I generated over $600,000 a year from 50 potential customers in my last business.
I helped a friend and colleague generate over $200,000 from a base of only 200 potential clients in less than 2 years.
In my sales training days, I helped a business development manager generate $70,000 in less than 5 days from fewer than 30 target clients.
Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?
But it isn’t.
The most overlooked business opportunity today is “micro niches”.
What’s a Micro Niche?
I define a micro niche as a market with fewer than 1,000 potential customers who want to buy your product or service.
Just because the customer base might be small, doesn’t mean the revenue opportunity is. There are riches in niches!
This opportunity is growing faster and faster because the mass market is breaking up into a market of infinite niches. Everyone now wants custom products and personalized services to fit their needs and to express their unique identity.
And guess what? Your most valuable opportunity in a market of infinite niches is to get paid for what YOU are good at or most interested in!
A Smoother Path to Entrepreneurship
Do you want more freedom?
Do you want to learn how to build a six-figure business from what you already know, so you can work and live on your terms?
Lots of people have that desire, but too few people act on it. Why?
They get overwhelmed by all the different decisions they need to make to get a business off the ground.
They don’t know where to start. They take some action, but struggle to make progress. Fear takes over. They remain stuck in their job. They convince themselves they don’t have what it takes.
Maybe that’s you.
From my experience working with first-time entrepreneurs over the past decade, here are the five most common obstacles people struggle with when starting a business for the first time:
1) Finding and validating a business idea.
2) Identifying a target customer.
4) Creating a steady supply of customers.
5) Feeling alone and obligated to run every aspect of the business.
What if I told you there was a way to start a business by eliminating or dramatically reducing each of those five core obstacles?
It’s possible. I’ve done it. I’ve advised many other people on how to do it too.
I call it the “Niche Tribe Model”.
Not only does this model smooth your path to working for yourself, it also responds to one of the fastest growing business opportunities: micro niches.
The Niche Tribe Model
Imagine getting paid very well to be the “go-to person” for a tribe of businesses that highly value something you are really good at? It’s possible!
That’s the basic philosophy behind the Niche Tribe Model.
It also helps struggling first-time entrepreneurs start their business with:
- No debt. It doesn’t require debt to start your business.
- A sharp focus. It’s structured to focus on your “zone of confidence” by working on something you are already good at and with people that excite you.
- No cold selling. It doesn’t require a sales strategy, but rather an education strategy to generate revenue.
- A validated business idea. It takes much of the guesswork out of figuring out who’s your ideal client and what they want to buy from you.
- Ability to design your workday. It empowers you to work human by giving you full control over how you use your time.
Again, this all sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? But it isn’t!
Those I advise on how to launch their business using this method make six-figures on average in less than 2 years.
Here’s how it all works. There are four core pillars you must practice to create a successful micro-niche business using the Niche Tribe Model:
1) Make money from what you know.
2) Be the go-to expert for a niche tribe of businesses.
3) Accelerate sales by accelerating trust.
4) Solve a problem worth solving.
Let’s dig a little deeper into how to put each pillar into action.
#1 Make Money From What You Know
If you want to work for yourself, but don’t have a business idea, that’s OK. Start with what you know! Better yet, start with what excites you most!
Try answering this question to find your business idea . . . .
What are you really good at that someone would pay you to do?
It might be a hard skill like digital marketing, sales, coding, research, accounting, IT, writing, teaching, etc. They are skills that can defined, measured and taught. They are skills typically included in a job description.
You might also do something so well it’s effortless and would be surprised that someone would even pay you for it. These are your soft skills. They are your natural talents. Examples of soft skills include organizing events, meeting people, managing details or solving problems.
Don’t overlook your passions for an idea! What excites you? You’d be surprised how many things you do for fun that have the potential to be turned into a business.
I interviewed a woman who had a passion for swimming and mermaids, so she started a mermaid swimming school when she lost her job. No joke! Today she has 10 schools throughout North America!
What do you want to learn more about?
It’s possible you don’t want to turn any of your most marketable skills or your passions into a business, so consider acquiring a new skill.
