We Need to Talk About Niching!

“Hi, my name is x and I help women transform their lives by connecting with their inner child so they can live their best life possible and find true success.”

I have absolutely no idea what this means, do you? And yet you’ll regularly hear similar sorts of thing at networking meetings from people trying their best to articulate a response to the simple question, “What do you do?”

It may sound crazy…. but honestly, you’d be amazed at just how many people really struggle to describe what it is they actually do for people!

And why is this? Well, it all boils down to one thing. I think it’s time we talked about niching.

Yes, that old chestnut!

An old chestnut it may well be but niching remains THE most foundational topic for us as business owners. And yet, whenever this particular topic raises its head it’s likely to be accompanied by resistance or frustration or more likely, BOTH!

Your niche is the foundation stone of your WHOLE business and yet so many of us still try and skip this bit altogether! Which to my mind is a bit like trying to build a house without laying any foundations and wondering why cracks keep appearing in the walls!

I’ve had some interesting conversations with clients over the past few weeks which have given me vivid flashbacks to my own resistance and frustration where this particular business topic was concerned!

As a newly qualified coach who was – and still is – absolutely passionate about the power of coaching, I naively set about creating a business offering coaching services to anyone and everyone, in a whatever you need sorting, I’m the woman to help you sort it’ type of way! But despite my hard work and puppy-like enthusiasm, I found myself running around like the proverbial headless chicken, and yet clients were nowhere to be seen and I was steadily getting more and more disillusioned.

Trying to be all things to all people

As I soon found out to my cost, when you are talking to ‘everyone’, you are actually talking to no one! Trying to tell people clearly and succinctly what I did and how I could help them was SOOO difficult…. and if you’ve ever tried writing compelling copy for a website that resonates with ‘everyone’ you’ll know it’s an impossible task!

So reluctantly, I decided to look into ‘this niching thing’ and lo and behold the penny finally dropped! It became clear to me that if I really wanted to make a difference, for both my clients and myself, then I needed to claim my specialism.

Eureka!

I could SEE the power of claiming a SPECIFIC niche. I could SEE how working with a SPECIFIC group of people with a SPECIFIC need could revolutionise my business. I would KNOW these people – I mean, really KNOW them. And in really knowing them, I would be able to craft my message in a way that really resonated with them.

So, even though I went down kicking and screaming, I eventually decided to clarify and claim my special niche. And guess what? Yes, it was the best business decision I ever made!

And now, having firmly established my niche as specialising in helping women over 50 turn their experience and talents into a thriving first-time business, I can now share the benefit of both my personal experience as well as my experience in helping many others through the niching process, be it defining the niche of a first-time business or redefining the niche of an existing business!

So, as you have probably noticed by now, I am a huge advocate of niching because I’ve experienced and witnessed the difference it makes.

Having a niche changes everything

Sooner or later, (preferably sooner!) most of us reach a point where we realise that being a generalist is NOT a good foundation on which to build a business.  Without a clear niche it’s always likely to be a struggle… but, to quote Inger, a generalist turned specialist I interviewed on this very subjecthaving a niche “changes EVERYTHING”. 

There’s a focus and freedom that comes from being specific and clear

A niche provides focus for your marketing, your website copy, the services you offer, the networking events you attend, through to the words you use in conversations! A niche allows you to showcase your value, amplify your strengths and gives you clarity, credibility and confidence – all of which, attracts results.

And if that sounds good to you, believe me, it FEELS even better!

But that said, there is often an undeniable frustration when it comes to trying to work out what the hell your niche might actually BE…. and even though you ‘get it’ on an intellectual level you still can’t quite identify a thriving niche businesses of your own.

The thing is, you are unlikely to find your niche just by huffing and puffing while waiting for inspiration to strike and you’re equally unlikely to FORCE your way through to clarity! Clarifying your niche is a process. And processes take their time.

Give it time

Accept that this IS a process and go WITH it rather than pushing against it!  That means giving yourself time to play and explore without the pressure to make the RIGHT niche decision….or find the ONE thing that you want to be known for, for ever and ever! Because THAT is a stressful proposition!

You may well explore two or three ideas (or more!) until you find something that feels like a good fit but the only way you’ll find your niche is by starting the process of exploration.

Explore in the right places

I have yet to meet anyone whose niche wasn’t found somewhere in the mix of these 3 things: their experience (the good, the bad, the challenging & the frustrating!) their skills (but not necessarily the obvious ones!) and last but certainly not least, their passions.

The seeds of your niche will be somewhere within that mix too. And I’d like to offer a few questions to set you off on your niching exploration:

  • What challenges, frustrations or hardships have you overcome in your life to be here today? 
  • What transformations or life changing event have you gone through to become who you are being right now? 
  • What tricky terrain have you successfully traversed that you can now guide others across?

 

I ask these questions because when I look around at all the niche businesses I know, their niche is very often people just like them or rather, people like they once were…. people who have overcome challenges – childlessness, miscarriage, divorce, health issues, family traumas, eating disorders – and now, having come through those challenges, choose to use their hard won experience and expertise to help those who are struggling now in ways they used to struggle. Having overcome these things they have the wisdom, ability and the credibility to help others and their strongest testimonial is their own personal example.

