For a long time I misunderstood why any business owner would want to restrict their marketing to a ‘niche’. Especially when what they do can work for any kind of business.
Then I learned what real marketing is.
Real marketing isn’t selling. It isn’t transactional. It isn’t manipulative. It doesn’t persuade people to buy what isn’t good for them. Real marketing enrols people on a journey taht will help them get to where they long to be.
Real marketing takes time, effort and empathy. Empathy is easiest when you start with people like you, but it means you need to do some hard, soul searching work. You need to work out your own values, behaviours and goals, so that you can identify who you can best serve, because you share values, behaviours, and sometimes goals. This is your true niche, the psychographic, not the demographic. It describes the kind of person you want to work with, rather than their business size, location or industry.
But still this niche is too big to be useful. These ‘people like me’ are everywhere, in all walks of life. How on earth do you help them find you? Especially nowadays, when marketing means showing up day after day, giving value, demonstrating to the people you serve that they are understood, seen, recognised as human beings, laying a groundwork of trust in blogs, videos, podcast, newsletters, before you even get near a pitch.
It’s extremely hard work to pay anyone and everyone the attention they are due, in the hope of attracting the ‘right’ ones.
This is where a traditional demographic niche starts to make sense. Think of demographics as the pools you fish in because you know they are likely to hold enough of the kind of people you serve. Finding these pools takes effort of a different kind, research rather than soul searching.
Good places to start are pools that are ignored or under-served by your competitors or alternatives. Or those where the inhabitants are going through a particularly painful set of circumstances, that you are well-placed to help with. Or even a pool you have a lot of experience with.
But, counterintuitively, keep it small and specific to begin with. Narrow, but deep enough to keep you going for a while. Like flying a single route, or offering makeovers for blondes, or making jelly babies for vegans.
Because keeping your promise is the hardest part of marketing. You want to make sure you get that spot on before you take on more of it.
Once you’ve cracked that, you’re on your way to scale.