Niche Ideas: A Proven Guide to Finding (and Validating) Your Niche
- Jessica Glendinning
Niche down! Be specific! Know who you serve!
“When you try to serve everyone, you serve no one.”
Whether you’re a service provider, building online courses, speaking, writing, coaching, or consulting, your business success rests on a foundation of “know your customer.”
But when it comes time to choose the subset of people you want to serve, it can be really hard to narrow down.
Maybe you have an idea that would benefit multiple different populations, and you don’t want to limit your ability to help people. Maybe you have expertise in more than one subject area. Or maybe you feel like all the “good” niches are already taken.
Whatever the case, this guide is here to help.
We’ll break down how to discover viable niche ideas, determine which of those ideas will be profitable, and select which niche is right for you. We also interviewed some of our successful audience members and students so you can learn from their experiences narrowing down their niches.
Plus – as a bonus – we’ve added a list of 7 different markets and 21 niche ideas within those markets to get your creative juices flowing.
Ready to find the perfect niche for you? Let’s get started.
How to Come Up With Viable Niche Ideas
Before you can choose the right niche for you, it’s helpful to have a list of ideas to put to the test.
As you’re gathering ideas, there are two main directions your search should take: internal and external.
First, “Know Thyself”
It seems so obvious, but sometimes entrepreneurs forget to check in with their desires as they search for a business idea with tons of income potential.
If you’re in this for the long run, you want to create a business you actually enjoy.
It’s an awful feeling when you put a ton of time and effort into building something, only to realize months or years down the road that you hate what you built…
So, as you’re thinking about niche ideas, start with the things you like.
- What topics are you interested in?
- What hobbies do you enjoy?
- If you didn’t have to make money, what would you do with your time?
Take a deep dive into the things you enjoy doing, and start to make a big list of ideas.
Don’t worry about the financial viability of your ideas at this point — just get them written down. Start a brain-dump list on a piece of paper, a Google Doc, or in whatever form allows you to easily jot down new ideas as they surface.
Next, think about the challenges you’ve faced in your life. What are the problems or fears you have encountered and overcome?
You can also expand your thinking to the people you know. You probably have friends or family who have gone through a challenging time, or who are excited about a new venture or hobby. Add those things to your list.
And as you wrap up this process of gathering ideas based on you and your network, it’s time to expand your scope even more.
Then, Empathize with Your Audience
Now that you’ve clarified the things you enjoy, it’s time to take a look at the challenges your audience is facing and the opportunities they seek.
Do you already know who your target audience is? If not, think about the people you might enjoy serving. Of those people, who do you have access to? Who can you reach with an email, a phone call, or a low-priced online advertisement?
“What' are the dreams, desires, fears, and frustrations of your target audience? Keep those in mind when choosing a niche. Hat tip to @jonmorrow.”Tweet Me
Add the dreams, desires, fears, and frustrations of your potential target audience to your list (hat tip to Jon Morrow).
Then you can move beyond you and the people you know. There’s an entire world of problem language just waiting for you to uncover it.
Research Your Market to Find Untapped Ideas
This step is where the rubber really meets the road.
The introspection you did in the first step is great, and starting to think about people who might share a similar problem or desire will get you headed in the right direction.
But deep market research is critical to your business success.
Start with keyword research. Your goal is to find keywords that would allow you to rank on page one of Google’s search results. Look for keywords that have relatively low competition, and somewhat high search volume.
You might also check if there is an available domain name that 100% matches your keyword. For example, if your primary keyword was “learn the ukulele” you would check to see if “learntheukulele.com” was available.
Then, expand your research to see what people are already buying. What products and services are people offering, and how are they being sold? You can research the Amazon Best Sellers list or see what offerings are available through affiliate networks like Clickbank or CJ Affiliate.
But you don’t have to take our word for it.
One of the things we love the most here at Mirasee is working with our amazing students and audience members. And we’re excited to be able to bring you real life examples of successful niches, courtesy of a small group of them.
When we interviewed them, we asked, “What niche is your online business in?” and “What made you decide to pursue that niche?”
Let’s take a look at their answers.
Niche Down: Mirasee Audience Members Tell All
First up, we have Bobbi Burnett of Rebel Roots Herb Farm.
