In the last few weeks, I’ve had conversations with multiple leaders of ICF and Co-Active Network chapters around the country and I have asked them “what is one issue your members seem to be grappling with?” I got several answers, but the answer I got consistently from everyone is “the whole concept of niche. Is it valuable or necessary to have a niche or not?” So I realized it was time I shared some thoughts with you about what “a niche” actually is and how it can be valuable to you as a coach. In fact, I will be writing a whole series on this so make sure to stay tuned this and next month to learn about niche and how it can be valuable for you and your business.
By definition, “niche” is a distinct segment of a market. So in the world of coaching, it is defining a distinct segment within the coaching market. But I really see a true niche being defined by three criteria:
- The first is clarity and simplicity of message. So when I say “I work with professional coaches and help them build joyous, prosperous, sustainable businesses” hopefully it’s clear who I work with. You can identify ‘that’s me’ or ‘no, that’s not me’ or ‘I know what that is, I understand it, and although it is not me, I may know some other people who are in that niche.’ So people really ‘get it’ when you say in one sentence what you do (not paragraphs). Think of it this way, have you ever been at a cocktail party where you’re talking to someone about what they do, and you are sitting there saying “I have no clue what you’re talking about”? They either aren’t truly clear themselves or they haven’t really found the layman’s terms to explain what they’re doing. And this happens a lot, particularly with coaches, energy workers, and healers. They have a hard time really explaining in layman terms what they provide. Or they talk in such general terms, it doesn’t really sink in or leave a mark. I’ve heard coaches say “I help people change their lives”. That may be simple and succinct but to the non-coaches in the world, it actually isn’t clear. When you share what you do, you want people to say “Wow, how do you do that?” NOT “What does that mean?” Essentially, how can I explain what I do so that my Divine Ideal Client ‘leans in’ and really gets it? And even if they aren’t your Divine Ideal Client, they may be able to identify someone they know who is because of how clear you message your work.
- The second criteria is a clear network that you can tap into. That means there are associations your Divine Ideal Client within this niche belong to, there are publications that they read; there are places that they commune; there are other professionals that work with that niche. I’ll use entrepreneurs as examples. There are Chamber of Commerce events; there are Meet-Up groups specifically for entrepreneurs; there are various networking groups for small business owner such as the Small Business Association. And there’s lots of other professionals, that work with entrepreneurs such as accountants, web and graphic designers, bookkeepers, and the list goes on. So really the second criteria is this – Is there a definable network that I can tap into? And I may not know anyone in that network now, but I know it’s out there and I can tap into it. I’ve had a lot of clients who’ve not had a single tap into a network, but it existed. And they were able to break into that and actually become part of that network themselves as part of their niche development process that I guided them through. So remember not to limit yourself by networks you are already tapped into, although there could be some huge advantages to focusing on a niche that you’re already tapped into.
- The third criteria is that they have shared common challenges and pains. They have challenges that you can help them solve, or pain that you can help heal. And that there are other people in your network that you can connect them to that you can help them with their other challenges that you don’t address. So the question you would ask is “can I help solve their challenges, or can I create a team or network that I can connect my clients to, that make me more valuable because of that?” And ultimately with this criteria, you create a consistent process and toolkit that your niche can get even better results through using. Think exercises, handouts, workbooks, visualizations that are specific to your niche to help aid their transformation.
Hopefully you can see through these criteria, how it could be beneficial to have a niche. You can create messaging that is really specific (and we are all drawn to messaging that feels like it was crafted just for us), you have a network that you can focus in on and tap into, and you can create tools and a process that will help you get deeper with those specific clients, thus aiding in their transformation.
For those of you that are feeling constricted by the thought of creating a niche, remember that we narrow only to the degree that it serves. It serves your client and it serves you. As an example, when I first started my private mastermind, I had all sorts of different service focused solopreneurs in the group. We had interesting conversations in our group calls, but the threads were not always relevant to everyone there. Now that the group is only coaches and therapists, we focus in on specific challenges that coaches/therapists have in their businesses, which includes coach specific issues like designing the alliance with your clients to support a flourishing relationship; how to honor confidentiality if you are working with someone in your group of friends (and how to design that alliance); what type of pre-work to create to establish a strong foundation and commitment prior to your first session; how to handle clients that disappear on you after you send the pre-work; and clients who want to end your coaching relationship early or abruptly. We talk about these along with other business challenges such as niche development, client enrollment, messaging and business development strategies. All in all, the type of conversations we have now are valuable to every person on the call, which also connects my community in a much stronger way, aids in my long term client retention, and supports a much deeper business and personal transformation for my clients.
Often times people will pick a slightly broader niche at first and will narrow down the niche over time as the begin to see the greater value in doing so, as well as start to really understand who they most love working with. As long as your niche follows these three criteria, you will get more business leverage than if you choose not to focus on a niche. By narrowing, you can go deeper because you are expending less energy to do so, and your clients will start to get even better results because of this depth.
But don’t worry, if you aren’t completely sure you want to focus on a niche, more articles are coming that might help win you over to the niche zone!
In the meantime, I look forward to hearing your thoughts, comments and feedback!
Tara Butler Floch