The most important piece of advice I ever give anyone — whether they are a copywriter, consultant, writer, Internet marketer, or retail merchant — is to specialize.

Find an under-served niche that needs what you are selling… and become the leader in that space.

When I give this advice, the other person invariably says, “I want to specialize, but I don’t know which niche to pick.”

The possibilities are endless:

  • My friend DK specializes in showing small-business owners how to rank their websites #1 in Google for local searches.
  • FG teaches marketing and customer service to owners of self-storage facilities.
  • GG sells video training programs teaching optometrists how to better manage their practices.
  • Another info marketer, “Mr. Excel,” teaches people how to become proficient with Excel.
  • DP shows people how to deal with and care for a relative who is bipolar.
  • PF creates marketing programs for hearing aid dealers.

How can you identify and select your niche? I’ve developed a simple process that can help you do it in about 20 minutes.

Start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • What do I like?
  • What am I interested in?
  • What am I good at?
  • What do I have an aptitude for?
  • What do I know?
  • What is my experience?
  • What have I accomplished?
  • Which of the above areas has the least competition?
  • Which of the above areas pays high rates?

As you think of answers to these questions, write down as many as you possibly can on index cards, one per card.

When you’re done, go through your cards and make a separate stack of those that look like possible niches.

Then go through that stack and pull out the five that are most interesting to you.

Chances are, one or two of them will have something to do with things people routinely pay to learn about or need help with.

Pick one and you’ve found your niche. As Aristotle said, “Where your passions intersect with the needs of the public, therein lies your vocation.”

What if none of your top five choices appeals to you as a niche? Go back to your stack of possible niches and pick five more cards. And repeat this process until you have a niche you are enthusiastic about.

Your niche can be broad or narrow — though, as a rule, the narrower the niche, the better the business opportunity. Broad niches have lots of potential customers but also lots of well-established competitors. Narrow niches have far fewer potential customers, but little or no significant competition.

We live in an age of specialization, and people want to hire specialists. They prefer products and services that reflect knowledge of what they perceive to be their unique situations and problems.

In information marketing, the more specialized your topic, the more you can charge for your book or report. A report on “designing distillation towers,” for example, can command 100 times the price of a book on “leadership.”

And don’t worry about not having enough customers to support your business. You really don’t need that many to make a very nice living.

The desire to have a huge mailing list is a palmary goal, but a huge list is not necessary for success. If you have an e-list of only 10,000 customers who spend an average of $100 a year with you, you’ll gross a million dollars annually.

Most experts advise choosing a niche that you are passionate about. I think it’s more important to choose a niche you won’t lose interest in. After all, you’ll be living with it for a long time — and to me, there’s almost nothing worse than sitting down at your PC every day to do work that bores you.

Keep in mind that people buy from people who are like them — who act the same, believe the same things, live the same lifestyle, or have the same interests. So once you’ve chosen your niche, become an even more active participant in it than you are now. For instance, if your niche is keeping tropical fish, join and become active in your local aquarium hobbyist club.

When you are an active participant in your niche, you can talk more authentically to your market — a crowd of people passionately interested in that topic.

Listen to the problems, concerns, and interests of other active participants in your niche. Then create information products that address those areas.

Bob Bly

Bob Bly is an independent copywriter and consultant specializing in business-to-business and direct marketing. He has been hired as a consultant by such companies as Sony, Chemical Bank, J. Walter Thompson, Westinghouse, and Prentice-Hall. Bob is also the author of more than 50 books including The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Direct Marketing (Alpha Books), Targeted Public Relations, Selling Your Services, How to Promote Your Own Business, and Keeping Clients Satisfied. A phenomenal public speaker, Bob will share with you how easy it is to start your own business. Whether you’re ready to quit your job or are just looking to make a little money on the side, you’ll want to hear Bob’s advice.