Are you trying to niche the wrong way?

When most web designers get started, they go through some exercises to help them establish a niche and an ideal customer so that they can establish some marketing language and create a service.

And that’s great, except most of the time, this is taught incorrectly.

The focus is often on an industry as a niche, and the ideal client focus tends to be on what your made-up person’s hair color is and what TV shows she watches.

That might be fine to start, but if you base your entire business around an imaginary person and imaginary problems, you may very likely be missing the mark in your marketing.

A niche is not an industry. It is a problem your ideal customers are facing.

And you can solve this problem if you reframe how you think about niching.

So many times I see services marketed to “female entrepreneurs” or “small business owners” or maybe more specific like, “nutritionists” but the thing they are lacking? A problem to be solved.

NONE of those are niches without a problem that you can fix.

Just because someone is a “female entrepreneur” it doesn’t mean she’s the right fit for your services, or that her problem is the same as the next female entrepreneur that comes your way.

You need to focus on solving a singular problem for a specific person.

This lack of understanding about the problem to solve is what leads so many web designers to become commodities that have no choice but to charge low prices and compete over clients.

This is also why so many of us end up with these long lists of services: Every client is different, even if they are from the same industry. They come to us with different problems, telling us what they need, and we scramble to accommodate them. This results in too many services, watered-down messaging, messy systems, and a constant hustle to find the next client.

But when you focus on the problem you are solving instead, your marketing strategy becomes clear. You become the expert, selling the solution to your clients.

That’s why you have to niche to solving a problem, instead of focusing on only an industry.

Won’t niching limit your inquiries?

Niching does NOT limit you. It simply clarifies your messaging and weeds out people who are a really bad fit. You’ll still get inquiries from people outside your niche, which you can choose to accept or not. 

Niching will actually bring in more inquiries because your messaging will be clearer. People will understand what you do and will be able to tell others. That means your word of mouth will spread, your marketing efforts will be easier, and more people will want to work with you because of this clarity.

For example, if you help nutritionists book more clients, your messaging will be clear. And as word spreads about how you help these nutritionists get more clients, other people who are NOT nutritionists will wonder if you can help them book more clients too, so they’ll contact you.

It’s super weird but true.

Because they’re looking for a solution.

What problem are you solving?

In order to niche to a problem, you have to be REALLY clear about what your clients are struggling with.

And I really don’t want you to make this up. We’re not building an imaginary business, so why would we be solving imaginary problems?

Instead, if you have past clients, look to them. They may have come to you for a new website, or copywriting, or social media management. Those are not problems.

For example, no one’s problem is that they need a new website.

Their problem is that their current website isn’t working for them in some way, and they’re hoping a new one will fix whatever their current website isn’t doing.

So, what are they really looking for?

To grow their email list?

Get more clients?

Sell more products?

Reduce their workload?

No matter what service you provide, it’s not the service that is what the client is buying. There’s something they are hoping the service will DO, even if they haven’t put it into words.

No one spends hundreds or thousands of dollars on a website for no reason.

So what is the reason?

Ask your past clients

Chances are, if you’ve been selling your services cheaply in the past, your clients have not voiced their problems clearly, so you’ll really have to dig to find out why. This might mean going through old emails, conversations, project notes, etc., to unearth clues as to why your clients hired you and what they were trying to solve.

This also might mean reaching back out to them and seeing how things have improved since working with you–if they have, that will give you an answer to the problem you didn’t know you were solving.

It also might mean asking what they are still having problems with so that you can discover where you missed the mark–that you didn’t know you were even aiming for.

You can send a simple email like this to your past clients:

Hi [CLIENT],
I’m currently working on new web design packages and would love your feedback if you have a minute to answer these questions:

What results have you seen since working with me?

How were your problems solved by the [PROJECT] we did together?

What are you still struggling with in your business?

Thanks so much!
- [YOUR NAME]

Even if you only get a few responses, this can give you really valuable insight into what problems you solved (or didn’t) even as you were unaware you were fixing them.

Ask your potential clients

Of course, you can also look to those you would love to work with for answers. In fact, I recommend a mix of asking your past clients and potential clients what their problems are.

This can be as simple as tapping into the power of social media.

You can hop on Twitter/X if you have a following, or find Facebook groups where you suspect your audience is hanging out, and ask one simple question:

If you could wave a magic wand in your business and fix one thing, what would it be?

Now, pay attention to who responds. For example, if you’re a web designer, don’t pay attention to problems other web designers are having. They’re not going to hire you to make their website.

But if someone seems like a match for who you’d want to work with, their response is very valuable.

Take all the responses from those who seem like they’d be a good fit and compile them in document. Look for recurring themes.

The problem you’ll be solving with your services should be starting to become clear.

Finding the $10k problem

Chances are, after asking past and potential clients, you may have multiple problems that you can solve.

And, most likely, your service will solve several of them at once.

But while you can dig into some of these details on your sales page later, you need to focus on ONE problem as the main one that you’ll be solving.

This is the most painful problem. The one that they’re really struggling with. And the one that they’ll pay the most for.

Not all problems are created equal. Some might be minor annoyances that are inconvenient but not worth spending a lot of money to fix.

Others are what I call $10k problems.

Whether you actually charge $10k for solving this problem or not is irrelevant. The point is that this is a BIG problem in their business, and it is worth investing a nice chunk of money into to solve.

Most often, this will be a problem where the solution results in a good return on investment (ROI). But sometimes, it’s not as clear as cash out or cash in.

For example, a client might KNOW that they have a great sales funnel in place, but they’re having trouble getting enough traffic into it. If you can solve the traffic problem, they’re willing to pay.

Or, they might have a lot of traffic, but they’re not getting anyone to buy their product. If you can increase sales, they’re willing to pay.

Maybe their problem is they’re overloaded with support inquiries. If you can reduce their support workload, they can focus on other things. And while this isn’t necessarily tied to income, if it’s painful enough, they’re willing to pay.

The key is to discover what your clients are struggling with that is a big enough problem to invest in and that you can fix.

Of course, some problems you can solve more easily than others, so you have to choose wisely.

If the problem is traffic that may be best solved by someone who offers SEO, FB ads, or social media services.

If conversions are a problem, that may be best solved by design or copywriting.

And if support is a problem, that might be best solved by creating an FAQ page on their website, or even some type of help desk setup.

Be sure to choose a $10k problem that YOU can solve with your services. But do keep note of others that you can provide resources and network with other creative business owners to help your clients with.

Tl;dr:

When you niche to solve a problem, you quickly become a go-to expert on solving that problem. Your services become a clear, no-brainer solution for your potential clients.

Discovering those problems, especially the big ones that clients are willing to pay for, will ensure that your business is positioned properly and potential clients will be ready and willing to buy as soon as they find you.

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