As mentioned in my previous post, I'm testing whether Napoleon Hill's 80-year old success guidebook, Think and Grow Rich, can still empower leaders and personal brands today. Each month in 2017, we are diving into 1 of his 13 "success principles." You can download the full Think and Grow Rich book and audio book at my blog at ChrisBartell.com
To Niche, or Not to Niche. That is the Question.
This month, I focussed on Napoleon Hill's 4th success principle: Specialized Knowledge. Hill states that book smarts and getting a solid education only gives you generic intelligence. But it is the seeking of specific knowledge or being a specialist as the key to success. And what worked in 1937 for Hill, and the renowned entrepreneurs of his day like Henry Ford and Thomas Edison, still bode well today.
Hill spends much of the chapter discussing how Ford, Edison and steel magnate Andrew Carnegie had a host of individuals with very specialized knowledge that they could call upon to answer any question he had. These specialists were often a part of their “mastermind groups” with whom they would meet regularly to discover their next steps toward success. (We’ll discuss Hill’s concept of the “Mastermind” in detail in September as it is his 9th success principle.)
But what really bonked me upside the head in this chapter was the entire concept of “specialization.”
As someone who has "done it all" in the world of marketing communications, I've never really, "niched" myself. I always felt like it put me in a box, that it would mean fewer opportunities in the future. I started as a radio reporter, then moved into public relations, then online PR, then online marketing and advertising, then SEO, then running an interactive/digital department, then focussed on branding and marketing campaigns...and the list to tactical skills goes on and on.
Then as I read this chapter for the first time about a year ago, it hit me how I had failed miserably in diving deep into a specialized niche that I could "own." And this Zig Zigler quote I ran across hit me hard:
After years as a reporter then more than a decade in the advertising/PR/digital agency world, working with a wide range of clients from an array of industries, I realized why it's been so hard to niche. I had to know how to tell a good story about any type of scenario, client or industry. I had to ramp up and get the story quickly and disseminate it to the world.
And I happen to be really good at it.
Then a friend of mine and I were discussing Boy Scouts. I'm an Eagle Scout, which I'm very proud of, but one thing that Scouting engrained in me and my friend, was a fearless "can-do" attitude. You realize that you really can do anything you put your mind to, from rappelling down a cliff, fording a river with 70 pounds on your back to saving someone's life. (And, yes, I've done all three so, needless to say, I'm incredibly thankful for my Scouting Experience.)
So, I have a "can do" attitude, am pretty darn fearless, have a gigantic skillset in marketing, so how the heck to I niche?
How to Discover Your Niche & Unleash Your Super Powers!
Here are the steps that worked for me to uncover my niche and my ideal clients:
- Discovered my super powers: what are my unique giftings, the skillset I put to use all of the time? I realized I'm an excellent story teller and have a passion for helping people achieve their dreams. I'm an energizer and a cheerleader. I'm also great in front of a crowd whether it's giving a presentation or conducting a workshop.
- Defined the clients I've helped most: in my Brand Workshops we talk about the transformation the client offers their customers. I discovered that the clients I've "transformed" the most have been companies or professionals in a transition. For companies, it's typically mean a managerial/generational change, or a discovery that they needed to resurrect a stale brand.
- Built my messaging & hone my brand: I then started honing my messaging, working on my own personal brand messaging. If you'r struggling with your brand messaging, like your elevator pitch, you can download my free power pitch guide here.
- Started writing a book! OK. So you don't have to start writing a book, but I did. I realized I needed a tool to differentiate me and hone what I offer, so I'm writing a book focussed one of my ideal client segments: B2B "ingredient brands." These are the companies and brands that power the things that you do by. For instance, they are brands like Gore-Tex or Intel. Most recently, I have had the joy to work with the brand that provides the "secret sauce" behind the craft beer that so many of us love: Great Western Malting. My team and I were brought in to "resurrect" this 80-year old brand that started a craft brewing revolution here in the Pacific Northwest. Over the past year, we have taken their brand story to the world in a new and exciting fashion and we believe it will showcase how powerful an ingredient brand can become.
Become an Influencer & Thought Leader with Specialization
Solid brand positioning and leadership come from deep knowledge in a specialized niche. Whether you are a solopreneur, entrepreneur, corporate leader, professional or personal brand, I highly recommend honing your niche and promoting it to the world. Think about the lives or businesses have you transformed the most. That's where your super powers were unleashed and you were probably the most fulfilled. From here, you can hone your craft even further, diving deeper and being seen as the leading expert in your field.