Niche Craft

I’ll get right to it. What’s the dumbest thing you’ve ever done in your life?

Not so easy to answer, is it?

Because depending upon how old you are, you may need to think back over several decades to isolate that one event that stands out among the rest. Freshman year of college alone could take you several hours to review.

In my case, however, it’s easy.

Because the dumbest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life occurred just this past weekend, at my neighbor’s annual 4th of July party.

Listen To This Post

It was a perfect day. Beautiful weather, yummy food, great neighbors. At one point, in fact, with a beer in hand as I floated on a raft in the pool, I remarked out loud to nobody in particular, “I’d love 10 days in a row doing nothing but this.”

Around 4pm, though, I went in the house for another beer. As I stepped through the screen door off the deck into the kitchen I began chatting with Ryan, a friend of my college-age son. Marie, the host, stood next to me, opening a bottle of wine.

That’s when things started to go wrong.

Because I said to Ryan, “You know, you can open a bottle of wine without a corkscrew.” And then I told him about the YouTube videos like this one that I had seen.

Here’s where the dumb part comes in: 30 seconds later, I was leading four twenty-somethings out back, looking for a brick wall on which to “demonstrate” this technique.

There was no brick wall to be found – but there was a really big rock. And so I started pounding the base of the bottle against it.

Once, twice … Ka-BOOM!! That thing exploded like a bottle of wine being smashed against a really big rock by a drunken idiot. It didn’t take long for both my hands to start filling up with blood. Even worse, I realized, it was my blood.

Fortunately, a trip to the emergency room and four stitches to my right thumb later, and the crisis was over (in my defense, I did succeed in opening the bottle).

And so for the last several days, I have been living virtually thumb-less. And let me tell you, it’s not easy.

Of course, this isn’t really news. We all know the value of opposable thumbs, an evolutionary advantage which no doubt accounts for why most Fortune 500 CEOs and a fair number of members of Congress are primates.

But living it provides a much clearer appreciation for the extent of the thumb-free challenge:

Brushing your teeth? Difficult.

Tying your shoes? Nearly impossible.

Even typing suffers, since absent a right thumb to work the space bar, yourwordsallruntogetherlikethis.

Interestingly, your solo professional business has a “thumb” as well, a thing that is also supremely important and without which life becomes much, much harder.

It’s called a niche.

A narrow (narrower the better) thing (simpler to explain the better) that you (exclusively you the better) are known for.

You’ve probably heard this before, maybe even from me. But it’s only recently that I’ve come to realize how much a niche trumps everything else.

The narrower, more well-defined it is, the less effective (frankly) your marketing needs to be. And vice versa.

Sure, you need to do all the other marketing-related things for your business – producing content; staying in touch with your network; positioning yourself as an expert; demonstrating likeability, and on and on.

But you know what? A good niche, and despite the well-meaning warnings from your MBA-wielding brother-in-law about “limiting your opportunities,” is nothing short of magical.

A narrow niche separates you from the competition. A narrow niche is easy to explain and remember. A narrow niche allows you to focus your efforts. A narrow niche suggests (and leads to) true expertise.

It’s what gives you traction in the marketplace, so that all those other things you do to stand out can produce the results you want.

If you want your marketing to be more effective and your clients to be more plentiful, the first place to look is the strength (or lack thereof) of your niche.


Discussion Questions
1. What’s your narrow niche? How has it helped you?
2. Oh alright. What’s the dumbest thing you’ve ever done?!

Post your comments on both below!

 

47 thoughts on “Niche Craft

  1. Kevin Hilchey

    Mike great story… brings me back to the times before screw top beer bottles and opening them with the shaft of hockey sticks and the end of a baseball bat. The best one though was a softball player from Miramichi, New Brunswick who used to open beer with his eye socket… and his eye still functioned. And he could really pitch!

    Reply
    1. Michael Katz Post author

      I saw a guy do the exact same thing at Jones Beach on Long Island in the 80s (we were starved for stupid human tricks prior to YouTube!). Maybe the same guy on vacation…

      Reply
  2. Susan Rivera

    Yipee! Found my niche! And it’s a CRAFTer’s niche!
    Dumbest thing – at a party in ’79, I consumed 8 brownies that I didn’t know were chock full of cannabis. Yeow!

    Reply
  3. Michael Mott

    Michael, great newsletter as always. The dumbest thing I’ve ever done, and continue to do, is under value my expertise, the “It’s easy for me so it should be easy for everyone” issue. My niche, I’m a “Live event graphics specialist”. Thanks again for sharing your valuable insights.

