Does picking a niche feel like a struggle? Today on Systems Made Simple™, business systems expert Courtney Elmer reveals a counterintuitive way to identify your ideal client avatar & niche down.
Or maybe, you’ve picked a niche, but you wonder if the ideal client avatar you’ve created is the right one.
Chances are, picking a niche and identifying your ideal client avatar can feel like one of the most challenging things you’ve ever done when it comes to building your business. That's why inside of today’s episode, I’m going to demystify the art of niching down and show you how to identify your ideal client avatar so you can amplify your authority, establish more credibility, and grow a bigger community of people eager to work with you — without excluding anyone!
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You’re Listening to the Systems Made Simple™ podcast, Episode #40!
Have you ever struggled to niche down because you’re worried about missing out on potential business? Or have you ever wondered if the ideal client avatar you have is really the right one? If you have, you're not alone. Most entrepreneurs would say that of all the hard things you have to do to build a business, picking a niche or "niching down" can feel like one of the most challenging. That's why I’m going to demystify the art of niching down inside of today's episode, so you can amplify your authority, establish more credibility with your audience, and grow a bigger community full of ideal client avatars who are eager to work with you! That’s all coming up here next, so stay tuned.
Can you remember the first time you ever heard about niching down? I can. The best way I can describe the feeling I felt when I learned that I needed to pick a niche was this “constricting” feeling. I really thought that niching down meant that I had to pick only one type of person to work with, one “ideal client avatar” if you will, and ignore the rest. And niching down that way felt completely, totally restrictive.
I was afraid that if I picked just ONE ideal client avatar, it meant I couldn’t work with other types of ideal client avatars, or worse, that I’d become known for helping only one type of person and that because of that, people might assume I couldn’t help them if they didn’t fit those criteria. And it would never fail, as SOON as I’d sort-of-kind-of pick a niche… I’d immediately get questions from people saying, I know I’m not XYZ person, but can I still work with you? Or, I know you only work with women but I really wish you’d work with men too because I could use your help! To be honest, niching down felt confusing, I never knew if the niche I picked was the right one, I’ve tested out many different niches over the years and I STILL don’t know the proper way to pronounce the word itself, but what I HAVE learned is that niching down doesn’t mean narrowing down your audience at all. Inside of this episode I am going to explain exactly what I mean by that, and what that means for you.
First! We need to talk about the reason most people are afraid to niche down and pick a niche. Chances are, if you’ve struggled to niche down and identify your ideal client avatar, you’ve felt this to some degree before too. The primary reason most people are afraid to niche down or pick a niche is because they don’t want to exclude people they can help. This can feel true to some extent.
But if this is what you believe, then what is it that you’re REALLY saying? Are you really saying you don’t want to niche down because you don’t want to exclude people you can help, or is it because you don’t want to lose potential business? Hmmmm…
When I answered this question for myself, and dug deep into why I was struggling to pick a niche and stick with it, I found TWO reasons why I was resisting niching down. Number one, I didn’t want to feel locked into any particular ideal client avatar, because that feeling of being locked in went against my core value of FREEDOM… the freedom to choose… and chances are if you’re hearing me right now and you’re an entrepreneur, you place a high value on freedom in your own life too, am I right? So anything that goes against that feeling of freedom, chances are, you will naturally resist. The second reason I was resisting niching down was that I didn’t want to lose business. At the time I wasn’t making any real money. I was barely breaking even, and I was desperate to generate more consistent income, more profit in my business. I was afraid that if I niched down or chose one ideal client avatar, I’d surely miss out on potential clients and opportunities that could bring in a little bit of money. As it was I was already taking whatever I could get even if the opportunity didn’t feel 100% aligned. I justified it by telling myself over and over this is” just what I have to do until I’m successful,” because “I’m just getting started, so I have to take whatever comes my way.” Maybe there was some truth to that, but it certainly wasn’t the ONLY way to grow a successful business. I can see so clearly now how these beliefs, these stories I was telling myself limited me, kept me stuck, and prevented me from picking a niche and niching down because I was afraid it meant I'd have to turn away business. Had I realized this sooner, I might have grown faster and found more opportunities that WERE aligned. But because this was the belief system I had at the time, this idea of ‘settling,’ of doing work I didn’t really want to do and doing it anyway, was the only way I could see to make money and start growing.
