Most business owners know that determining their niche and identifying their target audience is an essential part of a business plan. They realize that targeting everyone doesn’t work and that you have to be strategic.
At the same time, determining a niche and target audience is one of the trickiest tasks for any new biz owner. It’s something that comes up over and over again with my clients. They wonder if their niche is specific enough, how to hone in on their ideal client, and how to create content that resonates with their target audience.
For me, determining my niche wasn’t a straightforward path.
Because of my background, many of my clients found me because they were going through a career transition. Either they were switching industries, looking for a new job, or taking a leap and starting their own business. I eventually realized that, even though I had a lot to offer to all these types of clients, I most enjoyed working with new and emerging entrepreneurs. That’s what made me light up.
I had already changed my title before (from Lifestyle Management Coach to Lifestyle and Career Coach to Business and Career Transition Coach), but I knew it was the right move to change it again. When I branded myself as a Business Coach and Consultant, it was easier — much easier —for the clients I was targeting to find me and relate to the coaching I was offering.
Sometimes, it takes a combination of hands-on experience and experimentation to find your niche. Whether you’re in the early stages of planning your launch or are considering repositioning your business after a few years, these six strategies can help you get clarity on who your people are and how to find them.
1. Create an avatar of your ideal client. Many people have a sense of who their ideal client is, even if they can’t put it into words. Creating an avatar is a helpful exercise that forces you to really hone in on your target audience. An avatar is essentially just a fictional client that represents your audience’s likes, dislikes, tendencies, and needs. Instead of thinking in the abstract, an avatar forces you to get laser-focused on who you want to target.
Try answering questions like:
Where does your ideal client shop and spend money?
What does your ideal client read or listen to?
Which websites does your ideal client frequent?
Where is your ideal client employed?
What is your ideal client’s income bracket?
How does your ideal client spend their free time?
The more specific you can get when answering these questions, the better. Your answers help shape your understanding of who your ideal client is as well as how to market yourself to them.
2. Conduct a survey. Tapping your existing networks can yield valuable insights. Surveys are a great way to get a pulse on what people are thinking. You may be surprised by who responds and what you learn.
When you create a survey, focus on questions that will help you understand what people need and want from a business like yours. A huge part of finding your niche involves identifying gaps that exist in your industry and capitalizing on that. You can learn a lot by listening to what people around you have to say. What motivates them to seek out and hire someone like you?
Fellow entrepreneurs may be especially willing to help you out and respond, especially if they want you to return the favor one day. To ensure that you get a broad set of responses, you can post the survey on a variety of social media pages, from Facebook to LinkedIn to Twitter. Or, you can distribute it to your colleagues and friends and then grow the sample size as needed.
3. Identify what problem your business solves. Your business has to solve a problem. It’s easy to come up with a great idea, but is it something that people want? Being able to articulate what purpose your business serves is key to your ability to market yourself to your target audience.
Once you determine the problem you’re solving, you can identify who needs the solution. Then, you’re able to start developing content that resonates with that demographic. When you can provide a solution to a concrete problem or challenge experienced by your audience, you’re more likely to get hired.
4. Consider whether you fall into your own target audience. As you think about your target audience, consider whether you are part of that group. As a hypothetical consumer, would you want to purchase your product or service? Do you buy into what you’re creating? Do you think your business has the power to solve a unique problem?
Of course, you don’t necessarily have to target people like yourself, but many entrepreneurs naturally do. Their businesses grew out of a specific problem they experienced or observed, and they set out to solve it for themselves and for others.
If you discover that you are a part of your target audience, it’s a great opportunity to do a gut check and see whether your message resonates. And if you’re not part of your target audience, why is that? It’s not just valuable to identify the commonalities between you and your target audience. It’s equally as worthwhile to pinpoint how they differ from you.
5. Research your competitors. There are plenty of industries, including coaching, that are saturated with options. And yet, people find ways to differentiate themselves from one another. For instance, even if two coaches have similar offerings, clients have the ability to choose between two completely different personalities, techniques, and approaches. That can lead to entirely different demographics, even if the overall packages, pricing, and offerings are relatively similar.
As you build your business, it’s valuable to research your competitors, especially because your messaging is ultimately what will differentiate you from people who are building similar businesses. How are they speaking to their audiences? And how do you want to talk to yours? How can you craft your message so that it’s both true to you and different from your competitors?
6. Provide opportunities for potential clients to genuinely relate to you. Once you do identify your target audience, make the most of any opportunity to relate to them.
I recognize that, from time to time, people have hired me because my story resonates with them. They see that I have a health condition (and sometimes they do too), they worked many jobs before starting their business (I had 8 in 10 years before starting mine), and they sense that I will understand them and what they are going through.
People appreciate when you’re genuine rather than pushy or salesy. Instead of using my messaging to sell my services, I try to focus on my story and what makes me different as a coach. By aiming to be genuine, I make the most of these natural moments of connection.