To niche or not to (Part 2)

Last week I offered a short Nugget to challenge and expand some commonly held beliefs about what it takes to establish a successful coaching business.

One of those beliefs is that it is absolutely crucial to narrow your marketing efforts to a very well defined demographic and/or a clearly framed problem. It’s not that this is wrong. But there are other ways. 

To follow up and illustrate this, I wanted to share two stories of successful coaches I’ve worked with, located at either end of the niching debate:

Firstly, meet Jaasper.

Jaasper figured out his niche. But rather than a specific demographic (gender, age, location, job title,e tc.), he identified a common problem: many people are unhappy at work. And he started speaking directly to that experience. 

Through experimentation he figured out what he needed to say in order to get someone’s attention who’s currently unhappy at work. He figured out what those people google, and where they spend their time, and he placed his marketing messages where they’d be likely to see them. Those messages were designed to specifically address what someone who is unhappy at work would want to move towards and away from. 

Since Jaasper’s the one who’s speaking first, he needs to know exactly who he’s speaking to, what language to use, how to first turn their heads, and what to say next so that they would be interested in learning more about how he might help them. 

Jaasper now has an ads machine he can turn on when he’s got space for new consultations, and for the price of a few hour’s worth of coaching, he’s creating 10-15 prospects, of which usually about half would sign up for coaching. Well worth it! 

Now, meet Szigit. 

Szigit has lunches and digital coffees, about 3-5 each week. She’s not niching at all, and there’s no niche-based system in who she’s meeting. Szigit loves to connect, socialise and meet new people. One day she just went through her LinkedIn connection list and picked the first 50 people she thought she would love to reconnect with. 

Szigit didn’t set out to sign up coaching clients. She just asked them to connect, and she held whatever might come out of these conversations lightly. But she would always show up curious as to what’s going on for this person, and naturally explored what they were telling her.  And naturally, a bunch of doors would open into possible coaching conversations. 

Naturally, also, the other person would ask her about what she’s going on in her life and work at the moment and, naturally, she would tell them that she’s super passionate about helping people figure out important questions and make difficult decisions. Often, Szigit would be more specific and reference (the kind of) situations that that person had just told her about. But often she really didn’t have to to make this sound relevant to them. She’d tell some stories about how fulfilling it is to see clients figure things out and make big changes in their lives and careers, and she had become a decent storyteller over the past year or so. 

At the end of each of those conversations Szigit would ask her vis-a-vis two questions: 

  1. Hey, now that you know what I’m passionate about, do you know anybody who you think could benefit from the kind of work I’m doing? (not that rarely they’d say: “yes, me!” and she’d invite them into a coaching consultation that following week)
  2. Who do you think I should talk to next?

And so, one conversation would lead to the next, and to another one, and a few conversations down the line there’d be a coaching engagement waiting for her. No niche required (since she listened first and then presented coaching in the context of what she’s heard). 

I hope that helped to illustrate the spectrum of the niching debate. It is by no means complete, so I’d love to hear other facets that you’ve come across, challenges, experiences, stories,etc. 

But for now, I’ll call it a day, and see you next week. 

With Love


New content: Animas Coaching Uncaged Season 14 wrap up

My 3rd season as host of the Coaching Uncaged podcast (proudly produced and presented to you by Animas Centre for Coaching) has drawn to a close, and after the excellent feedback on last season’s “closing ceremony”, Animas Founder and CEO Nick Bolton flipped the script again and sat down with me to have a chat about insights and highlights from across the season, as well as a look ahead into Season 15. 

As always, you can watch or listen to this episode