Episode 31: Do I REALLY Need a Niche?

In this week's episode, we will define 'niche' and discover the qualities of a strong niche for your business. As one of the most common questions I receive, we will also discuss common objections I hear around choosing a niche and potential roadblocks you could encounter by remaining a generalist.
Coach with Clarity Podcast Lee Chaix McDonough

31: Do I REALLY Need a Niche?

Today's episode was inspired by one of the members of the From Therapy to Coaching Facebook Group who had a question a lot of coaches do: "Do I really need a niche?"   The short answer is, although you don't absolutely need a niche, you probably want one.

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Show Notes

Today's episode was inspired by one of the members of the From Therapy to Coaching Facebook Group who had a question a lot of coaches do: “Do I really need a niche?”

The short answer is, although you don't absolutely need a niche, you probably want one.

There are some very successful coaches out there who say that they serve anyone and everyone, however, I strongly believe that having a niche ultimately will support you and support your business.

I want to first help you to understand what we mean when we're talking about focusing on a niche and share the things you should consider when selecting your niche and my recommendations on the next steps for solidifying your niche. As always, I'd love to hear from you. What are your thoughts about creating and refining your niche?

Topics covered

  • What I'm talking about when I say “niche”
  • The three qualities of a niche market
  • How to set yourself apart with a niche
  • Common objections to selecting a niche
  • Why it will serve you well as a business owner to focus on a niche
  • The difference between a marketing and a service strategy
  • Breaking some common myths about focusing on a niche
  • The cost of saying yes
  • The advantages of selecting a niche
  • Why a little bit of competition is a good thing
  • Resources you can use to find your niche

Resources mentioned

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Well, hi there, my friend. Welcome to the Coach with Clarity podcast. I'm your host, Lee Chaix McDonough. And if you are a brand new listener, I want to give you a special welcome and I hope that you find today's episode particularly interesting. And if you are a longtime listener will then, welcome back. 

As always, it is my honor to have you here and it means a lot to me that you choose to spend your time with me in the Coach with Clarity podcast, every single download, every single listen, means so much to me, and I'm really grateful for your support. 

So today, I wanted to tackle a question that I get asked quite a bit. And in fact, this was inspired by one of the members of a Facebook group that I run for therapists who are interested in coaching. It's called, “From Therapy to Coaching”, so if you are a licensed mental health professional, or an allied health professional, and you would like some support and community around the transition into coaching, you can definitely check out the free Facebook group, just search for “From Therapy to Coaching” over on Facebook, and you'll find us. But one of the members asked whether or not she really needed a niche, or a niche, depending on how you pronounce it. Both are acceptable, you're probably going to hear me say niche in today's episode. But that's a question I hear quite a bit, and actually, I hear several questions around this topic of niche. First off, what is a niche? What does it mean? What goes into creating a niche? Do I really have to have one? So these are all things that I want to explore during today's episode, and then towards the end, I'm going to let you know how you can deepen this discussion and gain even more clarity in your niche by working directly with me. So stick around for that I've got a very exciting announcement at the end of today's episode. 

But first, let me tackle the question that is the episode title today. Do I really need a niche? And the short answer is no, but you probably want one. Now I know that there are many coaches out there who say that they don't have a niche that they serve anyone and everyone, and there are some very successful, very profitable, coaches who are doing that. So I am not going to sit here and say that you must have a niche. However, I am going to make the argument that having a niche ultimately will support you and support your business. And so that's why in today's episode I want to tackle first off, what is a niche? Like when we say niche, what are we really talking about? What's the most common objection I hear around choosing and focusing on a niche? And then I'm going to share with you some advantages I see to selecting a niche, and things that you want to keep in mind when you are choosing your niche. And then at the very end, I'll give you some recommendations and some suggestions on next steps you should take in order to solidify your niche. So are you ready for this? This is going to be good. Let's get started. 

I want to first tackle this idea of what a niche even is. So when I use the word niche, what am I really talking about? Well, truthfully, a niche is short for a niche market. So anytime we are talking about a market, we are talking about a place where goods or services are exchanged for money, that's a very basic definition of what a market is. So a niche market is simply a market or an area where we are exchanging our, in this case, service, our coaching services, for money. And there are three qualities that a niche market has. 

