Alright, alright so in the last lecture we took a huge step back and viewed the entire landscape of what's coming up over the next few weeks.
There was a ton of content in last week's post, but that’s because I didn’t want to hold back on anything. I wanted to give you the full list of everything that I’ve studied, used and gotten results from.
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Building an online business isn’t easy. If it was, everyone would be doing it by now right? The good news is that now you have a road-map; a proven path which I will guide you through the process step-by-step.
So, before we dive into how to select your profitable idea, it will help to take a moment to consider why you want to do this in the first place.
Why do you want to build an online business? What is the ultimate goal you’re seeking?
Are you buried up to your neck in bills and looking for some breathing room? Okay, well that’s a real issue but it can’t be the driving force behind your business ambition otherwise the quality of your product will most likely suffer.
Or maybe you’ve been wanting to finally pay off your mortgage, send your kids to school and just get out of debt for good. Again, these are good things but can’t be the impetus propelling your motivation forward.
“What I am getting at is you need to make solving your target markets problems your real passion. I know this sounds a little strange but it is only when you become so deeply concerned about your market's deepest problems that you can be in a position to adequately serve them."
In other words, your passion should be making your market live happier lives. Whether that’s by making an online yoga course, a cartooning digital product or whatever... your drive must be your people’s problems.
And here’s the beautiful thing: when you get that order right, something almost magical happens. You end up producing your best work, you start making a real difference in the lives of your customers and you start getting something more meaningful than money: the satisfaction of knowing your product helped improve someone’s life in a deep and meaningful way.
Okay, but now you might be thinking: “But Vonnie man..., I have bills, I have desires, I want to travel, I want to buy a new car, I have kids. I have responsibilities. My full-time job sucks. I need out.”
Okay I hear you! I’m not telling you to ignore those needs, I’m simply saying reorder them so that your people comes first and your problems come second. Trust me on this, if you take my advice on this one you will be more successful than you could ever imagine.
This becomes easier as you spend time with your market and that’s what we’re going to dive into today.
Let me kick things off with a story that will help cement this idea into your mind.
I love old school hip hop and classical music but my wife loves country music. I mean she’s got all the Garth Brooks CDs all the Faith Hill stuff... we’ve been to the concerts and all that. It’s crazy.
I have absolutely no desire for country music but because I love my wife I’ve slowly (and surprisingly) began to develop an affinity for country music.
You’ll never catch me listening to it by myself but I can honestly say that I actually enjoy listening to it with her because it makes her happy.
This is what’s going to happen when spend time with your market. You’ll start to feel pain for their problems. You’ll start to hurt with them. Get frustrated with them. Get annoyed with them. Their burdens will become your burdens.
And as you do this... you’ll begin to know, understand and feel their problems even deeper than they can explain. You’ll be able to articulate their burning pains better than they can express it.
And when that happens... you’ve already won the sale. Because when people feel like you really understand them they’ll be more than happy to give you money to satisfy their needs.
When you can explain your market pain better than your market you will win your market. It's a simple as that.
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Alright, so contrary to what most people think, you don’t need to devote hours and hours to researching hundreds of niche’s before settling on your topic.
In fact, in many cases this method is counterproductive because it places the focus on you and your research rather than your audience and their pain.
You’re going to keep hearing me come back to this because it’s so important.
Before we dive into the basics of niche research I just want to define the term “niche” in case this is new for you (or you have a different meaning in mind than me). When I say “niche” I’m talking about your target market. And when I say “target market” I’m referring to the group of people you will commit to serving, understanding and supporting.
So when it comes to selecting a niche to center your website and product around it’s surprisingly simple to narrow your options. Historically there have only been four profitable blogging categories that have been shown to yield significant financial results for internet entrepreneurs.
There are hundreds of niches out there but if you build a product inside one of the four I’m about to list below you’ll greatly increase your chances of success and greatly decrease your chances of failure.
These are your profitable niche categories:
Although there are only four parent categories you have a lot of room to exercise creativity because each category has subcategories and you can even blend multiple niches to create unique categories that target a specific market segment.
Let me show you what I’m talking about here:
In the “Making Money” niche you’ll find:
Then inside each of these niches you could drill in deeper. For example, instead of just creating a blog about personal finance you could blend it with an existing subcategory like this:
“Personal Finance for Entrepreneurs”
“Career Advice for Real Estate Brokers”
That’s pretty neat right? Do you see what I did there? I just merged two sub niches by using this formula:
[Sub-niche category 1] For [People group in Sub-niche category 2]
"Investing for Personal Finance newbies"
Let’s take a look at the other categories:
Under “Making Love” or the relationships category you might have these topics:
Again, you can blend categories inside a niche or even across niches.
For example, you could create something like this:
“How To Be More Confident On Dates”
Do you see how I blended the "How To Be More Confidence" and "Dating Advice" subcategories?
“Dating Advice for Entrepreneurs”
Let’s continue exploring this.
Under the “Helping People Get Healthy” niche you might have these categories:
Remember, the idea here is that you can build an entire website around one of these topics to serve a particular market. All your blog posts and ultimately your flagship product will orbit this specific topic.
It’s always more effective to make your niche topics unique and laser focused so that your audience feels like you are speaking directly to them. If they feel like you are speaking to them directly, they’ll feel understood. And if they feel understood they’ll begin to trust you and listen to you. This is a good thing as you can imagine!