How many of us have started a business that way, grabbing at whatever you could get because you're afraid of missing out on potential sources of income? Starting a business out of desperation, refusing to pick a niche or choose an ideal client avatar and then struggling to find high-paying, highly-committed clients and customers who want what it is you’re offering, and who become loyal, raving fans. You know what they say right? Your vibe attracts your tribe… so think about that for a second… if you’re building your business from an inward vibe of desperation… What kind of tribe do you think you’ll attract? A low vibe tribe, right? Ones who try and cancel payment plans, or back out of contracts, or who constantly need to reschedule their calls or don’t do the work you’re asking them to do? This is obviously if you’re a coach or a service-based business owner, but you’d experience this in other ways as a product-based business owner too, people asking for refunds and things of that nature.
Definitely a relevant conversation to be had, but one that’s beyond the scope of what we’re talking about today which is how to pick a niche, identify your ideal client avatar and build a bigger audience even if you’ve struggled to niche down or if you aren’t sure you’ve quite nailed your niche yet.
So if you’re one of those people who HAVE struggled to niche down, then there’s a good chance you’re making one of the 4 mistakes most people make when picking a niche.
I’m going to walk you through what these 4 mistakes are right now, and I want you to notice if you identify with any one or more of these mistakes. If you do, it could be one of the reasons why you’ve struggled to pick a niche and choose your ideal client avatar!!
Mistake #1: picking a niche that’s too broad. For example: saying, “I work with entrepreneurs.” Or, I’ll even go a step further and say “I work with women entrepreneurs” These are a great start, but when you’re trying to communicate what you do in a way that connects with people, having a broad niche like this makes it difficult to come up with specific examples to talk about that your ideal client avatar will resonate with. And when you try and speak to everyone, you speak to no one! Now I made this mistake for a really long time in my business. It’s an easy mistake to make. And in a moment I’m going to give you a workaround to show you how you can use this as a starting off point, and niche down further in a way that doesn’t exclude, but opens you up to serving more of the exact, ideal dream client avatars you want to serve.
Mistake #2: picking a niche that’s TOO narrow. For example: saying, “I work with knitters who knit with green yarn only and who own 3 cats. Not 2 cats, not 4 cats, but 3 cats Oh, and they knit with GREEN yarn. Not brown yarn, not pink yarn, but green yarn.” Now obviously I’m having some fun with this here, but you get the point I’m making right? There is such a thing as being TOO specific in picking a niche. If you niche down TOO much, i.e., if your audience is TOO narrow (I’m talking really, really narrow) then you’ll have some success, but you’ll eventually run into a problem where you essentially saturate your own market. And if you’re in business to make money ongoing, long-term, then that is a problem you want to avoid! So, you want to be specific, but not too specific when it comes to niching down. Don’t worry, I have an exercise for you that will help you make sure you have an aligned audience, full of ideal client avatars who are eager to work with you.
Mistake #3: not being specific or clear enough when niching down. For example, picking a niche by saying something like “heart centered entrepreneurs” or “high achieving entrepreneurs.” Now, before you give me flack for this one, I’ve made this mistake too. For a very long time I said I worked with high achieving entrepreneurs until my very dear friend who is also my PR manager told me, Courtney, WHAT THE HECK is a high achieving entrepreneur? What do they look like? How would I know one if I met one? Would THEY identify as high achieving entrepreneurs? Is that something they’d call themselves? Or would they call themselves something else?
