The Niche – Revisited

This paragraph comes from a guest article on a UK writers coaching website:

"It seems as though niches have been a hot topic of late, at least on the websites I’ve been frequenting. In fact, I’ve read several blog posts and articles, and have been to webinars and teleseminars in which the niche has been discussed, dissected, and debated. It really doesn’t matter how you say it — nitch, nish, or gneesh (the "g" is silent here) — you just need to get yourself one to be more successful."

I first saw this online in 2012.

I came across it again while researching for this article. As I read it this time, I realized the author was actually struggling with the concept himself. He knew what a niche was, and how beneficial it is to have one.

But it was evident that he was still searching for his own when he wrote it.

Leaning back in my chair, I chuckled. That writer finally did find his niche … I know, because that writer was me.

And my business has grown faster and been more profitable ever since I made that discovery.

What is a Niche, Anyway?

There are almost as many definitions as there are "niche holders."

According to the venerable Merriam-Webster online dictionary, a niche is:

"A place, condition of life or employment, or position suitable for the capabilities or merits of a person …”

Familiar surroundings, so to speak. A good niche will complement the writer's skillset.

Joshua Boswell defines a niche this way:

"A niche is a group of people that you can AND will contact … and that speak the same language."

So first, you need a list of contacts. Then, you need to contact them. If you don't, all you have is a list, not a niche or business.

The second part — "that speak the same language" — is where you begin focusing your efforts on a specific industry. People that use the same terms, jargon, and concepts. They speak their own specific, coded language.

And if you already speak their language, so much the better.

If you work at a job, you're around a group of people who speak the same language. You are in niche. And you probably chose it.

Now you're choosing one for your writing career. Your current job or field of work could be an excellent start. You already know the language … the learning curve is low, maybe even non-existent.

"Write what you know" is sound advice.

B2C versus B2B

A few years ago, I would have said my niche was Business-to-Business, also called B2B.

And while I have written for the Business-to-Consumer niche (B2C), B2B was my preference. I was more suited to that style of writing.

Here's a quick example of the difference. It's the tale of two coffeemakers.

Let's say you were writing copy for the Perk-O-Day 100, a coffee pot for consumers. You'd concentrate on the features and benefits that would appeal to the everyday person.

Automatic timer, reusable filter basket, and a brew that's perfect every time, opening those sleepy eyes for a great start each day. Everything that's important to them as consumers.

It's B2C copy.

Now, let's look at the copy for the Brew-Master 2000, a commercial coffeemaker for cafeterias, restaurants, and workplace break rooms.

The features and benefits would be geared toward ease of cleaning, efficiency, economy, and reliability. The desired benefits are much different because the coffeemaker's use is different.

It's an industrial machine, not a home appliance.

And since you are writing to businesses, it is B2B copy.

Even though both products are coffeemakers, the language — the jargon — in these two examples is different.

Features and benefits are handled differently.

Niches, Categories, and Target Markets

In my own way of thinking, B2C and B2B are not so much niches as categories.

The language used is different enough to warrant that distinction. The targeted prospects are different. Of course, you still need to write persuasively in each. And in either case, you'll be writing to people. But I think they're diverse enough to consider them categories or classifications.

If the word "niche" confuses you, think of target markets or target audiences. What type of business do you want to write for consistently?

So, my writing preference falls under the B2B category.

Obviously, the B2B category has myriad choices. Many copywriters start out as B2B generalists at first, writing for several markets. And a good number of them continue as generalists.

You can make money as a generalist; but to boost income, you specialize. It may seem counterintuitive at first glance. If you're a generalist, the world is your oyster.

So many companies — so little time, right?

But just as a doctor who specializes in a particular field makes more money than a general practitioner does, the same goes for writers. As you become more proficient in a specific market, your value to that market goes up.

Your writing fees go up as well and the number of jobs required to earn a certain income level goes down. In my own business, it took over 400 jobs as a generalist to make $2,000.

As a specialist, I've made over $10,000 with just 17.

Finding Your Focus — Binoculars and Telescopes

Here’s an analogy to consider … A few miles down the road from my house is a stand of trees.

Looking at them from the roadside, it's merely a blob of green and brown. I know the trees are there … I just can't make out the details.

When I look through my binoculars, I can see the trees more clearly. I begin to make out the varied colors and shapes in the mass of foliage. I notice groups of trees.

But, something magical happens when I gaze at the trees through my telescope.

Suddenly, I don't just see groups of trees. I'm able to focus on a single tree, observing all kinds of activity. Birds and squirrels frolic all over the branches.

Think of your niche or target market as a tree. The tree trunk is the overall target market. Focus in on one major market to begin with. In my case, it's the industrial manufacturing market.

Each limb represents an offshoot or sub-market. Once you've climbed the trunk, you can begin exploring the various branches. You may find one or more of them you like.

For instance, in the industrial manufacturing market, there are sub-markets of machine manufacturing, parts manufacturers, electrical equipment, and so on.

But be careful. Each main branch shoots off into other, progressively smaller branches. And just as smaller tree branches support less weight, some smaller sub-markets won't support your business.

At least, not by themselves.

You can still write for them. Just make sure your business's bulk is supported by a larger, sturdier branch.

But, you're not "out on a limb" forever. Just like a little squirrel, you can explore other branches once you've established your copywriting career. You may end up with a totally different niche farther down the road.

So, get out your binoculars and start looking for your tree. Then, break out the telescope …

And zoom in on a profitable writing market.

This article, The Niche – Revisited, was originally published by B2B Writing Success.

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Published: September 3, 2015

2 Responses to “The Niche — Revisited”

  1. Thanks Steve.
    I know many people struggle with this. Personally, this is one I have not had to deal with. I have known all along that I want to expand on my prior profession of social work and mental health and that the best way to do this is to go into B2B and B2B. Using the web as my medium would also be a specialty of sorts. I do have a question: Do you think that clients struggle with this issue as well-with debating whether they need to hire a specialist or whether a generalist will do?

    Nora King

  2. Nora, your Q indicates that you do believe that a specialist is the way to go, then why would you even consider a 'will do' Generalist?

    If its a question of the expense to hire either, I do think a specialist will charge more. But, your ROI will surely be far better.


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