Specialists Trump Generalists

The Power of the Niche: Why Knowing Your Specialty Matters

Authority figure delivering a lecture or presentation in front of an auditorium of adults

You can fast-track your authority - what you are known for - through nailing your niche.

Back in 2008, Kevin Kelly, editor of Wired wrote a blog article “1000 True Fans”. He predicted that the internet would allow creators - the artists, musicians, authors, or entrepreneurs - the ability to earn their living by having 1,000 true fans buy anything you make - calculating that if every true fan spent $100 with you, per year, you’d make a target income of $100,000.

I’ve just read a great update to that by Lin Jin - written in 2020 that she thinks creators now only need to amass 100 true fans, paying $1000 per year, not $100.

Either way you could get to $100,000, but reaching a smaller audience and connecting with people to build relationships with 100 customers rather than 1000 feels potentially more achievable. For someone to become a “true fan” you’d need to be known for something in particular.

Why is this relevant in talking about niches? - because I thought it would be helpful to illustrate the numbers.

One of the biggest objections I’ve heard people make about not wanting to focus on a niche or “niche down” is that there won’t be enough customers for them to make it viable… but there are a lot of people on the planet.

You don’t need a huge audience to succeed - what’s more important is that you find the right people, the right audience who need and want what you are offering and who want it from you.

Getting clarity on and defining your niche helps you work out what you want to say yes to and what you are ready to say no to.

I’m a case in point, I’m a marketing strategist, fully qualified with the Chartered Institute of Marketing. I’ve also “had to” do a bit of everything. I can create a marketing strategy for you, copywrite, ghost write, handle your PR, sort your social media, project manage, organise TV commercials, filming, photoshoots, facebook ads, YouTube ranking, tech stuff and - throughout all this - come up with creative innovative ideas.

My clients rarely want all of that in one go. To be honest, if they did I’d be exhausted. In the past I might have someone come to me asking for help with optimising their LinkedIn profile… and it would turn into an ideas session. They’d ask me to copywrite a sales page for them - but I’d need to get to the bottom of who they were, what they stood for, what their offer was - all the intrinsic stuff - before doing that.

Even handling social media for clients - the questions: what stands you apart? - what do you want to be known for? - who is this for? - need to be answered if you’re going to successfully engage your audience.

PR, Ads, campaigns - to do them justice, all of them need that inner intrinsic work nailed down before you get started on the outward-facing deliverable.

Don’t get me wrong - this isn’t a rant on the “jack of all trades, master of none” stance. You might have mastered all your skills… but ideally you need to be known for one thing - the thing you’re best at and then find the people who are looking for exactly that.

Even if that is what unlocks the door to all the other things you offer.

My mentor James Wedmore had a similar tale - he was known for all the marketing skills - but it wasn’t until he became known as the go-to guy for video on YouTube that he says things changed.

Specialists command more authority than generalists.

Again - that’s not to say you can’t do a lot of things well - just that to be known, in an increasingly competitive space, why not stand out for one thing? Why not forge your reputation on the thing that you love, the thing that you’re best at?

Imagine this - do you want a referral with someone describing you as a “good all-rounder” or “the expert in…”? Being positioned as the authority in a subject is likely to get you more targeted leads and the potential to command a higher fee.

We’ve covered why you need to work out - clearly - what you want to be known for - so that other people can quickly make sense of what you do, who you help and what you stand for. They literally need to identify you in a crowd…

…but what about your customers?

They need to be seen. They need to feel heard. Even if they don’t realise they need what you have to offer yet. It’s the beginning of connection, communication, community.

When you’ve identified your niche you can speak more clearly to your audience - and your audience will thank you. For them, you’ve just eliminated a lot of noise. You’ve given them back time. You’ve shown them that you are here for them. Not the whole world and his wife, just them.

Imagine you’re in a grocery store, doing your weekly food shopping. The tannoy comes on and someone starts listing special offers. Hundreds of them. Trouble is, all of them are for meat products and you happen to be a vegetarian. After the sixth announcement of 50% off pork chops in aisle three, your brain switches off. On your way out the store, as you’re pushing your trolley, you vaguely hear an offer which might have applied to you, but you’re already set on loading your car and can’t wait to get home.

This is our online space. You can see it in your Facebook feed. Ad after ad of mainly generalist offers. Even offers about creating online courses are normally targeted at “course creators” rather than a particular niche.

What if, instead, you could be the tannoy which led with “Shout out to our vegetarians and vegans - we’ve got a special on dairy-free alternatives in aisle seven today!”

Instant recognition of who I am, what I want and where to get it.

If you’d like some inspiration of how to apply this to your online business, I have a free guide to 128 unique niches which are crushing it right now - compliments of my mentor, James Wedmore.  It’s available here: www.ideasg.al/nicheguide.

Originally published as an article on LinkedIn on 17 April 2022.