Who benefits from working with you? Choosing a niche

There are degrees of effectiveness with a niche. Starting at the bottom, the least effective definition of a niche is telling people what you do in a broad sense. This is typically when you tell people that you run a marketing business, or a marketing funnel agency.

The next level, which while being slightly more effective, still leaves a lot to be desired, is to focus on one aspect of the process. For example “I focus on email marketing for small businesses”.

This may be your sweet spot of what you do, but it isn’t appealing to an audience or customer. It’s also much harder to generate referrals. Unless someone already understands the power of your chosen area, they’re unlikely to know how it benefits them. The only thing that human beings are interested in, is what’s in it for them?

“WIIFM? Or What’s In It For Me? is the most played radio station in the world.”

Zig Ziglar

When you talk to people, your niche needs to be something that tells people one of two things. Either that it will be worth their time and energy to talk to you, or that they shouldn’t talk to you.

When we talk to people and tell them what we do, even if we’ve specified a certain area, their brain is asking “how does this benefit me?” and unless you can either tell them it will or won’t, they’ll assume that it won’t.

When we have a broad niche or mission, we think that we’re playing it safe and that less people will be turned off. Instead, because it’s unfocused, it turns more people off and they’re less engaged. It’s a funny world.

We need to add further characteristics and qualifiers to our sweet spot/chosen process in order to better define our niche. These characteristics include but are not limited to:

  • Product types
  • Conversion we can improve
  • Process, activity or campaign
  • Type of business
  • Problem they’re facing
  • What the business wants
  • Types of customer’s customer
  • Their characteristics
  • Their business level/maturity
  • The results they get for customers

When we combine and stack these traits we create a compelling and distinct niche. Of the three examples below, which sounds more appealing to work with? Who sounds like they know what they’re doing more?

  1. We are a digital marketing company
  2. We do email marketing for small businesses
  3. We work with businesses about to publish their second book who are turning that into an online course and we help them convert book sales into recurring revenue course customers?

Of those examples, which sounds easier to create content for? Which one sounds easier to find a market for, or a large audience? Who do you think has a higher fee for a standardised process? Who sounds more like an expert?

Number 3 has a defined niche. And the litmus test is to ask “who do you work with?” Number 3 can answer that and numbers 1 and 2 can’t. When people ask “what do you do?” they’re really asking “who do you work with?” and that’s what we need to be able to answer.

As we’ve covered above, small business and local business is not a niche. A niche is a problem solved or result gotten, for a group of people with certain characteristics that no one else wants to help.

When we have our sweet spot, in our example case, email marketing. We need to then find a group of people or things that benefit from that process.

First, we’ll cover off what we mean by those traits above and give a few examples. Then, we’ll go through the process of discovering who benefits the most from working with you and therefor, who our niche is.

Product types

There are so many product types that it’s almost overwhelming to think about. Product types refers to the different methods of delivering results and services to customers, and the different price points and levels of engagement that customers will experience.

For example, a book is a product type from a well known world class speaker. But working with them one on one is another product type. Certain types of products suit certain processes better and you might find that you enjoy one product over another.

Products can be free, like webinars and blog posts. Or they can cost millions of dollars. This list below isn’t exhaustive but it’s a good start.

  • Splinter products
  • Lead magnets
  • Webinars
  • Core physical product offers
  • Subscription products
  • Customer win backs
  • Refunds
  • Up-sells
  • Cross-sells
  • Digital downloads
  • Physical products
  • High ticket items
  • Workbooks and programs
  • Live events
  • Marketplaces
  • Auction sites
  • Job boards

Conversion we can improve

Conversions relate to each stage of the marketing funnel and the specific transition between that stage. For example, this book helps with sales conversions.

Specifically, core product sales (assuming your £25,000 marketing funnel is a core offer). Getting new people to read a blog post is a traffic conversion, from “never heard of them” to “first time reader”. Typically this is called cold traffic.

Your process will suit and be beneficial to only a few conversions. It might even only work with one. Or you might find that you love increasing one particular type of conversion.

  • Attracting cold traffic
  • Attracting warm traffic
  • Social followers/subscribers
  • Email list subscribers
  • First time sales
  • Repeat sales
  • Refunds
  • Email engagement
  • Social engagement
  • Leads/prospects
  • Low ticket sales
  • High ticket sales
  • Upsells/X-sells
  • Affiliate sales

Process, activity or campaign

Your customers have a lot of different campaigns and activities that they’re working on themselves. Everything from creating advertising campaigns to creating blog content, there are processes that they need to get done each day or week or month.

The number of businesses who write proposals or update their own website is massive. If there is a time consuming activity that they could get someone else to take care of, they’ll do it.