    Reply
    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Hi Michael!
      That is a nice business-relevant observation. I think the idea that it has to be hard to be valuable trips up a lot of solos. One of the hardest switches for me in moving from working in a corporation (and going to school for years and years) to working as a solo was realizing that clients don’t care about time and effort, just the result.
      Michael

      Reply
    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Hmmm… now there’s an idea.

      I think I would be valuable, however, at ship launches, having proved an ability to shatter liquid-filled bottles.

      Reply
  4. Jenny Engle

    Hope your thumb gets better quickly. I did something similar a few years ago, and I found that a popsicle stick taped to either side of the digit helps you get things done. Plus, my dogs really liked the scratching benefits!

    I have lots of advice for Crumbs, but their biggest problems are that they expanded too quickly and didn’t differentiate themselves in their niche.

    Reply
    1. Michael Katz Post author

      OK, so now somebody really has to tell me what Crumbs is! I’m totally out of the loop.

      Reply
      1. Sally Martin

        Your newsletter made me feel better! Sometimes I feel like being so “niche-y” is lame. You’ve probably already Googled it by now but Crumbs is a cupcake chain that closed unexpectedly on Monday but is now trying to reorganize and may open again. It got a lot of press this week, maybe because it’s sugar-addicted customers were so shocked and bereft that they made good press.

        Reply
  5. Charles

    Awesome article!

    Niche – writing content for CPA’s.

    Dumbest thing(s) – running a lawn mower with no oil, drinking from someone else’s dip spit bottle instead of my Coke bottle, teaching my 1 year old the word “mine”, etc.

    Reply
    1. Michael Katz Post author

      A nice, healthy list, Charles.

      And I like your niche. Most people would simply stop at “writing content” in the hope of getting more clients. The CPA focus makes all the difference, I’m sure.

      Reply
  6. Gordon Graham

    Michael, Funny anecdote that you managed to link to a life lesson! Excellent as always!

    Your story reminded me of one o the dumbest things I ever did, vaguely similar like yours. It also involved a rock and an explosion. Playing around on the neighborhood train tracks, I found a railway track explosive, wrapped around the tracks to sound a warning when a train rolls over it. I told my buddies it would make a heckuva bang when it went off. So I smashed it with a rock–and was lucky I didn’t lose my hand for good. I was 14 at the time, certainly old enough to know better. Life lesson: Let sleeping explosives lie.

    Reply
    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Wow, scary. Glad you and your digits are still intact.

      And speaking of great niches, Gordon Graham (in typical understated fashion) failed to mention his terrific niche: thatwhitepaperguy.com. I use you as an example, frequently, Gordon.

      Reply
  7. cindi

    My niche is moms who are new to the Christian faith. It’s fairly easy to find this audience–churches, MOPS meetings, homeschooling co-ops, etc.–and this demographic typically shares recommendations (good and bad!) freely within their network.

    The dumbest thing I ever tried to do? Accidentally and unknowingly tried to get a handgun on an airplane. Hello, handcuffs! Fortunately it was pre-911, so with lots of money and a great attorney, I was able to get the charges dismissed.

    Reply
  8. Susan

    Be glad it was your own blood and not someone else’s.
    Dumbest thing i did was let my mouth turn into a run-away train at a job interview. I ended up making a disparaging remark about one of my former bosses. I regretted it the moment i said it and was so embarrassed by my breach of business etiquette. It taught me to think more carefully and clearly before opening my mouth….especially at job interviews.

    Reply
    1. Michael Katz Post author

      A good lesson, for sure, Susan.

      And you are completely right about my own blood. At least it was just me getting hurt by my own poor judgement nd not one of the college kids who were eager to give it a try! (I think I may go to Ryan’s house later, though, and see if he wants to jump off the roof with me.)

      Reply
  9. David

    So, Michael Mott, are you saying that you are a Wedding Photographer?

    If not, then you might wish to rethink how you describe your niche.
    The idea is to communicate clearly and concisely so that others will
    immediately recognize you as the go-to person when they need
    specialty.

    Reply
    1. cindi

      I was thinking he was one of those artists who paint pictures at live conferences. At one conference I attended, a man painted something in a very theatrical way in just a few (5?) minutes. What he painted was indistinguishable, until he flipped it upside down and it was something like the Statue of Liberty. It was very entertaining.

      Another confernece I attended featured a sand animation artist–you know, an artist who tells a story by creating a series of images using sand, by applying sand to a surface and then creating and changing images with his/her hands.

      Reply
  10. David

    So, Michael Mott, are you saying that you are a Wedding Photographer?

    If not, then you might wish to rethink how you describe your niche.
    The idea is to communicate clearly and concisely so that others will
    immediately recognize you as the go-to person when they need
    your specialty.