These were all very valid, legit questions. You’ve got to be clear! In everything. From picking a niche and niching down, to your ideal client avatar, to your messaging, to your what you offer, clarity is KEY! Or to put it another way, "When you confuse, you’ll lose" as Donald Miller says. And he would know! So are you being clear and specific in picking a niche? Would the people you’re identifying see what you’re calling them and say hey, that’s me? We’ve since changed it to busy entrepreneurs. Sure, they’re high achievers. They have big goals. They reach for the stars. But they don’t necessarily call themselves high achievers or goal crushers. They wouldn’t introduce themselves to somebody and say “Hi, I’m a high-achieving entrepreneur!”
You’ve got to be clear! I can say to someone, "I help busy entrepreneurs who want to work less and make more, without feeling guilty about it." That will resonate with someone. They’ll self-identify themselves as “busy,” and then I’ll hit on a pain point and a benefit of what I offer that will pique their interest and get them curious to learn more about what I do and how I can help them.
So, if you have picked a niche right now, even if you’re not 100% sure that’s the “right” niche, take a look at it. Is it clear? Is it specific? Would someone hear you say that and say, oh, that’s SO me! Or would they delete it and disregard it all together because they don’t identify with it? Think about it. Let’s say you’re a business owner who runs a French bakery, and you’re known for your croissants. If your goal is to find more ideal customers who will come into your bakery and buy your croissants, would it be better to target hungry people, or croissant lovers? Or put it this way, if you were to run an ad for your bakery, which ad would your ideal client avatar identify more with and say “hey, that’s me!” An ad that says Hot buttery croissants baked fresh daily for hungry people? Or The best buttery croissants you’ll ever taste, baked fresh daily for the world’s most discerning croissant lovers?
Yes, if you sell croissants sure you want to pick a niche that's hungry. But you want them to be hungry for croissants, not for turkey sandwiches.
Fun little aside here, when I was preparing this episode on niching down I spent a couple minutes doing a quick Google search and there are whole threads and forums designated exclusively for people who love croissants. Those are your people, my friend. Talk about ideal client avatars. Not the average Joe Schmoe’s looking for a quick bite on their half hour lunch break. Your ideal client avatar is someone who loves hot buttery croissants, and who relishes the experience of discovering the best little bakery in town with the best hot, fresh, buttery croissants. You’re getting this, right? Picking a niche, or niching down is the art of matching a specific person, with a specific product or offer, and that’s magical. We’re talking about the “specific person” side of that today. So be clear. And be specific in who they are.
Alright. So the 4th common mistake people make when niching down is niching down by demographic instead of psychographic. Or in other words, picking a niche and niching down by WHAT people do for work vs. HOW they do it or WHY they’re motivated to do it.
I’m not saying it’s “bad” or “wrong” to niche down by demographic. If you have a brick and mortar store in a physical location in your city, niching down by demographic might be very helpful for you. I’m talking about picking a niche or grouping people together based on what they do. For example: Lawyers. Doctors. Entrepreneurs. Corporate Executives. Musicians. Gardeners. Retail Business Owners. Service Based Business owners. In other words, niching down by category or type of work that people do. This CAN work when it comes to identifying your ideal client avatar, I’m not saying it won’t. What I AM challenging you to do is that if this is how you’re niching down, to get a little more specific with it. If you've picked a niche that's broader, like entrepreneurs for example, you'll be better off segmenting that niche based on the behavior of the ideal client avatar you like to work with. Let me break it down.
Let’s say you work with entrepreneurs as your broad ideal client avatar: do you like to work with brand-new entrepreneurs who are just getting started? Or more seasoned entrepreneurs who have learned a few ropes? Entrepreneurs who are making 6 figures or more? Or who haven’t hit 6 figures yet? Do you like to work with busy entrepreneurs? Stressed entrepreneurs. Digital entrepreneurs? CEOs of startups? You can get more specific by identifying these things and then take it one step further by identifying the ideal behavior, values, and beliefs that your ideal client avatars hold for themselves. Simply by asking, What values, beliefs, and ideals DO your ideal entrepreneurs hold for themselves? What kind of work ethic do they have? What’s most important to them in life?
