When it comes to Internet marketing, picking your first business niche can not only be tricky, but scary, especially if you’re going at it for the first time.
Over the past few years I’ve built hundreds of sites in a variety of niches, but it was those first couple that were the hardest to define and find. Keyword research has always been a vital part of this process but this should be considered tactical rather than a flat out business plan. Tactics are wonderful, but they’re best used within your business rather than as a business model.
It can be sad, scary and frustrating when an entrepreneur spends months or years, possibly investing thousands of dollars on a business, site or product that they absolutely believe in, but one that just doesn’t have true market viability. There are people who pour their blood, sweat, and tears into their businesses, sometimes even taking out a second mortgage, borrowing money from family and friends, ultimately landing themselves in a pit of debt.
I’ve seen the carcasses of these ventures pop up on Flippa and other buy/sell websites. The scenario is usually one of two:
1. The seller is working to get their money back from all the effort they have put in, usually setting the site offer at an outrageous price that ultimately results in zero bids and no sale.
2. The seller offers and sells the site to a shrewd buyer, someone who ends up scooping the site up for pennies on the dollar.
Neither of these scenarios are great for the entrepreneur.
I want talk about getting past these tactics and cover off a few ways you can create a bigger plan, strategy, and apply lenses that will help you build a long-term, sustainable business. I’ll also share some actual and practical examples that can provide insight as to how these strategies can be applied.
Selection Strategy – Becoming #1 in the 777 Niche
This is a strategy I recommend to help zero in on niches prior to doing the standard keyword research when it comes to identifying search interest in market. This idea is completely personalized and not only will it help you get started, but you may even become inspired. Write down 7 passions, 7 problems, and 7 fears that you or someone you know is currently dealing with. This is why these three areas are fantastic to target:
Passions – Leveraging things that people are passionate about can be great for business targeting because it ensures a high level of engagement. When it comes to sales and action, you can expect higher margins in a passionate niche, as well as the potential to profit on the discretionary income of others.
Problems – You have to be a bit selective with this one, it’s a tad tricky. Make sure you’re targeting problems people already know they have. If not, you’re going to have to work to educate and create a market, which is an expensive proposition for someone who’s just starting out. Be sure to capitalize on the “real” problems people face, something you would pay money to have solved.
Fears – If you’re seeking to build an online business based around a website, consider targeting fears that people may not be willing to share with their friends, family, and co-workers. Get your highlighter. This can be extremely profitable. Let me hit you with a quick example: someone probably won’t be discussing the court case for their DUI they received last month or the STD they’re worried they have. A website can provide the answers and reassurance that person needs, and that person is able to do research within the comfort and privacy of their own home. Your site could be just what they’re looking for!
So, once you’ve compiled your list of 21 niches, start crossing off those you’re not really interested in or those that don’t seem like your style, and then base your final decision on what’s left.
Getting It Done – Rip, Pivot, And Jam
This method is based around using your specialized knowledge (and/or thorough competitive analysis) to engage a market that is already existing and proven to be profitable.
Maybe you’re working in auto sales, you dabble in programming in the evenings and happen to know that the client tracking software in the industry is the worst! Maybe you work as a marketing manager for a Real Estate company and are responsible for driving inbound leads. Oh look, it just so happens there’s a great process for lead generation offshore. You could be a HUGE cat lover and can’t seem to find any classy, high-quality cat furniture that you would love to buy to complete your themed home décor.
Whatever specialized knowledge you have or can create, you can leverage that as your unfair advantage and destroy your competition. Let’s get into a few helpful steps and the details:
Rip – Seriously, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Take the time to really study the structure and model of your profitable, soon-to-be competition and completely copy their best practices. Often times these guys spend years developing the market and refining their approach, so piggy-back off their success and fast-track your learning.
Pivot – It’s important to think of a fresh way to push your business to a new market or use your unfair advantage to rise above your competition in key areas that will resonate with your customers. You may have the opportunity to scoop up what your competition has failed to capture or maybe you can provide a more personalized service, adding true value that could be lacking from the big boys.
Jam – Seriously, stop thinking about your other business ideas or whatever shiny toy is out there, just get to work. Leave the TV off, close YouTube, and forget going out for a couple of weekends. It’s time to out work the established competition, and remember that often they’re not able, willing, or nimble enough to accomplish what you can.
If you already have a profitable business and are considering generating additional revenue through side projects, you shouldn’t underestimate the value in scratching your own itch.
One Internet marketing team had a requirement for split-testing a WordPress theme that would rotate layouts automatically and test which one was optimal when it came down to earnings per site.
This solution didn’t exist within the market, so they built it. Because there was a market need they began to resell it, making back their development costs by providing value to other niche site builders. Think outside the box. If you can’t code it, outsource it.
What are your strategies for selecting a niche? Please share your comments, tips, and suggestions below!