Take me for example – I’ve built my niche business around my experience of trying to build a first time business that fully utilises my talents and passions. I know and understand this terrain well -VERY well – and having navigated my way through, it makes me well placed to help others who wish to do the same.

The same is likely to be true for you too.

What if your niche no longer fits?

Businesses are anything BUT static entities – they are continually evolving – as are we! I’m betting you’re not the same person you were when you first started your business – am I right?  As we change and evolve, it’s not unusual for us to reach a point where we realise that our existing niche isn’t quite as exciting or relevant to us any more because we’ve changed.

For many of us it’s a natural part of our business’s ongoing evolution and yet the fear of starting from scratch can often keep people stuck in a niche that no longer floats their boat.

But fear not…. in most cases it’s a refinement or a change of perspective that makes ALL the difference rather than throwing everything up in the air and starting from scratch. Think ‘evolution’ rather than ‘revolution’!

If you’re struggling with this too….

If you’re struggling with this whole ‘niche’ question in your business the first thing I want to do is to reassure you that it’s a completely normal struggle –  I have struggled, my colleagues have struggled and virtually ALL of the new business owners I meet struggle with this. In fact, I’d go so far to say that most of  the ‘challenges’ and marketing struggles my clients face come down to a lack of clarity around this question of  ‘who’ they’re trying to reach – their niche!

Understanding the theory of niching is one thing but the appeal of ‘keeping your options open’ can be a hard one to let go of! And I should know! But if you’re struggling with developing your niche you need to start somewhere and answering my three questions above is as good a place as any.

Your perseverance will pay off big time because it’s what’s likely to make you happier and more successful in your business than anything else.

Final thoughts…

At the end of the day, niching is all about building meaningful connections with our clients. The closer you can get to them, to letting them know ‘you fit in here’ and ‘I get you’,  the better things are going to go.

Effective niching is simply a shortcut to that connection.

Something this fundamental deserves special attention – if you feel stuck about your niche and would like someone to bounce ideas off then do please get in touch . If I can help, I will.

Over to you!

Have your say!Now I’d love to hear from you.

Leave a comment below and let me know, how have you stepped out to differentiate yourself from your competitors? How has your business changed since claiming your niche? If you’re still struggling to claim yours, what seems to be holding you back from establishing it?

Share your tips and or questions below….. thank you!

 

 

Guest Blog: One Woman’s Inspirational Personal and Business Evolution

‘Evolution’ is not a word you’d necessarily associate with ‘business’, yet it’s definitely one that features in pretty much every ‘prime time’ business. And today’s guest blogger, Lesley Pyne, is a fantastic example of a woman drawn to starting a business in her 50’s as part of her personal evolution. 

It was Lesley’s own painful experiences, combined with an acknowledgement that it was time for things to change, which catapulted her into action. And as her story illustrates, it’s a continuing evolution accompanied by continuing growth, expansion and development – both on a personal AND a business level.

Over to you, Lesley….


Six years ago, after I finished training in NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) I set up a coaching business to help women in midlife. It didn’t work because I wasn’t being true to myself. I wanted to support childless women but didn’t feel strong enough to do it because it meant being open about my story and myself.

Then I read this quote by Brené Brown, from Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead

“…. nothing is as uncomfortable, dangerous and hurtful as believing that I’m standing on the outside of my life looking in and wondering what it would be like if I had the courage to show up and let myself be seen.”

It jolted me to the core as I realised how perfectly it described my life. I was standing on the outside, hiding my true self. And it hurt. A lot. I decided that I’d had enough of hiding but I didn’t know what to do; being open and honest about my life and my story seemed too hard. So I did the best thing I could which was to ask for help. I found Karen, who immediately believed in me and the difference I wanted to make in the world. Her belief and the work we did together gave me the courage to change my business to coaching childless women.

I thought, yes I’m okay now I have the business I want.

Not so.

The evolution continues….

My business continued to evolve over the years but finding a regular flow of clients was always hard. I didn’t really enjoy it and was never as good at coaching as I wanted to be.

During this time my Dad died and I was really struggling to come to terms with his loss. Then one day in a yoga class, I heard a really strong calling to write a book. I saw myself at the publication party surrounded by close friends and those who’d helped me and the book become a reality. My body was flooded with wonderful feelings as I realised how much I wanted to:

  • hold the book in my hand and
  • show other women that they can have a fulfilling life and how to achieve it.

 

So fast forward 18 months, and I can hold my book Finding Joy Beyond Childlessness: Inspiring Stories to Guide YLesley and Karenou to a Fulfilling Life in my hand anytime I want. And here I am with Karen at the publication party I imagined in my head.

Now, having done the work I am a completely different person. Well maybe not completely different. I am now closer to being the true, authentic Lesley and I am extremely happy and comfortable in my own skin. Would I have done this work if I wasn’t writing the book? Of course I can’t answer that question, but given that writing was my biggest incentive it seems unlikely. As I thought about what to write, I realise that what I’ve learned can be summarised into three key things.