Research emerging opportunities you want to learn more about. That’s how I discovered my micro niche for my last business.
I became fascinated with learning everything I could about digital marketing and then teaching what I learned.
As part of this process, I discovered my most marketable skill is researching new opportunities and teaching others how to do it. I had no idea until I started learning a new skill!
And now I’m doing it again with this business! I love researching the future of work and teaching people how to prepare for it!
#2 Be the Go-To Expert for a Niche Tribe of Businesses
Wouldn’t it be awesome if clients came calling on you for your expertise, instead of you chasing after them?
Finding customers is probably the number one struggle for first-time entrepreneurs. It’s hard to figure out the core customer who could really benefit from your expertise.
So how do you pick a micro niche that’s right for you? Here are some recommended guidelines:
- Review all your connections. Do you have a lot of connections in a particular niche? It’s never a bad idea to start a business in a niche where people already know you.
- Solve a problem. Do some research to see which type of business would most benefit most from your area of expertise.
- Focus on less than 1,000 potential customers. It’s easier and faster to gain trust and to build your brand as the “go-to person” in your area of expertise the more you focus your niche.
- Listen to your gut. What excites you? Make a list of people, interests or companies that you’d like to work with on a regular basis. Look for patterns to help you identify your niche.
I spent the first five years of my career working in broadcast and cable television, so it was a niche naturally suited to me. I already had a lot of contacts in that industry, so that helped me gain their trust more quickly.
My growing interest in digital marketing, also helped me recognize an opportunity to help local radio and television stations learn how to generate more revenue from digital advertising.
At the time, there were approximately 1,800 local TV stations in the U.S. and 18,000 radio stations.
Now that’s already a fairly defined target customer base, but I wanted make my sales process even more efficient by niching down even further.
I ended up focusing only on state broadcast associations that served all the radio and TV stations in each state. There is only one association in each state, so I only had 50 potential clients.
That became my niche tribe.
#3 Accelerate Sales by Accelerating Trust
Building a business is not really about selling a product or services. It’s true.
It’s about gaining the trust of others to solve a problem they are facing. That’s it.
Gaining someone’s trust takes time, but there are ways to accelerate the trust development process. You want to listen, educate, show up and let your clients sell you.
Another sales trainer once taught me this handy “poem” to remember how trust to earned.
So how do you accelerate trust?
Create highly-valuable content, attend a conference and contact every member of your niche directly.
Here’s the three-step process for accelerating trust:
The most important rule of trust acceleration is showing your commitment to the needs of your niche tribe. If members of your niche don’t believe you are one of them, they’ll never fully trust you.
To gain acceptance from your niche, you need to get to know them better than they know themselves (particularly in your area of expertise).
Get to know your niche by doing as much research as you can and then share it with them for free.
Step 1: The most effective research method is to go on a “listening tour”.
Engage at least 5% of your niche or 50 members to get to know their problems in your area of expertise.
Listening and showing you care is the most powerful trust accelerator.
This process may take several months or more than a year depending on your niche, your level of expertise and your available time.
Step 2: Turn your research into easily digestible content you can give to your niche for free.
It could be a report, a webinar, a video, a slide deck, an ebook, an infographic or whatever medium is most appropriate for sharing the information you’ve gathered.
Don’t hold back. Tell them exactly how to solve their problem. Most members of your niche don’t have the expertise or time to solve the problem, so they’ll end up hiring you to do it.
Step 3: Keep in touch by requesting an email in exchange for the highly-valuable niche content.
This is how you continue to build your relationship with them by showing up in their email inbox with more valuable advice.
Almost every business niche has a conference or some other type of regular event. Even in the digital age, people like getting together in the real world.
In-person contact is another powerful trust accelerator.
Conferences boost trust in three powerful ways.
Trust Booster #1: Just show up. If you want to demonstrate your commitment to your niche, there is no better way than simply showing up in person.
Trust Booster #2: Gain the undivided attention of your target clients. They are away from their normal lives. They are fully focused on their profession. They are fully present.
Trust Booster #3: Build thought leadership. Conferences also give you the opportunity to establish your brand as an expert for whatever it is you do in the minds of your target clients. Set a goal for the following year to attend the conference as a speaker. Don’t leave the conference without meeting the conference organizers!
