by Tonia Boterf
Over the last year, I’ve been poked and prodded to ‘find your niche’ as an Internet life coach and I’ve fought it kicking and screaming. All I ever heard and was told was that you must have a niche, in order to target your audience effectively for marketing purposes and that you can’t be successful without doing so. Phooey!
Life coaching started with Executive Coaching, and then Corporate Coaching, but then became more mainstream in applying the coaching techniques to people’s everyday lives. Before the Internet, coaches worked from offices and thus had to have the skills for a broader range of issues. Along came the Internet and everything changed, especially if you coach via the phone and do not get your clients primarily from your local area.
Through the Internet, you can now find life coaches specializing in diverse areas: Christian, Divorce, Relationships, Career, Marketing, Small Business Development, Spirituality, Over 50, Youth, Organization and so forth. In the Internet sea, coaching businesses have become more specialized for primarily two reasons: (1) Internet search engines deliver results based on specific key words that consumers type in when they are looking for a life coach and (2) Coaches who want to be found by those consumers are aiming to identify and target their audience in order to laser focus their marketing efforts to reach that group. Woe to us who prefer to be more generalized in practice—for us the road is harder.
If a life coach’s background is specialized, then it makes sense to confine their coaching practice to those skills. This makes sense—as long as they are professional enough to refer their customers to another coach, or to work in tandem when appropriate.
There are some of us, though, who have the skills and background to offer a broader range of coaching services. The Internet doesn’t like generalists or those of us who don’t want to be niched in. This reality makes the marketing of our services through the Internet more challenging; it is more difficult to get high "search rankings" and it may be harder for customers to find us.
With 25+ years of professional coaching in all kinds of life areas and enjoying most of them, the idea of niching or creating boundaries for myself has left me with my phrase of "Don’t Niche Me In." Oh, I’ve succumbed some but my passion and experiences are broad and the more complex the situation, the happier I am. I would be bored if confined to a single topic area. So, I market the best that I can, but as a generalist, you just can’t list all the areas of life you can coach in.
There are subjects that I am not as well versed in as others, and there are some I really don’t enjoy and will refer a customer to another life coach as appropriate. I encourage all coaches to be clear and honest about their skills, and build a network of coaches they can refer to in areas that are outside their specialty. I also recommend that they list their specialties in some of the many coach directories that are available.
My passion as a life coach is to make other’s lives better. If someone has more skills or passion in an area then I do, my loyalty is to the customer and finding them the right coach to help them. By playing to my strengths and those of other life coaches, I feel the entire life coaching profession benefits. Satisfied customers spread the word of how beneficial life coaching is—isn't that what all of us would like to see more of – whether we are "niched in" or not?
Tonia Boterf – The Practical Expert™ (617-895-0249, www.thepracticalexpert.com) is a Certified Life Coach, Holistic Health Practitioner and LSW with 25+ yrs of experience offering strong results-oriented coaching services for those over 40 dealing with major life challenges, including caring for aging parents. Offering free and affordable sessions, quality e-books and articles.
5 thoughts on “Don’t Niche Me In”
I thank everyone for their comments. Even though I’ve niched some, I still firmly believe that not everyone has to be tightly niched. If I offer outstanding service and market – people will find me. It is like that little shop everyone knows about, yet it can complete with the big stores because it is special,unique or because it offers a fuller service. That’s me. So, though I may have a tougher road marketing, my quality and breath of services I can offer make me special and just right for the many people who do find me.
Tonia Boterf – The Practical Expert
Tonia, I have seen this issue of Niching coming up frequently in forums. And I have the same issue.
What I have learned, is that the only reason to have this niche, is to make it easier for people to identify your services,, with their needs.
We have three grocery stores all within very close walking distance from each other.. some people will go to because they are the ‘cheapest’ and has the most diverse ethnic selections.
Some people will go to because they have Airmiles.
Some people will go to because it is the prettiest.
All offer groceries. Mostly the same groceries.
But if I wanted to have a huge selection Asian food, then I would go to the one that had MORE of that product. It would be easy.
That to me, is how niches work. If you have what I need, I know how to find you easily, and that makes me relieved and more ready to work with you, because I was able to find you!
Does that make sense ?
Peace and Light
Great article! I’ve faced similar challenges with the Strategic Marketing & Business Optimization Services my team provides.
While I agree with you on one level, there’s also the hard truth that when you’re marketing/promoting your business online and don’t have the opportunity to be sitting across the desk from your prospective client, they need to understand how you can help them and what you do solely based from your online presence — after all, you’re not able to answer all their questions, your site must do that for you.
I often tell my clients that their business is like a house — there are lots of rooms and lots of ways they can work with their clients. However, there’s only one front door.
It’s not about niching, it’s about having a clear call to action on your site and in your materials so that once someone is “in the door”, you can introduce them to all the rooms (services) you offer.
Otherwise they’re staring at a site/your online presence with all these different doors and they have no idea which one to go through or if any of them will meet their needs.
A confused prospective client does not become a client.
You have always had wisdom and helpful words.
Your the best.
Hooray for you, Tonia, for having the courage to stand up to the you-MUST-niche crowd. In support of your view, here’s an interview I did for the New Coach Connection on the same topic: http://newcoachconnection.com/ncc-coaching-trends-2009-9-barry-zweibel/.
Keep up the good work!
Comments are closed.