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Start up school lesson #4: How to discover your niche

This is the forth lesson from our Start Up School Series – to teach you how you  can escape the rat race and start your own business.

Click the link to catch up with earlier Start Up School posts.

In this lesson we’re going to focus on how to identify what area or niche to start your business in.

If you want to know the “secret” to making money, whether that’s on the internet or in the ‘real world’, this is it: first find an under-served niche – and then sell  them  the products, services and information that they want. It really is as simple as that….

But I guess it’s not the answer that you find difficult, it’s the question ‘What niche should I be in?’.

How to Discover your niche

This is one of the most common questions that we receive in our inbox from readers. ‘How do I discover my niche?’

There are of course many answers to this question but here are my top methods for discovering your niche, but bear in mind that you’ll get the best results by combining the results from the different ideas:

1. Follow your Passion

This is probably the easiest of the niches to exploit: What hobbies, sports or interests do you have that you can talk passionately about? If you’re into golf or football (soccer), excellent, then you’ve already got a starting point. However, these are too a niche for you to make money from, so you need to look for narrower niches. For example ‘how to play your way out of the bunker’ or ‘how to take corner kicks like David Beckham’.

Or maybe you have two interests which you currently think of completely separately.  For example say you’re a rock climber but you enjoy Yoga.  Obviously these  are two very different kinds of  activities and you can’t do them at the same time.  But what about Yoga for rock climbers – where you put together exercises especially for rock climbers?

2. Magazines

I used to like going into Borders bookstore in the UK (sadly these have been a victim of the recession) as they had by far the largest range of magazines of any retailer.

Most local book stores or newsellers carry only a few titles, your local library may carry a wider range.  I found this list of US Magazines (although I can’t believe that this is complete list, but at least it’s a starting point). Find a few areas that might be of interest, then go to your local library and see if they stock it. If they don’t try and get your local newsagent / newseller to order it for you.

Ideally you want to find magazines with paid subscriptions (the higher the % of paid subscriptions to circulation the better) as these are the ‘true fans’ and your best prospects.

Go to the classified sections at the back of the magazine and see what products are for sale. Get hold of back copies either by asking the library assistant or contacting the publisher and buying them. See what advertisers appear in many issues (as this is a sure sign that the advertising works for them).

3. Amazon

When you’re looking for a niche to focus on, look for books in the broad subject area that you’re interested in. Let’s take golf as an  example. Going over to Amazon, type in the address search bar the broad niche ‘Golf’ then select a book like I’ve done here:

Click on the link above and then select the  ‘Look inside’ feature. Go to the  table of contents and you have a whole host of potential niche topics. Eg Swing, etiquette etc.

4. eBay Pulse

Often overlooked as source of discovering your niche,  but eBay is one of the biggest retailers on the planet, so don’t overlook this as a potential source of ideas and what’s trending.  You could find out what’s selling and make a niche for yourself out of the products areas. To find out what’s hot on eBay you can check out the eBay Pulse:

Say for example you take the niche of Baby products, by selecting the category ‘Baby’ you’ll see that the top selling items are ‘Baby Clothes’ – you could further sub divide that into boys clothes or girls clothes. Or by ages eg 0-3 mths, 3-6 mths etc.

A very similar alternative would be the Amazon best seller lists

5. Google

Google is probably the number 1 way of tracking down your niche, however, not by using it’s standard functionality, but by a few little known tools used together. The first of these tools is Google Trends which basically does what it says on the tin. It provides a list of the most popular searches on Google at any point in time.

Then having found a potential topic, you could then take the search trend item and then search on the same topic in Google.

So, say a hot topic was ‘Tomato’ you could then go into standard Google Search bar and click the ‘More Search Tools’ on the left hand of the screen – Then click Wonder Wheel – you’ll then see ‘niches’ appropriate to your search.

Which will look like this:

Google Wonder Wheel

Another way of discovering your niche from Google is to use the Keyword research tool. Here  you type in the subject of Tomato like we’ve just done and discover topics relating to that search.

Here you can see that the phrase ‘Pruning Tomato Plants’ generates c.4400 searches a month – could you own a niche like this?

The general advice is that you need to look for the small traffic niches c5000 searches per month and not the big ones as it’s likely that the smaller traffic niches will be less served and you’ll have less competition.

So that’s how we advise our clients to find niches to enter. What about you, anything to add?