In our private facebook group, one of the most recent questions we received was "If I tailored my services strictly to executive men do you think this would work? I ask because all my personal assisting experience is with men and there are big differences between male and female clients."
What this questions is really asking, if I focus on this particular niche, will it work? Will I make money and have a viable business?
We all go through this fear and hesitation; starting a new business, launching a new product, changing our logo or making changes to our business model. We're asking ourselves, how on earth do the people out there in business who are successful know which way to go?
The bottom line is they don't. They may have an inkling, a feeling, a hunch. They may have spotted a gap in the market which they are pretty sure they could fill. Yet no one knows with 100% certainty that an idea is going to work. So how on earth do they know which path to choose?
They test it!
A number of years ago I went through a small business incubator program. It was an amazing experience which has lead to me to launch a number of new products and businesses (The Concierge Society included). The biggest thing I learnt through this process is that you have to test absolutely everything. This is the only way you'll get answers. This is the only way you can zig-zag in the right general direction. It is also the only way you will know if you should totally change what you are doing, or to use start up lingo, to pivot. One of the most eye-opening parts of this notion of testing for me was that it meant you could put things out there into the market that weren't 100% complete. In fact, potentially they could be only 1%, 5% or 10% complete. This is called a minimum viable product or MVP (more start up lingo).
I highly recommend you take a look at The Lean Startup and Business Model Generation which both explain the MVP and the lean strategy for business (it is just as relevant for existing businesses as it is for startups).
So, how can you move past your reluctance and instead focus on the idea of testing your niche?
1. Get familiar with the concept of A/B Split Testing.
Before I had done my incubator program I was vaguely aware of A/B Split Testing. It was the option I didn't choose when I was creating a new campaign in MailChimp! There are many ways to utilise split testing. You can test two or more newsletter subject lines, website landing pages, Facebook advertising campaigns or response to your blog posts. There is a lot of software out there that either already has this capability (MailChimp, Aweber) or there are cloud based systems you can use depending on what you are looking for (Google Analytics, Optimizely, LeadPages). Keep your eye out for A/B Testing options in all of your online marketing activity (especially for any online advertising you decide to invest in) as there are a lot of opportunities to test and ensure your focus (and money) is in the right place.
I also suggest reading the following articles for more information.
2. Send out a survey.
Ok, so I jumped in straight away with the techy version of testing. Now, I'm going to tone it all down a little with some more traditional methods of testing your niche.
One of the most successful things I did was to create a survey and send it out to my networks. I quickly got over 100 respondents which helped me to identify what the true work life balance issues were in my target market of busy professional women. I asked my friends to complete and share. I also offered to share a report on the data with those that were interested. I know that some people run a prize draw as another way of enticing people. This is dependent on the type of survey you are running, and whether you run the risk of attracting all and sundry, rather than your potential target market.
You could jump on to SurveyMonkey right now (go on - it's free!) and have a survey ready to go within half an hour or less. However, I do suggest you do a little preliminary reading on what makes a strong, meaningful survey. Some articles I suggest you read include:
I also use SurveyMonkey regularly to conduct customer feedback surveys.
3. Conduct one-on-one interviews.
This was an amazing source of information for me. It can be daunting asking to meet with someone to 'pick their brain'. However, it is easily one of the most insightful testing methods. You get a lot of new information, as well as key phrases they use or issues that your potential niche has. I suggest you write down a list of at least 10 people you can contact to request a meeting. Explain what the meeting is about and what you are trying to find out. Tell them you only want to take 20 minutes of their time and offer to buy them a coffee. It is rare for someone to say no. People love sharing their insights and experiences.
4. Test your social media posts and content strategy.
Facebook and Google Analytics can offer you a wealth of information about your website. I highly recommend you get acquainted with the Insights section of your Facebook page. There is a lot of great information here, which will help you work out the type of posts that work, and the most popular times for your readers. You do need to have at least 30 likers before Insights is made available to you.
Google Analytics is an amazing tool to track your website stats. There is a wealth of data within Google Analytics but the sooner you set it up the more relevant it is as you will have past data to compare. Google Analytics is great for WordPress sites, but I believe any website has the capability to implement this system. Check which pages people are entering and exiting on, which blog posts are getting the most traction, and what locations your website visitors are from. And don't forget the A/B Split testing options here also.
5. Review any feedback or questions you've received from customers or potential customers.
Depending on how far down the path you are, you likely already have a collection of feedback and information you have received via email or social media. Go back through any questions people have contacted you about and start collating a list. This will give you an idea of the types of questions you can start asking, and how to tailor the messages you are trying to communicate. I also suggest you put in a process to collect and monitor this type of feedback ongoing, even if it's just a folder in your Inbox for now. Collate it all into a word or excel document and then regularly review to identify any patterns, or changes.
I've given you five ways to start testing your niche, but there are so many ways you can implement testing within your business. Switching to a testing and monitoring mindset can do wonders for your business. Take notice when people contact you and why. Are giving away free vouchers working for you? What 'elevator pitch' garners the most interest? What are the best times to send out your enewsletter?
ACTION: I suggest you pick one of these options immediately and take action! At least 3 or 4 of these are simple and relatively quick. You could have some great data in your hot little hands by the end of the day. Get testing!