And the first quality is a targeted audience. So if you have a niche market, or if you have a niche, then you have a very clearly defined audience. So this is when we're talking about the “who” of your business, who it is that you are serving. So we want to make sure that we're really clear on who our ideal client is, and there's all sorts of ways that we can do that, whether we're talking about external characteristics, like their age, their gender expression, where they live, what kind of work they do. That's certainly one aspect to consider, and then, of course, we also want to think about what defines them on a deeper level, what means a lot to them, how do they want to live their lives, what really matters? So we want to make sure that when we are defining our targeted audience, we're doing so from a very comprehensive perspective where we're really factoring in both the external and the internal. Okay, so a niche has a targeted audience – that's the “who”. 

The second quality that a niche market has is a narrowed scope. And so I like to think of that as the “what” and that is the what of what you are providing it's the service. So yes, we can say that you are providing coaching services because you're a coach, but let's go more specific, what kind of coaching services are you providing? Are you providing business coaching, relationship coaching, wellness coaching? Is there a specific approach or modality that you anchor your coaching in? So again, the more specific we can be with what we are providing, that's going to help us narrow our scope. I think this is also an opportunity for us to narrow the scope in terms of the results. So the “what” that your client can expect from working with you. And again, that expectation, that result, is going to vary based on the type of coaching you're providing. But again, we want to make sure that we're really clear on the what of our business as well. So what you are providing in terms of a service and what the expected or intended result is for the client. So we've talked about a targeted audience, that's the “who”, and we've talked about a narrowed scope, that's the “what”. 

The third and final quality I want you to remember when we're talking about a niche market is a specialized delivery, or in other words, the “how”. How you are delivering the “what”, to the “who”. So what is it about your approach, or your process that makes you unique, and makes you special, that's that specialized delivery piece. And I find this is where having a framework can really help you get clear on your unique delivery or your unique selling proposition. So for example, in Coach with Clarity, the four pillars that I ground every single offer, and every single interaction in are – coaching skills, business growth, intuition and energy, and intentional use of self – those are the four pillars of Coach with Clarity. And so each one of those pillars informs how I deliver my services to my clients and to my students. And I have taken those four pillars to create a framework so that when I talk about the Clarity Mapping Tool, or when I talk about the D.E.C.I.D.E. Framework, which if you haven't checked out Episode 27, you're definitely going to want to do that. I do a deep dive into my D.E.C.I.D.E. Framework, which is the tool that I use for decision making. But again, that is an example of my specialized delivery. It's how I share what I do with my people. And I honestly think that it's this component that really clearly defines your niche because let's be honest, we can talk about the “who” and the “what” all day, but there are a lot of coaches out there who probably want to serve your ideal client, or who are offering them a similar result. But when we can get super specific on how you provide that service to your clients, and when we can anchor it and your unique approach or framework, then that's what really sets you apart, and that's where you can step into your niche. 

So when I'm talking about developing a niche, those are the three considerations I want you to take into account. Number one is the “who”, it's the targeted audience you're serving. Number two is the “what”, it's your narrowed scope, both in terms of what service you're providing, and the intended or expected result that the client will achieve. And then number three is your specialized delivery, or it's the “how” of what you are providing. So that's what we're talking about when we're talking about selecting a niche. 

So now that we're all on the same page with what a niche is, and what we're talking about, I want to share the number one objection I hear from people who are hesitant to select a niche. And that always comes down to not wanting to turn people away, especially when you're first starting out, or especially if you're at a point in your business where you could really use a client and I get it. It feels counterintuitive, to create a niche and set boundaries around who you're serving, especially when you're trying to get things up and running in your business. Believe me, I've been there, and I have experienced it firsthand myself. But there are a few reasons why it serves even early business owners or business owners who are really needing to generate revenue to focus on their niche. And the first thing I want you to remember is that selecting a niche is a marketing strategy. It doesn't have to be a service strategy. So what do I mean by that? When we know our niche, when we especially know who we're marketing to and what the intended results are, then we can really clearly define our marketing plan around that audience's needs. So we are not trying to talk to everyone, and we're not trying to be in all of the places, and doing all of the things. Having a niche allows us to really focus our message on the people we most want to serve and who will most benefit from what we do and how we do it. But the thing is, that can inform our marketing, it doesn't always have to inform our service. In that, let's say you are targeting one specific population and someone who is just outside of that audience who maybe doesn't check all the boxes of your ideal client still expresses interest in working with you? Well, that's great, and then you are in the position of deciding whether they're a good fit for your practice. And honestly, they're probably interested in working with you, even though they don't meet all of your ideal client checkboxes because there's something about the energy you bring to your work or something about the promise that you've made with your offer that is really appealing to them. And so even when you are honing in on your target audience and making sure your message speaks to them, you will likely draw in other people as well. And so this idea of, “I don't want to say no to people”, and “I don't want to turn people away”, you don't necessarily have to, you always, always have the ability to choose who you want to work with. I mean, that's the perk of owning your own business. You are the decider here, and you absolutely can work with anyone you want. But what I'm saying is that when you choose your niche, it can inform how you market and that can bring definition and clarity, and ease to your marketing plan. So that's number one, I would suggest that we think about the niche as a marketing strategy, not just a service strategy. 

