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Big Niche? Little Niche? What the Niche are You Talking About?!

“What’s your niche?”

These three little words strike more terror into the hearts and minds of idealistic new entrepreneurs than any others.

Has this ever been you?

You start a blog about your passions and write what you’re sure is the most amazing content on the planet. After several months, hardly anyone aside from your mom and your partner is reading. And those who are reading don’t leave comments or even click the friggin’ ‘like’ button!

So you do some research to try to figure out the problem, and everywhere you look the experts are talking about choosing a niche. It appears to be a technique for improving your reach and bottom line by removing all the passion from the topic you’ve been so passionately writing about and confining your message to a neat and sterile package with one… horribly… narrow… focus.

Panic takes hold. Is this what it takes to have a successful business?!

  • What if I pick the wrong thing?!
  • I’ll be missing so many other opportunities!
  • I’ll be ignoring most of my potential customers and leaving money on the table!
  • I’ll be so bored focusing on just one thing!

Frustration mounts. Despair sinks in. You think about giving up.

Or worse, you actually give up.

Sadly, many budding entrepreneurs of all kinds suffer from these debilitating fears, but it doesn’t need to be this way.

The above concerns all seem to be valid and make sense, but the fact is that knowing your niche is highly beneficial to your business – it’s not a cruel and terrible joke created by the universe to torment the intrepid souls who dare to reach for something more in their life by starting a business.

What’s going on here is just a little misunderstanding- of what a niche is, what it means to embrace one, and how to go about it.

Pigeonholed by a Niche?

niche, narrow focus

For many new entrepreneurs, or those looking for ways to grow their business, they run up against this idea of choosing a niche, and it seems like a concrete tube they have to stuff themselves in and forever be stuck there.

This – is – all – life – will – ever – be: A dark, stuffy, uncomfortable hole with an iPad and no possibility of escape.

If this is you I have good news and more good news.

The good news is that taking a niche approach to business really is an efficient and effective strategy. Click To Tweet

And the other good news? Far from being a tiny cave of despair, stifling your creativity and passion, a niche is an elegant tool for self-expression, or if held properly, a glorious weapon.

****We interrupt this message to bring you a metaphor****

In martial arts, a sword is considered an extension of the artist’s body. Its proper use requires high levels of focus, control, and balance, and its point is obvious. (pun intended)

Traditionally, it’s been viewed not only as a weapon for the defense of one’s person. But as a spiritual tool a sword can cut away doubt, confusion, and the inner voices of negativity that cloud the mind and make action ineffective or destructive.

Now, hundreds of metaphors have been used to describe what a niche is, and this one may or may not be the most apt, but I’ll lay it out anyway, and let you can decide.

Your niche is your sword.

It gives you the ability to focus your message, and reach your audience with it in a way that is impossible to miss and crystal clear. Defining and working within your niche teaches you many things about yourself while simultaneously training you to express those things in a clearer and more effective manner.

That’s great, you say, but I’m still worried about picking the wrong niche and cutting out most of my potential customers.

I get it. So let’s address your concerns.

How a Niche is Not a Niche

Wait… What?!

What I mean is there are actually two kinds of niches which I will call the Big Niche and the Little Niche.

They both provide a clear, but continually evolving, definition of your place in the community you serve based on your passion, expertise, and vision. Understanding their differences is what will save you from the fear and stress that plague so many of your peers.

Your Big Niche is your overall business vision. It’s based on your passion and sense of purpose.

It has definition, but not as narrow a definition as you might associate with the word “niche.” It’s specific enough to give you a framework for your business strategy, but broad enough to allow for a variety of potential projects.

The Big One

How to define your Big Niche:

  • Identify your market (e.g. life coaching)
  • Describe your values, ideals and mission (e.g. everyone deserves love and happiness, and your mission is to help people experience them)
  • The kind of people you want to work with (e.g. people with at least a basic level of personal awareness and open-mindedness to change)

Take money out of the equation when defining your Big Niche. This is all about what you feel inspired to create and how you most want to serve.

Be willing to re-evaluate your Big Niche over time as you change and evolve based both on your business success and your personal satisfaction. Defining and refining your niche at this level is a process of continual self-discovery as much as it is a process of choosing a business direction.

The Little One

The Little Niche is the one that freaks people out because they think it also has to be their Big Niche.

In reality, it is only the narrow focus of a specific project or entry point. It is not your whole business, although if you’re a newbie entrepreneur it may be the whole focus of your business activities for awhile.

Think of your Big Niche as a garden with potential to grow all kinds of vegetables, herbs, and flowers, and your Little Niche as one cash crop you decide to try out.

