Gardening requires a strong stomach.
If you let everything grow, you end up with chaos. A bountiful harvest is only possible when you prune back any growth that doesn’t serve your goals.
The same principle applies in business. An ambiguous business focus will result in chaos, but a well-defined niche specialization can set you apart and attract Ideal Patients to your doorstep.
Watch a video about this topic here:
Niching Your Practice
What Is a Niche?
A niche is an environment that you (as a practitioner or business owner) develop in order to reach and serve Ideal Patients most effectively.
Choosing to serve Ideal Patients requires a strong constitution, because you must say “no” to anyone who doesn’t fit a defined set of characteristics. But practitioners who design a practice that has a niche, with specific parameters around who they will and won’t serve, experience a lot of benefits:
- Ideal Patients pay you on time and without complaining.
- They agree with your policies and procedures, they align with your way of doing things.
- And they are excited to pay you on time (isn’t that a beautiful thought?).
When you decide on a single area of focus for your business, you will stand out from competitors. You’ll be able to attract patients who are a great fit for your unique specialization.
How Do I Find My Niche?
Creating a niche may sound scary, but it doesn’t need to be. Your niche should be based on:
- what the market is telling you,
- the area of expertise you have achieved through training and experience,
- your passion for solving a particular problem, and
- a deep understanding of who your primary audience is: your Target Customer and their the decision-making process.
A business niche is one specific area in which your practice is different.
The best way to pick a niche is by understanding what your Target Patients want, and where you are uniquely qualified to serve their needs.
To make a niche business work, you need to commit significant attention, time, and energy to that one area — and exclude everything else that may distract you from reaching your ultimate professional and personal goals. The idea of self-imposed constraint can be difficult for some owners, but setting clear boundaries and restrictions will actually lead to more profit and freedom for you as an owner.
A big fear that keeps many practitioners from choosing to niche is the fear of rejection (or separation, in Albrecht’s 5 Fears We All Share). We are scared that placing limits on a practice could turn people away, or that it will keep us from serving people who need our help.
Although this fear is reasonable, the truth is that a wide practice focus is actually less effective at reaching your target audience. A broad and generalized marketing message isn’t particularly interesting. By trying to serve “everyone,” you will inevitably lose the interest of those who could most benefit from what you provide. Read more about the Everything to Everyone phenomenon.
An undifferentiated message is unclear. Potential patients won’t be able to find you, because their search results will never lead to your website or social media pages.
By picking an area of specialization, you will stand out and be more visible to the patients you really want to serve.
Gardening and Niche Mistakes
I realized something recently about how gardening and business are similar.
Here in the United States it’s springtime, and plants are starting to grow. For the last couple of years, I have had a garden in my yard. But instead of weeding out the over-exuberant “volunteers,” I allowed them to just keep growing. I felt kind of bad for the plants that were working so hard to eke out a place in my garden soil.
I didn’t set good limits on what should take precedence in my garden. So you can imagine what happened. Instead of seeing a variety of plants based on a plan I’d created in early spring, my late summer garden was hijacked by the strongest and most aggressive plants.
This happened for two years. First it was tomatoes that choked everything else; so we had tons of tomato plants.
Last year, I had great plans to grow nice little rows of sweet peas, carrots, leeks, and lettuce. But instead, dozens of pumpkin vines took over and the leaves choked out everything else.
I called it the “Pumpkin-pocalypse.” Take a look:
This year will be different. I’ve decided that instead of leaving my garden to fate, I will pull up the plants that aren’t growing where they are supposed to be—even if the plants are “good.” So far, I have a strong crop of potato buds and several other starts that I’m hoping will result in a nice harvest. Everything else will get weeded out.
Weeding the Good to Focus on the Best
This idea of getting rid of good things in order to guarantee a harvest of great results can be difficult to implement. Many of us find it challenging to say “no” to activities or investments that seem useful, but that choice could result in a delay to reaching our ultimate goals.
Running a business is just like tending a garden. You have a general idea of what you want the outcomes to look like. You’ll often seen promising opportunities that pop up unexpectedly. But it’s impossible to be Everything to Everyone. To succeed, you must eliminate anything that keeps you from achieving the fruits of your labor. If you try to offer a wide variety of services, products, specializations, and delivery options to patients, you’ll end up with a business that is discombobulated: your marketing message will be confusing and won’t attract Ideal Patients.
If you let your business be guided by chance, this puts you in a position of weakness. You won’t have any control to adjust to market changes, or to identify potential areas where you can provide expertise that nobody in your market is offering. Trying to focus on too many things will cause your business to splinter, ultimately keeping you from achieving your long-term goals.
Effective business owners understand they are the “captain of your ship.” They make a conscious decision to get eliminate the services, products, patients, activities, and even staff who don’t move their business toward success.
When you decide not to let everything grow, you be very clear on your goal and prune back anything that won’t serve you long-term. Rather than a pumpkin take-over, your garden will be balanced and productive (as you can see in the Strategic Growth Sphere below).
Featured Practitioner Series
A specialized focus in your practice can help you serve a particular audience. To help apply this idea, I am introducing a new series on Featured Practitioners on why they chose to niche their practice. Each episode provides their perspective on a specialization that sets their business apart from competitors.
The first Featured Practitioner will be Beth Petersen with Unwind Bodywork in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I mentioned her in the Practice Niche series about Massage Therapists, which you can read here. Beth provides a laser-focused niche of Thai Massage to athletes and those with chronic tightness.
Another upcoming interview is with Chris Flaig, the owner of Revive Therapeutic Massage in Wichita Falls, Texas. Chris is originally from Oregon and has a really awesome story about growing up in England and serving as a pastor for nearly 20 years. His work as a massage therapist nicely dovetails with his background as a spiritual guidance mentor and counselor. Chris focuses on therapeutic massage for athletes (both adults and elderly individuals) with sport-related injuries.
I’m excited to share their stories with you, so be on the lookout for this new series!
If you are a practitioner and have a clear idea of how you specialize and serve your patients’ needs, I would love to hear your story in this Featured Practitioner series. To be considered, simply fill out an online questionnaire, after which I will contact you to schedule a telephone interview.
Find out more at https://laconteconsulting.com/practiceniche.
As you can see, picking a specialized practice area has many benefits that will help you stand out and reach patients who are a perfect fit for your expertise.
If you are curious about how this could look for your practice, let’s talk about it over a virtual cappuccino. Find out more here.
Grace LaConte is a business consultant, writer, workplace equity strategist, and the founder of LaConte Consulting. Her risk management tools are used around the globe, and she has successfully reversed toxic work environments for clients in the healthcare and non-profit fields. Grace specializes in lactation law compliance & policy development, reducing staff turnover after maternity leave, and creating a participatory work culture.