When I’m consulting an angry client or dread getting into the cold tub. This little voice in my head chimes in and says, “at least you don’t live in the renaissance days.”
I grew up in Minnesota where the Renaissance Festival is a big deal. Sword fighting, executioners, jesters, Jacob's ladder, and plenty of mead to get a guy drunk.
One year, my uncle got so drunk on mead that he tried to take a swing at my dad. Luckily, he missed and punched a window. Almost broke his hand. That is a story for another day.
I can only imagine how miserable it was to be alive in the Renaissance age. Torture, disease, pillaging, literal backstabbing, and no Wi-Fi… Oofta.
It was so bad that they had to build giant stone walls, bridges, and moats around their city to keep people from killing them in the middle of the night.
Can you imagine it? Going to bed thinking, “man… I hope we don’t get raided today.”
Now our biggest concerns are the quality of the food we eat, getting enough exercise, and how much caffeine is too much caffeine. Problems nonetheless, but comparably… potatoes.
One thing that hasn’t changed is our need to build a moat. A way to protect ourselves from the enemy.
The enemy that I’m referring to is your competition.
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Why you need a moat
It feels like there is a health coach, personal trainer, physical therapist, nutritionist, chiropractor, gym, and life coach on every corner now.
I looked up “fitness” on Google maps and there were 20+ red dots that appeared on the map within a 2-mile radius of me.
Luckily, the enemy of today doesn’t want to kill you… not literally.
But they do want what you have:
- They want your clients.
- They want your trainers.
- They want your business.
- They want your customers.
- They want your body fat shredding secrets!
Don’t get me wrong, I believe that there is room at the table for everyone.
When I’m talking about a competitor, I’m talking about the person who is doing the exact same thing you are.
If I was to compare your business side-by-side to your competitor and the only thing that differentiates you is the price. Then it quickly becomes a race to the bottom. Whoever can do it the cheapest wins.
Nobody wants to play that game.
If you’re anything like me and you love food. And you want to make sure there is plenty of food on the table. Then you have to have an offer that is different from everybody else.
You have to show up with a dish that isn’t being offered.
Notice that I used the word “different” instead of “better.” The game of being the “best” or “better” than anyone else out there is freaking hard.
The best way to build a moat and guarantee yourself an endless supply of clients is to be the only one.
If you’re going to build a moat, you need a shovel.
Your shovel is that metal frying pan-looking thing that you stick in the dirt… obviously I’m kidding.
But I’m not kidding about needing a shovel… you’ll be doing some digging
What are you digging for?
You’re probably thinking… “Ugh, I know I need a niche. Not another rant about how the riches are in the niches.”
Stick with me for a moment… This is not your typical approach to choosing a niche. It’s not as simple as just picking a niche and people start throwing money at you (wouldn’t that be nice).
There is a strategy to it:
- Yes, there will be some research.
- Yes, there will be some trial and error.
- Yes, there will be some self-reflection.
- Yes, there will be more terrible jokes.
But by the time you’re done, it will feel like you just took off a weighted vest.
So what exactly is a niche?
It’s a combination of your interests, your skills, and market demands.
It’s the thing that if I type it into Google your business will pop up and I’ll go “Oh damn! Connor is the only person who is doing resistance training programs while playing with kittens in sweater vests! Sign me up!”
Extreme example?... Maybe… or maybe the best idea ever.
It doesn’t have to be grandiose. It just has to be unique to you and your customers.
Building your moat
Everyone thinks they have a moat with angry alligators. When really all they have is an ankle-deep stream with slightly aggressive goldfish. Goldfish don’t even have teeth! I don’t think so anyways.
Don’t fact-check that.
You fact-checked it, didn’t you… I’m a marketing guy, not a fishologist.. Ease off!
This is what most people’s moats look like:
- “I help single dads lose 20+ pounds of fat”
- “I help female athletes get ready to compete in their first CrossFit event”
- “I help busy CEOs put on 10+ pounds of muscle”
Awesome! Those are all great! You know exactly who you are talking to!
But we need to pull out that shovel and dig a little deeper:
- How can you include your personal interests?
- How can you incorporate your unique skill set?
- How can you tune into market demands?
The deeper you dig your moat, the better protected you will be from your enemy.
Step 1 - Define your interests
We start with your interests because if you don’t enjoy some aspect of what you’re doing or who you’re doing it with… you’ll… well… lose interest.
So what are your interests?
This probably sounds like a silly question, but you’d be surprised by how many people don’t know what their genuine interests are.
If you’re reading this, you’re obviously interested in health, fitness, & wellness.
That’s a great place to start, but dig deeper. I know for a fact you are far more interesting than that. Everyone has quirks about themselves that they aren’t even aware of.
A better question might be… what are your unique interests?
Here are some cues to get the juices flowing:
- What podcasts do you listen to?
- What YouTube videos do you watch?
- What books do you gravitate towards?
