How To Tell You Are in the Wrong Niche

by Ed Martin on November 26, 2009

I was talking to a guy today about marketing. He sells fitness programs and has been targeting people who go to gyms. I told him he was going after the wrong niche. People who go to gyms have a workout routine and they are most likely already fit. I suggested to him that a better niche is to go after people who can’t get to gyms. Let me explain why.

The common trap
My friend fell into a common trap. He was targeting people who are in the same group he is in, fitness fanatics who hang out at gyms. He is comfortable with them and knows how to talk to them. Sure he could make some sales to people at the gym who get bored and want to try something new for a change, but they are not his natural market. His real gold mine is with the people who want to workout at home and don’t go to the gym. There are a lot more of them than there are gym rats and they buy his type of program. They are everywhere but at the gym.

Slice your niche the right way
The guy just sliced his niche the wrong way. He went for a vertical approach. Think of the gym as a silo, where everyone is sort of the same. That’s what he went after. Instead, he should have taken a horizontal approach by looking for fitness wannabes in all kinds of other places, little market slices from here and there that add up.

Sure, his work is harder now because his target is wider. He can’t just focus on the gym. But it also means he now has a lot bigger target to shoot at. Just think of all the places he can find new customers. Stay at home moms, working women, weight watchers, people intimidated by going to the gym. Maybe seniors. Think of some more!

Now he’s opened up all kinds of new avenues for finding customers. Don’t sell in fitness magazines. Go for diet ones, or do both! Co-sponsor events or do presentations at other people’s events and let them pay for the cost. Partner with other people who sell to those markets.

Some other examples
This doesn’t mean the horizontal approach is always right. It depends on what you are selling, and that’s my point. Stop and think about who you are selling to now, and who could and should be buying from you. Car salesmen don’t sell cars to other car salesmen. They sell to the rest of us.

If you blog about about internet marketing, who’s your target market? It depends what you are offering. If its advice to other internet market specialists you are going vertical and can target them. But if it is help to people trying to sell their stuff on the internet then you go horizontal and can find your target in all kinds of areas — art, weight loss, how-to books and so on. Then you have to go where they are and target them in their own areas, just like my fitness friend.

I’m sure there are some useful sites that give you lots of advice on niche marketing, but I didn’t see any when I did some searching. So instead I’m going to recommend a book First, Best or Different: What Every Entrepreneur Needs to Know About Niche Marketing. It is entertaining and informative, which is a lot to say about any marketing book.


Not knowing your niche is one of the common reasons businesses fail. Sign up for my MicroBiz Made Simple newsletter and receive a free copy of my report Succeed By Not Failing: The 50 most common reasons businesses fail and how to avoid them.

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