Personal Branding: Have You Identified Your Niche?

If you are at a shooting range, what comes first: aiming your gun or pulling the trigger? For your safety and that of everyone nearby, I hope that aiming is the first step!

While this is an obvious concept when it comes to shooting a gun or throwing darts, it’s an often overlooked step in many branding campaigns. An effective personal branding campaign starts by asking one question: who are your target customers? Once this question has been answered, a plan can be constructed to most effectively reach these customers. Often referred to as "finding your niche", the process of identifying your target market is an all-important first step in any marketing and branding campaign. Below are several questions to ask in order to identify your ideal target market:

1) To which customers will your products and services most appeal? Most businesses have a wide range of potential customers—and many business owners make the mistake of pursuing all of them. The problem with that approach, from a personal branding standpoint, is that a strong brand can’t appeal to every single potential customer. Instead, it is important to identify your "bread and butter" customers, who will make up the core of your business—even if these customers don’t currently represent a majority of your total business. Once you have identified these customers, customize your brand for maximum appeal.  

2) What attributes distinguish your business from the competition?  In order to effectively position yourself within your marketplace, it is important to identify the traits that separate your business from everyone else. What does your business offer that no one else in your market can? Answering this question will enable you to emphasize your unique value proposition while constructing your personal brand.  

3) What common frustrations or needs do your services or products address?  How does your business solve a problem or find a solution for your customers? In particular, do you solve problems that nobody else can? These solutions should be an integral part of your personal brand. Along the same lines, try asking your customers what they appreciate the most about your business. Make their answers a focus of your branding and marketing campaigns.  

4) How much competition are you facing?  Finally, before settling on a target market and crafting a brand to reach that market, ask yourself the all-important question: how much competition will you be facing? If you can help it, avoid entering a hotly-contested market—because you’ll be fighting an uphill battle. On the other hand, if a less competitive niche isn’t available, don’t surrender. Instead, focus on differentiating yourself from the competition in your market. You can succeed in a market, no matter how competitive it is, if you can find a way to provide more value than anyone else—and if you can communicate this value proposition to your market. 

If you haven’t yet identified your target market, take a few moments right now to do so.  Without a clearly defined niche, your personal brand won’t be effective.  

JW Dicks (@jwdicks) & Nick Nanton (@nicknanton) are best-selling authors who consult for small- and medium-sized businesses on how to build their business through Personality Driven Marketing, Personal Brand Positioning, Guaranteed Media, and Mining Hidden Business Assets. They offer free articles, white papers, and case studies at their Web site. Jack and Nick have been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Newsweek,, and many more media outlets.

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  • Chris Kulbaba

    The difference between marketing and self marketing is not that vast.  Before you begin to do much action, you have to define the product.  That being said, I will agree with David that it thereafter becomes an organic process that is dynamic and recursive - however I did not get the impression the author had said the plan was static.  I also agree with David that the Internet and Social Media has changed traditional marketing from solely the four "P" s to add into it two "T"s.  Product + Price + Placement+Promotion will be there as the basics, however the two T's are Trust and Transparency. Therefore 4P+2T= conversion sales - this is a term I have phrased and have used in business relations with a friend of mine, James Rivers from Titan Media Marketing.

    You will want to be measuring your focus, and to see how your brand is being received in the market you are in -  are you connecting and interacting, are you offering value.  The author has said that without a clearly defined niche your personal brand will not be as effective, and I agree.  David has also pointed out that often times as of late, that niche grows from an experiential curve that is defined by market reaction, and the speed of synthesis within the digital realm does not support a lengthy analysis.  I did not read from the article that the decision making has to be long term, nor did I get that the plan has to be static - fantastic points from both that I can agree with.  

  • David Kaiser, PhD

    The main difference between the shooting range and the business world is that the targets are clearly identified at the former. I have met a variety of business people for whom the targeting and branding question is not a formally thought-through analysis, but an actively evolving process, and often, the true niche emerges, it is often not created. In fact, although this practice is dangerous at the range, an approach of "ready-fire-aim" is often helpful in finding a niche, because it gets things going, instead of bogging down in planning and analysis.

    The questions asked by the authors are critical to marketing, but I would disagree with the assertion that "once this question has been answered, a plan can be constructed..." The answers to those questions, and the plan itself, are both going to be dynamic, fluid, recursive. To expect a simple, linear "first A then B" approach is to invite failure.

    David Kaiser, PhD
    Executive Coach to Extraordinary Leaders
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