Attending a conference shows you are committed to solving the problem facing your niche tribe. It demonstrates you’ve made an investment of your time and money in their cause. It shows you are “one of them” now.
The beauty of serving a niche of less than 1,000 possible clients gives you the ability to reach out to each of them directly.
Now I’m not talking about reaching out to them to “sell” them on your product or service. Long before you gain them as a client or even talk to them about what you do, you first need to introduce yourself.
I know that sounds like a ton of work, but it puts you on their radar.
Then you need to keep showing up like a bad penny at their conferences and in their email inbox to gain their trust!
Here are three core recommendations to reach out effectively to your niche tribe!
Recommendation #1: Before you start reaching out, break down your niche into smaller niches of less than 25 clients.
Why? It will help you accelerate trust by refining your message based on the unique needs of each business.
It will also help sustain your motivation and enthusiasm to reach out to every member of your niche.
Here are some suggestions for niching down your niche:
- By size of company. Either by revenue or number of employees. You might break down your niche into small, medium and large-sized businesses.
- By type of service. There might be different types of service categories within your niche.
- By location. Break down your niche into various geographic locations to address nuanced needs based on geographic differences.
Recommendation #2: Don’t reach out to ask for anything. Give to receive.
When you reach out to members of your niche, you want them to view you as a resource and not as someone trying to sell them something.
Here are three different ways you can position yourself as a resource:
- Listening tour. As part of your research process, you have a great excuse to reach out to ask them a specific question, to set up a free consultation or to ask them to take a survey.
- Share your high-value content. Once you’ve turned your research into an easily digestible form, share it! Research the person at each company who will be most responsive to your content. If you can’t find their email online, call them and ask for it!
- Ask for a meeting. If some of your potential clients live in your area, offer to buy them a cup of coffee to learn more about the problems they are facing in your area of expertise. Don’t eat alone when you attend a conference. Reach out ahead of time to set up some meal dates.
Recommendation #3: Let your success stories sell you. Your biggest advocates are clients you helped become even more successful.
They can sell you better than you can sell yourself. It’s probably the most powerful trust accelerator. When they share your success with their colleagues, it comes off like a recommendation and not a sales pitch.
Never stop documenting the success you have created for your clients. Here are some ideas:
- Written testimonials.
- Case studies.
- Video interviews.
A word of caution! Avoid generic testimonials stating why you or your service is “great”. Ask your client to provide specific details about how you helped them and why they would recommend your services.
This will make your testimonials and case studies more engaging. Sharing details will spark questions in the minds of your potential clients, incentivizing them to reach out to you for answers!
#4 Solve a Problem Worth Solving
To fully gain the trust of your niche as a go-to expert you must never “sell” them on anything. Ever.
If you have to “sell” them on your product or service, then you haven’t done your research. You still haven’t found a problem worth solving for them.
I often recommend talking to at least 5% of your potential target niche or 50 members.
Why? Because you want to respond to patterns and trends in the data you are collecting.
You never want to make decisions on a “data point of one“. You never want to make a decision for your business after talking to just one or two of your potential clients.
The more clients you engage, the more accurate your information will be to make the best decision for your business.
Beware of the data point of one!
So how do you validate a problem worth solving based on your area of expertise in your niche?
Here are the basic criteria:
- Common problem. Several of your clients keep bringing up the same problem.
- Your clients get excited. They get SO excited about talking about their problem, it’s almost like they are venting their frustrations about it.
- Your clients tell you exactly how they want problem solved.
- Your clients can frame pain from problem in financial terms. They clearly understand how much money they can save or generate as a result of having this problem solved. They see the value in paying money to have it solved.
- Your area of expertise can solve the problem. You possess the skills to find a solution to this problem.
- You excited about solving the problem. If you aren’t committed to finding a solution to a common problem your clients are sharing, don’t pursue it. To maintain your motivation to build a business, you need to maintain your excitement for solving a problem!
What are the best questions for getting your potential clients talking about their problems and how they want them solved?
