To Niche or Not to Niche? That is the question.

To Niche or Not to Niche? That is the question.

When I got started running my own business, every book and course I ever took told me that I needed to focus down to one niche that I wanted to serve.

As a highly enthusiastic social butterfly I found this advice really limiting. Despite hearing it over and over again, every time I tried to pick a niche it felt incredibly manufactured. So I just kept writing what I wanted to write and teaching what I wanted to teach. And somehow the right people found me.

I get asked all the time if you have to have a specific, narrowed niche in order to be successful in business. And I always answer with my own story: from 2010 when I started my website to the beginning of 2017, I had no niche.

I had over 45,000 on my email list, tens of thousands of social media followers, thousands of students, a high-six-figure business, a best-selling book, and more, but I did not have a niche.

Then at the end of 2016, it suddenly became clear who I wanted to serve on a much more specific, focused level. Crystal clear, in fact.

I wanted to speak specifically to mothers who were also entrepreneurs.

That doesn’t mean we turn people away from our programs who don’t fit that description, but I’m very clear about who I’m making things for and who I’m talking to.

As a result, we added $400K to our revenue last year, our list grew by 20K people, and our social media following grew quite a bit, too.

But what’s important to know is the following:

  • I didn’t choose a niche just to have a niche. I didn’t force it. I waited until it organically appeared.
  • We created a wildly successful business without a clear niche that grew, profited, and helped thousands of people for 7 years before the niche became clear.
  • I still get nervous that we’re going to lose community members and customers because of my focus on entrepreneurial mothers. But every time I get nervous, I remember how focus is a sacred practice, and I know I’m doing the right thing for right now.
  • I reserve the right to change the kind of customer I’m focused on at any time in the future if this niche no longer feels true to me.

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So my answer when people ask me if they need a niche is no. And yes. And it depends.

It depends on how long you’ve been in business.

It depends on if you’re already super clear about who and what you want to focus on or if you feel like you’re grasping.

It depends.

What will save you tons of time and energy, though, is any kind of clarity you can get around who you’re speaking to in your messaging, your marketing, and your offerings.

Knowing whether your primary customers are men or women.

Knowing whether they’re entrepreneurs or employees or stay-at-home parents.

Knowing if they’re into wellness.

Knowing if they’re spiritual.

Knowing what they love, what they believe, and who they resonate with.

These are all incredibly helpful things to identify because when you know who you’re talking to, it takes way less energy to craft what it is you’re saying.

(Feeling lost when it comes to knowing who you serve, how you serve them, and what your business model is? My friend Marie Forleo just released the second video of her 3-part series about growing a successful online business, and in it you’ll get 3 questions to answer to get instant clarity to grow your business. Plus, you’ll get 13 keys to creating a successful online business. Grab the free video training and accompanying checklist here.)

The truth is, though, sometimes in business it takes as long as it takes. So while I encourage you to do your best to get clear on who you serve and how you serve them, don’t let answering those questions prevent you from taking action in getting out there and doing your thing!

If you know what you want to offer but aren’t yet sure who it’s for, start offering it and you’ll find out by process of elimination.

If you know you’re called to work with people in a certain way, give it a go and you’ll refine your process over time.

The key is to get into action and trust that clarity will emerge.

What I know for sure is the following:

  • Focus is sacred and powerful. The more focused you are in business, the less energy and other resources you waste and the more magnetic you become.
  • If that focus takes the form of an authentic niche, go with it.
  • If you’re trying to force your niche, relax and let it come to you in its own time.

We’ve had success without a specific niche (though I always had in mind who I was talking to, more or less), and we’ve had success with a specific niche.

What matters is the clarity of your purpose, how clear you are with your customer about what they’re going to get, and how aligned you feel with your message and your offerings.

At the end of the day, authenticity matters more than having a clear niche

authenticity matters more than having a clear niche. 

Both are optimal, but if you’ve got to pick one, go with authenticity.

People will smell a manufactured “target market” a mile away – and they’ll stay away.

But if your heart and actions are aligned, they’ll flock toward you, and over time your focus will emerge.

Start with what’s in your heart, keep putting one foot in front of the other, and eventually it will all make sense. I promise.

(Don’t forget to check out Marie’s free video on the 13 keys to online business success by clicking here.)

OVER TO YOU:

Do you have a niche? If so, what is it? Did you know what it was from day one, or did it take a while to emerge? Tell me in the comments!

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11 comments

  • Loved this! My niche is determined and ambitious women who struggle with depression. I decided that in a brainstorm 6 months ago as I was planning my business and I have sat with it until now. It still holds true as I am about to launch so I will run with it and see how it goes. A lot of what you say has led me to deeply feel that I can make all these decisions now but that I am not bound to them, I am free to change my mind as I learn, grow and progress. It gives me the confidence to try one thing first, thanks for that :) xx

    • Kate Northrup

      I love your focus and also the freedom you’re giving yourself to change your mind down the line should it come to that.

  • My niche is women, mostly those with children, who need to take time out of their lives to chill! Even if it’s only for a few minutes a day. My bath and body products give women permission to do a little pampering, breath in the relaxing and invigorating scents, then go about their day. I even named my grapefruit line of products Rejuvenate as it has such an uplifting and happy scent! Calm is my relaxing scent with lavender and rosemary. I love to rub the lotion onto my hands, cup my hands over my nose, and take a long inhale. Just those few moments give me pause to just be in the present. It’s heaven!

  • Thank you Kate for this post. I really was thinking about that early in my morning. Yesterday I was studying all the stats of my facebook pages, wordpress and pinterest and it was kind of amazing how the niche is showing up. Im a Physician in Central America and a entrepeneur in the field of health coach blogger. So as you can imagine this lecture is so meaninful in this moment. Thank you for sharing.

  • Hello Kate,
    In fact it was quite clear at the beginning of my blogging journey that I would serve and I am serving mothers who want to use their mother skills to run their business. It also happens, I find some of the advices I give to totally be applicable to men. The constant is being a parent.
    I don’t plan for the moment to move from mothers to parents but when I’m ready I may enlarge and adapt my business.

    • Kate Northrup

      I love your clarity. And yes, it’s so true that much of our wisdom applies to more than the group that we’ve identified as our niche, but often they come along for the ride anyway without us having to change a thing!

  • This is helpful.From experience I would say Overthinking niche and getting it wrong is a confidence knocker ! Getting something out there and seeing how it goes gives you permission to experiment and fail and for it to emerge

    • Kate Northrup

      Yes! I totally agree. It’s waaaaay more productive to put stuff out there and figure it out as you go than it is to think it to death so you don’t ever put anything out!

  • You mentioned that sometimes you worry you’ll lose people who aren’t entrepreneurial mothers (& I get it), but I’m not a business-owning mother and I don’t care that I’m not your specific market. Because I still get the benefit of your warm heart, sharp mind, & pursuit of workable wisdom. You learn as you go, give others permission to do the same, & value the most valuable things. These soul elements ARE the value you bring – regardless of the form your offerings take. Just wanted to share a subscriber perspective. : ]

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