“My online business is the store where I sell the end product of our small organic herb farm. We grow, dry, and package medicinal and culinary herbs, and ship them all across Canada and the US.
The majority of my sales come from folks who are making their own tea blends, botanical based cosmetics, and other herbal remedies and products — either for use in their professional herbal clinic or for sale on their own online store or market.
I go to conferences and events where people interested in (or practicing) herbal medicine or natural therapies are drawn. I like to have conversations with people who use a lot of herbs. They let me know what they use a lot of and what they have a hard time sourcing.
After I decided to start growing and selling herbs, I would go to different markets and shows and I would always have a handful of people ask me if I offered larger quantities and wholesale pricing. I was also asked a lot if I could grow enough to supply their growing herbal tea business or herbal clinic.
I started to get the picture that the people who are using herbs in large quantities are the people I needed to appeal to.”
Next, we’ll hear from Brad Greyeyes-Brant of Kiyam Nutrients.
“I’m in the nutraceutical business where we are focused on helping health- and planet-conscious women who want to live healthier lives with our natural, sustainable supplements. The people we serve can feel good knowing that they are not only taking care of their health but are also helping others.
Why did I decide to pursue that niche? Research, research, research. This business began because we saw an opportunity to bring something unique to an otherwise highly established and crowded marketplace.
We made the decision to help this particular segment based on the combination of several overlapping criteria, as well as some pragmatic and idealistic reasoning.
- What scientific research was showing to be truly unique about the source of our product,
- Who would benefit the most from this product, and
- Who was already buying similar products.
We also identified a segment of the population that would most likely be receptive to our product (which can come with some controversy).
The research showed that while virtually anyone could stand to see at least some benefits from our product, the areas that would have the biggest impact on peoples’ lives were conditions that predominantly affect women.”
Next up is Cindy Au-Kramer and her business, Panda Paper.
“As a bookbinder, I make bespoke stationery products (i.e. blank books, boxes, journals, 3 Ring binders) that can be custom made for many target audiences, who want something special that cannot be purchased at a local office supply or stationery store.
I am often asked to make custom “thank you” gifts for organizations. For example:
- An end-of-the-year Girl Scout troop leader thank you accordion book,
- A box to store thank you notes when a rabbi leaves for a position at another synagogue, or
- A memorabilia album for a wealthy donor
My daughter is the reason I decided to pursue this niche. She is a Girl Scout Cadette in the US, and had a badge that she had to complete specific activities to achieve. Since I am a bookbinder, I reviewed the Book Arts brochure that Girl Scouts of the USA put out, and taught her how to do several bookbinding stitches and how to facilitate a workshop. She was able to lead the workshop so that the girls in her troop could all earn the Book Arts Badge.
As I helped my daughter prepare, I thought of so many appealing little projects, targeted at teens, that could be used to earn the Book Arts badge.
Teens are of the age where I know they will not hurt themselves with a sewing needle and are unafraid to experiment with book structures and unique book making materials. I decided to develop an online curriculum with various projects to choose from, that allows a Girl Scout Cadette troop to earn the Book Arts badge.”
Let’s check in with Franz Plangger of the Outdoor Council of Canada, and their upcoming event, the Canadian Outdoor Summit.
“Our mission is to promote access to the outdoors for all Canadians. Strategically, our current focus is the outdoor sector since our broader mission is ongoing.
This outdoor sector is comprised of organizations that are offering led outdoor activities (think: outfitters, guides, school programs, etc). Even though this sector is broad in scope, the strongest unifying factor for all these people and organizations is their passion for the outdoors and bringing people outside.
You can easily recognize a person in the outdoor sector through their stories. Although the specifics change, the stories are always about powerful moments outside and deep connection to self, others, or the land. That is why people go back and share this with others: this deep sense of connection.
Our job is to make an environment where they can do their job better. We have a number of different ways we currently serve our audience (including access to community, and opportunities to gather, find strength, share knowledge, and find support — namely, our upcoming Canadian Outdoor Summit). And, we have a number of new programs and services in the works to expand how we support the outdoor sector.
Strategically, we pursue this niche because we understand them best. They are us, we are them. And their success is our success.
With more quality outdoor programs across the nation, we will have more organizations working directly or indirectly in the accomplishment of our mission. They will bring more people outdoors and be the embodiment of a strong positive outdoor narrative. Thus, through this niche we can have maximal impact with minimal effort (still a ton of effort, but much less than if we pursued other niches).”
