No matter how much you think everyone will need what you offer, you still will need to determine who you're trying to reach, otherwise you won't be able to sell to anyone. This may seem counter-intuitive. If everyone needs your product, why wouldn't everyone buy it?
Let me give you an example first, and then I'll tell you the answer.
Let's say that you need a car.
So you drive, walk, or thumb your way down to that part of town where there are a dozen or more dealers. And you start to walk around. The first thing that strikes you is just how many different types of vehicles there are: 2-door, 4-door, 5-door, pick-ups, pick-ups with a cabin, soft-tops, SUVs, vans...
And you realize that all of them will get you from where you are to where you want to go.
Since most people need a car, why aren't they all the same? The reason is not just personal need, but personal perception.
Families need a car that's big enough to carry them all; so a 2-seat sports car won't work for them. But more than that, the drivers all see themselves in a different category from other drivers.
That's why you have different makes as well. People who buy Mercedes-Benz see themselves differently from those who buy Skoda. Both cars will get you to your destination.
Exactly the same thing is true of your niche. Your customers will be different from someone else's, even if you sell products that do more or less the same things. And that's because your customers will see themselves using your product, but not a competitors.
So the question now is, which niche?
And unless you have something of a flair for it, you've probably discovered that it's not that easy to decide. One reason is that you can't see the wood for the trees. By that I mean that when you start thinking about what niche to get into, you become immediately aware of just how many other people are already in the one that interested you.
And the tendency is to think that because that there is already a lot of competition, that perhaps that's not such a good place to start after all. So, you look at your second choice and you find that there are an awful lot of people in it as well.
And after you've been through 10 or so niches that interested you, you begin to wonder if there are any left.
We refer to niches that have a lot of competitors as saturated. And most business advisors will tell you to stay as far away from these as you should. I'll come back to that.
There's another category of niches, and I like to refer to them as stagnant niches. A stagnant niche is one where nothing much is happening. Maybe there are a dozen or so big companies that pretty much control the market.
The oil industry is like that. Although they wouldn't admit it, it's more of a cartel than free enterprise. But, this article is about online business, so perhaps that's not such a good example.
On the Internet, there are three big markets: Making money, health, and relationships. And when you look around, it appears that there isn't any room in any of them for anyone else.
What are some of the apparently stagnant niches in those markets?
In the money niche, the get-rich-quick niche has stagnated. That's because almost everyone knows that it won't happen. The ones who haven't caught on yet are those who regularly visit the gambling sites. (I'm going to say this here. It might ruffle a few feathers, but I'm saying it for your own good. The only people who make money in the gambling industry are the people who own the casinos. Forget the lottery, the scratch cards, the tables - all of it. If the people running these businesses weren't making money, they wouldn't do it. And they only way they can make money is by taking yours. You been warned.)
The get-rich-quick niche, however, has been replaced by the get-rich-easily niche, and people are falling for that one every day.
I hope that you're not one of them.
In the health market, pick anyone of the diet plans that has been popular in the past five to ten years, and you're like to find a few that are no long popular. The same thing is true of the relationship market.
Where should you look?
The next question we need to ask is, where to look for your niche?
Most people will look in the stagnant category. That's because they want to avoid competition.
If you watch Dragon's Den in the UK or Shark Tank in the US, then you will have heard them tell budding business people how difficult this market or that market would be to get into. (I don't think much of Wikipedia as a reliable source of information, but someone has taken the trouble to identify all of the versions of this program around the world including the entrepreneurs with the cash.)
And so if you're thinking that you won't go into a particular market because there's too much competition, then the chances of you finding the right niche are extremely low.
Why would I say that?
For the simple fact that that's where the money is.
If no one was spending any money in those niches, then there wouldn't be very many competitors. And so if you pick a market where the competition is low, then you'll find that the amount of money that's circulating in that market is also low.
In other words, it will mean that there are fewer of you trying to get a piece of a much smaller pie.
So what should you do?
The answer is to go into a busy niche, and then turn it upside down.
Let's take the Money category, for example. I think it's the busiest of the three markets online.
What are the most popular ways of making money online? Make a list of five ways that people are doing this. Make sure that each of them is in an area that's interesting to you.
Then make a list of 10,20, or 30 solopreneurs or companies that dominate that niche. Now you're ready to compare them. The differences between them will be the things that make them unique from their competitors and are of no interest to you. What you want to look at are the similarities among them.
In other words, you want to see what everyone is doing. That's where you're opportunity lies.
You can turn a market upside down by finding a way that's more effective than anyone else in your niche. Your competitors will all be looking for cheaper ways to do it. They'll all be looking for faster ways. They may even be looking for more effective ways. But few of them will be looking at why the business model is not working.
If you can figure that out, it will be a game-changer for everyone else in the market. And you will be the number one expert because you thought of it.
Then, you will find that there are a lot.