A better way to find your niche

Simon looking at demographics - Age, Job Role, Location and Income. Thinking these don't work.

What’s your niche?

Do you describe it as a job title or role?

Or do you describe a profile of what your ideal clients look like and where they live?

Most people think of these two things when they think of a niche, and I don’t think this works for coaches and consultants.

Demographics used to be how marketers divided up the world and it’s still what most marketing and sales advice tells you to do. For a time this seemed to work, but in today’s world it increasingly doesn’t.

And for coaches and consultants, using demographics as a niche almost never works.

So what’s a better way to find your business’s ‘fit’ and reach out?

More than just brand awareness

A lot of industrial-era marketing focused on demographics – what people look like, what they do, and where they live. This way of thinking about people can still be useful and effective if you’re doing high-level brand awareness marketing – just getting your name and brand in front of people.

However, brand awareness marketing is almost impossible to link to sales. It’s really just about getting your brand seen enough times so that when someone makes a transactional level purchase or online search, they’ll recognise you and there’s a chance they will click on your link instead of your main competitor.

For the big brands, this is simply the cost of doing business. They spend hundreds of thousands, if not millions, a year just to get people to remember their name.

The vast majority of businesses don’t need to do this kind of marketing.

Instead, it’s far more effective to focus on psychographics, which looks at psychological variables such as what people like, want, believe and do. In other words, not what they are but who they are.

Finding your ‘who’

When thinking about and describing who your ideal clients are, the best place to start is people’s worldview. When we want to market to people based on what they believe, dream, and want, it’s less important what they look like or how they present themselves. In marketing terms, this means putting psychographics over demographics.

Demographics used to be how marketing worked. You could buy lists of housewives, or accountants, or whoever, and sell to people in these categories based on assumptions you made about their lives. Facebook (now Meta) took this to the extreme, breaking down people’s demographics in a baffling array of ways to target people based on data it lifted from their online behaviours. In the modern world, where how we work and live no longer slot into neat little labels, these demographics are less and less effective.

Using psychographics, on the other hand, focuses on people’s beliefs, desires, and behaviours. Effective and ethical marketing identifies and creates anticipated, personal and relevant marketing messages for specific groups sharing common psychographics.

Practical psychographics

To move away from demographic thinking, let’s try an exercise. Thinking about your ideal client, ask yourself:

  • What are they thinking, feeling, and doing before they start working with you?
  • What is the change they seek to make?
  • What’s stopping them?

Your answers to these questions will tell you your niche.

But … I work with accountants.

You may have a demographic niche already and if that’s working for you I’m not going to tell you it isn’t. Thinking about psychographics lets you dive deeper, and explore your niche in more detail. For example, with the above questions, you can move beyond accountants to accountants who want to set up their own firm and need a confidence boost, for example, or accountants who have just qualified and are looking to network but are feeling overwhelmed, etc.

The benefit of being able to describe your niche with a level of psychographic detail is that your target market will instantly identify with it: it lets people say, “That’s me,” or, “I know someone just like that.”

Niches change over time

Niching your business is important but don’t get hung up on it because it will evolve. Your niche is just for now; it doesn’t have to be set in stone. You can (and should) be developing your niche as you work with more and more clients, becoming clearer on who it is you want to work with and who can get the most benefit from working with you.

The first step is to answer the questions, use them to create a new way of describing who you want to work with, and try it out the next time someone asks you what you do.

In my book Reframing Marketing: A 3-step guide for effective ethical marketing, I go into a lot more detail about how to describe and attract the clients you want to work with. It will help you get clear on who will benefit from working with you and how to use your marketing to get them to the point where that’s what they want to do.