One of the biggest myths in the professional speaking industry is the idea that you have to ‘niche to get rich’, also stated as ‘the riches are in the niches.’
This idea is akin to trying to get rich by investing all your savings into a single stock, because it happens to be doing well right now or it’s in an industry you know well. This is a short-sighted view for investors or for speakers and comes a misunderstanding of how to protect for downsides.
Rather than putting all your eggs in one basket like a single stock or niching into a single industry, there are investment vehicles called index funds that carry across multiple stocks and ensure that if one stock goes down, it doesn’t take your life savings with it.
Turning your speaking business from a ‘single stock’ model into a ‘index fund’ model is what we’re focusing on today.
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The idea of ‘niche to get rich’ is an endemic belief that holds many speakers back from the impact and income they’re capable of. First, we’ll explain where the belief comes from and why it’s a comfortable prison that limits scalability and growth. Then we’ll explain how to leverage a niche within your expertise that crosses industries and allows you to help more people and get on more stages.
The Padded Prison
Niching by industry seems like a good idea on the surface – only one set of buyers to target, a limited amount of events those folks need speakers for, and usually speakers can simply fall back on the industry they came from as they have a ready-made network.
What’s not to like about that? It’s familiar. It’s comfortable. We can wrap our arms around that industry’s language, we can identify their specific publications and even memorize the dates of all their annual events.
It’s also a padded prison. Unknowingly, many speakers follow this advice and get extremely comfortable in one industry. Being well-known among a group of buyers who talk to each other seems like a good idea and can produce revenue for a while, but then …
A pandemic hits.
The industry experiences a drastic contraction and budgets disappear.
The flagship product or service of that industry becomes obsolete due to a change in the market.
Or a dozen other issues.
Suddenly that speaker who followed the advice of ‘niche to get rich’ is out of a job. Unfortunately, like bad stock-pickers, many will simply choose another singular niche to target and the cycle starts all over again.
How to break free of a niche – and the padded prison?
Whether you are new to the business of speaking or have been working inside of one industry for decades, it’s never too late or early to break out. Moving our model from a single stock to an index fund happens with a shift in how we communicate the value we provide. I’m not advocating to tell people you have experience in an industry that you don’t, but rather insisting that you see your own expertise differently.
You can still niche, but don’t do it by industry. Rather, niche in your expertise across industries.
Being a solution provider
In order to shift from being niched in an industry to being a niched expert, you need to ask what solutions your expertise actually produces. For instance, if you are an employee engagement speaker who has focused on human resource conference your whole career, you’ve learned how to phrase what you do in a way that human resource employees understand. It’s time to step back and look at the entirety of what your expertise produces, not just what a human resource officer appreciates.
Do more engaged employees produce more profit for their companies?
Do more engaged employees stay longer with their companies, improving retention?
Do more engaged employees treat customers and prospects better, increasing customer acquisition, sales conversion and revenue?
Of course they do! Once you map out the ways your expertise helps everyone in your clients’ organizations, across departments, you now have a list of dozens of ways you can be of service to different companies and individuals across industries.
Now the question to ask, instead of, “Which human resource conference can I speak at next?”, will be “Which conferences are bringing people together who need more profit, better employee retention, customer acquisition, sales conversion, revenue, etc.?” Your playing field just expanded dramatically.
Instead of limiting yourself to the shallow pond of a single industry, you’ll be able to sail into the deep waters of all the industries who need the solutions you provide.
After shifting your mindset, shift marketing and sales
If you understand the scale that crossing industries allows you to access in your business, you can see that working cross-industry allows you to capitalize on the gains of everyone doing well while avoiding the slumps every industry eventually experiences. The next step in putting this into practice is updating your marketing and who you sell to.
Ensure you strip industry-specific titles and language from your website. It’s fine to retain a menu item for ‘human resource officers’, for instance, but you don’t want a buyer to get the impression from your headlines and menu items that you only address human resource issues. Instead of targeting a single industry with your marketing, incorporate your solution-based language to target people across industries who need the solutions you provide.
Next, instead of only targeting the job titles of the people you’ve been selling to within a single industry, ask what the job titles are of anyone in an organization who is responsible for one of the outcomes you’ve recognized your expertise produces (profit, better employee retention, customer acquisition, sales conversion, revenue, etc.). Instead of targeting one job title within an organization or association, you now have multiple targets to pursue which drastically increases your chances of getting ahold of someone who can hire you.
Speakers should definitely niche – but need to ensure they do it in a way that allows them to cross industries and buyer job titles. That’s how to ensure your business survives and thrives any industry’s ups and downs.
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