MOJO # 47: Un-Nicheable
This advice is best suited for solopreneurs and creators who are building a business of passion and purpose.
In this article:
- Why you struggle to find a way to describe who you are (your title), what you do (your work), and who you do it for (your niche).
- 4 questions to gain clarity + 3 ways to articulate what you do in a way that feels right and actually works.
- Tips on testing your messaging to see if it resonates with your audience of potential clients.
If you're a spiritual or creative person in business, you probably struggle to explain what you do (your work), and who you do it for (your niche).
Everything feels inaccurate or incomplete, like it's never quite "it".
Mainstream marketing will have you believe you're doomed.
Marketing bros will advise you to choose any niche to get started, and use any simple description that your audience or market can easily understand.
By all means, if you can do that and still feel good about it, go for it.
But chances are, you tried, and it felt like you were lying to yourself and others.
Somehow you know that if you had to just pick a niche and "normalize" your work to make it more "realistic" and "palpable", you would lose interest in your project or business.
But this is a huge problem because all your marketing depends on this clarity.
Without it, your networking conversations fall flat, and your marketing efforts don't land. People either don't get it, or they're uninterested.
In fact, if your marketing feels like a constant struggle, there is a good chance it's because you haven't nailed this part yet.
Why this happens:
Here’s why you’re struggling to define those things:
- Within you, there is a tug-of-war between 2 parts with different needs to be met: The artist, and the entrepreneur.
They are not different people. They both are innovators and risk-takers looking to be rewarded.
- The difference is in what motivates them.
The entrepreneur wants Extrinsic rewards (financial freedom), and the artist wants Intrinsic rewards (the satisfaction and fulfillment that come from the full self-expression of your creative spirit).
- As a spiritual-creative entrepreneur, you have to own both of these sides.
You will never be satisfied as a starving artist. You will never be satisfied if you sell out either. You need to reconcile between the needs of the artist and the entrepreneur by creating a win-win situation.
Creating a win-win situation
To do that, we have to first understand their wants, needs, and how they like to approach the world.
- The entrepreneur looks outside first, at what the market wants, creates what the market wants, and gets rewarded.
They think about WHO (niche), WHAT (market need/want), HOW (product).
- The artist looks internally first at WHAT they want to create (i.e. their own need/want), HOW they want to create it, and WHY (their intention and philosophy)
The artist knows what the market needs, but not necessarily wants, and is stubborn enough to bring it. They serve as a messenger and advocate for their point of view. Their work plants a seed in the collective consciousness.
Entrepreneurs are able to make money because they give people what they want, regardless of whether or not they defined a niche.
The purpose of a “niche” is to cut through the noise and create the relevance that makes the potential buyer pay attention in the first place.
- Therefore, to create this happy medium for both sides (artist and entrepreneur), we have to understand and own how this artistic value can create economic value.
That is, to play "matchmaker" by finding a fit in the market's existing needs/wants for what the artist already has to offer.
We are still looking at what the market wants, and we are still giving them what they want. But we're only doing that after understanding the artist's needs and what he/she is willing or unwilling to compromise.
It takes commitment:
1) Seeing and accepting the naked truth, not expecting the market to value what we do
2) Understanding and accepting what our heart truly desires, and refusing to settle or negotiate on it.
It takes a bit more patience and perseverance than your typical entrepreneurial endeavor, but that's what you signed up for.
This triggers mainstream marketing.
The idea that we must start by picking a niche and settling on one specialty is so deeply embedded in the business hive mind that it's borderline heretic to even question it.
And who are you to do things your way?
Are you suggesting that you trust your inner guidance over their "expertise"?
But I'm here to tell you that if you can 1) cut through the noise, 2) earn their trust, and 3) help people solve a problem/meet a desire, no one gives a rat's ass that you have no defined niche, and that your multiple talents and interests make no sense together. They will listen to you, and they will pay you money. Lots of it. And if you've also found a way to connect all these (seemingly) unrelated dots into something the world needs, you've earned yourself a spot no one else can fill.
The meat and batata
4 questions to ask yourself for clarity:
- Do these exercises in a good mood and with a clear mind.
- Brainstorm as many possible answers as possible. Do not worry about editing or correcting/
- Don’t expect immediate answers. Ask the questions and then let go. You will begin to develop more and more clarity in the following days. Have a recorder or a journal handy to write answers as they come.
- Keep writing/digging. This is a re-iterative process and it takes a lifetime.
- The goal is not to arrive at a perfect final description that will never change. The goal is to be perfectly clear and own what you say, so you feel good about the way you say it, and it makes perfect sense to the listener.
1 - [WHY] (What is your intention or ”agenda”)
Why do you care about this work? And how does this work make life/existence better for the collective? This is generally a “philosophical” answer, concerned with bigger life themes.
2- [TRIGGER] (What is their what & why? What is their current situation or trigger to take action?)
What customer/client problem(s) does your work solve? What gap to a desire does it help them cross?
3- [WHO] (Who are they now, and who do they want to become?)
WHO is the person you have compassion and empathy for? Think of the type of people you resonate with, which would mostly be people who understand and resonate with your point of view.
WHO will they BECOME, once they understand your point of view? (The brand is facilitating the creation of a different human being. Who are they? Your product or service would facilitate the transformation)
4- [WHAT] How do you do your work? (what are your "intersections")
As a business artist, there is a strong chance your work is based on your life’s experiences and is an intersection of different areas, disciplines, or interests.
Be mindful of the “style” you end up developing in the process of combining these 3 intersections because your brand is not just an amalgamation of multiple interests or disciplines. It’s that, made subject to your personal experiences and perspectives.
Putting it all together
Now that you have answers to these 4 questions now you want to play with as many different variations as possible.