- What is currently piquing your interests?
- What do you do when you’re not working out?
- What do you enjoy doing that you don’t get paid for?
- What does your mind ruminate on when you meditate?
These are all clues into what makes you unique and what you are genuinely interested in.
Write them down before you move to step 2.
Step 2 - Reflect on your skills
You suck at 95% of the tasks you do (don’t worry, I do as well).
When I say suck, I don’t mean you can’t do it. I mean that if I ranked you on a bell curve on most tasks. You are in the bottom 50th percentile.
Things I suck at:
- Customer service
- Interviewing customers
- Following up with leads
- Stand-up comedy
Here’s the good news… nobody cares what you can’t do. They care about what you can do.
So what are your skills?
What are the things you rank in the top 90th percentile?
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What gets you into a flow state?
- What could you talk about for hours?
- What topics did you study in school?
- What do you get positive feedback on?
- What do people come to you for advice on?
- What feels like play to you but is work for other people?
- What do you see as a weakness that others see as a strength?
The answer to these will give you insights into your unique skills.
Unfortunately, it’s not enough to be OK at something. The world can hire OK anything at a discount rate.
You’re looking for the thing (or things) that you excel at. That people wait in line for. That people will pay a lot of money for… because they know they are still getting more than what they paid for.
Write them down before we move to step 3.
Step 3 - Market demands
You can build a business around almost anything these days:
- Anger rooms
- Cuddle parties
- Doggy dinners
- Ship Your Enemies Glitter bombs
These are all real businesses for the record.
But if you’re like me, you don’t just want a business. You want a business that pays you well, gives you total autonomy with your time, and is making the world a better place.
Now that’s something I can sink my teeth into.
We find a business like that by listening. By paying attention. By having conversations.
What you’re looking for is something that people are craving. Something that if you offered it to them, they would go “oh hell yeah, here’s my credit card!”
Here are some clues:
- What do people complain about?
- What are things that annoy people?
- What is a major problem that people have?
- What is a topic everyone is talking about around you?
- Who do you hang out with and what are their challenges?
- What are people already buying?
Don’t underestimate the power of that last one. 👆
If people are already buying it… maybe you can put your unique spin on it.
Write them down somewhere so we can finally build that moat.
The Niche Test
Before we define your niche and build your moat. I want to remind you to give yourself some grace. There are a lot of internal and external factors that you have to weed through to discover your niche.
Like everything worth having, it takes time.
It is the biggest mistake I see my clients make time and time again. They try to serve everybody and end up serving nobody. This leads to frustration, discouragement and ultimately they quit.
But not you! Not this time! You’ve got this!
Now that you’ve defined your interests, you’ve reflected on your skills and you’ve unearthed some market demands. Let’s bring it all together.
- What’s the overlap between all three?
- What’s the sweet spot in the middle?
- What are you interested in, good at, and the market needs?
That, my friend… is your moat… aka your niche.
Once you see it, you can’t unsee it.
Spend some time with it. Journal about it. Talk to people about it:
- Does it feel right?
- Does it feel natural to you?
- Do you get excited to talk about it?
- Do other people get excited to hear about it?
- Are you the only person who can do it?
If the answer to these questions is “YES!” then congratulations!
You’ve built your moat!
However, if you are still unsure about it… that’s ok!
It means one of three things:
- You need to further explore your interests (try stuff).
- You need to continue to develop your skills (get better).
- You need to continue to engage with the market (listen for problems).
You’ll know when you land on it.
It will both excite and scare you.
It’s ok if you don’t land on it right this second.
Keep at it and it will eventually come together for you.
The best way to find your way through fog… is to keep walking.
A fellow moat builder
Shout out to my good friend and fellow fitness buff, Angela Gargano. It was her podcast interview that inspired me to write this post to help others with the challenge of defining their niche.
Angela has been working in the fitness industry since 2014 (her interest).
During one of her training sessions, she had a client mention to her in passing that she had always wanted to do a pull-up (market demand).
She wasn’t positive about how she was going to help this client, but she gave it a shot, anyway.
She had 14 days to get this client where she needed to be because the client had a photoshoot coming up that she wanted to showcase her pull-up skills.
Prior to this, Angela had competed in Ninja Warrior, so she knew a thing or two about what it takes to do a pull-up (her skill set).
She worked with this client one-on-one for 14 days. Lo-and-behold, you guessed it. She helped her client achieve a pull-up.
These are the 3 pillars of a niche that we have been talking about all along:
- She followed her interests - fitness
- She tapped into his skill set - calisthenics
- She listened to the market - her client wanted to do a pull-up
The niche triple threat!
500 clients later and she is now the pull-up queen.
I tell this story to give you an insight into how this can show up in the real world.
If you want the full episode with Angela, you can find it here.
Before you go, if you want the free niche test downloadable guide covered in this article, you can download that here.
Happy moat (niche) building!