  • Creating social content
  • Writing blog posts
  • Customer support
  • Customer onboarding
  • Collecting testimonials
  • Writing proposals
  • Running webinars
  • Creating adverts
  • Selling to customers
  • Account management

Type of business

There are many more businesses than just small, medium and big. Rather than size, I prefer to think about the deliverable or type of work that businesses “do”.

Rather than their industry, it’s a question of what they give to their customers. What features does that business hand to their customer? Do they sell them physical products that require maintenance? Or do they deliver education to customers? Do they give customers books or apps or clothing?

What I love about this question is that it transcends industry. The car, audio, medical, mining and video game industry all have products that fit those questions above. But not all businesses deliver the same features within an industry.

  • Saas businesses
  • Online courses
  • Coaching
  • Physical exercise
  • Writers and authors
  • Manufacturing
  • Design and branding
  • Coding and development
  • Communities
  • Medical and veterinary
  • Application and software
  • Content publishing
  • PLR or public label rights
  • White-label
  • Outsourcing

Problem they’re facing

Most businesses tend to face similar groups of problems. While the specifics might vary from business to business, in general they tend to be trying to solve a particular set of problems that are universal.

One of the reasons I love looking at the problem a business faces and using that within our niche, is because it transcends business size and industry and lets us focus on something that the business recognises.

For example the problem of “too many refunds” might be shared by massive telco corporations or smaller online course businesses.

  • Not enough traffic
  • Not enough walk-ins 
  • Low client retention
  • Not enough time
  • Not enough steady cash flow 
  • Stuck in feast/famine
  • Low number of leads/enquiries
  • Low project budget size
  • Low lead quality
  • Struggle with technical help
  • Not enough recurring revenue/stability

Note that problems often start with “low” or “not enough”. Problems and needs can sometimes be mixed up and confused. For example, a business might feel that their biggest problem is that they don’t have enough high quality leads.

They might also feel that they need high quality leads, but the solution to “not enough leads” is not “get more leads”. For your niche and ideas, I want you to focus on something your customers are suffering from or that they don’t have enough of. Which problem is easiest to solve, using your chosen part of the process?

What the business wants

Wants and needs are two very different things. Sometimes they’re the same thing, but as a rule you can’t sell someone something they need, unless they want it. People only buy what they want, even if it’s not the right thing. As funnel businesses, you know that your customers need a content and traffic strategy combined with a strong sales automation process.

But your customers want increased cash flow and sales. We can go one further, and if we’re getting to know our customers, it might be that what they truly want, is a deeper desire that they’re not expressing.

Almost all businesses want sales, leads, traffic and more time. But more often than not we’re selling to the business owner or a decision maker.

What they want is to sell the business and retire. Or to grow the business and attract investors. If you can appeal to what a business decision maker really wants, you’ll find attracting interested leads and standing out in a market much easier.

  • Grow to become a global news source
  • Open in multiple locations
  • Start a franchising
  • Become a slowpreneur/author/”status”
  • Help more people without sacrificing their own life
  • More freedom
  • No worry about online course delivery and management
  • A business that supports their life, but doesn’t consume it
  • Grow an email list
  • Increase sales
  • Move leads to sales
  • Grow and scale their business
  • Become visible in a crowded market
  • Lead generation, enquiries
  • Generate leads, contact info
  • Grow an Email List to Market to for others
  • More leads and sales
  • Increase revenue
  • Increase profit

I’d advise you to really think about a want or desire that affects the decision maker’s emotions, daily life and status. Too many marketing businesses tell the market that they help increase traffic or leads or sales.

It’s a weak position to be in because EVERY marketing business is designed to increase one of those metrics. But when you define your niche through the inner desires and goals and dreams of the people that you’ll be working with, that’s a very different offer. Which desire or want is more suitable for your chosen sweet spot?

Types of customer’s customer

Our customers, have customers. And when we can define our market by the type of customer that our clients want to attract, we can easily define a corner of the market that other marketing businesses don’t want to touch.

All businesses have a mixture of customer types, from customers who subscribe to a recurring payment product. To customers who have bought one product and never returned. As a marketing agency, we can define our niche as specialists who help X businesses attract more high-ticket customers.

Or who allow businesses to generate an extra 50% in sales from unhappy customers. Think about your chosen part of the process and ask “which type of customer would be more likely to engage or buy if I used my sweet spot?”

  • New customers
  • Long time customers
  • Customers who have left
  • Un-engaged customers (people who have bought but never consumed)
  • Subscription customers
  • High ticket customers
  • White-whales (people who buy EVERYTHING you put out)
  • Promoters and evangelists (super fans who love what you do)
  • Loyal customers
  • Unhappy and disgruntled customers
  • Personal contact services (think personal trainers)
  • Off the shelf/cookie cutter products

Their characteristics/what they need to have

Businesses in an industry might have almost no shared characteristics other than their industry label. Which is one of the reasons I don’t think that industry is a good place to define your niche.