The second thing I want you to remember is that being selective about who you work with can save you a lot of heartache in the long run. And I have learned this lesson myself more than once in my business, when I have said yes, to a client, that wasn't necessarily the best fit for me. This is something I did quite a bit when I was early in my business, and when I really just wanted a client, I really wanted to bring some revenue in from coaching. And so I was going to say yes to anyone and everyone who expressed even the slightest bit of interest in working with me. And I'm going to be quite honest with you, I don't regret making those decisions. Because I learned so much from trying to work with clients who were not a good fit for me that it actually helped me refine my niche even more, and set stronger boundaries as a business owner. So I have no regrets about those decisions. I also want to say for the record, there was absolutely nothing wrong with those non-fit clients that I worked with. In each case, they were terrific people, but when we looked at their goals and their personality and what they wanted out of coaching, it was not in alignment with how I viewed the coaching relationship, or the way I enjoyed working, or what I wanted to be working towards. So our goals and our values just didn't mesh, and that's okay, that's going to happen sometimes. And again, those experiences helped me get even more clear about who I wanted to serve, which is people like you – intuitive, service-focused, professionals who are super smart, and really good at what they do, and want to leverage all of that training and experience and wisdom into a coaching practice. But it took me a while to get clear on that as my niche, and I wouldn't have gotten there had I not said yes to some clients along the way who maybe weren't the best fit. But knowing what I know now, I can tell you without a doubt that I would have saved myself a lot of time, a lot of trouble, and a lot of heartache, if I had simply said yes to the clients who were the right fit for me. And so this idea of not wanting to say no to clients, especially when you're trying to bring revenue in your business – I get it, but there will be a cost to saying yes. Saying no, the cost is not bringing in revenue. That's understandable. But saying yes to the wrong client comes with a cost as well. And that cost is your time, your energy, possibly your confidence in yourself as a coach, and so I would ask you to consider what you are giving up in order to say yes to a client who is not the right fit for your business. 

So that's how I respond to the number one objection about not wanting to choose a niche. First is remember we are talking about a marketing strategy, not necessarily a service strategy. And number two, believe me, in the long run, you will do yourself a favor by being really clear about who you want to serve as a coach and not try to be all things to all people. 

So hopefully, if you are someone who has said to yourself, I don't want to choose a niche, I don't want to say no to people, maybe I've given you some food for thought. And I also want to share what I see is a few of the advantages to selecting a niche. And one of them I've already alluded to, it's the fact that it brings focus to your marketing efforts. When I'm working with coaches, who are trying to build their businesses and connect with new clients. The number one complaint I hear is that they feel like they have to be doing all the things and they have to be in all of the places. And let me tell you, if you are trying to appeal to everyone, in some ways you do. But if you select a niche, if you know exactly who it is you are wanting to serve, well, then you don't have to be in all of the places, you just have to be where that ideal client is. And so having that clearly defined niche allows you then to be very strategic, and intentional about your marketing efforts. So you don't have to be in all of the places doing all of the things. If you know your ideal client is more likely to be on Instagram than on Snapchat, well guess what? You don't have to waste time on Snapchat! You can devote all of your social media resources to Instagram. Or maybe, your ideal client is far more likely to be on LinkedIn than Instagram. Great! Then now, you can really double down on LinkedIn, you don't have to be in all the places virtually. And the same goes with brick and mortar real-world interactions as well. There may be professional organizations or philanthropic organizations in your city or town where your ideal client gravitates. Well then, guess what, that's where you want to be as well. And you can say no to some of the other networking opportunities that might have been made available to you. It's all about being smart with your time as a resource because honestly, that is the most valuable and most limited resource you have. So by choosing a niche, you can be much more selective with where you place your focus, and how you invest your time. 

