There's Riches in Niches

When starting out, it's essential to be laser focused on who you want to serve. Too many founders make the mistake of trying to be all things to all people and as a result, they are mediocre to everyone and fail.

The first step to every great startup is being crystal clear on who you are trying to serve. Especially for startups, “everybody” or “consumers” or “businesses” are far too general of categories.

While you may be able to expand into being a more general use product down the line, in the startup stage this is too broad. The two reasons why focusing in is critical are:

  1. When you are laser-focused on a specific group of people, you deeply understand their problems and needs, allowing you to truly build something that serves them well.

  2. When you are marketing to a niche, there’s far fewer competitors and it’s easier to get traction (this is huge because I believe it’s harder to market your startup than build it).

There’s a saying in startup world: “there’s riches in niches”.

When I created Breeze (a software company for churches), all of the alternative church software providers were marketing to large and mega-churches. I positioned Breeze then to be extremely focused on small and mid-sized churches.

How to segment your audience into a smaller niche

While you want to be cautious of not creating a niche that is too small, most founders struggle because they are too broad. Here’s a few ways you’re able to zoom in on the specific part of the population that’s the best starting point.

  • By geography (e.g. “I want to create an online marketplace for college students in West Michigan to buy and sell furniture.”)

  • By stage of life (e.g. “I want to create a coffee shop for moms with toddlers to feel comfortable coming to.”)

  • By company size (e.g. “I want to create a job board for companies with fewer than 10 people to post positions to attract others interested in working at a small company.”)

  • By profession (e.g. “I want to create vacation packages for artists who love European history.”)

  • By industry (e.g. “I want to create a project management tool specifically for the health care industry.”)

  • By hobbies: (e.g. “I want to start an online community for people who enjoy sustainable living and minimalistic design.”)

  • By values/beliefs (e.g “I want to create a clothing line for people who value sustainable and ethically-made products.”)

  • By demographic characteristics: (e.g. “I want to create an online startup incubator focused on helping racial minorities.”)

  • By technical profeciency (e.g. “I want to create a coding bootcamp for people with no prior coding experience.”)

I hope this helps you dream about how to zero in on who you want to serve. For further reading, I’d recommend taking this brainstorming and comparing it to who is already in front of you.