However, there might be characteristics within a business that are suitable for you to work in, and that your chosen sweet spot can add massive value to. For example, maybe if your chosen sweet spot is split testing sales pages to increase conversions. That part of the funnel process is way more beneficial to someone who is already generating sales.

If you work with a customer who has low or no sales, it’ll take a long time to see if your split testing really adds anything. Another way of phrasing this question is asking yourself “If I didn’t get paid until after the customer got results, what would they need to have in order for me to work with them?”

Imagine not getting paid until after your client got results. Your chosen sweet spot is split testing. What would they need to have already, in order for you to do your work and get them great results as fast as possible?

I learned this from Frank Kern on a consulting and coaching course he runs and it literally changed my business. Thanks Frank.

It might be that there are a few different characteristics that you need and that’s great! We’ll shorten the terminology for the characteristics or even come up with a “tribe name” for them (a name for a group of people with shared characteristics) later.

But for now I want you to think about shared characteristics that suit your process and would be recognised by potential customers. Remember, it’s not about attracting everyone, it’s about attracting the right people.

Saying “we help businesses with over 1000 visits per sales page per day, increase conversions in 30 days” is a very specific and attractive niche.

  • Have a list of #
  • Have revenue of over #
  • Have # staff
  • Have remote staff or all in one location
  • At least # products
  • Products of value of at least # or between #
  • Are aged over # years
  • Sell in # countries
  • Have or don’t have a marketing department
  • Are or are not listed on the market
  • Traffic of over # a month/year
  • Have both physical and virtual stores
  • Are only available online
  • Are only available in store

Their business level/maturity

Another defining trait that you might use in your niche, is the ideal customer age, level or maturity. As a rule, I tend not to work with startups. Their message is often too flexible and it’s too difficult to get them to nail down and commit to a long term growth plan.

Also, getting a start up to seven figures is a massive level of work, often combined with investor backing and not having any customers to start with. However, I do like working with businesses at the $1M turnover level and have been on the market for over 5 years.

I find that they’re still young and small enough to do some cool activities, but established enough to stand by their message and market. There are different ways to measure age or level or maturity. Don’t let that confuse you too much, just look at what feels natural.

Don’t over complicate it. What kind of business would benefit the most from your sweet spot? Do they call themselves disruptors or eco-friendly? Are they enterprise level or struggling against market commoditization?

  • Category leaders
  • Disruptive
  • Unique
  • Commoditized and don’t want to be
  • Entry level
  • Start ups
  • Enterprise level
  • New
  • Established
  • Specific and focused
  • Diverse
  • Unknown in their market

The results they get for customers

Finally, lets look at possibly the most definitive and attractive trait for your niche. Your customers results. What kind of results do they get for their customers?

This is where we can really start to separate ourselves from our competition and rise above our market. It also is a good place for you to look at the types of customers that you want to work with. For example, I’m not really bothered about entertainment and entertaining people.

Gambling, video streaming and e-sports are massive markets, but I just don’t care enough about them to help businesses attract more attention in that market. However, I love helping businesses that help their customers generate wealth.

I work with funnel builders and marketing businesses (like you!) that help their customers become wealthier. You might be really into health and fitness, so you like to help businesses who help their customers become fitter and healthier.

You don’t have to look at it like that. You could of course look at your sweet spot and see what kind of customer result would benefit the most, or what result could your process scale out?

At it’s core, there are five types of results that your customers are getting for their customers. Health, wealth, relationships, hobbies and status. Health is both mental and physical.

Wealth is freedom through the use of money. Relationships is anything to do with other people. Hobbies are the things we spend money on to enjoy ourselves and status is what we are or become.

All businesses predominantly fall into one of these five categories. What types of businesses do you want to work with? My customers help their customers with…

  • Physical results
  • Financial results
  • Self help and improvement
  • Market results
  • Measurable results (email list, traffic)
  • Clarity and consulting
  • Content creation and publishing
  • Safety and security
  • Adrenaline
  • Exposure and publicity
  • Break records
  • Customer acquisition
  • Money management
  • Dietary health improvement
  • Competitive edge in the market
  • Increase knowledge
  • Create the status as a great and reliable vendor
  • Home Improvement
  • Clear view of their financial status and future
  • Brand exposure
  • Improved health, feel better, feel more accomplished, help the environment
  • Quality of life improvement
  • Making drastic external change
  • Leadership
  • Improved comfort in their home
  • Bragging to family and friends

It’s not easy and it might take a while to run through. But I want you to select at least one trait from each category, that your process will add the most value to.

We might not stick to that trait or use it in our niche statement, but it’s valuable to challenge yourself and think about who really benefits the most from your process.

That’s your niche. That’s how we start to rise above the market noise and compete in an increasingly commoditised market.

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.