The second advantage to selecting a niche is that it can really help you build and then leverage both your visibility and your credibility. This is something that became exceptionally clear to me probably about two and a half to three years ago, when I started making a name for myself as a therapist who was an expert in transitioning to coaching. So before I was putting myself out as a business coach for therapists and health care providers, and I was doing a lot of practice management, consulting, and that sort of thing. And interestingly, the more therapists and healthcare professionals I worked with, the more of them were curious about coaching, and wanted to learn how I became a coach, and how could they become a coach? And could I help them become a coach? And as I leaned into that calling, I started showing up in places and positioning myself as someone who had made the transition herself who had a lot of learned experience, and training, and deep wisdom, about moving into coaching. And that yes, I could be someone who could help other people make that same choice for themselves. So I started showing up in Facebook groups for therapists and healthcare professionals, and anytime a question was asked about coaching, I was there with an answer. And I was really generous and upfront around whatever topic it was they were talking about. I wasn't telling them, “Oh, come check out my blog post”, or “Oh, you know, what DM me for more information”. Nope, I was just showing up and answering the questions fully, completely, and being really generous with my knowledge. And that is what allowed me to build relationships with people in those groups, and also, the admins of those groups. But had I not gotten super specific on who I wanted to serve and what their ideal result was – so in this case, therapists that wanted to become coaches – I would not have been in a position to go into these groups and position myself as a subject matter expert. So getting really super focused on a niche allowed me to build my visibility and my credibility among that population. 

And this takes me to the third advantage of choosing a niche which is that it is a great starting point. Now, in my business, through the Coach with Clarity Membership, and through the Certified Clarity Coach Program, I'm serving people outside of the world of mental health and healthcare. My business has grown so that I have a slightly broader audience. I'm really looking at service-oriented, service-based professionals, who want to marry intuition and strategy in their approach to coaching and that is something that has developed over time through my work almost exclusively with therapists and health care providers. So that's the thing about selecting a niche, it can and will evolve as your business and as your practice evolves as well. So when you select a niche, you are not carving anything in stone, you can always change your mind, you can always refine your niche or even pivot to a new audience, but selecting a niche will at least give you a starting point, a place from which you can grow and experiment and try new things, and it brings that focus and that clarity that can ground you and bring you a sense of calm and ease in your business. So remember that when you select a niche, you're not getting married to it for life, it can grow, it can adapt, it can evolve over time, and quite honestly, I think it should, because as your business grows, as you develop your mastery as a coach, and as you start to work with more clients, you're going to get even more clear about who you want to work with, what kind of work you do, and how you want to do that work. So really, the process of selecting a niche is not a one and done activity, it's something that you will continue to refine over time. 

And the last advantage I want to share about choosing a niche is that it may actually mean you have less competition as a coach. So think about it – if you're putting yourself out there as a generalist, a coach who can serve everyone and anyone, well, then you are competing with every single other coach out there in the market, whether they're a life coach, a business coach, a health coach, you name it. If you are just putting yourself out there as a coach for all, well, then you've got to consider every single other coach out there as potential competition. However, when you niche down and you get really selective about who you're serving, and how you're serving them, well then all of a sudden, the competition narrows, and there are fewer people that need to be on your radar in terms of, “Oh, that’s someone who's also serving a similar audience to me”. Now I view competition as being a really healthy part of the entrepreneurial journey, and actually, I think having a little competition is a good thing. I'm going to talk about that in a minute. But I certainly don't think it's a bad thing, because I am of the mindset that there are enough clients out there for everyone. And especially right now, I don't know if you've seen this on LinkedIn, but the demand for life coaches right now – really, the demand for coaches of all types – is growing phenomenally, and it's one of the career fields that has actually seen major growth, even during a global pandemic. So again, we have evidence that shows us, right now coaches are in demand, there are plenty of clients out there. So we don't have to view competition as something to avoid or something that's bad. And in fact, we can learn a lot from our competition. And I fully believe it encourages us all to really uplevel our game and make sure that we are providing the very best services we can. So a little bit of competition is a good thing. And when you choose a niche, a really focused niche, we are talking about a little bit of competition, as opposed to trying to compete with every single coach out there. So those are a few reasons why I think choosing a niche can actually serve you and your business in the long run. 

