Niching Down as a Service-Based Business Owner

Original illustration by Agatha Brewer.

This article was originally published on in Better Marketing.

First of all, why is it important to niche down as a service-based business owner?

Well, the clearer you can be about what problem you solve and who you solve it for, the easier it will be for those people to understand you and self-select when they read your marketing copy.

If they feel like you get them and you can provide an answer to their struggles, they’ll immediately trust you more. And it’s that “know, like, and trust factor”, coined by sales expert Bob Burg in his book Endless Referrals, that actually gets you clients.

To give you an example, I’m a certified life coach. When I started my business, I was a bit all over the place in terms of my niche, because I didn’t know who I wanted to serve. I marketed myself to women looking to transform their lives in the areas of career, relationships, and joy, which you can imagine didn’t really attract anyone to me.

Even though I could help in any of these areas because I was trained to do so, I wasn’t specific enough about one particular problem I could solve in my business. And while my friends and family liked my posts, I didn’t really get any interest from actual prospects.

When I finally decided to work with entrepreneurs, it made my marketing efforts so much easier because I could write to just one group of people with one unique problem.

Also, the more specific you can be in your messaging, the more you can weed out people who are not the right fit, from the very beginning. They actually do it themselves when they read your marketing materials. So you waste less time talking to people who you don’t want to serve.

Finally, because you’re niching down, you’ll get to expert status much faster — since you’ll be solving the same problem over and over again in your business. You’ll get better at solving that problem for people, refine your processes, and start attracting referrals from past clients in no time.

So, how do you pick a niche when you’re just starting?

Before I begin, I want to address a big elephant in the room: Picking a niche without having enough experience working with people is a bit of a chicken and egg scenario. You don’t know enough about the problems you could solve, or who you want to solve them for because you just haven’t been doing it long enough.

“Elephant in the Room”. Illustration by Agatha Brewer

So, it can be tough to find real clarity if you’ve only worked with a few clients, but there are a few questions you can ask yourself to get started:

1. Who do you love working with?
2. What problem does your business solve?

So, their starting point could be: feeling overwhelmed in starting a business, struggling to find clarity in their overall strategy. Their desired result is feeling clear and confident, and finally able to market themselves easily. The overall result? Clarity in marketing, which leads to more sales.

So, define people’s starting point, and the final result you provide. Make sure your final result is a tangible thing or it’s going to be really hard to sell it because it’s just a concept.

And if your solution doesn’t actually create the results you promise, then it’s time to rethink either your offering or your niche. This is a good test to see if your niche is right for you.

And a pro tip: A lot of the time, we can easily diagnose the issues people are coming to us with, but they don’t necessarily know that they actually have that specific problem. They think they’re coming to us for a different reason.

For example, new business owners come to me thinking they’re looking for help with their strategy; but in reality, it’s their mindset that is really blocking them from reaching their goals.

So, I need to be aware of that in my marketing. People will search Google for marketing tips, but not necessarily mindset strategies. Either way, I can still help them, but I don’t have to lead with my mindset work in my marketing, because they don’t know they’re coming to me with that problem.

And to look at it from another perspective, you can ask yourself: What opportunity does my business (or offering) create for people?

Let’s say you’re a graphic designer who creates websites. Well, you’re creating several opportunities: You’re helping small business owners save time, headaches, and overwhelm so they can focus on what really matters in their business. You’re also helping them generate new business because they have a well-designed website and can attract higher-quality prospects.

And that leads me to the next question.

3. Who were you before?
4. Who do you not want to work with?

How do you find clarity once you’ve identified who you don’t want to work with?

And if you were able to overcome the same problem before, you’ll be even more of an expert in that area. Of course, this one isn’t mandatory, but it helps you to connect with that group if you’ve had the same experience as them.

And a final tip:

As a new business owner, it’s important to also trust that you’ll get more clarity over time. Going back-and-forth on a niche without testing it in the real world isn’t going to get you any clearer because you’ll just stay stuck in your head, overanalyzing everything.

So, put a stake in the ground, test your niche for a few months, and then make any adjustments you need. And don’t fall for the myth that narrowing your niche will attract fewer people — the more you narrow down, the more magnetic your marketing will be.