Sticking to Your Guns Makes a Niche

many little niches in a wall

To some, specializing spells fear of too little work or boredom doing the same thing day in and day out. But specializing is more likely to equal success (however you define success). And, far from being bored, you’re able to dig deeper into the vastness of your chosen niche (or the niche that chooses you).

Think about it, when you’re covering so many bases, you only scratch the surface of any one area, whether it’s a medium, an industry, a specific audience or a service you offer. It would probably take a lifetime even to realize all that you wanted within a niche. Your skill level and wisdom would continue to increase, making you even more desirable.

When you leave yourself too open, you drain your energy and you risk having others categorize you. This leads to, among other things, referrals not worthy of the work you really want to do.

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Make it easy to categorize you and you’re likely to end up in the category you are hoping for.

—Seth Godin

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Sticking to your guns is the best way I know to talk about branding, branding in the holistic sense: a thoughtful, authentic, unambiguous, confident business. The kind of branding I’m talking about isn’t big brand trendy labels, products that few of us really need or colors and fonts. It’s about deciding what your standard of quality is and expressing your values in who you work with and what you offer. It’s might be about taking positions that surprise or baffle others.

For example, Christopher Kimball of Cook’s Illustrated and America’s Test Kitchen fame has built an empire by sticking to a few unshakeable beliefs and approaches.

• He doesn’t accept advertising for his magazine. Sounds easy, but in tough times businesses tend to stray off their paths, often understandably. But at the core of his brand, Kimball empowers the home cook. Advertisers could dictate content and that would mean tainted product reviews, leading to a skeptical readership. (He has one of the most enviable subscription rates in the publishing industry.)

• He’s never offered reduced rates because he believes in what he offers. A confident brand attracts followers.

• He can believe in what he offers because he knows what people want. Followers are an essential part of his business. He regularly surveys people about such topics as whether shallots are easy for them to find. If not, he won’t include shallots in a recipe. This builds engagement and keeps a business strong.

He doesn’t pander. Instead, he admits that cooking is hard (and his aim is to help you feel more confident). He also doesn’t do gourmet fluff, favoring science and trial and error instead. This will repel people who want more than a great meatloaf recipe, but the people he does attract stick with him.

What would sticking to your guns look like in your business? Who would you be talking to instead of everyone? What would you let go? Would you sound different on your website? What convictions would you stand by? What promises could you make?

(Image: Abhiomkar)

7 comments

  1. Erin Donley says:

    LOVE what you’re saying here. Thanks so much!

    I believe in finding a niche that isn’t about a DEMOGRAPHIC (moms, executives, light workers) — It’s about a PSYCHO-GRAPHIC which is the most common emotion that’s felt in the hearts of those who find us… no matter who they are.

    For example, my niche is “Those who care deeply about having honest, (sometimes uncomfortable) conversations for the sake of better connection.”

    No doubt, Chris Kimball knows his psychographic… he’s designed his whole marketing campaign/business to suite their style… super cool example!

    Cheers ~ Erin Donley

    • Thanks for reading Erin! And I agree. A businesses can figure out what their niche is by identifying with the people who are likely to “get” what they’re about. It might be a little harder to find those people but when you do, you’ll get more like them.

    • Eileen, I feel the same way. I know people who are constantly checking their blog or website stats. But when one person comes up to me personally and says they liked what the read, that’s more important to me. I can’t wait to hear about those “new ventures.”

  2. Monica Borrell says:

    Good food for thought (pun intended) for me now. I’m currently refining my new business concept into a business plan. Good stuff Jane!

    • That’s great to hear Monica. I’m glad it helps. I think we sometimes wait for success before we stick to our guns, rather than the other way around. Sort of an irony! Good luck with the business plan!

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