So now you might be asking yourself, “Okay, Lee, you sold me, I know I need a niche. What do I do now? How do I define my niche?”. Well, I've got a couple of resources for you. First, if you have not listened to Episode Four, which is all about creating clarity in your niche, then you're definitely going to want to hit the archives and listen to that episode. I also recommend Episode Five, which is my first ever coaching call on the show with a coach by the name of Sheila Tucker – she is fabulous – and we spend the entire call really helping her gain clarity around who she wants to serve, and how she wants to serve them. So I think that you'll find Episodes Four and Five of the podcast to be really helpful in terms of clarifying your own niche. But if you would like some additional support around this, and if you want the opportunity to get my eyes on your work, well then I have something really special to share with you. And in fact, it is the sponsor of today's Clarity in Action Moment. 

So I am so proud and excited to share that I am bringing the Business Basics for Coaches Workshop back for one final round in October 2020. So I've offered the Business Basics for Coaches Workshop a couple times in the past and it regularly sells out because it is such a phenomenal program at such an affordable price. It is a $99 dollar investment, and you get three sessions, where we are walking through everything you need to know, to solidify your niche, create a business plan, and develop an individualized marketing strategy. So by the end of that three day workshop, you are ready to go, you can implement the plans that we've created together, you can start going after your first or your next client. And moreover, you are going to feel so confident about the work you're doing and how you are building your business. And this is the last time that I will be running the workshop in this format, where we're having live interaction and a pop up Facebook group and all sorts of great bonuses. So, if you are interested in being a part of the final live round of the Business Basics for Coaches Workshop, then you are definitely going to want to go to CoachwithClarity.com/BB workshop – BB for business basics. So that's CoachwithClarity.com/BBworkshop, the workshop will run on October 12th, 14th, and 16th. We get started at 5pm ET. Each session runs anywhere from I would say 75 to 90 minutes, you will have lifetime access to the recordings, the workbooks, and all of the supplemental materials that I'm going to share with you. So even if you have to miss part or all of a workshop session, don't worry, my friend, I got you, you'll have the replay. And I will be there in the pop up Facebook group to support the workshop and everyone who's attending so that if you've got questions, as you're implementing everything we're talking about, I'm going to be right there with answers. And I'm going to be right there cheering you on every step of the way. So come join me at the last live round of the Business Basics for Coaches Workshop – October 12th, 14th, 16th, at 5pm ET. You can register at CoachwithClarity.com/BB workshop, and I would do so today because I am limiting enrollment to 40 spaces, and already several of those spaces have gone. It's sold out in the past, so I fully expect it's going to sell out again. So don't wait, go to CoachwithClarity.com/BB workshop and I will see you there. 

So for this week's Clarity in Action Moment, I want you to start thinking about your niche, whether you don't have one and you're starting one from scratch, or whether you do have one but it feels a little fuzzy, or it could stand from some refinement. I want you to think about the “who”, the “what”, and the “how” of your coaching business. So the “who”, of course, is your ideal client, who you're serving. The “what” is what the ideal result is for them and what you're providing, and the “how” is how you are doing the work. So what's your approach, what's your framework, what sets you apart. When you can clearly define the “who”, the “what”, and the “how” of your coaching business, then you, my friend, have a niche and you are ready to go. And if you'd like a little support in this process, then again, you're definitely going to want to sign up for the Business Basics for Coaches Workshop, because we are spending the first session really diving into niche and helping you gain full clarity and confidence about the “who”, the “what”, and the “how” of what you're serving. Because once we have that as our foundation, we can then build a strong business plan that's going to guide you as you're making decisions in your business, and then we can create a focused marketing strategy so you know exactly what you're doing, where you're doing it, and who you're delivering it to so that you can feel confident and self assured moving forward and talking about who you are and what you do. We're gonna have a great time at the workshop. 

So I hope to see you there and I also hope that you will join me again next week for another episode of the Coach with Clarity podcast. I have another coaching call coming up for you. It's a really good one, I know you're going to enjoy it. So I will be back in your feed next week with another episode. Until then, let me know what you thought about today's episode. You can find me over on Instagram @CoachwithClarity and I'd love to hear from you – what are your thoughts about creating or refining a niche? I'd love to hear from you. So come find me over on Instagram @CoachwithClarity. Alright, my friends, that's it for me for this week. My name is Lee Chaix McDonough and until next time, I am encouraging you to get out there and show the world what it means to be a Coach with Clarity.

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