How To Escape The Cult of Niching Down.

Dismantling marketing dogma.

Image of a woman in a religious setting being handed a religious chalice.
Photo by Jametlene Reskp / Unsplash

Dismantling Marketing Dogma

To be clear, this is not an article about why niching is inherently flawed. Everyone is niched. To paraphrase what Alex Hormozi might say, the question is not: “Are you niched or not” — the question is: “To what degree are you niched?”

This is targeted against those who spout this strategy ad nauseam as if it’s a magical cure-all that will somehow drive results straight to your front door. Worse yet, these same people will, sometimes violently, dissuade you from ignoring this advice if you dare to approach the market with a generic offering without much thought to hyper-targeting.

Modern wisdom seems to be that you need to niche down as much as possible to find traction. If you aren’t niched correctly, your customers won’t find you. You’ll become a generic “also-ran” in a field of a thousand clones. Failing to properly differentiate yourself spells doom for your fledgling company and product.

Like most doomsday sayings, this all sounds very convincing.

But, in my opinion, finding a niche has become a monolithic approach that, much of the time, lacks real nuance. It doesn’t map onto reality particularly well, especially when you’re starting out. It’s achieved folklore status. It’s practically dogma at this point.

I'd argue, it’s become a cult.

New Companies Pivot, A Lot

When you’re in the middle of a go-to-market and you’re trying to find your product-market fit, your positioning will (likely) be in flux. At this nascent stage, a single conversation with a customer might send the tower crashing down if it unearths a hidden assumption in your thinking.

Similarly, when you’re trying to stay afloat, and generate cash flow or runway, you’re going to chase the areas where you get traction. In the beginning, this might mean your identity is evolving and changing with every new opportunity you discover to get paid. In other words: it’s going to be messy. Your marketing messages might change on a daily/weekly basis as you get closer and closer to figuring things out.

In other words: it’s going to be messy.

Finding a niche, or being afraid of “losing” a niche kills your ability to adapt in the early stages. It’s too clean. It’s too simple. It’s rigid. Imagine you go through all of those initial steps to register yourself as thing X, but two days later you realize your hypothesis was flawed and now you need to be thing Y.

Niches Are Stifling, Especially For Generalists

Imagine a scenario where you started a coaching business. You’re a bit of a generalist and wanted to be a generic coach. But you listened to a niche advocate and ended up in Career coaching. Perhaps you discover you don’t love that type of coaching, or that, because everyone has niched down, the market is inundated with Differentiated™ (🙃) offers. On top of that, you might be saying to yourself: “Who has the creativity and patience to write content about the same topic day-in, day-out?”

You’re bored. Things are claustrophobic. You know in your gut you want to pull back and offer something more nebulous and generic but every time you look at someone who is niched down, you feel fear and anxiety in the pit of your stomach. There’s this weird peer pressure and dogma around niching that encourages herd-like compliance.

Feel the fear and do it anyway.

You’re Not a Result On Google, You’re a Human Being

Niching makes a ton of sense from an SEO perspective. You want to be found when someone searches for XYZ, so you label your company XYZ. You talk about XYZ. You live and breathe XYZ.

However, in practice, unless you have massive marketing dollars, you’re not getting to the top of Google’s search results. There are almost 8 billion people on the planet. With few exceptions, the math doesn’t hold up.

The Google ecosystem is based on a myth. The myth is that millions and millions of businesses, all grooming themselves for the search engine, will be found by people who seek them. The math can’t support this. There are a thousand pages of results. What delusion we must be under to imagine we will be the first match.  -Seth Godin
-Seth Godin

The Biggest Companies In The World Don’t Niche

How exactly is Netflix niched? Apple? Android? Google? Facebook? Instagram? Are any of these companies looking at a niche? No. They’re trying to fill the needs of human beings at scale. True scale transcends niches. What’s the biggest niche of all? Being a human being on planet earth. That’s who these companies market towards and that’s what keeps them innovating.

Being a human-centric company, that taps into human wants and desires, at scale, is far more effective than the gimmick of a niche in the long run. What also works is innovation and finding greener pastures. Or, being so passionate and good at what you do that the competition becomes irrelevant. In most markets and industries, competition is fierce. In the long run, as barriers to entry continue to flatten, it’s ever more likely that only the truly outstanding will truly stand out.

Niches Ought To Serve Us, Not The Other Way Round

If you were looking for permission to escape the prison of Niche, you’ve got it. Go wild. Be generic. Be confusing. Offer 21 different services that don’t fit together. Be mysterious. Be ineffable. Be transcendent. Aim higher. Live in the confusion until you’re ready to emerge with a coherent narrative your customers can follow. And hey, maybe that day never comes. Maybe that’s part of your charm.

Put the Kool-Aid down. Get out there and have some fun.