So when you look at these topics you could creatively mix them like this:
“The Road Bikers Guide To Fighting Cancer”
We could blend the relationship niche with the health niche and conjure up some amazing magic:
“How to get an eight pack and the girl of your dreams”
Sounds crazy I know but I’m just trying to get your gears turning so you can see how this works. (and how much fun it can be coming up with topics)
The last niche category is about helping people enjoy recreational activities.
Here are some ideas here. For best results, pick recreational activities where people typically send a lot of money:
And of course we can always blend within sub-categories and across parent categories:
“The Married Couples Guide To Getting Better At Tennis”
“The Introverts Guide To Skiing Better”
"Golf for Computer Geeks"
You can also get niche ideas by just walking around your local bookstore’s magazine section. You’ll notice a lot of the hard work has already been done for you here.
Think about it: if you can find a magazine centered around a particular topic and there are lots of advertisements in the magazine it’s probably a profitable niche (otherwise, advertisers would not spend for ad placements in that magazine right?)
There’s one more caveat I need to share:
Don’t feel like you need to be an expert on your niche topic before you are qualified to write on it. Qualify yourself and then go for it. You don’t need credentials. You just need results.
As long as you’ve gotten results for yourself (or at least one other person in your target market) then you should start building a website centered around it. The reason I say this is because people really care more about results than credentials.
Credentials is what YOU care about. Results is what your MARKET cares about.
I’m not saying that credentials don’t matter, as there are some professions where it is critical to hold qualifications (for example being a doctor or lawyer) but I am saying that you shouldn’t focus on that. Just focus on the outcomes you’ve delivered and you’ll be fine.
After you select your niche the next thing you need to do is validate your idea.
Let’s say you landed on this niche idea which blends two parent niche categories: relationships and hobbies:
“Dating for Dentists”
That’s a focused niche right? So far so good but how do you actually validate you have an actual paying market BEFORE you start investing hours into building your website and your digital product?
Here's what I mean... the first letter of each word spells out the acronym:
First thing you need to do is Google you term. Do you see existing blogs or websites focused on dating for Dentists? Not just dating in general, but dating for Dentists?
Let’s say you only find a few hits is this enough to validate your idea? No, not necessarily.
Next, we need to search your term in Amazon to see if books have been published on the topic. So let’s say in our example, you don’t find any books related to dating for Dentists.
From here, you would pivot to Udemy to see if anyone created any online courses on your topic. If you find a course, you would read the reviews, look at how many students are enrolled and when the course was last updated. You’re trying to get a feel for your market. Are there a lot of people in this niche with a burning problem? Is this niche fulfilling a want or a need? Is it something you THINK the market needs (based off your opinion and feelings) or something you know the market needs (based off data)?
I also like to search Reddit for my topic. You can see if there are any subreddits devoted to your niche. From there, you can search Twitter, Facebook and Youtube to see if people are tweeting about dating dentists or how to date dentists or dentists who need dating advice. You can see if there are any Facebook Groups or fan pages designed specifically for dating and dentists. And finally, you can search Youtube for tutorials or videos related to the topic.
Here's the general rule I use:
If you find a few people publishing on your topic across at least 4 out of the 7 sources I mentioned above, and there are tons of comments, books, videos and content related to your topic then you my friend have validated your topic and you should feel confident going into it.
If however you are having a difficult time finding buzz around your niche idea then you should ditch the idea.
It’s selfish and unrealistic to think you’ve got a great idea everyone wants when all the evidence shows you no one wants it. Humility hurts but you should rejoice if you see no hits because that means you just saved yourself hours and hours of pain and frustration. Now you can’t fail at creating that blog that no one would have visited.
So in summary, what I’m trying to say is that you want to go into a market where there is already a lot of blogs, magazines, books, online courses and content out there. And then you can jump into the comments and see what your market really cares about.
As an aside, people are often very candid in the comments and speak from their hearts. This is pure gold. Shake through the gold and pay attention to the feelings behind the questions and you'll start to really understand your market.
One last point I want to mention here before we wrap.
If you really want to build a business that effects lasting change, that truly transforms your readers lives then you need to take to heart what I’m about to say next.
“The secret to making a stellar impact in the lives of your readers is to patiently sit down and LISTEN to them.”
What do I mean by this?
Before I built this blog, I spent three months just collecting raw data about my market. I went to as many websites in my niche as I could find, read through hundreds and hundreds of comments on Amazon, Reddit, Facebook, Blogging sites in my niche, Twitter, Podcasts, Youtube... I literally went everywhere I could find. I just read through comment after comment and posted them in a huge Evernote document.
Then I started tagging different comments, sorting related complaints into structures and I began to get a very deep understanding of my target market's needs.
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It took me a little over three months to do this. It might take you longer or shorter but my philosophy is very similar to Ramit Sethi’s here: for every hour I spend front-loading the work I’m saving myself 100 hours of unnecessary work down the road.
So do the hard work of research first and then once you can articulate your market’s problems better than they can articulate them, they will assume you have the answer to their problems and will be more than happy to generously reward you for that help.
Here’s what you need to do this week:
Incidentally, if someone steals your idea that really doesn't matter. Anyone can come up with an idea (or steal one) the real reward comes in implementation. And for every 100 people who steal an idea I bet there is less than 1 who will actually put in the patience and trial of implementation!
Next week we’re going to dig into my favorite topic: choosing your technology platform!
We’ll also take a step back to review what we’ve covered so far: handling your fears, getting your mindset in the right place for making money, charting your profit path, establishing your game plan and identifying your niche!
It’s going to be awesome and I can’t wait to dive into the nuts and bolts of getting your technology platform going next week. It’s going to be the thing that makes your entire online business possible! See you then.
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