Many moons ago, I devoted a year or so of time to creating and running a series of weekend workshops for coaches all about “Finding your niche”. The idea dawned on me after a bit of a Eureka moment, when MY niche suddenly arrived fully formed in my conscious awareness in the middle of the night. It literally woke me up! I remember I found myself sitting bolt upright in bed with my mind racing on the possibilities. I think I literally yelled out something like “BINGO!”
Before I explain how I got to that moment, firstly let me share a few reasons why I believe having a niche is so important for any coach. The word ‘niche’ has multiple meanings, and before becoming common business marketing-speak, the word has its roots in more natural origins. It stems from an old French word ‘nichier’ which means ‘to nest’, also the Italian word ‘nicchio’ meaning seashell. Even today, within the field of ecology it means the position of an organism in just the right place for its growth and successes as a species. I believe this is true for people as well: working with the right kind of people using your unique skills and helping them in an area that you have passion and commitment around, is first and foremost good for you.
Having a clear niche needs to address WHAT you offer, WHO most benefits and WHY they should come for coaching. And, having those three factors in place will make your life SO much easier as well. Here’s why:
Easier to explain what you do: With a niche you can tell a specific story rather than talk in generalisms. It’s easier to communicate a compelling message when you know what you are talking about and can give clear examples from experience
You get remembered: The more general your message, the more diluted it is. Whereas a clear niche means you stand out from the crowd and people remember you. That means they will refer you on to others and / or get back to you themselves when the need arises
You save time: Rather than having to reformulate your pitch to different audiences, you can keep building on the same basic messages, gaining trust with the same audience rather than continually starting from scratch
You get more business: for all of the reasons above! A niche marketing message is more convincing, as it addresses specific people who have a specific need.
You spend your time doing what you love with the people you want to work with: Bingo! Plus, it becomes easier to say no to the work you don’t want to do
So, how did this particular niche come about for me?
I had recently completed a series of training courses on Clean Language with worldwide experts Penny Tompkins and James Lawley. This training literally rocked my world and I knew that this was the kind of work I really wanted to do. I was passionate about the process and the results it could bring people, and after completing my training I threw myself into any experience I could to deepen my understanding and embed my skills, including offering my assistance on any training for free.
As a freelance training consultant, most of my paid work was coming from corporate clients where I ran soft-skills training courses on sales and marketing, my previous background. This was an area I knew well having been very successful in this field previously, yet it no longer excited me.
Still a fairly new freelance coach, I was incorporating Clean Language in my coaching work where I could, but not enough. Plus, I’d recently been on some trainings with David Grove himself, to be one of the first to learn his innovative ‘EK’ techniques. EK stands for “Emergent Knowledge” and offers simple sets of ‘cleaner than clean’ questions, suitable for coaches to encourage deep and meaningful results with no therapeutic training.
So much potential!
All this learning had me connecting with an abundance of other coaches (and some therapists too). Lovely people, deeply committed to their work. But, with regards to selling and marketing themselves, many of them seemed distinctly lukewarm to me. In fact, I detected a general sense that it was somehow immoral or untasteful to promote yourself.
It went against my principles, having been taught to sell well ethically and confidently. My understanding is that a good salesperson genuinely helps customers by providing solutions to their needs. As I saw it, the skills needed to coach well were actually very similar to those required to sell. Both are about uncovering the other person’s wants, through exquisite listening and open questioning. Both are about providing structure to a conversation that leads towards an outcome.
I was beginning to see a pattern: a collective problem shared by many coaches – “How do I get new clients when I don’t like to sell myself?”
The “Finding your niche” workshop provided me with a perfect niche for a while! It was a really great win/win, where I was able to use my past expertise and strong principles around ethical selling, combined with my new passion of Clean Language, focused on the group of people I most wanted to hang around with: coaches!
Who knows where that would have led me if I hadn’t been approached a year or so later by performance coach guru and author Carol Wilson to become the lead trainer for the Clean Coaching Centre. By then I had built my understanding of Clean Language and had developed enough group training approaches that incorporated ‘Clean’ to feel able to say yes! Another niche emerged and has remained my place in the world ever since.
I did experiment with a few niches before the “Finding your niche” workshop, which I will write about another day – along with some reflections on future niches I feel sure will emerge in time!
And that would be my parting reflection if you are still unsure about devoting your efforts to a single niche: A niche doesn’t have to be forever, another definition of a niche is a nook or crevice in a rock – somewhere to put your foot and support you as you gradually climb up!
Angela Dunbar is a highly experienced coach and coach supervisor, accredited with AC and a former council member (now a life-long fellow). Angela’s is author of “Essential Life Coaching Skills” (2009) and “Clean Coaching: The Insider Guide to Making Change Happen” (2016). Angela’s passion is Clean Language, a powerful non-directive facilitation process that engages the coachee’s non-conscious resources through the metaphors they use. Angela teaches ‘Clean’ techniques through The Clean Coaching Centre: www.cleancoaching.com.
Clean Coaching Module One starts on Tues 7th March 2023 – early bird discount available until 7th Feb – cleck here for full details
Read more blogs from Angela: Clean coaching & how writing things down can turn them around
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A Coach, Coach Trainer and Supervisor, specialising in Clean Language and NLP