Next, we’ll hear from Judith Pinto, about her Occupational Therapy practice.
“I provide psychotherapy to children who experience mental health challenges (i.e. difficulties regulating attention, emotions, moods and behaviours) secondary to neurodevelopmental struggles (e.g. Autism, ADHD, Learning Disabilities, etc) and/or disrupted attachment or trauma.
I also provide online educational programs to support parents and professional caregivers (e.g. paediatric therapists, social workers, teachers, etc.) to help them “uplevel” their relationships with the children in their care, irrespective of their diagnoses, so they are better able to be effective in nurturing healing, growth, and development.
My goal is, ultimately, to ‘make childhood better for kids with (or without) special needs…and their parents too’… through psychotherapy and education!
I decided to pursue this because it is my area of expertise, I have over 27 years as an occupational therapist, with over 23 of those working with children with special needs and/or mental health challenges. I have pursued specialized training and gained experience in using various psychotherapeutic approaches, but specialize in Sandplay Therapy and emotionally focused therapy.
In my work with children over the years, I have had considerable experience coaching and providing consultations to parents and professional caregivers (teachers, other therapists and clinicians, child care providers, educational assistants, therapy assistants, etc.).
While I KNOW there are many other psychotherapists ‘out there,’ my training in occupational therapy and psychotherapy makes me uniquely suited to address the mental health needs of children with neurodevelopmental differences. Likewise, while there are many parent education services available, the foundations of my practice are occupational therapy, Jungian Sandplay and ‘attachment theory’; as such I help parents learn and apply an empathetic approach to supporting all aspects of their child’s development — sensory-motor, cognitive-verbal, psychosocial, and emotional.
This is an approach that is needed in the marketplace — addressing the holistic developmental needs of children, rooted in promoting mental health through positive caregiver-child relationships. And the more parents and professionals out there that understand how to do that well, the better for kids!”
And finally, last but certainly not least, Lisa-Marie Aird and her business, Campus Bound GPS.
“As a Collegiate Success Coach, I help students and parents navigate the college application process, so as a family, they can enjoy the journey and have a positive experience selecting a college that’s the best fit.
I would say this niche chose me, rather than I chose it. After struggling through the college application process with my student-athlete son, ‘we’ received several acceptance letters, a couple rejections, and many scholarships and grants, including a full 4-year tuition scholarship to one school.
The next year one of my daughter’s friends wanted me to help her, which multiplied into me helping 14 students familiarize themselves with the SAT and apply for scholarships (with a few winners). A couple years after that, a friend asked me to assist her son with the process and Campus Bound GPS was born.”
Now that you’ve gotten a peek behind the curtain of how these business owners found their niches, let’s take a look at some possible niche ideas you could add to your growing list.
Niche Ideas List (for Your Inspiration)
No matter what industry you’re in, there are different niche ideas you can explore. Here are seven of the top current markets, and a few niche ideas within each category to get you started.
1. Computers and Technology
- Computer projects for homeschooled kids
- Coding languages for aspiring software engineers
- 3D printing and makerspace projects for curious adults
2. Money and Finance
- Crowdfunding for inventors
- Investing for people who want to retire in their 30s
- Creating passive income streams for retirees
3. Creative Endeavors
- Photography using iPhones
- Learning a specific musical instrument as an adult
- Fashion and jewelry for aspiring YouTube stars
4. Health and Wellness
- Fitness and weight loss for new moms
- Nutrition and cooking for specific dietary restrictions
- Wellness recommendations for specific medical conditions
5. Personal Development
- Parenting tips for first-time parents
- Language study skills for people getting ready to travel to a foreign country
- Memory and study skills for students headed to college
6. Lifestyle, Hobbies & Home
- Tiny house design for millennials
- Travel tips for digital nomads
- Craft beer, wine, cider, or spirits for home brewers
7. Growing Markets
- Prepping and survival skills for city dwellers
- Sustainability and environmentally-friendly living for concerned citizens
- Virtual reality experiences and products for tech fanatics
Inspired to narrow down your list to figure out which niche is for you?
Your next step is to determine which of your potential niche ideas has the potential to make a profit.