    Even if you are a Wedding Photographer, you might rethink the more
    pretentious label you posted. I think our host, the Head Penguin, would
    agree that clarity trumps a more “important” sounding description almost
    every time.

    Reply
    1. Michael Katz Post author

      I agree, clarity is important. But so is keeping the comments here friendly and encouraging. As they say in preschool, play nice!

      Reply
    2. Susan Rivera

      Interesting! I didn’t “get” “Wedding Planner” at all! I “got” that Michael specializes in preparing graphics for live events..and WOW, that’s exactly how he described his niche! Imagine that! I’ll bet that DOES include weddings, though, David, in case you have a need for his talents in the future. :)

      Reply
      1. David

        My earlier posts, and this one were intended to be friendly and constructive.

        And my take on Mott’s specialty was Wedding **Photographer**. Fortunately,
        I dodge the bullet, as the wedding arrangements [for my niece] are the responsibility
        of my brother, s-i-l, and the happy couple.

        Reply
        1. Michael Mott

          It seems my niche description has sparked some discussion and needs some clarification. To begin with, other than attending a few and participating in my own, I have nothing to do with weddings. I create, set up and operate graphic presentations for large corporate events. Which on the surface sounds like I’m just a PowerPoint guy but that would be like saying a CPA is just a calculator guy or Hemingway was just good with a typewriter. With all due modesty, I happen to be very good at what I do and my clients travel me throughout the country to do it. With a live event there is only one shot to get it right, when the CEO of a billion dollar company walks on stage his presentation needs to be ready to go, there are no second chances, which is where the “Live Event Specialist” came from. Interestingly, my clients know exactly what I mean when I say I’m a “Live Event Graphics Specialist” and in the world of niche marketing isn’t that the point? However, this was the first time I used the phrase in a general population setting and I found the comments enlightening, actually I was surprised there were any at all. I’ll endeavor to further clarify the description of my services. Thank you for the feedback, it was appreciated.

          Reply
          1. David

            Mott –

            My apologies if my misinterpretation of your niche descriptor was way off base and undervalued your actual profession.

            As for your observation that being recognized by your clients is what marketing is all about….the short answer is NO! I will leave the elaboration to our host, the Chief Penguin, whom, I am sure, can do so much better than I.

            If you can’t wait until he next checks in here and adds his comment, you might wish to read his June 20 newsletter, titled “What Problem Do You Solve?”

            In any event, I do hope that my comments and those of others about your post and niche description are a “wake up” call and an opportunity to refine your self-characterization. If so, it will validate my efforts to constructively raise the question.

          2. Michael Katz Post author

            I think of the “niche challenge” as having two parts: one is defining it, the other is communicating it. When I work one-on-one with clients, we approach it in that order.

            The answer to part one is often obvious when we’re done, but in the beginning, it can be very hard to pull out the essence of what somebody is particularly good at and what there’s a need for, and then boil it all down. But when you hit on it, it clears away a lot of confusion and provides a focus.

            And then the second part is all about aligning all the communication pieces around the niche – what do you say out loud when you meet people, your bio, your linkedin page, etc. – so that it’s consistent and word of mouth travels quicky and effectively.

  11. Sunni

    Yikes, Michael, I cringed to read about your trip to the ER. How’s the hand healing?

    I really don’t know the *dumbest* thing I’ve ever done. But once when I was a kid and my parents weren’t home (that always leads to smart choices, right?)… I poured a bunch of cinnamon down my throat because I loved cinnamon.

    Um, not smart lol.

    Reply
  12. Meryl K Evans

    And for gals — putting hair in ponytail — impossible. I had a torn ligament in my thumb and learned fast how amazing one digit can be. Starting the car? Had to use other hand.

    Wishing you a speedy recovery and restoration of thumb use!

    Reply
    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Thank you Meryl. And I can see how the ponytail would be tough with no thumb. Although I have to say that shaving one’s head is no picnic on a good day – thumbless, even harder!

      Reply
  13. Don

    I couldn’t agree more! Niching has been the key to my self-employed success. I’m a freelance writer specializing in business and finance. By carving out this niche and branding myself this way, I’ve been able to land high-paying clients who need this kind of expertise and knowledge. Most importantly, I’m the top-ranked service provider on all the major search engines for my niche keyword phrases, which results in a steady stream of good leads from prospects who need a freelance business or financial writer.

    I’ve done WAY too many dumb things to list just one!

    Reply
    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Had I only known about this 10 days ago! Thanks Steve. And BTW, your photo looks great!!

      Reply
  14. Steve Davis

    After posting my last reply and seeing that I wasn’t like the “cool kids” with the photo avatars, I remembered you posted an instructional video about adding a gravatar. Thanks. And I hope it worked. Fingers crossed…

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>