The goal is not to create a perfect statement that perfectly captures and says everything. The goal is to say something appealing enough for them to want to know more, without suppressing or denying your truth.
Everything in moderation (trying to capture everything loses people). Better say something incomplete and be heard than say everything and be ignored.
Create a statement that describes: WHO they are becoming), their TRIGGER, DESIRED RESULT, and HOW you do your work.
I help — (WHO) entrepreneurs & creators — (TRIGGER) who are tired of suppressing who they are — (DESIRED RESULT) to be fully self-expressed in their brand & business by — (HOW) by combining strategic branding & marketing with a spiritual-creative flow practice.
I help (WHO) conscious and creative people, (TRIGGER) who are tired of denying what they want, (DESIRED RESULT) to bring their full self-expression to their brand and business, (HOW) with marketing that feels good and actually works.
My work is at the intersection of A, B, and C.
My work is at the intersection of A, B, C.
My work is at the intersection of (A) Branding (B) Marketing and (C) a Spiritual-Creative Flow Practice.
I (HOW) for (WHO) because (WHY)
I (HOW) offer branding and marketing advice for (WHO) passionate and purpose-driven entrepreneurs and creators (WHY) because I believe that nothing worthwhile has ever been created by someone who didn’t give a shit.
- Notice how in all these examples, I use completely different terms to explain my “niche” (WHO), my work (HOW), and even my intention/purpose (WHY).d
Is my niche entrepreneurs or creators?
Passionate or creative?
Purpose-driven, spiritual, or mindful?
Maybe I just like people who are connected to their hearts?
Do you see how the minute I try to force a label, it keeps escaping me?
- It doesn't matter because, at the end of the day, it's more of an energy and feeling than a description.
I even used completely different ways to explain my work. Sometimes I only mentioned "marketing" and none of the spiritual/creative wording.
In the past, I would have struggled with that. I would've worried people wouldn't get me.
But now I know, I'm supposed to use different ways to describe myself and my work in different situations.
It doesn’t make me less authentic.
That’s because it’s not about me, it’s about the work.
Who I am being is the same everywhere.
But the work? Well sometimes, it makes sense to just mention one or two aspects of it because that’s what’s relevant to the context I'm in.
And yet people get it and resonate with it. Why? Because of my content.
- Much like any relationship, the first line is meant to start a conversation. Every line after is meant to reveal more of yourselves.
We are more complex and nuanced than 150 characters.
You have to be okay with people not knowing the whole story right away.
There is no scarcity of time or attention.
You will have a chance to reveal your work as they get to know you.
- Resist the urge to share everything right away in excitement. It overwhelms people who don’t know about your work and loses them.
- Focus on always explaining your work and vision in the context of the problems that your work solves, and be flexible about how you describe it.
Trust that as you keep building relationships and sharing your content, they'll get all the pieces of your puzzle.
Remember, you are describing work that’s new to the market, and ahead of its time. So be kind to yourself and don’t expect to have a final title for a body of work that’s going to take a lifetime to create.
Testing Your Messaging:
It's time to take it out to the world and see if it resonates with your people.
That is, does it help you find and attract your ideal clients and the right audience?
Here are a couple of ways to get started:
Go back to question 4. Think of those “intersections” of interests/fields/etc. Where would the people interested in those things spend their time and hang out? And how can you be where they are?
For example, my intersections include business/marketing/branding, spiritual growth, creativity, and psychedelics, among other things.
I've connected with:
- People with existing successful businesses, who were interested in spirituality, creativity, and psychedelics.
- People from spiritual groups who were interested in building a business.
- People from psychedelic get-togethers who were starting creative projects and needed help in branding and marketing.
And so on. You get the idea.
Go back to questions 2 & 3.
- What is their trigger (problems/pains/desires etc)
- And, who are they becoming?
This will give you some clues as to where to find your people.
For example, when I was going through the problem (realizing I was out of alignment with my business) I was actively looking for people with similar experiences on Youtube, reading books on the subject like "The Big Leap", and spending time in spiritual circles, exploring consciousness, etc.
- It doesn’t mean everyone there is a fit, but some degree of conscious labeling can help you narrow down your search and increase your chance of meeting the right people.
- The main thing is to go where they might be, try and build real relationships with those you genuinely resonate with, and share authentic content with them. Content that 1) gives them context about their problem, 2) motivates them to solve it, and 3) shows them how.
- Don’t worry about who could become a client. It’s not fun to be thinking about this all the time. You don’t know who can be a client or refer you to someone.
- - It’s also not about how many people you meet, it’s about the quality and depth of the people and the relationship.
- Use words you feel comfortable using with a friend.
- Keep solving your own problems, and keep an eye/ear out for their needs. Sincerely seek to resolve the problems you feel inspired to resolve.
Every time you solve a problem for yourself, you’ve solved a problem for someone else. Do the "hard and scary" work of chiseling the stone so that the value is revealed, and you’ll be rewarded.
2 people I'd like to mention here:
Ted Hargrave is a the hippy marketer I wish I knew about when I started my journey. He has a video called "the artist vs the entrepreneur", which was the confirmation I needed to finally stop resisting this idea. Up until then I was toying with the "business artist" perspective (the term was coined by Andy Warhol in the 60s, but Andy was an artist in the traditional sense). Hearing those words from a marketer hit different, and I knew I wasn't crazy. Or maybe we both are. Anyway, he's a cool dude, check him out at marketingforhippies.com
Another great human in the space is George Kao. George's content provided so much inspiration over the last months. I wonder why I didn't come across him earlier in my journey, but better now than never. He has a video on "passion vs compassion" which helped me crystalize my own thoughts on this subject. Take a look at his website.
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