How to Find Profitable Niche Markets from Your List of Ideas
Now that you have the list of niches you would enjoy working in, let’s narrow down that list. For this step, you’ll determine which ideas could potentially support you as you grow your business.
First, let’s take a quick look at what’s necessary for a profitable niche.
The Psychological Elements of a Profitable Niche
You already determined some of the problems and desires you might target. But let’s take a deeper look at the psychology behind those challenges.
You can think about niches in terms of basic human needs, and the requirements of human beings to fulfill those needs.
Niche markets exist to solve problems (needs).
And as you probably know, pressing problems often make for the most profitable niches. If someone is in a great deal of acute pain, they want a solution now! They are actively seeking help, and they’re far less likely to hesitate when it comes time to pull out their wallet.
“According to @MiraseeOfficial, pressing problems make for the most profitable niches.”Tweet Me
Let’s quickly break down the five levels of Maslow’s hierarchy and how they apply to choosing a business niche.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (and Niches)
On a physiological level, all humans have basic needs. These are things like food, water, and shelter. You might teach people how to grow their own food in an organic backyard garden, or how to build a sustainable tiny house.
Moving up the hierarchy, you arrive at safety needs. These are things like security and stability. You might teach self defense to college-aged women, or cybersecurity to software developers.
One level up you find belongingness and love needs. This is the need for interpersonal relationships, and includes things like friendship and intimacy. You might help new parents maintain their intimacy after childbirth, or create a membership community where people can connect over shared interests.
Next up is the need for esteem. This includes both self-esteem and how you are perceived by others. You might teach speaking skills to someone getting ready to give a TED talk, or brand management for Instagram influencers.
And at the top of the hierarchy is the need for self-actualization. This is the level at which humans aim to achieve their full potential, or tap into their unlimited creativity. You might focus on any number of different personal development topics, or help people in their quest to be of service to others.
Now that you know what the five levels are, consider where your audience currently stands within the hierarchy.
- Is your average audience member struggling to fulfill their basic physiological needs? If they are struggling to pay the rent, you’re unlikely to be able to sell them a service that helps them with their personal development.
- Along the same lines, if your audience has their basic and safety needs covered, they’re not as likely to actively seek out solutions to their physiological needs.
Before we move along to the next step in the process, let’s check back in with our six business owners.
Validate Your Niche Idea: Mirasee Audience Members Open Up
The next question we asked was, “how did you determine there was an untapped market in your niche?”
Bobbi Burnett tells a story of a happy accident.
“It was kind of serendipitous. I put a product out there I felt confident in, and proud of.
I listened to the people who noticed a marked difference in the quality of my herbs. I listened to what they needed them for, what they were making with them, and what price point they were comfortable paying.
My niche found me.”
Brad Greyeyes-Brant used his understanding of the market.
“Basically, I analyzed the marketplace through Eugene Schwartz’s classic ‘market sophistication’ framework found in Breakthrough Advertising and applied it to the knowledge I already had about the competitiveness of the marketplace.
I understood what else was out there, and the claims being made. I had something that was truly different in both source and mechanism.
And from my experience in the affiliate marketing world (please forgive me, hah) I saw the power of ‘NEW’ whenever a new supplement would hit the networks.”
Cindy Au-Kramer saw a need via the work someone else was doing.
“My daughter is volunteering 50 hours to create Book Arts programs for libraries in NJ and PA for her Girl Scout Silver Award Project. The registration levels for these programs was a very positive indicator of a good market.”
Franz Plangger listened to conversations in his industry.
“I would describe it as some equivalent of the ‘conversations around the water cooler’ (or the coffee machine).
I have been in the sector – as somebody offering trips for different organizations – for years and I hear the same complaints, the same stories all the time.
As one organization in the outdoor sector puts it, they have a 9/10 product (after people do an outdoor trip, they rave about it), but with a 1/10 recognition (before taking the trip, people barely know about these great programs and why they should be a client).
This 9/10 vs 1/10 reality is a clear indicator of a bigger issue. It’s something that requires our type of services to solve the problem.”
Judith Pinto had people reach out to her about her particular area of expertise.
“I know that there is a distinct gap in training for paediatric occupational therapists, most of whom do not specialize in ‘psychotherapy.’ Many therapists are needing to address the mental health challenges of children (and parents of children) with medical and developmental struggles.