How to define your Little Niche:

  • Within your Big Niche, make a list of specific types of people you can help and specific problems you can help with.
  • Research the words and phrases your potential customers use to describe the problem you will help with. This helps you develop empathy towards them.
  • Use those same words and phrases to communicate how you will help them with a small, free piece of content they can get in exchange for their name and email address. Communicate around symptoms rather than a root cause even if the content of your solution addresses the root cause.
  • Evaluate how many people opt-in for your free content, and based on the results, either proceed with the Little Niche, tweak it, or try a different one.
  • After you find a successful Little Niche and grow your business, repeat the process with another.

The Little Niche is a project or starting point, and it takes experimentation to define. Honing in on a successful one often takes multiple iterations, even for experienced entrepreneurs.

It’s okay to not get it ‘right’ the first time. Each time you try another permutation, you’re going in with more data and therefore you have a better chance of hitting on a winner.

Big Niche + Little Niche = Niching Success

Your Big Niche is a container that defines the shape of your business, and what you fill it with are your Little Niches.Click To Tweet

To put it another way, Big Niche equals Vision, and Little Niche equals Action.

Both can be, and should be, subject to on ongoing refinement based on market feedback, your increased knowledge and experience, and your sense of fulfillment.

What this means is more effective messaging, better response rates and relationships, faster audience building, and increased enjoyment of the whole process.

As you can see, defining your niche in no way conflicts with your ability to connect with plenty of great customers and bring your meaningful work into the world in a big way.

There’s also no need to be scared of picking the wrong niche- you can replace that fear with an enthusiastic attitude of experimentation.

Okay, your turn. What do you see as your Big Niche? And what Little Niche(s) are you working on currently? Leave a comment below!

About David Kirshbaum

David is Assistant Director of Education with Mirasee.  His unconventional journey has included playing drums in various ensembles, teaching children organic gardening, living in a yogic spiritual community, and starting several businesses.  When not working with the Mirasee team and students, David can be found reading, practicing Qi Gong, walking among trees, or spending quality time with loved ones.

45 comments

  1. Hi David, thanks for the great post! (although I miss the original title :))

    Your observation on Big Niche / Little Niche resonates pretty well with what I’ve read from both Tad Hargrave and Sean D’Souza about not inviting people to all the rooms of your house at once but leading them through the front door into the first room first.

    To answer your question, my big niche is songwriting and my little niche (the one I’m currently testing) is music theory for busy people in their 30s or 40s wanting to write (better) songs.

    How does that sound?

    Cheers!

  2. Great post, David! My Big Niche is writers, and more specifically fiction writers interested in self-publishing. My Little Niches are self-publishing, time management, writing routines, how to start your book, and how to finish your book. I’m sure I’ll add more Little Niches as I grow. 🙂 Bookmarked your blog post. 🙂

  3. Awesome read David! (And perfect timing!)
    I’m currently half way through writing an eBook on Finding Your Niche and your fresh ideas on understanding “Niche” provide great inspiration.
    I also love that you point out the need to align vision with action.
    Thanks for the great read!

  4. Hi David,
    The flavorfulness of the article, and its humor, the jump into core values and the dropping of all money considerations in the big niche, and the pluralizing of the little niches as a series of strategies and approaches, with all the implied audience care and focus, are exactly what prove that choosing one’s little niche need not be any kind of dark gray undecorated windowless corridor. The article creates doors, eases all kinds of misplaced fears.
    Fears converted to possibilities!
    Way to go!
    —Peter

  5. Great article David! I didn’t even know what a niche was until I read your article. Definitely something I will refer back to when I step into the role of an entrepreneur!

  6. Hi David,
    Thank you for an excellent post. I had defined my niche but was having some doubts about it. This has helped me to see it crystal clear. I love the analogy of the big container being the big niche which defines the shape of my business and what I fill it with being the little niches. I even drew a picture of a big jug and wrote my little niche inside it. This is so helpful for me.

  7. Hello David,

    What an excellent way to present the concept of niche! As you said, it’s a scary word for many. Your post, I’m sure, has made most of your readers a lot more comfortable with it.

    One thing I totally agree with is taking money out of the equation when trying to figure out what your big niche is.

    Thank you for this fantastic piece!

  8. Thank you David! You have brought some clarity to my thinking as I plan this next site.
    The big niche and narrow niche concept will really help me sort out all the ideas running through my head.

  9. Really nicely done! Getting the niche right is so important. This is a great guide.

    Thanks heaps for the mention – I really appreciate it.