Or let’s say you’re a software provider for doctors. Does your software work for any doctor’s office? Or does it work better for somDrdr’s offices over others? For bigger offices with 10 or more employees? Or smaller offices with 10 or fewer employees? Does it work best for chiropractors? Neurologists? Pediatricians? Doctors who specialize in women’s health? Or men’s health? Or family health? What values, behaviors, and beliefs do your specific type of doctors uphold? What do they stand for? What kind of work ethic do they have? What’s most important to them in life?
And! You can throw out what they do altogether and choose an ideal client avatar based solely on behavior and what they like! Not all hot buttery croissant lovers are doctors or entrepreneurs or moms. The one defining characteristic they have in common is simply that they're people who love hot buttery croissants and who know a good one when they find one.
To add yet another layer to this, you can also pick a niche and niche down by pain points or problems that your ideal client avatars experience. Are the entrepreneurs you serve people who feel overwhelmed and lay awake at night worrying about all the things on their to-do list? Are they moms who worry about whether or not they’re making the best decisions for their kids? Are they men and women over 40 who are struggling to lose weight, or are they teenagers suffering from anxiety? Niching down and choosing an ideal client avatar based on their pain points is another way you can ‘group’ people together, which allows you to speak directly to them.
We’ve covered a lot so far about niching down and ideal client avatars and I have more for you! But before we go any further, hopefully these examples are helpful to you to get the wheels turning and see areas you have been making some of the most common mistakes when it comes to picking a niche and how to stop making them.
It’s not just about saying “I work with XYZ broad ideal client avatar” right? I work with doctors or lawyers or entrepreneurs or moms. It’s about saying, and I’ll use our ideal client avatar as an example here, I work with overworked entrepreneurs who want to create a greater influence, income, and impact without working so hard for it. So they can spend more time with their families and do more of the things they love. That’s going to resonate with some entrepreneurs and not others. I would imagine Gary Vee’s followers who are all about the hustle and grind lifestyle won’t resonate with what I do and that is OK. You know why? Because "niching down" does NOT mean losing out on opportunities to help people. Picking a niche means opening yourself up to serving more of the people YOU want to help.
Niching down and identifying an ideal client avatar is one of the hardest things many entrepreneurs struggle to do, but when you realize this, it doesn’t have to be that way for you.
Have you noticed that the entrepreneurs who DO niche down and who DO have an ideal client avatar are typically the ones who are more successful, right? It doesn’t make much sense. How is it possible to be more successful working with less, or fewer people?
The reason most entrepreneurs struggle to pick a niche or choose an ideal client avatar is because they’re worried about excluding people. They’re worried that by narrowing the pool, they’ll have less business opportunities or miss out on business from other people they could potentially help.
But here's what I want you to remember. If you take nothing else away from this episode, you’ll remember this. "Niching down" does NOT mean turning away business. Picking a niche and choosing an ideal client avatar means opening yourself up to serving more of the people YOU want to serve.
Imagine for a moment you had a flood of people coming to your door, and ALL of them were dream-client material. Imagine if you didn't have to scrounge for business and grab at whatever work you could get because you'd picked a niche that allowed your ideal client avatars to find you and flock to you?
Niching down doesn't mean narrowing down your options. Picking a niche means opening yourself up to the massive opportunities to serve your favorite type of people.
Every magnet has two sides. One that attracts, and one that repels. That’s what it means to be polarizing. Repelling the people who don’t need what you offer is a GOOD thing, because that makes more room for the people who DO need what you offer. Isn’t it true that when you’re not wasting your time on low vibe, low level opportunities that aren’t 100% aligned, you can spend that time on higher paying, higher vibe opportunities with the right people?