I have had a number of therapists reach out as a result of some piece of my marketing to inquire about professional development for therapists, particularly those who live and practice in rural communities with limited local access to cost effective, relevant professional development. They have made it clear that they need to learn and apply skills to better work with underlying mental health needs of their clients (children and families).
It has become clear that the kind of training I intend to offer – the kind that is not just information, but is ‘transformative’ to their clinical practices – is just not available in the current marketplace.”
And Lisa-Marie Aird connected with her network.
“Initially, I reached out to my friends and family by going live on Facebook to provide daily tips on the college application process for a month. My inner circle embraced my experience and knowledge and came to me for guidance. I opened myself up to those who sought me.
I noticed that most families came to me during the start of their child’s senior year in high school. Because of my interaction, I determined that families of high school juniors are my best clients.
Presently, I am conducting interviews and market research to find out more about the market. I’ve found that Quora is an excellent website to gather responses about all topics surrounding the college application process.
Also, when I meet people and inform them of Campus Bound GPS I hear either, ‘I wish you were around when I was applying to colleges’ or, ‘can you help me, my child will listen to you faster than me.’ My clients and exposure are definitely word-of-mouth.”
Now it’s time to take the final step: choosing which niche you want to focus on!
How to Select the Best Profitable Niche For You
By this point, you have a list of possible niches that 1) you would enjoy pursuing, 2) you know there’s a market for, and 3) will be profitable in the long term.
Now you get to have some fun, and narrow down to exactly which niche you want to work with!
Let’s walk step by step through the five questions you should ask about each idea on your list.
5 Questions to Help You Narrow Down Your Niche Ideas List
You’ll begin by deciding “where” you want to do business.
1. Is your niche idea digital-friendly?
For example, a massage therapist can’t give massages virtually, but they could create an online course that teaches people simple massage techniques to use with a partner.
2. Is there enough competition in your niche?
Too much competition can sometimes mean the market is saturated. But not enough competition is just as troubling — competition indicates that people are looking for these kinds of offers, and there are often good affiliate opportunities to be found.
For example, it wouldn’t be wise to try to break into personal computing and compete against the 800 lb gorillas of tech hardware (Apple and Microsoft). But seeing a number of different offerings aimed at computer software engineers would be a good indicator of interest in a particular coding topic (like Python or Ruby on Rails).
3. Is the audience pool large enough to support your business?
The advice to “niche down” is sound… but there are times where you can accidentally go too far. Standard business advice is that there should be at least 1 million people who are interested in your topic area.
You can even do some math to determine exactly what your numbers look like. If your goal is to find your 1000 true fans, and you could count on getting 1% of a particular audience, how many people need to be interested in your topic area?
It’s also important to pay attention to how active and engaged an audience is. One thousand people who are raving fans beats out a million people who are only moderately interested in something!
You can use a tool like Facebook Audience Insights to understand demographic information about your audience, including other pages they like, their online activity, what their household looks like, etc.
4. Is there enough search traffic to support an online business?
You also want to find a balance here.
Remember, you’re aiming for keywords that allow you to rank on the first page of Google (ideally in the top three spots), without needing to sell a kidney or spend weeks creating one piece of content to rank. 😉
Use Google Keyword Planner to identify the search terms that have a fairly high search volume, with relatively low competition. (You should be able to re-use your initial research from the market research phase of this post, though you might choose to do a deeper dive into the keywords you pick.)
As a (completely fictional) example:
Short keywords like “digital marketing” have high search volume and high competition — making them incredibly difficult to rank for. Instead, you could do some digging to find long-tail keywords that are lower search volume but also lower competition, like: “how to write landing page copy” or “how to write cornerstone content” (note: we are not implying that these specific examples are low competition).
5. Is there enough long-term potential to make this idea into a sustainable business?
This final question helps you determine how much work will be required at the top of your customer funnel.
Take, for example, the bridal industry. If you are a service provider who focuses on solving problems for a bride, at least 50% of those women will never need your services again (at least based on historical divorce rates in the United States). A wedding is usually one and done, so in order to maintain your cash flow you will need to constantly search for new brides to serve.
On the other hand, if you are an online store focused on marathon runners, any customer who falls in love with your business is likely to stick with you for years, returning every time they need a new piece of clothing, new running shoes, or other gear to help them perform their best.
