It was embarrassing going to networking meetings and changing my niche every few months. Like I was some kind of a flake!
Some call it “building the plane while flying it” which is exactly what it feels like.
I went way too long with my first niche. 5 years to be exact (which is how long it took to burn through all my resources I’d been throwing at it.)
As a freshly minted coach, full of enthusiasm and idealism, I was certain my niche was people on a spiritual path who had no one to talk to, because that was the “big problem” I’d experienced and wanted to help others so they wouldn’t be as lonely as I was in my journey.
I loved working with spiritual seekers, and I always made enough money to cover my business expenses, so making a living as a spiritual coach was not really important.
That all changed when my former husband, Dave and I decided to reshape our relationship from husband and wife to good friends, and I had to earn my own living (more on that later).
My first business coach tried to discourage me because he said that unless you’re a big name, like Deepak Chopra or Wayne Dyer, you won’t make a living as a spiritual coach.
I trusted my guidance more than my coach, and proceeded to spend the next five years bouncing from coach to coach who offered success if I just followed their formula.
It didn’t happen!
I burned through my life savings and all the credit I could muster until I had no more resources to throw at it. (And making all the business mistakes along the way so my clients wouldn’t have to.)
This was pretty clear feedback that my first coach was right!
Through a series of seemingly unrelated circumstances I stumbled upon a mentor who filled in the missing puzzle pieces . . . those things I didn’t know I didn’t know, without which I would have kept spinning my wheels “doing what I loved and expecting the money to follow!”
My “business plan,” which had consisted mostly of visualization, affirmations, energy work, meditation, and a really spiffy vision board, while important, was only half the equation.
I wasn’t paying attention to basic good business practices, like tracking the return on my investment of time and money into my various offerings. And the bigger problem was that I had no clue about marketing, which I had confused with “selling.”
And the biggest problem was I didn’t do the market research to see if people would pay me for what I was offering before sinking my life savings into bringing it to market. (Fools rush in where angels fear to tread was the bugaboo of my optimism.)
A huge mistake with Niche #1 was offering what I believed people needed. I hadn’t yet learned people buy what they want, which is not necessarily what we think they need.
Important Business Principle:
- Offer a product or service that people want to buy, and throw in what they need along the way. (A little bit of sugar makes the medicine go down!)
- Get confirmation that there is a market for what you are offering by getting a few paying clients before going too far down that road.
Given the buying public was not attracted to my offering to teach them how to “be their authentic self and experience more joy, less struggle in their daily life,” I needed to switch my niche, or face life as a bag lady.
When Dave and I had decided to go our separate ways we made quite a splash by sending out 125 announcements to our family and friends celebrating “the successful completion of our soul contract after 25 years of marriage.”
People were blown away by the love and care with which we made that transition. So it seemed a no brainer to switch my niche to women trapped in an unhappy marriage where I would help them either reshape the marriage so it worked for them, or show them how to have a heart-centered and compassionate dissolution that didn’t cost a fortune (ours was $325) or make an enemy of their spouse, while keeping the love intact, like Dave and I did.
Everywhere I networked people oohed and ahhed at what a great niche that was. Everyone knew someone who fit the description. But after months of networking like crazy I didn’t get even one woman to make an appointment for a free coaching session!
My daughter clued me in: “Mom, women go for years in unhappy marriages. It is too painful to actually face head on the marriage might be over.”
Time for another niche switch!
My coach from the marketing program I was in suggested I interview married women to find out what they wanted.
Yep, good old market research to the rescue. What I found out was their biggest concern was how to make more money in their business.
Well, their problem was the same one I was getting help with in the program I was in: how to create a marketing message that easily attracted their ideal clients coming to them already wanting to buy, and how to ask respectfully curious questions that had their ideal clients talking themselves into buying (so they didn’t have to) .
Just a step or two ahead of my clients, I taught them what I was learning and built a full practice in just 90 days.
Yay! I found my niche and continued to refine it until I arrived where I am today: helping women first-time entrepreneurs build a thriving business and replace the corporate paycheck they left behind.
How do you know when it is time to switch your niche? One suggestion is to “date your niche” for 90 days. If it is not getting traction, it might be time to switch.
Or it might be time to tighten your marketing message.
Can you answer the question “so what do you do” in 2 sentences (or less) that describes the urgent problem you solve, who you solve it for and the results your clients get from working with you?
If not, you may have the right niche, but an unclear marketing message.
Try running your marketing message through my What Do You Do statement template below to see if it needs a little tightening up :
I help/teach/show (fill in the blank with your target market, which in my case is women first-time entrepreneurs)
how to (fill in the blank with the problem you solve, which in my case is to build a thriving business) so they (fill in the blank with the result they get, which in my case is replace the corporate paycheck they left behind).
If you decide a niche switch is in order, don’t be afraid or embarrassed to do it.No one ever accused me of being a flake (to my face, anyway).
And the people who have the problem you solve don’t care as long as they get the solution to their problem.