    Ramsay

  10. Thank you David, well explained.

    Even though I know my own personal niche, I was thinking that my new website may be too broad to be successful with a name like mybusiness-mylife but I see it now has a niche as a department store, a marketplace or a wikipedia of business and life.

    So it still has the singular goal of serving and helping its broad community and giving others the opportunity to get involved.

    In a marketplace or wikipedia everyone can contribute with their own little niches to contribute to the big niche and those little niches then contribute to the little niches and needs of that broad community.

    And it is the holistic accumulation of the little niches that can, in turn, shape and mould the big niche.

    I believe that our unique classification of both business and life into just nine areas allows potential guest bloggers to better hone in on and formulate their own niche area. It then also better allows our community to find the exact information or assistance that they need.

    I think that where people get overwhelmed with choices of their niche is with the many facets of that niche that surround them. So it also helps them by looking at a slightly broader classification and not getting too narrow.

    For example, if I walk into a department store looking to buy a hammer, I am at first surrounded by a multitude of choices of all different things – clothing, electrical, toys, automotive, sporting, etc. How on earth do I ever find a hammer amongst all of that? Huh? You mean, there is also an upstairs and downstairs too? :/

    It is only by “classification” and when I see the sign that says “Hardware” that I know exactly where I need to go.

  11. Not only is this the clearest article on niches I´ve ever read, it´s all very humorous – so thanks for teaching me and making me chuckle! As an indigenous wisdom teacher from Guatemala, I´ve always had a message to give to those who are thirsty for it so it´s been difficult for me to hammer out an exact niche; rather, I´ve been approching this in the way that you so eloquently describe. I´m happy to see that we´re on the same path!

  12. Love your way of defining this, David! Let’s see if I’m being specific enough.

    My big niche is people interested in marketing a business with visual content. My little niche is time-pressed solopreneurs. I know I have other groups (like social media managers and graphic designers) that follow me, but that’s the one I’ve chosen to focus on first.

    Is that tight enough, or do I need to think smaller? 😉

    1. Your little niche seems a bit vague. First, what do you mean by visual content? Also, try including more about what you want to do- for example, are you wanting to teach? provide a done-for-you service? sell a product? And is there any particular kind of solopreneurs you want to serve? There are so many these days…:)

  13. Great article! This is one issue I’ve been struggling with. My big niche is providing an online course or membership program to teach people how to grow and harvest abundant organic vegetables year-round from small gardens.

    However, effective gardening techniques, timing, and plant varieties are very regional/local. So, I’d really like to focus on my local region, so I can provide my students with very specific recommendations that will work well in their gardens.

    But I’m also considering focusing on marketing to people in my region that are using good food to help heal health problems – folks that are very serious about the quality of their food. All types of “healthy” diets recommend eating lots of fresh vegetables.

    But I’m concerned that I may be narrowing my niche down so much that I may not find a large enough audience. And I’m finding it a bit challenging figuring out how to affordably market to a local region (somewhere between one and six U.S. states). Nearly all gardening and health-related websites are national/international.

    So, how do you know when you’re focusing on too small of a niche? Thanks!

    1. Hi Debra, well for the healing with food niche, that doesn’t necessarily have a need to be local/regional. Even if you focus on eating locally, you can still address people in different locations. And I had a similar thought to Neil that you could focus on growing zones instead of localities for the gardening niche.

      As for knowing if a niche is too small, it depends on your goals, and on how well you can engage the market. You have to consider how much competition there is in the space and how much of the niche market you can get in the form of traffic. From there you need to consider how high you can get your conversion rates for opt-ins, and then for purchasing. So lots of variable, but to put a number on it, 50,000 is generally a decent size to work with when starting out. Also, consider how your niche could tie in with other niches so you can grow your pool of potential customers over time using the halo effect.

      1. David, thanks for your suggestions (and Neil, too) . I appreciate the additional details about niche sizes, and other considerations. I’ll check into all of those.

        I’ve had many in my audience tell me they really appreciated being able to get gardening instructions specific for here in Virginia. Nearly all gardening websites are too generic. Facebook ads can reach over 200,000 gardeners in my state, so I may specialize here (and just test out the healing food niche).

        As for focusing on gardening zones, it’s unfortunately not particularly useful. Zone 6 in Missouri is drastically different than zone 6 in New York. Zone 8 in South Carolina is like night and day from zone 8 in Oregon. Even a region like “mid-Atlantic” can run from Pennsylvania down to South Carolina, which has very different gardening recommendations.

        Thanks for your help, and for your very useful article!