Hopefully these questions have helped you narrow down your list to just a few ideas.
At this point, we recommend stepping away from the process for a bit. This will give you time to reflect on which of the ideas feels best for you and your long term business goals.
There’s no perfect “magic formula” that will allow you to look into the future and guarantee your success. But if you’ve gone through the process, you should have the data to back up your decision and a gut feeling for which direction will be best for you.
From there, it’s time to commit and move forward with your new business idea. To start, you can plug your new niche into the following formula, so it’s easy for you to describe who you serve and how you serve them!
Mirasee’s Simple Niche Formula
Ah, the dreaded elevator pitch. Or the networking icebreaker: “so what do you do?”
To make it easier to talk about what you do – without stumbling over your words or feeling like you missed an opportunity – let’s look at a formula you can plug your new niche into:
I help [who — the people you serve] do [what — how you serve them], so they can [the benefit or outcome they get from working with you].
I help ___ do ___ so that ___.
“So what do you do? @MiraseeOfficial's simple niche formula makes it easy to answer: I help ___ do ___ so that ___.”Tweet Me
Before we wrap up, we asked our amazing audience members and students one last question.
Select Your Niche: Mirasee Audience Members Pay it Forward
Our final question was a simple one, and the answers we got back were invaluable.
We asked: “What advice would you give a brand new online entrepreneur regarding how to select their niche?”
Here’s what they had to say.
“I feel like the in-person feedback I got about my product (by going to different shows and events) was really the ‘a-ha’ moment that helped me to define my niche.
Perhaps this was a backwards way to go about it, but it helped me to get the language I needed to describe my product to future customers. It changed the way I wrote descriptions for my herbs and the way I market them.
Start with a good idea of who your niche is, but be open to who it may become as well. Listen to the specific needs of your customers and assume there’s more people out there like them.
Thank them when they share your product or service on social media, and return the favour if you can.”
“This is going to sound very cliché and cheesy, but you really do need to find something bigger than money to be your motivator, to keep you going through the hard times.
There is simply no shortage of ways to make money online. When times get tough, if all you’re focused on is the money, you’re going to face strong temptations to jump ship and move on to the next bright shiny object that promises to make you money faster and easier than what you’re currently trying to do.
However, if you’ve found a group of people that you believe can make a genuinely positive change in their lives, those shiny objects will tend to disappear.
Focus on helping people.”
“Test out your course in person with small focus groups (i.e. 6-8 people).
This group can give you immediate feedback to identify what knowledge, skills, or behavior change is difficult to transfer when taught face to face vs. online facilitation, and what is easily understood when taught via an online video and/or downloadable PDFs.”
“Do you know your people? What is it that connects them all? How do you recognize them?
A niche can be big or small (in number of people), but ultimately they all connect through the same thing. Find that thing and you’ll know how to talk to them.”
“Choose a niche in a field you already know something about — something you already have expertise in. Don’t start from scratch trying to learn something brand new; the learning curve and workload would be far too great!
There will be hard moments, hours, days, weeks, and even months. So ideally choose a niche you’re committed to because it matters to you.”
“The advice I would give a brand-new online entrepreneur getting ready to select their niche is to listen to your gut and pursue what you are passionate about.
As a person who is passionate about her business, when I speak about my program folks are interested and feel my passion. My words would not resonate if I did not have a love for coaching students on their journey towards success.
Also, be patient. Success is not a sprint — enjoy the journey and learn from the success and missteps.”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. Now it’s time to take your first steps toward business success, with your brand shiny new niche!
Turn Your Niche Ideas Into Reality
You’ve come so far by this point in the process.
You have a giant list of niche ideas, narrowed down by how profitable they could be and which is best for you and your business goals. And you’ve heard from folks just like you, getting established in a great niche that allows them to best serve their audience.
Now it’s time for you to go forth and prosper.
By narrowing in on the perfect niche, you allow your future customers to see themselves so clearly in what you’re offering that they sit up and take notice.
Ideally, they think, “wow! They’re talking about me. I NEED that!” Then they buy your product or service. And eventually become a raving fan of your work.
As you’re building your audience of “true fans,” there are a few tips and tactics you can keep up your sleeve. Pick up your free copy of Engagement from Scratch, and turn your loyal audience into a super-engaged community.
Create Your Loyal Audience (from Scratch!)
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