That's the power of picking a niche and choosing your ideal client avatar. Niching down is not a matter of narrowing your audience. It’s a matter of widening your reach and reaching more of the people who WANT and NEED what you provide. It’s sort of like assembling a cake. To have icing and sprinkles, you need a cake to put it on first. You need a solid base layer. That base, your cake, is your ideal audience of ideal client avatars. Once you’ve got the base -- the foundation in place, you can add in the icing. That’s those people who are going to find you, and maybe they don’t fit your ideal client avatar exactly, but they resonate with you and with who you are and what you stand for and what you do, those people are like the icing. They’ll buy your stuff, they’ll join your programs, maybe they'll usually go for an ice cream cone, but today they walked into your bakery because they’ve been seeing your signs, and they want a hot buttery croissant. And then, you will always, always have those random people who find you, show up, and want to work with you who just make it fun and keep life interesting. Maybe they don’t fit your demographic at all, maybe they don’t even fit your psychographic, but they see the value in what you do, so they buy your stuff. Those are the sprinkles. And every cake is a lot more fun when there are some sprinkles on top to keep it interesting.
So when picking a niche and choosing your ideal client avatar, don’t worry about excluding people, or missing out on opportunities to do business with people you can potentially help. Instead, focus on making the cake — focus on picking a niche that's focused on your MOST ideal client avatar. The icing and sprinkles are an added bonus that will naturally come together when your cake is in place.
Here’s the other thing I want you to remember in terms of that law of polarity. There's no money in the middle. When you’ve got two ends of one spectrum, in this case the people who love you and the people who don't, if you're somewhere over here in the middle, there’s no real money there. By trying to appeal to everyone you appeal to no one. Don’t be a boring bran muffin. Be a hot buttery croissant for those hot buttery croissant lovers out there!
Hopefully, you see by now that “picking a niche" simply means figuring out who your favorite type of people are to work with so that you can work with more of them, then now it’s time for you to take this fun little exercise I have for you that will help you hone in on your ideal client avatar and "niche down" simply by answering three short questions.
I know you might be driving right now or somewhere you can’t write anything down right now and that’s ok. All you have to do to get these 3 questions is go to courtneyelmer.com/niche and enter your info, and I’ll email them to you. Easy peasy.
These 3 questions will take you 10 minutes to answer or less. They’re going to help you pick a niche by identifying the type of people you love serve, that ideal client avatar and the values and ideals that they uphold, as well as the problems they’re suffering from that keep them up at night. Once you identify this, you’ll be like the life raft they’ve been waiting for while they’re out there struggling, trying to keep their head above water.
Picking a niche and identifying your ideal client avatar shows your people you understand them. When you speak to them, sharing relevant examples and speaking their language, you will connect with them in a deeper way. That in turn will help them get to know you, they’ll start to like you more, and they will trust you because you’re there showing them you have their best interest at heart. But it starts with getting clear and specific on who they are.
Niching down is not about picking a “right” niche. It’s not about choosing only one type of ideal client avatar and excluding the rest. It’s about clarifying and calling out the specific, most ideal type of person you love to work with, so that you can naturally attract, and work with, more of them.
You can even have more than one niche as long as you have specific offers targeted to them. For example here we have a program that serves busy, overworked entrepreneurs who are looking for an easier, simpler way to streamline and grow their business without burning out in the process. And then we have a program that serves entrepreneurs who are ready to launch their podcast and get their message out into the world, but aren’t sure where to start. We help them create a show they can leverage to reach a wider audience, and show them how to build a community of raving fans before they launch it to make sure they’re not launching to crickets, which increases their chances of ranking too.
I share all this to show you how many options there are out there when it comes to picking a niche, so you can understand what it really means to niche down and why it is so critical to the vitality of your business. So you can serve more of the ideal client avatar— the people — who you love to serve.
How are you going to take what you learned here today about picking a niche, and apply it to your business? Hit me up on Instagram over in my DM’s @theeffortlesslife.co and tell me, who DO you ideally want to serve? If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to picking a niche, make sure you download those three questions at courtneyelmer.com/niche — then hit me up on Insta with any questions you have about picking a niche!
Coming up next week on the show we’ve got not one but TWO special guests who recorded a very special episode with me for you, on how to overcome the fears you face in building your business. It’s a doozy of an episode, it’s raw, it’s real, and it’s powerful, and that’s coming up right here next week. So in the meantime, share the show with your entrepreneur friends and let them know that’s coming up next week. Until then, go live YOUR EffortLESS Life®. I’ll see you back here next time.