Regardless of the type of online business you operate (or want to start), there’s one “secret ingredient” that can make the difference between success and failure. Before I tell you what it is though, I’ll share a story from my past that helps illustrate the principle.
It was early 2006. I had just sold a blog called Small Business Branding, and I was moving on to a new business venture I’d named Solostream Global Media. Initially, Solostream was supposed to be a blog network focused on the needs of solo-entrepreneurs. I quickly realized, however, that operating a blog network was more than I could handle, so midway through 2006, I switched gears with Solostream.
I enjoyed web design and felt competent enough that I could do it professionally, so I decided to make Solostream a web design company. My problem, however, was there were hundreds of thousands of web designers out there, and I’d have a hard time making a name for myself with all the competition. So I knew I needed to be more specific about the type of web design services I would offer.
As fate would have it, blogs were just beginning to gain traction as a valuable business tool, and there were literally only a few people marketing themselves as blog designers. So I decided to position Solostream as a WordPress blog design company.
Because the need for blog design services was growing and the competition was low, I soon had more business coming in than I could handle. Within a couple of months, I was able to quit my job to operate Solostream full-time from my home office. I was finally free, and it was a great feeling.
You Need to be on Someone’s List
When you think of the Internet, you might think about it as one huge grocery store with thousands of aisles and millions of products available. That’s what it really is after all. And most people – just like when they go to the grocery store – have a list of items they want and need. It may not be a written list, but we all have a list, and every time we go online, we look for those items.
Maybe some of these items are on your list:
- Lose weight.
- Earn more money.
- Be happier.
- Find a better job.
- Get more traffic to my blog.
- Start a new business.
- Launch a new website.
Your first – and most important – task as a business person is to offer a product or service that’s on someone’s list. And the more specific you can be about it, the better. When you are specific about what you offer, your competition is limited. In 2006, I could have chosen to compete with hundreds of thousands of other “web designers.” Instead, I chose to compete with just a few “blog designers.”
In marketing lingo, this is called determining your niche, and it’s the secret ingredient in a profitable online business … dare I say any business.
Set Yourself Apart from Those Offering Something Similar
Technically, a niche is an architectural term. It refers to a special place designed to display or show off an object, such as an ornament or perhaps a painting. The term is also used in the field of ecology and refers to the position, function or role that an organism has within its ecosytem.
That’s what a niche can be for you. It can be your own special corner of the world; your own place within the marketplace that’s custom tailored to you or your product. Choosing a niche offers you the ability to be the big fish in a small pond, rather than a small fish in a big pond.
Choosing a Niche Makes Your Marketing Easier and More Effective
In 2006, If you’d done a Google search for the term “web design,” Solostream wouldn’t have been anywhere near the first page of results. There was too much competition for that keyword phrase. However, if you’d done a search for “blog design,” you would have found Solostream in the top 5 listings. Often, it was the #1 listing.
Because I had narrowed my niche down to a specific type of web design, it was much easier to focus my content marketing strategy on the needs of my target market, which included WordPress users and/or small businesses who needed a blog designed. If I wrote an article on my blog, it was usually focused on the topic of WordPress or blog design. Hence, I became a recognized authority in those areas; not only to people but also to the search engines, and authority is a critical component of top search engine rankings.
“While each search engine may place a different emphasis on these elements in their ranking algorithm, every single search engine bases their rankings on some combination of Relevance (content) and Authority (links).”
Scott Allen, Search Engine Guide
When You Choose a Niche, You Make Yourself More Valuable; Even to Others in Your Field
If you visited your family doctor – a Family Practitioner – with some sort weird skin condition, what do you think she might do? She’d likely refer you to a Dermatologist; someone who specializes in skin conditions. The same thing happened with Solostream. Because I specialized in WordPress blog design, I would often get referrals from other web designers who did not understand blog design or WordPress site design.
Still, it may seem that by choosing a niche, you limit yourself and your overall market. That’s a normal feeling. We all have multiple interests and multiple talents, and we don’t want to be limited to the types of people we work with or the type of work we do. But this is a paradox of niching. By choosing to specialize in one area, you make yourself more valuable and appealing.
Going back to the physician example above, in one survey I read, it was reported that the average annual salary of a Family Practitioner with 3+ years experience was $147,000. The average salary of a Dermatologist with equivalent experience was $232,000.
Choose Your Niche, and Be More Confident. Or Else.
When you choose your niche, you declare clear and confident intentions of what it is you do and the value you offer. And clear intentions are very powerful. First, they help you move powerfully toward your goals. They give you the inner clarity and focus you need to go out there every day and do what needs to be done to grow your business.
Without clear intentions, you are left with inner conflict. Uncertain of what you should be doing to grow your business, this inner conflict holds you back like an anchor dragging the muddy bottom of the ocean.
Second, clear intentions help people understand – in no uncertain terms – how you can help them. Without clear intentions, you end up with a bland marketing message that lacks focus and impact. Worse, you end up with a marketing message that fails to capture the attention of anyone. To paraphrase an old saying, when you try to please everyone, you fail to please anyone.