Niche selection is one of the first steps every entrepreneur has to take.
Sometimes you just fall into your niche -- for example, if you created a product, made some sales, and decided to stay where you were. But even then, you'll do better if you spend some time getting to know who you're selling to, and who you're not, so that you know how best to reach and communicate with them.
One big question that comes up during niche selection is whether to go narrow or broad. Are you better off targeting a large group so that you don't have to grab a big percentage of the market to do well? Or is it better to focus in on a small group, cater directly to them, and try to own the niche?
Both strategies can be valid. But either can also be a bad decision.
If you're going broad because you're too lazy to do the research needed to define a narrow niche, you're probably not going to do the work needed to grab a viable sliver of a broad niche either. You'll be competing with harder working broad niche sellers, as well as more focused competitors targeting portions of your broad niche.
On the other hand, if you go too narrow, or choose the wrong narrow niche, you can end up perfectly targeting a group with no buyers.
In general, the best advice is to focus in on a smaller group than you think should want your product. If you try to target everyone who you see benefiting from it, you'll face an uphill battle trying to convince those who don't feel the need. That energy would be better used selling to those who don't need so much arm twisting.
Focus on those who already want your product -- those who are looking for a solution to the problems you can solve for them, and just need to know what the solution is. Once you're succeeding at selling to them, you can consider ways to appeal to others on the fringes of your focus without diluting the message to the center of your niche.
The other day, I shared the story of a kid with a loose tooth that was poking out of his mouth like a narwhal's tusk:
I think that tooth was bugging all of us. But who was it that pulled out her wallet and offered $6 to see it go? The orthodontist's wife. It just goes to show that some people feel the itches that your product scratches more acutely than others. And they're willing to pay more to get it scratched.
If you're trying to target your product at "everybody with a website" or "all females" or something, you may be short changing yourself. Tightly target people with a big itch and scratch it well, and you'll be able to command a higher price.
Not only can you charge more in a tighter niche, but it's much easier to make the sale at all. Over at Yaro Starak blog, Leevi Romanik wrote:
When you go to a restaurant and they serve Chinese, Thai, Italian and Hamburgers ... do you think the quality of the Italian will be any good? ...
As humans we love specificity. Take pain killers for example. If you have a headache ... would you just buy a bottle labeled with "Medicine". Probably not, it is in the general category of what you want, but too broad. What about a bottle labeled "Pain Killer"? You would probably buy this, unless you were presented with one labeled "Pain Killer for Headaches".
Most of us think of our products like all-purpose pain killers. We know it works for headaches, teeth, joint pain, and bug bites. But even if it's the best pain killer for everything, it's very difficult to convince customers to choose it over an alternative that claims to specialize in their exact pain.
If your product will serve a wide variety of people well, one good approach is to make multiple versions of it, each targeted at a small group: "Pain-B-Gone for Headaches", "Pain-B-Gone for Tooth Aches", etc. The differences between the versions may be trivial -- in some cases, just branding or cosmetic.
So even if you're selling to a broad niche, you can use a narrow message to reach each part of it.
Just be sure when choosing a narrow niche that you're targeting a viable niche -- one with enough prospects who are willing to spend enough money to make it worth your while.