Talk to anyone who has Googled something having to do with establishing a sales goal, and they’ll tell you that you need to find your niche. Pick your spot to jut your way into the market, and own it.
This is because not a single brand or business can be everything for everybody. It’s why Instagram isn’t also a video editing app and why Disney doesn’t make Tarantino-esque thrillers.
What about the fact that Viacom owns Paramount Pictures, Comedy Central, and CBS, you ask? With all that wildly different content and output, they still all have different brands and strategies, even if Viacom is the one up top.
With that being said, I want to share why you can branch out quite far after some brand establishment and very careful strategizing.
It’s a game of strategy and timing. Let’s break it down starting with what we already know: pick your niche, including specific demographics and psychographics to help you know exactly how to sell to them.
4 Keys to Finding the Right Niche
Know Your Audience
Understand your niche inside and out. Aside from basic data anyone can find, familiarize yourself by looking into the apps they use, their concerns and psychological norms, and their cultural anthropology as a group.
How do they feel when they are loyal to a company? Is it because of their prices? Does their corporate social responsibility brag? What about when they actively avoid a brand? Who disagrees with them? Why?
Build the Foundation
Your foundational branding is the base of everything you want to do with the business. What do you stand for? What’s the difference between your mission and vision? What are your differentiators in the product and how you operate? What’s your Why? This is your only ground to stand on.
Listen to Feedback
Listen to feedback. A brand strategy is nothing without a finger on the pulse of change.
Perfect It (Seriously)
Perfect the niche’s brand positioning. Upon receiving feedback, circle back to foundational brand building as often as necessary.
4 Tips for Growing Beyond Your Niche
That’s what you know, and likely what you’ve already done. Let’s get into the new:
You want to branch out past this perfected niche? That’s often advised against but doable with the right preparation.
Establish An ATTAINABLE Goal
For example, if you’re currently targeting single moms with kids age 5-10, you may want to start targeting single moms with kids under 5, or target over 10 but under 15, but not both: you’re going to have to get as specific as possible.
Determine your established brand’s negotiables and non-negotiables. What’s at stake, what can and can’t go?
For instance, if you’ve got a loyal user base on a travel blog app, and they would delete you in an INSTANT if you got rid of the template options, there’s your first non-negotiable. If, on the other hand, the social networking side of it is fully functional and usable but not prompting meaningful social connections, you can stand to cut back or eliminate it.
Break down what makes your brand valuable and start defining (non)negotiables based on your current audience vs. the larger network you’re hoping to tap into. The experts here are executing while making sure the business doesn’t lose its original purpose and appeal.
Branch It Out
The moment you’ve been waiting for: go for it. Start targeting the second niche. Know your Why and expand it. It’s possible to keep expanding your brand and never lose touch with what made you successful to begin with. The key is to tilt what you’ve done just enough to scoop up a larger audience.
Back It Up & Repeat
Repeat with as much careful strategy as the first time. Each scoop can be broader as long as you remember your brand purpose. Never lose your ‘Why’ or try to shimmy around it; it’s what’s keeping you in business.
Prime Example: Medium.com
One last example to show the success, and failures, of tackling this tilt: Medium (of the .com variety).
This blog is about expanding your hard-to-come-by and hard-to-perfect niche, not about the history of Medium, so I’ll leave that to Laura Hazard Owen who already wrote about it here, but what you’ll find is that, in the beginning, Medium targeted writers to be the content producers and the readers.
This guaranteed aspiring writers a place to get their work published and read by people interested in something longer than 350 words, let alone Twitter’s 280 characters. It guaranteed appreciation for longer-form writing.
You look at Medium now, and you see a successful, long-standing platform holding an endless array of articles and magazines covering everything from science and feminist sex toys to emerging tech and LGBTQ+, not to mention celebrity authors. They successfully branched out, yes?
They expanded from providing interesting reads for writers, to “For readers, writers, and the insatiably curious. Like you.” But you’ll also notice, halfway through the transition, they lost a LOT of people.
In Owen’s article, you’ll see Medium had pretty major missteps:
Medium is nearly seven years old. It’s raised $132 million in venture funding, and it is not profitable. It has undergone countless pivots [. . .]
That promise of not-totally-evil money has kept people coming back, pulling new writers and editors in when the old, disillusioned ones leave or get kicked out. The promise of cash and the freedom to write what you’re passionate about has always been there, because Williams — who truly seems to hold an idealistic vision of what Medium could be — has never stopped promising it (well, except for a brief weird period in 2015 when he tried to reframe Medium as a kind of social network).
They lost sight of what niche got them started in the first place. You can’t just harken back to your roots nostalgically and call it a day; people will see through that and bail. Medium, as of the last couple of years, is entirely not profitable.
Anyone, even $132M-in-venture-funding-owned-by-Twitter’s-founder Medium, can fall apart without the right brand strategy. You have to balance being unfocused and irrelevant and being pigeonholed. And as much as I’m a fan of passion-funded startups and rebellious methods, intricate brand strategy is a non-negotiable.