The Accomplished Solopreneur

Issue 24.18

Saturday, May 4, 2024

image courtesy of DALL-E via ChatGPT

Troubleshoot your business Part 1: Your Niche

Last week we started the journey of troubleshooting your business. As I mentioned then, this is as much troubleshooting as it is designing and building a business - so you should find it useful wherever you are in your journey.

This week, we’re looking at the most important part of your business - your niche. In the Tornado Method, this is called the Business Model:

A quick side note here: The Tornado Method hasn’t changed much since its inception in 2017; however I’m more and more of the opinion that I should change Business Model to niche - more about that in a future article.

So here we go - let’s troubleshoot your niche.

What is a niche, and why is it so important?

I’ve written about niches before, so I’m going to keep this very brief. If you have a well-defined niche, the following good things happen:

  • It's easier to find potential customers (because you know exactly who they are, where to find them and the problems they have to deal with).
  • It's easier for potential clients to find you (because you’re known as the expert).
  • It's way easier to become an expert (because you’re specialized).

A case in point: This past week I had to have the locks on our car replaced (unsuccessful burglary, not something you want to wake up to). A few calls around and Leigh showed up at my house. He specializes in auto locks, has been doing this for 27 years, and replaced all the locks including setting them to work with our existing keys in an hour. It was expensive, but the problem was solved, and I am now recommending him to anyone who cares to listen.

That’s the value of a niche - becoming the go-to person for a specific problem.

Troubleshoot your niche

You can do this exercise on a piece of paper, or you can use this Google sheet. Here’s what you need to do:

Part 1: Describe your niche

To troubleshoot your niche, you first need to know exactly what it is. If it’s just in your head, now’s the time to write it down. Answer the following questions:

  • Who are your ideal clients? What are their titles? Where do they work? What else is relevant to know about them that can help you understand them? And find them? (I don’t find demographic information useful, but you may.)
  • What problems do you solve for them? Describe the problem they have that you can solve for them. Use their words if you can.
  • Why do they care about this problem? What material (money) problems do they have because of this problem? What emotional problems do they experience because of it?

Once you’ve written this down, you can rate how well you’re addressing this niche.

Part 2: Rate your niche

The spreadsheet has space for an answer and a score. I regularly update my own version of this spreadsheet, and knowing why gave my myself a specific score tells me whether I’m justified in giving it a better score (or not).

Score yourself on a rate of 1 (bad) to 10 (perfect), or leave a score empty if the question doesn’t apply. Add your own questions if you like.

Here are the questions with a brief explanation:

  • I know exactly who they are: If an ideal client were to look at your niche, they should be able to say “yes, that’s me.”
  • I know exactly which problems I solve for them: When you tell your clients what you do, they immediately understand what you’re talking about.
  • I’ve heard them talk about these problems: You’ve heard your ideal clients talk about this problem without prompting them.
  • I’ve spoken to more than 10 potential clients that confirm the problem: Have you actually interviewed (formally or otherwise) at least 10 potential clients to understand if this really is a problem for them?
  • This is an expensive problem for them: It’s costing them real money, or real pain. Ideally both.
  • They tell me they want and need to solve this problem: There’s a big difference between complaining about something and actually putting money into having it solved.
  • There are enough of them: You can’t build a business if there are only 5 people world-wide who are your ideal clients. How many are there, and how did you figure this out? How many will you be able to reach?

Be thoughtful about your answers and scores - and above all, honest. This is a critical part of your business, so take your time.

Part 3: What now?

I try to get an average of 7 or higher before I’m happy. In the case of your niche, you may even want to go higher.

If your score is below 7, you need to go and do the work to bring your average up to where you would like it to be. If you’re at or above the minimum, your niche is probably OK. If any of the question scores are below 5, you need to work on getting that specific score up.

Be careful of the echo chamber of your own mind.

Our perception of our own niche is always influenced by what we think is good. It’s good practice to show this to someone with no vested interest in you or your business, and get their feedback.

Your homework - and your challenge 😁

Now it’s over to you. Do the work, and decide if you need to work on your niche.

And here’s the challenge: once you’ve done the work, email me and let me know what you found. Was it insightful? Did you struggle with any of the questions? Did you add any of your own?

I’ll see you next week.