    2. Hi Debra,

      Instead of trying to narrow it right down to a local region, would it help to classify things into “temperate” regions?

      It would seem that many “local regions” in the world share the same “temperate regions” and maybe the same growing conditions and therefor may help you to still provide information relative to a region without narrowing down your niche.

      – Just a thought from a guy who’s gardens constantly fail. 🙂

  14. One of my big niches is business blogging, while the “little niche” is simply teaching businesses how to communicate and build relationships with their customers. It really does take a while for most people to find their niche, but for those who haven’t, I’d say not to worry too much but KEEP TRYING and eventually you’ll figure out what you love the most and what you’re best at.

  15. I guess they run up against this idea of choosing a niche, and it seems like a concrete tube they have to stuff themselves in and forever be stuck there.

  16. Hmmm, big niche would have to be white papers and ghostwriting. More of that ‘long-form’ content writing.
    Little niche, as of right now, is to break into the aerospace and defense industry by writing content that markets the NextGen technology (systems that streamline air traffic, save fuel by planning more efficient routes, use GPS satellites for tracking aircraft as opposed to radar) in a business-conversational way.
    Great article, by the way, good read.

    1. Hi Kyle, thanks! It sounds like your small niche audience would businesses that produce NextGen technology, is that right? When looking at a B2B niche like this, figure out which specific people in the companies you could address with your message, and make them your audience.

      1. Thanks for the reply!
        And thanks for clarifying things for me; yes, it would be the companies that produce NextGen Technology. I had assumed I should go after airport associations and aerospace marketing companies. You just saved me some time!
        With that, I’m assuming I should be talking to the marketing directors of said companies?

  17. David,

    great post! you really nailed this topic! I struggled for years with avoiding a niche and being pigeonholed. I have created a big niche and little niche, though I hadn’t articulate it so nicely. Thank you for doing so for all of us.

    1. Thanks for your kind comments and suggestions. Yes, so still some work to be done then before I peak out from under my rock and start my blog in earnest. But thanks to your article, a clearer picture of what I need to do is emerging.

  18. I also join the long line of people thanking you for this enlightening article, which has added to my paranoia.
    Why?
    Because I fully know I still have’t been able to clearly communicate my niche to the world.
    In my head and heart I know what my ‘little niche’ is, but I do not know how to present it on a plate so that people say: “Ahhhhha… yes, of course……we get it!”
    No.
    My website is vague, my language is not ‘talking’ to anyone in particular other than the BIG NICHE and therefore I feel stuck.
    I am hoping (HOPING is not really a strategy, is it?) that one morning I wake up and the clouds have parted: I’ll be able take my sword and cut through all my crap and be crystal clear in my niche communication. Maybe that moment will be tomorrow…

      1. Yes, I do indeed. I wish to support women over 40 during their weight loss journey. They are most likely working and struggling with various time management and lifestyle issues. Their excess weight is somewhere between 15kg to 30kg because patients needing to lose much more may have other health or emotional issues that I cannot/will not assist with via emails and phone calls only. I will support my clients with a bespoke meal plan that exactly matches their personal needs because their previous attempts failed due to “this is just too hard”. Overweight women over 40 have specific nutritional requirements that they may not be aware off and hence regular meal plans have failed them. They thought it was their fault but this is not always the case. They want to gain more knowledge and get intelligent guidance. They do not want a quick fad diet fix. They are unable to get motivated yet again because of their unsuccessful dieting history. So, this is the picture I have of my clients.

        1. Sounds pretty clear to me! 🙂 You just need to use some of that on your site- especially in your headline. Make it immediately clear who the site is for. You could also do a better job of this with your url. You have a nice site though!

  19. I love the sword metaphor David! I also love the concept of big niche and little niche. That’s definitely something i see people struggle with. They’re trying to go big all the time, because they see their online heroes do the same.

  20. “What the Nitch!” Lol… Just what I needed. I have been doing this same process and thought I was going a out it the wrong way. Thanks for the post. It helped me create a roadmap to separate the nitches. Awesome!

  21. Excellent delineation of Big and Little Niches and wonderfully timed for me, as I’m getting started on a “little” one and was swirling a bit in fear of that concrete hole marked “this-is-all-there-will-ever-be.” Thanks for the clarity and encouragement to move on down the rabbit hole for now.

  22. Thanks David, you really hit the mark. I’ve been struggling with this very issue and you gave me some clarity to work with. It does become overwhelming to be so “specific” like it’s a lifetime commitment, but I can see that it is a place to start to take action and get feedback from your potential audience.

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