"You are fully capable of all the things, just not all at the same time.”
One of my best friends said this to me because I’m a recovering busy body who often needs to be reminded to slow down, rest, and be compassionate with myself when it comes to completing a goal.
It’s fitting here too because far too many entrepreneurs and business owners try to be all things to all people in their business. It’s not necessary and it’s not sustainable for those of us with small teams (or even teams of one).
I personally believe Jeff Bezos’ success with Amazon is part of the “problem” because Amazon is often referenced by people who are convinced they need to offer everything under the sun to be successful too. What they may not know is Amazon started as an online bookstore and then branched out over time.
But more importantly, Amazon’s business model is a little different from most because it’s a marketplace, not a store! Amazon itself doesn’t manufacture or sell its own products.
Instead, the site is made up of thousands of smaller businesses and companies. Some businesses list their products on the site and ship each order out themselves. Others send their products to Amazon to store and ship for them.
This is important because their offerings aren’t products, they provide services in the form of product listings, order transactions, and fulfillment. Also, they have almost 800,000 employees and 185 fulfillment centers across the globe.
(Note: Amazon has purchased a number of companies allowing them to offer more services but these are the primary ones.)
You don’t need to be like Amazon to be successful or to support your customers and clients — you need to define your niche. And you can with brand storytelling!
Much like the confusion around the story of Amazon, there’s some confusion around the term “niche” too. In case you’re wondering if it refers to your audience or your offerings, it’s both…kind of.
A niche market is a part of a larger market that satisfies a specific need. This need may be specific to the location, interests, values, demographics, behaviors, or quality preferences of customers within that market.
There are tons of brands selling tea (the larger market) but let’s say you only sell herbal teas that provide as much energy as a cup of coffee (a niche market).
You may choose to target former coffee drinkers, former caffeine guzzlers, or people new to drinking tea. This audience is still pretty broad.
A niche audience is a focused group of people with a specific need to satisfy. How this group is defined is up to you.
Everyone needs clothing (the larger market) but let’s say you only sell adaptive clothing for blind adults (a niche audience). Adults who are not blind may choose to buy your clothing (either because they have another disability your clothing supports or they’re buying it as a gift) but your goal is to reach the people you design for.
(Note: it’s up to you to decide if you want to target people with other disabilities or people who are gift givers. Just remember, you’ll want to tweak your efforts to reach them because they might be looking in different places or using different terms.)
Is it best to focus on a niche market or niche audience? Honestly, that’s up to you. Luckily, your story can help you figure it out!
Getting clear on your niche (market or audience) makes it easier to figure out how you want to be known to your audience so you can set your business apart from others like it. (This is also known as your brand positioning.)
And getting clear on how you want people to view your brand makes it easier to figure out what to say to your audience for a few reasons.
It affects what kind of story you share.
Sharing your story doesn’t mean sharing all your personal business. Instead, your goal is to share the parts of your story that are most relevant and valuable to your audience.
If you’re an esthetician who provides your clients with luxury day spa experiences, your story and the stories you share to back it up will be much different from the story you’d share if you sold affordable skincare for a spa experience at home.
Why? Because people looking for a luxury day spa and people looking do it themselves tend to be completely different people.
For the first group, you’d want to share stories that appeal to someone who prefers to
buy high quality and high end products,
Sees value in paying for convenience,
Views self-care as a part of their routine,
Believes they deserve nice things and indulge regularly.
For the second group, you’d want to share stories that appeal to someone who prefers to
buy low cost or affordable products they know they’ll always be able to afford,
Sees value in being hands-on and doing things themselves,
Views self-care as a part of their routine,
Believes they deserve nice things and indulges when they can.
In both instances, your story tells people exactly what they can expect from you and why.
It affects where you share your story.
In order for your story to be effective, you need to share it where your audience is most likely to come in contact with your brand. Where do they go to find brands like yours? Where do they go to seek information related to your industry? Where do they hang out?
If you’re a virtual fitness coach for busy professionals, you’ll want to find out where these professionals go to learn about fitness online. You may want to look for marketing channels where you can posts videos. Why? Because it’s often easier to watch and/or listen to a video because they can multi-task.
You may also want to look for marketing channels where you know they’re fully invested and looking for more information. This might be YouTube, a site where you can host events or a partnership with someone offering related services.
But if you're a virtual fitness coach for Black mothers, your focus would be a little different. Where do parents, mothers, and specifically Black mothers go to learn?
And while posting videos might work for the same reason (in some of the same places), you’ll also want to think about where they go to discuss parenting, pregnancy, and motherhood. Why? Because you might find out they prefer a private community where they feel safe and not judged.
It affects how you share your story.
Just like you want to think about where you share your story based on who your audience is, you’ll also want to think about how to share it with them. Why? Because how easy it is to consume information depends on where your audience is in their journey.
If you teach people how to start vegetable gardens at home, the stories you share with people who already have herb gardens and are planning to add onto them would be much different from the stories you share with people who have never grown anything in their lives.
Someone who already has an herb garden might just need a quick list of vegetables that grow well with each herb and a timeline for planting them.
But someone who’s never gardened before might need step-by-step instructions on how to start a garden, information about when to start planting, and a detailed list of supplies to start the project.
Brand Storytelling Tip
If you are clear on your niche but not how to explain it, you can…
Look at your values and beliefs.
What do you believe? What is important to you? What do you care about? What feels ethical to you?
Look at where your audience is right now.
What problem(s) do they have? How are they feeling? How does your product or service change the problem or how they feel?
Look at your products or services.
What do you offer? What problem do you solve? What is the emotional benefit of working with you? How do your offerings change their lives? What can they accomplish now?
Look at the gap(s) you fill within your industry.
What’s missing from your industry? Who is left out of your industry? Is that gap filled by your products or services? Is it filled with your presence and life experience?
Remember, there are no wrong answers — only honest ones. The more honestly you can answer each question, the closer you’ll get to defining your niche for yourself but more importantly for your audience.