actual product, service, or you as a personal brand.  The Wikipedia version of this says, “A niche is the subset of the market on which a specific product is focusing; therefore the market niche defines the specific product features aimed at satisfying specific market needs, as well as the price range, production quality and the demographics that is intended to impact.”

FOCUS. You’ve seen it on inspirational posters in reception areas and offices and school classrooms, and now it’s time to make that cliché work for you.  When I first started my coaching business, I visualized success as being a full time coach with a full roster of clients, and being able to quit my 9 to 5.  And it takes time.  So I started by asking myself, “Who are the people that I really truly think my knowledge can help, and why would they want it?” For me, this subset of the larger market known as “everyone in the world who might be interested in some type of coaching” was drilled down to “20-somethigns who might be interested in coaching”.  More drilling and it became “20-something young professionals who might be interested in coaching”.  There are still a lot of those.  How about “20-something young professionals who are in career and life transition and interested in personal and professional reinvention”?  Now we’re getting somewhere!

You would think that casting the widest possible net, and in turn having a larger market to target, would increase your chances of success, but that’s actually not at all the case.  A wider market simply means larger output of less-focused marketing efforts (and time), and a good ol’ time trying to shoot fish in a barrel. Whereas a narrower focus means less output, and a much more targeted approach that’s much more likely to hit the people who are interested in and responsive to what you’re offering.

Because even if you aren’t marketing a business, you are marketing yourself as a personal brand or entity, whether that’s for a new job, a new opportunity, or a new relationship.  What are the parameters around your niche – what makes the most sense to your end goal, or, your “vision”, the overall picture of the scenario  you want?

Try this first goal:  “I want to join a softball team in New York City.  Let me post an ad on Craigslist.” Now what’s a better, more specific way to put that goal on paper so that every person looking for softball team members across five boroughs doesn’t contact you and essentially waste your time with inappropriate opportunities?

“I want to join a softball team in Brooklyn.  Preferably in Park Slope, but I’m open to Carroll Gardens, Bushwick and Williamsburg.  I have a phobia of bridges, so Manhattan and Queens are out of the question.” Here you’ve just defined what your niche focus for your “sell” is and why:  areas in northeast Brooklyn that are accessible from where you live by local transportation, without having to cross bridges (it’s just an example).

Goal #2 – I want to find a happy relationship: “I want to date someone who’s in their late 30s, good-looking and is successful.” Excellent- and just sent you an email with 50,000 men in the New York City vicinity alone that are between the ages of 37-40 and “employed”.

Of course, what you’re really looking for is this: “I want to date someone who is within the ages of 35-40, values what they do for a living, and who I feel I am intellectually and physically attracted to, which would be dark-haired men of Latin decent over 5’7”. Obviously you don’t want to go too specific on the details here so as not to block out potentially good matches with say, 5’6 and a half as height. But the point is to identify the internal motivators behind the external action: What does “successful” or “good looking” or “fun-loving” mean to you?  Because what it means to you may be different from what it means to someone else, and ultimately it’s YOUR vision you are working towards fulfilling, not theirs, so the definition must be all your own.

Be honest with yourself.  If you’re too specific, then you can always widen the net of criteria.  But starting too general sets you up for failure off the bat, and burnout.

One more goal scenario for you:  “I just graduated college and now I am looking for an entry-level job in marketing.” Try doing a Google search on “marketing” and you’ll quickly understand just how ridiculous that statement is.  Marketing is a great example for this because it is an incredibly broad field.  Going on,, or even LinkedIn and searching “marketing jobs” is likely going to yield you unsatisfying results.  You have your general focus established: marketing; now let’s drill it down.  What kind of company do you want to do marketing for?  Where- New York, San Francisco, Tokyo?  What kind of clients do you want to work with?  What kind of working environment do you value?  How about growth potential?  What motivates you in a professional scenario?  What are you passionate about?

Try this:  “I am interested in an entry-level (0-3 years experience) marketing position within an innovative media or advertising company, because I really thrive on the creativity and forward thinking, laid-back culture that an agency environment fosters.  And I hate wearing suits.”

DO NOT get this statement confused with your cover letter, or your personal profile – this is meant for your own self-realization – something you write on a napkin, a notebook, or in your own personal Excel file, so that you’re not tempted to alter it by what you think the outside world expects of you.  It’s all about YOU, and not what you can sell..yet.  The selling part comes AFTER you establish what it is you want for yourself.  Otherwise it’s like setting a message in a bottle out to sea, hoping the right person stumbles upon it one day on the beach.  Once you figure out what YOU are looking for, and it’s critically important that you do so before anything else, THEN it’s time to focus on HOW to sell your fabulous self to that specific group.  Start here:

  • VISUALIZE what you want.
  • VERBALIZE it in a statement on paper.
  • DRILL DOWN that statement to make it more specific.
  • IDENTIFY who or what is at the receiving end of that vision – a potential employer, a potential activity, a potential mate – and what distinguishable qualities they hold that are non-negotiable to you.

Congratulations – you just found your niche focus.  Now it’s time to get you there!


2 Responses to “Finding Your Niche… In Life, Love, Work & Otherwise”

  1. Mario Cerasuolo May 7, 2010 at 3:00 pm #

    Great post! I have been working with a marketing coach over the past few months with my firm and he has is teaching us alot of points you mention.

  2. Professional Underachiever June 1, 2010 at 6:56 pm #

    Well-put! I think too many people underestimate the importance of being specific with their goals… it’s a lot easier to get what you want when you know exactly what it is. Great blog altogether. 🙂

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