Three things I’ve learned

In the years I’ve had a business there have been many times I’ve struggled and wondered whether I was doing the ‘right’ thing. But now looking back I’m glad that everything happened as it did because otherwise I wouldn’t be where I am, and more importantly who I am now.

Of course it wasn’t quite that simple or straightforward, essentially I was writing about different ways of working through grief. And in digging wholeheartedly into the subjects of each chapter, I’ve worked through the grief I was carrying from my childlessness and the loss of both parents.

Luckily, I’d been collecting stories on my website for a few years. I’d been using a standard list of questions to understand what other childless women had done to achieve a fulfilling life and I realised that there were many common themes which I could use for the different chapters.

1. The importance of starting and being open to your business evolving over time

I’ve had two false starts before writing my book. They were both incredibly painful, but I’m glad they happened because each time I became stronger and learned a lot. They also encouraged me to be open to new ideas and options.

So please know that you will absolutely fail, things won’t always go to plan and you will want to give up. This happens to everyone and when you take the time to look you will see that there are gifts, and often the biggest gift is your own growth.

2. Ask for help

I couldn’t have done this without Karen’s help. Well you’d expect me to say that wouldn’t you, this is her blog after all. But it’s absolutely true, working with Karen was pivotal to getting me started and she’s been there, supporting and encouraging me all the way. And not just Karen, I could make a list of others who’ve been essential to helping me get to where I am now.

So if you’re not sure about getting support, let me ask why you think you can set up and run your business on your own? My guess is you employ an accountant and car mechanic, so why not use specialist help to get your business on the road, maybe a business coach, social media expert, website specialist, etc, etc. All the business women I know have had support at some point on their way. I used to think that asking for help was weak, and now I know it’s the wise thing to do.

3. Be open to HOW you achieve your dreams

My goal has always been to support childless women, to show that they can have a fulfilling life when the dream they worked so hard for didn’t come true. I thought I would do this by coaching. In the end, with my book I will potentially reach many, many more than I would have done if I’d been fixated on coaching.

So dear reader, please don’t have the idea that you can achieve your dream in only one way. Be open to the Universe gifting you false starts and unexpected turns and most importantly start now. Because one thing is certain, if you don’t start, you will never realise your dream.


How about you?

Does Lesley’s story resonate with you? If business has been an integral part of your personal evolution, I’d love to hear about it, so please leave your comments and feedback below.

Business, for me, has always been a decidedly personal undertaking and never JUST about business. And now I come to think of it, I’m not sure it’s even possible for business to be anything other than personal by virtue of the fact they are created by people for people.

There’s a reason why we decide to step out on our own along this challenging path….and that reason is ALWAYS personal.

It’s personal because we care

Yes we’re doing it to make a solid income, make an impact and be successful – but MORE than that, we do it because we care. Deeply. 

Each and every client I have EVER worked with has had incredibly strong personal motivations underpinning their business aspirations, representing their passion, purpose, vision and values and who they ARE – and if that doesn’t make it personal, I don’t know what does!!

What this means is that one of THE most valuable asset we have in our business is… ourselves! And the best way to fully maximise this asset is simply by consistently showing up… as ourselves.

And we can do that by sharing and talking about….

  • the things that make us unique and different
  • the things that get us all fired up
  • our story, gifts, skills and lessons learned
  • the things we’ve experienced that we don’t want others to have to go through
  • the things that light us up inside
  • the things that make us want to scream out in rage or frustration
  • the things that make us feel vulnerable
  • the things we absolutely believe to be true

 

And yes, these things ARE really, really personal, I know.

It means we have to be willing to stand out rather than shrink back….and most of us were taught pretty successfully at school that standing out was likely to result in ridicule or rejection. And to begin with I balked at sharing my personal stuff for fear of exactly the same thing – ridicule and rejection! I felt I had to maintain a professional ‘veneer’ in order to be taken seriously. But if you’ve ever tried connecting with a professional veneer you’ll know it’s not exactly a whole lot of fun!

Powerful connections

When you think about the icons you most connect and identify with  – Oprah Winfrey, Richard Branson, Elizabeth Gilbert, Brené Brown, to name just a few of mine – the reason we connect with them so powerfully is because they allow themselves to show up as human – complete with human vulnerabilities – and allow us to know them on a personal level.

Be more YOU

For your business to be aligned with your purpose and passion YOU have to be in it – and that means putting more of YOU into everything that you put out into the world. As the wonderful Oprah Winfrey put it, “Align your personality with your purpose, and no one can touch you.” 

When you write, speak and share as the ‘real’ you, you’ll not only reach and help more people, but YOU will also get much more personal satisfaction and fulfilment from doing so.

Because it’s not just business – it’s YOUR business.

Over to you….

How do you feel about sharing the more personal aspects of who you are and why you do what you do? What reactions have you had when you’ve shown up and let yourself be seen?

Please feel free to share your thoughts and experience in the comments below – I’d love to hear from you!