We’ve been hearing for years that we need to identify and target our “niche market”. Lately the buzz has been around identifying and marketing to our “ideal client”. Some marketers will focus on one concept, and some on the other. What’s an entrepreneur to do?
Answer: Savvy entrepreneurs do both. And here’s why.
First, let’s look at the difference. It’s subtle, and sometimes you’ll see a lot of overlap. But here’s how I think of the two concepts:
When you define your niche market, you define for yourself mostly WHERE you’ll find them and a little on HOW you’ll talk to them. So if I define my niche market is women entrepreneurs who have or want to have heart-centered businesses, I know I don’t need to go to networking groups whose members are mostly women rising up the corporate ladder and happy to be there. I might join groups that seem to attract a lot of the part-time hobby businesses, but I’ll be cautious about committing a great deal of time or a big chunk of my marketing budget there. I will look for groups, both online and offline, that attract coaches and healers and writers: women who have service-based businesses rather than women who have product-based businesses.
When you define your ideal client, you define for yourself mostly WHO they are and WHAT they’re like. And this definition, this list of attributes, is for you to keep always in the back of your mind. I will never state on my website that I’m looking for women who have at least a high school education, are probably in a stable relationship (or at least not in a toxic one), are 35-65 years old, have a left-of-centre political leaning, are decisive, are coachable, are quick learners, and value their own time (because then they;re more likely to value mine!). But when I do the initial getting-to-know-you dance with a potential client, you can bet I’ve got that list in my head.
The folks I work with, in single strategy sessions and ongoing coaching, fit both my niche market and my ideal client. It took me a VERY long time to define both. Rookie entrepreneurs have a tendency to say they’ll work with anyone — and mean it! When you’re struggling for cash flow, it’s very tempting to take on anyone who walks in your door or finds you online.
And sometimes a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do! Being very specific about your niche market and your ideal client will bring you more satisfaction and more income in the long run, but sometimes it takes a while before those very targetted marketing campaigns hit their mark. In the meantime, you have to bring in enough income to support you and your business.
Once your cash flow is pretty steady, and steadily increasing, you feel as if you now have the luxury of being a bit more selective about who you work with. First you start narrowing your niche market, the WHERE and HOW part of your marketing. You can start focusing your marketing efforts, and your marketing language, into a narrower stream. Because you’re now offering the RIGHT products and services to the RIGHT people with the RIGHT message, the percentage of folks that turn from prospects into paying customers increases. It takes less effort, and less money, to land each new client.
Then the ideal client parameters start to become important. Even within that narrower niche, there are people you simply prefer to work with. It’s part personality click and part shared values: you recognize your kindred spirits, and those are the Best Clients Ever. You reach “entrepreneur paradise” when your client list consists almost completely of those ideal clients.
So it’s a journey. When you start, your market can look pretty broad. As you gain experience – and cash flow – you start focusing your message to a narrower target, your niche market. And if you market consistently and persistently, you get to the point where you can pick and choose even in that smaller pool, and you wind up with a collection of ideal clients.
I’m very fortunate to be in the position to pick and choose my clients. It’s taken me a long time to get here, but it sure is a whole lot more fun! As I transition into retirement, I get to focus only on clients who are a joy to work with.
Where are you on that journey? Have you defined your niche market yet? How about your ideal client?
Need help with that? Want to know more? Use my online scheduler to book a free introductory call, where we can look at exploring how to get you moving down the path to that Entrepreneur’s Paradise of the Ideal Client!