To niche or not to niche? I can’t tell you how often this topic comes up in the Trainer Talk community!
Should you focus your services on meeting the needs of a smaller specialised audience or is it more advisable to avoid niching and market yourself as something of a generalist?
What is a niche?
A niche is defined as ‘a comfortable or suitable position in life or employment’ or ‘denoting or relating to products, services, or interests that appeal to a small, specialized section of the population’.
Trainers are often advised to niche their training services for reasons I’ll talk about below but many resist taking this step.
Fear of niching
Fear of niching is a huge obstacle. Some of the questions I most commonly hear include:
- Will I have to turn away clients from outside of my niche?
- What if my niche is too small for me to be able to grow my business?
- What if I become so focused on my niche that I lose track of the wider issues affecting my industry?
- How will I deal with new competitors within a small niche?
- What if I want to evolve my business outside of my niche or in a different direction – will that be possible once I’ve niched?
- How can I break into a niche?
- Is niching profitable?
These concerns represent many of the challenges that can be associated with niching and, of course, each question must be considered carefully before you decide to niche.
However, in my experience, the benefits of niching far outweigh the challenges.
What are the advantages of niching?
As I’ve touched on above, a niche is a place where you fit comfortably.
Rather than a ‘Jack of all trades’, it gives you the potential to become:
- A leader in your field
- The go-to expert for the niche
- Someone who is known for their valuable market insights
- A trainer with recognised reputation and authority
· Niching gives you the opportunity to become a specialist
Trainers who niche are typically able to build a depth of knowledge and experience around their specialism that wouldn’t be possible in businesses with a wider focus. Knowing one area inside out means clients come to rely on you for your perspective and understanding of the nuances that influence your field.
· Niching helps you to focus your marketing
Another benefit of niching is that it helps you to concentrate your marketing efforts on a narrower market.
For example, if you were to niche as an IT software trainer for law firms, you would immediately be able to pinpoint the target audience for your marketing (law firm decision makers/practice managers) and your key marketing messages (specialist training in the use of practice management software to save time and give clients more billable hours).
A quick search online shows that law firms respond best to marketing techniques such as email campaigns, direct mail and print ads, as opposed to social media marketing. This would be a starting point for your marketing strategy and budget.
· Niching can mean fewer competitors
When you operate within a niche, you’re likely to have fewer competitors than training businesses that haven’t niched.
To illustrate this point, I did a quick Google search for ‘training services’ and was presented with more than 30 million results. When I changed the search to ‘software training for corporate law firms’, the results reduced to four-and-a-half million. Yes, these are still big numbers but it shows how operating in a smaller field can significantly shrink the number of businesses you have to compete with.
· Niching helps clients with a specific need
As well as facing fewer competitors, niching does mean you’ll have fewer potential clients. This isn’t necessarily bad news.
What we need to remember is that people who look for niched services tend to have a specific need, which makes them more likely to convert from an enquirer to a paying customer once they find the right support.
Because there are fewer competitors for clients with highly targeted requirements, niching tends to attract greater brand loyalty and, consequently, a good amount of repeat business and referrals.
And, of course, niching doesn’t mean you have to turn away clients from outside of your specialism.
Instead of thinking about the potential limitations of niching, I always encourage my clients to think about the benefits. Imagine being the go-to person because you offer:
- Specialist, relevant experience
- A better understanding of the challenges of your sector
- An enthusiasm for the niche
- A lower financial risk because you combine experience with an in-depth understanding of the clients’ needs
These sound like good business goals to me.
How do you feel about niching? Is it something you would consider or do you have ‘the fear’ about niching your training services? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the Comments below.
For more advice about becoming a successful freelance trainer, don’t forget to download your free copy of The 7 things you need to know to become a successful freelance trainer.