Create a niche out of a piece of paper

We’re going to create a niche out of thin air. And the biggest problem with that is our traditional thinking around what a niche is. Your niche, for your marketing funnel business, isn’t just something you go after and sell products to. It’s what you become.

YOU need to become your niche. It’s an unintuitive and can be confusing to both create what you become and create what you go after. But after we’ve done this exercise you’ll see how you both become and attract the niche that you create.

A niche, is a problem you solve or a result you get, for a group of people with certain characteristics, that no one else wants to serve. It could be both a problem you solve and result you get, but there needs to be the critical component of a characteristic, within a group of people, that no one else wants to serve.

This is where we hit our first major roadblock. We often mistake a niche as something that either already exists and is undiscovered, or something that someone else is already serving and we can go after that niche too. In truth, a true niche is something that you carve into the market.

It’s something that hasn’t existed before you’ve defined it. But when people see it, they’ll wonder why someone isn’t already serving that niche.

For example, many people believe a niche is something that reveals itself to you bathed in light, like a holy sign from above as you stumble across the great city of El Dorado. It’s as if we think there will be an undiscovered tribe of people with wads of cash in their pockets, just waiting for someone to sell them products.

And when a business dominates a niche and serves a particular audience, their business explodes on the marketplace and its because they discovered this profitable niche before anyone else. We mistakenly believe that we have to be the first to discover and claim a niche, like the Conquistadors colonising South America.

One example of a business that discovered and dominated a niche, would be Harrys’ Razors. Harry’s Razors is a razor blade and shaving subscription service that provides razor blades, a handle, foam, moisturiser and other shaving gear. You can trial their set and service before doing a flexible, easy to understand razor blade subscription.

“But Mike, didn’t Dollar Shave Club do this first?” Yep, they absolutely did. DSC was started in 2011 and started the idea of subscribing to a razor blade service that provided good quality blades at a fraction of the price.

The beautiful part about Harry’s is that they came later to a market and served an audience that DSC didn’t want to – the UK and Europe. DSC could have entered the UK/EU market.

But they didn’t. They do now of course, and since being bought by Unilever for $1 billion, DSC has spurned dozens of imitators. Harry’s on the other hand did go into the UK and has been sold to Edgewell/Wilkinson Sword for $1.4 billion.

When we think “subscription product for men’s shaving to save time and money,” we think that’s an obvious niche. We think that of course you’d be successful in that niche, because who wouldn’t want to buy that? The problem is that no one else thought of it.

The larger corporations like Unilever and Edgewell couldn’t create something like that because they didn’t want to see what niches were out there. The problem is that we don’t discover niches, we create them.

Creating a niche is far more slow and you don’t get any feedback. There weren’t groups of men sat around wondering “if only I could save money and have my razor blades sent to my door.”

It wasn’t even an option. But as soon as someone asked them if they wanted it, it sounded like an obvious idea. Many large corporate businesses fail to understand that people aren’t creative and inventive. Henry Ford said that if he listened to his customers, they’d ask him for a faster horse. Focus groups and customer brainstorming sessions don’t work.

Customer’s can’t think of more intuitive or “better” solutions because they don’t even know what’s possible. That’s not having a go at anyone, I’m the same of course. If someone asked me what I could do to make my shaving experience better, I would have said cheaper blades.

But when a solution like Harry’s is put in front of me I ask myself “why didn’t someone think of this before?”

Our niche needs to be the same. It’s created, not discovered. It’s invented, rather than stumbled upon by chance. And we’re going to create that niche right now.

Grab a piece of paper and draw a line down the center of the page. Write “start” at the top and “end” at the bottom.

This line is a timeline of every marketing funnel project that you’ve worked on. I want you to imagine a project with unlimited time and unlimited budget.

A perfect client who will use all and every part of the funnel process for their business. Write out each stage of the marketing funnel process that you could deliver to a customer.

Don’t worry about your $25K Drop exercise just yet. Think about all the individual marketing funnel activities, campaigns, automations and features that a business would use and write them down in the order that theircustomers would use them.

It might help to start at the end. Thinking about sales pages and upsells and sales campaigns. Then work backwards to the start where we have activities like paid cold traffic, email subscribers and warm traffic remarketing. On the left hand side of the timeline, I want you to write the activities and actions that you LIKE to do. 

