Sunday, December 09, 2012

Step 2 - Before You Decide Niche: 12 Niche Qualifiers…

On my FaceBook chatter I recently received this request from Franis Eangel:

I'd like to see a blog post on how to encourage commitment…

That’s easy - build a community for them. People want to belong - if you can create a place where they can belong, they will stay with you a long time. It means you need to ask: what is the common currency of my community?

That is what we call your niche. You don’t want to create an entirely new community from the start - that is very, very hard. When Alexander Technique teachers want to just teach Alexander Technique, that is in fact what they are trying to do. I tried and failed to do this in Sydney the second time around when I attempted to launch BodyChance there in 2010. Drunk with my success in Japan, I thought - let’s bring this thing to Australia.

I underestimated how hard it is to build a community around Alexander Technique. That, my friends, is a mammoth task. Unless you have deep pockets, lots of time and street smarts - I wouldn’t try. If you are teaching “Alexander Technique” and wondering why it is hard to keep people coming to lessons, I emphasize with you and I have this message: Alexander Technique does not qualify as a niche.

Ultimately it can become one: I’ve begun to succeed with that in Japan, but that has already taken me 13 years and counting. I promise you - that’s not the way to start! The way to start is with a group of people who are already gathered together in a common interest. Whether those people are golfers, musicians, people with stage fright, bad backs or a terminal  disease, it first depends on your core passion and life mission that I wrote about in yesterday’s blog.

The second part is that financial success is not built on passion alone. You need a sober, fact finding look at the niche you are considering…

Do they already exist? Have they got societies, magazines, conferences, websites, discussion forums, mail lists etc. that you can access? Your niche also needs to be big enough to sustain supporting you, rich enough to support sustaining you, and habituated to doing whatever it is you want them to do: you must “qualify” your niche. I am going to show you how. One ideal niche for Alexander Technique is classical musicians. By showing how they qualify on all 12 points, you can decide if the niche you are considering hits all these same marks. The more ticks you get, the easier your job becomes…

The 12 Niche Qualifiers

1.     Are there plenty of them?
At my workshop today, one student wanted to enter the niche of Anusara Yoga, so I asked him: “How many people are seriously into that?” His answer: “About 1,000.” You can’t build a business on that! Classical musicians however? In Japan, about 6% of people play music in some way - that’s 780,000 people in Tokyo. Need I say more?
2.     Are they passionate about their craft?
So are golfers, weight watchers, property investors, hobbyists - get the picture? Is your niche as consistently dedicated to their craft as classical musicians are to theirs?
3.     Do they already engage in continuous education?
Another person at the workshop was inspired to work with mothers with young children - they are passionate about their children. “But how many of them have time to go lessons? And what do they do with their toddlers?” I asked. Classical musicians, however - especially amateurs - never really stop taking lessons.
4.     Do they expect to pay for education?
People following spiritual things often expect to get it free, or “by donation”. Does your niche have a budget and an expectation to pay for extra learning? Do they even have a habit of extra learning? Classical musicians do.
5.     Is the niche community being replenished?
Social dancing, or ballroom dancing, was once a great and flourishing niche in Japan. These days, there are less and less of them. Young people are not joining in as they did in the past. This is not happening in the classical music scene. Every year, hundreds join the ranks - is your niche growing, shrinking or stable?
6.     Can you easily access them?
Today’s workshop: “I want to work with anxious people.” “Ok,” I said, “How are you going to find them?” Unless you have deep pockets to take out full page adds in national papers, you need to find places where your niche already congregates. You need to reach eyeballs with your message, and you need to do it with a minimum outlay. In the music world there are conferences, magazines, FaceBook groups - the list is huge.
7.     Do they live in concentrated areas?
Farmers would be a hard niche to teach because, well, they are rural. Alexander Technique teachers need to go belly-to-belly to deliver a service. Are enough your niche living or working close by your studio to realistically support your business?
8.     Do they have money to spend?
Some people may need you, but they will never spend the money. Many reasons - they may not have it, they may not expect to spend it, they may think it is wasteful: classical musicians spend a fortune on their instrument, they buy nice clothes and they expect to pay high prices for Master classes, concerts and, well, Alexander Technique lessons!
9.     Have they got problems that you can solve?
Maybe this should be number one, but anyway: do they have a problem which you can solve for them? Alexander Technique gives classical musicians: a better method for practise; a way to overcome stage fright; improved sound; and increased confidence. Do I need to say more?
10.  Are they responsive and educated?
The Alexander Technique message is nuanced - is your audience appreciative of AT’s subtle “non-doing” message? Classical musicians know all about nuance, they are a well educated and sophisticated audience. Is your niche the same?
11.  Are they used to paying high prices
Part of financial success is being able to take up your price as your reputation grows. Classical musicians expect to pay high prices for Masters classes - is your niche the same?
12.  Is your niche an unregulated environment?
Alexander Technique teachers who specialize in helping people in pain, increasingly face a complex legal and regulatory environment, where their right to touch may itself be regulated. No worries about such things in the classical music world.

If your niche fails on too many of these points - think again. I can’t make rules, so use your own common sense. Tomorrow I will explore where you live, not only physically, but in virtual space too. Stay tuned…


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  2. Jeremy, do you actually work with classical musicians as a niche or are you just imagining that this could be a good niche for others in Japan? I am a classical musician in Cincinnati, OH (USA) and I have pretty much ruled this out as a niche because I don't agree that it passes all your criteria. I suspect that the situation is very different in Japan from in the United States. It is likely that it passes those criteria in Japan, and perhaps in Europe, but the state of classical music in the US is not at all the same. It is much more of a dying art, unfortunately.

  3. Hi Jennifer - yes, we very much follow this niche in Japan. We are opening an AT teacher education school just for musicians starting next year - so it is a healthy, flourishing niche! But I am talking Tokyo, 13 million people, not Japan. Interesting what you say about it - are you talking Cinncinnati or USA?


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