Choosing A Niche that Works on the Personal Web
There are lots of opinions out there on choosing your niche, and it’s precisely where most health practitioners get stuck in building an online business. And the experts are all over the map on this one.
Let’s say you’re a Functional Medicine practitioner opening a new practice, and you want to build a new site. If you listen to a lot of the niche experts, they’ll tell you your market is flooded with health practitioners online, and that unless you spend a fortune in advertising, you’ll never be found online. Better to choose a niche topic few people are addressing, they’ll tell you. “Hey, how about instead, you sell antique tarot cards? Heck, Google returns 532,000 results for antique tarot cards — you’ve got a gold mine there!”
And yet, I can guarantee you, next month, and next year, dozens of new Functional Medicine practitioner sites will break through online and begin building a tribe and a very nice business for themselves. How can you be one of those?
Some of the best advice I’ve read on niching is from Copyblogger’s Sonia Simone, who wrote;
Instead of being a big fish in a small pond, allow me to suggest another approach. Be a small, ridiculously evolved, very rare and weird fish in a great big pond.
Some practitioners mistakenly believe they’ve got to choose or create something new, better, or cheaper. It doesn’t matter how many other health practitioners are out there already. Those professionals who succeed on the Personal Web are those who create brands and build relationships with their unique personality and voice.
And that’s your key to online success, too.
How not to learn this the hard way
So there I was, on the phone listening to yet another tele-seminar featuring some guy with an exotic name promising to Change My Life. Not that I’m against changing my life, or any life, for that matter. But as I listened, I realized he was spouting the same warmed over stuff I’d heard from ten different people over the years. There was nothing new here.
For two decades I’ve been telling my marketing and consulting clients “there are no new lessons, only new teachers.”
This to me is observably true. I’d make this bold claim to my clients because when it came time to choose or narrow their niche, some of them would become concerned about their skills or expertise not being unique enough in a crowded marketplace. And I’d assure each of them that their message, their point view, skills and experience were indeed unique; and that it was this message that would attract people to them.
I’ve seen this borne out time and again with my own clients, and all over the web. New books, products, television programs – exciting new voices launching new platforms somehow making the same old messages sound exciting and new, simply by virtue of their fresh point of view.
And each of these freshly minted experts draw their own tribe of students for whom their message is indeed fresh. And yet, for years I was so busy working in my consulting practice, helping others develop and launch their products, I just could never seem to find the time to launch my own product. I seemed only capable of launching others. Why?
The burden of specialness
Creative people often carry a unique set of baggage with them into their business: they have so many ideas, it’s hard to choose “just one.” Here’s what I once believed, see if it sounds at all familiar for you.
Every time I’d think up a unique new spin on something, I’d soon stop myself from pursuing it because “someone else had already done it.” And I’d shelve that idea, confident I’d come up with an additional new twist that would make what I had finally truly, uniquely special. One of a kind, never been seen or heard of before.
Even though I told my clients and students repeatedly that there are no new ideas under the sun – here I was, agonizing for years under this intense self-imposed pressure of specialness. And while I waited for my unique, special, and amazing message to fall from the sky, I’d focus on other people’s unique and special messages. And there’s been no shortage of those.
I’ve worked with health professionals from all walks of life to create and realize their brands and messaging, creating companies and complete lines of products. And some of them have gone on to become billion-dollar empires spanning the globe.
You see, those people were special. Their message was truly, fundamentally unique. How could I not work with them to forward their unique vision – when it was so big, so grand, and so truly unique? I’d become passionately engaged in forwarding their vision, their mission. All the while, my own voice had no place. No platform. And that was fine with me.
Until one day it wasn’t.
There really are no new lessons, only new teachers.
The tipping point for me arrived several years ago as I listened to that callI referred to at the opening of this article — offering a warmed-over pitch from yet another guy with yet another warmed-over philosophy – and a matching product for $197. I hung up and thought: “He’s not my teacher right now.”
That’s about the only thing I could think, because from all other signs, this guy should be the world’s teacher. Heck, he’s having success with his message all over the place. Apparently for a lot of people, his message is unique; it’s brand new – to them. And the way he phrases it reaches those people.
And that’s the point.
It dawned on me it’s not always the message, sometimes – maybe a lot of the time – it’s the carrier of the message, and that person’s “voice” that reaches others.
What makes us “special” is the absolutely unique combination of everything we are, and everything we bump up against in life; the choices we make in response to those experiences, the knowledge we gain, the skills we attain.
Whether you believe it’s all by design or chance, this life can teach, challenge, and mold us. With every encounter, every new adventure, experience, and person we meet, we learn how to respond, and sometimes we get to choose again, if we fail the first time. It’s this “living” each of us can bring to what we want to share with the world.
Yes, your “lessons” may not be new. But I’m convinced no other person on earth has passed through the life you have, or picked up the combination of lessons you have chosen along the way.
And all of this is what comes together to form your voice. And it’s the acceptance of this truth that creates the teacher, the artist, and the leader. I also know this: there are other people ready to learn from you. People who’d respond to your voice, your unique way of seeing the world and navigating the landscape, the way you tell the story of what you’ve learned along the way – who won’t respond to this same message from anyone else.
Stop Noticing Who You Aren’t
Turns out I’m a natural critic. I’ll walk out of a movie theater and I’ll have to either rip it to shreds or praise it – and provide all the reasons why. (Pity my poor movie companions….)
Also turns out not everyone will agree with me. Some people really like bad movies. Imagine that! But this habit really can turn ugly when I talk about other teachers in my same line of work.
A client will ask about someone he or she read recently, what do I think of this guru? And I’ll give my opinion; ripping into, or praising, said teacher.
“He’s obnoxious, full of himself, light on content…” whatever, you get the drift.
Here’s the challenge: What I personally think of other teachers is beside the point. Barring those who are legitimately unethical, the teacher who doesn’t speak to me might be a teacher my client can learn a great deal from. So here’s my first suggestion for finding your own voice and place in this world: let go of judging other voices. Your voice is not diminished by the presence of other voices.
There’s plenty of room in the world for other people teaching whatever it is you feel inspired to teach. A song, or movie, or book, or TV show you think is a waste of time may be just the thing that reaches someone else in a timely and profound way.
So, with this in mind, you can shed the burden of specialness – because you are inherently “special” . . . to that group of people who’ll become your “tribe.” Your focus can now shift to what really makes all the difference to your online success: Message, Tribe, and Action.
Define your Core Message.
Consider what you have knowledge of, experience in, or a love for, and then among those choices, focus on something you enjoy thinking, learning, talking, and writing about.
Find Your Tribe.
Find the people for whom that message is important and ‘on time’ and package your message in a way that makes it easy for them to recognize – and find, online.
Take focused action.
Stop waiting for lightning to strike you with never-before-heard information.
Stop waiting for the right Internet trick.
Stop waiting for the quick fix.
Stop doubting your unique value.
And start acting as if there are enough people in the world ready to hear from you right now to create a stable, sufficient income for yourself.
Because there are.