Here are four questions I use to get people to open up quickly:
Ask them what frustrates them most in their business. Follow up that question with what frustrates them the most with regard to your area of expertise.
Don’t try to solve the problem in your first meeting. Listen. Be curious. Follow up your questions with more specific questions. If you can’t think of a specific follow up question, default to asking, “Why?”
Ask them how they would like to have their problem solved. Get them to open up by asking them what their “wish” would be to solve this problem without thinking about any limitations like money or time.
Be on the lookout for what I call the “Magic Question”. It’s a question that pops up in the course of your conversations with potential clients that gets them really talking. It gets them to let their guard down to reveal what’s really bothering them. People want permission to vent and they want to feel heard. When you discover it, make it the first question you ask your clients thereafter.
The magic question I discovered in my early research for Life Skills That Matter was, “What’s holding you back from working for yourself?”
Remember, you want your niche to view you as a partner and as a resource, not someone selling them on something they don’t need or don’t understand.
Make them feel heard.
Once you’ve identified a problem worth solving in your chosen niche that you can solve and are excited about solving, it’s time to create a prototype!
Create A Prototype
You’ll never know if your solution will work until you get your target customers to use it and to share their feedback.
Until you get something into their hands, you only have an untested idea.
Here are my three most important pieces of advice I can give to you about creating a prototype.
1) Keep it simple in every way.
Create something that makes the core problem easier to overcome. Even if you know you can eventually make it faster, stronger or cheaper, just make the best use of the resources you have.
The potential to make the problem facing your clients suck a little less as a result of your prototype is a step in the right direction. Don’t underestimate it!
For example, if you want to build a mobile app, build a mobile website first. It’s cheaper. It’s easier to build. It turns your thought into something physical people can experience.
I always remind people that Jeff Bezos started Amazon with a vision to make it easier to sell everything and anything in the world to anyone in the world, but he started by selling just one thing: books.
He did that to test his idea. As he learned from his prototype he expanded to more products until it grew into what we know as Amazon today.
2) Embrace your constraints.
You are never going to have the right amount of resources or perfect circumstances to get your business off the ground.
Even when things are going well, there will always be something you wish you had, but don’t. Get used to it!
I’ve come to realize constraints make you more creative.
The less money I have, the less time I have, the fewer connections I have, the less knowledge I have and the fewer skills I have, force me to discover a unique solution.
Don’t focus on what you don’t have. Take an inventory of all your resources and advantages to focus on what you do have.
Make what you do have work.
3) View your clients as partners.
Creating a prototype forces you to involve your clients right from the beginning.
It really doesn’t matter what you think. It matters what your clients think. You are building your solution for them, not for you.
When they start playing around with your first prototype, the goal is to get their feedback. The goal isn’t to get them to buy. It’s to get them more interested.
Let your target clients tell you what features they would like to add and why.
Observe how they use your creation to learn how to improve what you’ve created.
Another of powerful trust accelerator is responding to your client’s feedback. The more you make them feel like a part of the process, the more they will champion your idea.
Skill Mashup Kickstart
Whew! I know that’s a TON of information, but I wanted to share the step-by-step process for how to make a great living from what you know from fewer than 1,000 customers.
To get started, I recommend doing a “skill mashup”. The idea is to mix and match your skills and interests in different ways to discover opportunities you might have never imagined. Here’s how:
1) Make a list of all your skills. Both personal and professional. Hard skills and soft skills too.
2) Make a list of all your interests including your passions, causes you support, missions you believe in, things you want to learn and anything that excites you!
3) Mashup your skills and interests. Write each skill and each interest on a separate piece of paper. Next, pick one skill at random and one interest at random. Finally, type that skill and interest into Google to see what comes up!
4) Identify trends from the opportunities you’ve gathered. Make a list of all the different opportunities including jobs, companies, organizations, people, books, blogs, podcasts, etc. Look for trends and patterns in the opportunities that most excite you to begin making a list of possible niches you would like to serve.
Not only is this process about finding a business opportunity, but it’s an opportunity to find your true self too.
Here are some additional resources to help you learn more about yourself and to kickstart your self-employment journey!