Things you’re happy to create for customers and work on. For example I like creating email campaigns and sales pages. List of as many as you can. Things that you like or even love to do as work for your customers.

Maybe it’s stuff you just get, something that you like to do for customers and they say you’re “passionate” about. That’s everything you list on the left hand side.

On the right hand side, list off what you’re good at. Activities and campaigns that you’re capable of delivering to customers. You don’t have to like them or love them, but I want you to write out every activity that, if push came to shove, you could deliver to customers.

Of course you’d rather do stuff that you love. You can of course write things down that you’re good at AND you love to do, that’s fine. But on the right hand side of the timeline, write out everything you’re good at. A good indicator of this is the question “would someone pay me for this?”

I’ve got an example of my list below. Remember, we’ve created a timeline of activities starting with topics such as cold traffic from SEO and warm remarketing, right down to sales campaigns.

What this exercise does is help us focus on one part of the marketing funnel process. A common misconception is that if we’re a funnel business or that we build marketing funnels, that we must build every part of the marketing funnel and that’s not true. Let me explain why.

Our job is to focus on a result for customers. We want to help our customers get a certain result and I’ve talked before about how “results ≠ delivery”. What this means is that the results we get for customers are not exclusive to the way that we deliver those results.

While we start by looking at a particular process or activity, such as email marketing, but we’ll dig deeper into the results and benefits of that activity. As well as who it’s most suitable for.

For example, email marketing really works with generating sales from leads, and sales from current customers. But not so well for generating cold traffic, or for new subscriber attraction. What we can now say is that we help businesses with their sales for products. The result is that we increase sales.

The delivery at the moment, might be email marketing. And yes, email is unlikely to go away for a long time.

However, at one point, people thought that cold traffic ads to landing pages was the best way to grow a list. Now we know we can’t do that. So if we focused on cold traffic ads for building lists the old way and we exclusively said that we offer the “delivery” of cold traffic ads to landing pages, we’re outdated as soon as the delivery method becomes unviable.

If instead we focused on telling people that we help businesses build their email list, we’re always valuable, even if the delivery method changes.

We start with the delivery method because many of these techniques and activities won’t be outdated any time soon. However we’re going to discover a group of people that we want to serve, rather than an activity that we enjoy. It’s just easier to invent a niche starting from an activity rather than a group of people. Take link building for SEO a few years back.

That was the #1 way to rank your website, was linking as many sites as possible to yours. Bothing linking from external websites, and to other sites. Nowadays however, while high quality link building is absolutely a critical part of an SEO strategy.

Long term authenticity, lots of regular content and unique content tends to play a larger role in ranking pages on Google. If we defined our business by the activity of link building, we’d have to redefine what it is we offer to the market as soon as link building becomes obsolete.

Instead, we’re going to discover a result, and subsequently a group of people that benefit from that result, to create a niche and dominate a market.

Your timeline should have a list of things you enjoy doing, and a list of things you’re good at or that people will pay you for. Our job is to focus on one element of the marketing funnel process, and create a niche around that part of the process.

Look for one activity that overlaps both “love to do” and “good at”. This is your ideal activity. Something that you enjoy doing and you get paid for because you’re good at it. It might be that you have a few that overlap and that’s absolutely fine.

Ideally, we’re looking for one activity to start with and we can always expand out later. For the time being, just select one. If you have two or more activities that are similar to each other, you can group them together, but my advice is to focus on one hyper specific activity.

Finally, occasionally we see overlaps or intersections between activities. Later we’re going to look at activities for ourselves like public speaking, course creation and consulting.

Don’t worry for the time being how you deliver results to your customer, just focus on one activity that you’re going to work on.

Next, I’ve got a list here of types of businesses. These are all different types of businesses that could benefit from working with you. It’s the second half of choosing a niche.

If you want to learn how what to do with your process, now that you’ve selected it, you need to determine who benefits from that process. Click here to read more.

>> Who benefits from working with you? Create a niche.

Mike Killen

Mike is the world's #1 sales coach for marketing funnel builders. He helps funnel builders sell marketing funnels to their customers. He is the author of From Single To Scale; How single-person, small and micro-businesses can scale their business to profit. You can find him on Twitter @mike_killen.