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05 March 2008


Wow this is extensive and well written. I have to agree with your comment about some gurus and how they "expand" their niche. It's hard to find, day in and day out, topics to cover on a small niche.

Hi Francisco.
Thanks for the comment.

I have been wanting to write about this issue for some time because I know that it bothers many people.

It is much longer than I originally expected because I was carried away yesterday afternoon and the words and ideas just flowed.

I am delighted that at least someone likes it.


I love Jay's teaching and some of his techniques has greatly help me to improve my business. :)

Thanks Paul,

It's quite an article and on a big topic.

The problem is the word 'niche' I think. (At a deeper level that practitioners aren't necessarily good teachers - of which more anon).

A niche is a box or label that exists in somebodys (hopefully lots of bodies) mind. A new niche can be invented by how something is presented eg sports drink instead of soft drink and so on. Al and Laura Reis talk about this (in fact it is just about all that they do think about).

So a niche focus can cut across categories and be very large. Providing everything cheap is a niche. And may well be attractive to some people (is this Walmart's niche?). So generalist is a niche too.

Much confusion is because people think that niches are the same as markets - that they are 'out there' somewhere. They're not. Once this is seen much confusion can be cleared away.

I think the basic reason is that a marketing practitioner knows what a niche is. But they aren't necessarily good at conveying this. Teaching is a separate skill. The best at something aren't always the best teachers.

This is such an extraordinary post. So packed with information. Many thanks for it.

Raymond, thanks for your post. I am not sure whether you like Jay Abraham or Jay Conrad Levinson but you will find plenty more of their influence on this blog.

You may also like to take a look at:

Evan, a great comment. Thanks.

I find that niche is used in two ways
a) meaning market segment
b) meaning positioning in customers' minds.

Some people have been exposed to both meanings and understand the difference, some have been exposed to both and are now even more confused, some people have met one definition but not the other while the remainder are familiar with the word but not the meaning.

I tried not to focus too much on the word niche for this reason because my main focus was on the generalist v specialist debate.

Even niche as positioning in people's minds can vary in context between product, what the brand stands for and its fit into the economy to luxury continuum or the brand values.

Foe example, think "Coca Cola" and I think of a "brown, fizzy, sweet liquid".

Think "Rolls Royce" and I think of a "luxury car" but think "Rolls Royce solution" and I think "the most expensive option and even perhaps over-engineered/specified for my pocket."

Think "Disney" and I can go off at tangents to cartoons, theme parks, films or "good wholesome entertainment".

It is beginning to look like there could be another long article on the way about this topic.

In this original article I wanted to show that the generalist and specialist had particularly strengths, opportunities and risks and to help people choose.

I do believe that there is pressure to over-specialise. In fact, do you remember the Theodore Levitt HBR articles about "marketing myopia" and how the railroad companies should have defined themselves in the transport industry.

I have a strategy article coming up on this soon.

I have been reading or listening to more "building a coaching business" materials recently, partly because my illness has caused me to withdraw and sometime I will be looking to acquire clients quickly.

The overwhelming advice is to find a niche.

I can see the point in that for a lot of services e.g why go to a life coach to find the determination to give up smoking when you can go to the Quit Smoking In Two Weeks Coach?

But I see it as a double edged sword when it comes to business and marketing advice.

The basic message I keep hearing about how to be a successful coach involves using the same tactics as everyone else is doing.

OK many people in a niche may not bother to do most things but there is a tendency to move towards standard industry recipes.

I'm much more interested in shaking things up and trying to stand out.

What do you think?

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