This past Summer, I attended a blogging conference hosted by ConvertKit (which was excellent). They brought in bloggers and other online influencers from almost every niche, and we got to hear their stories from the beginning.
For a while, they pursued their path before arriving at a reflection point where they asked themselves, “Should I keep going? What is working for me?” It was amazing to see this step repeated over and over again, in each speaker’s story. In their own time, each of them had to decide if they would keep going and if so, how they would pivot.
As the speakers recounted their careers in the online world, I noticed a few things: They all started with a core idea or a strong desire, only one or two of them “fell” into what they were doing, and most of them made a conscious decision to change courses and go after the life they wanted.
After their reflection time, each of these bloggers arrived at the same conclusion: they needed to double down on what was working and stop doing everything else. They needed to narrow their niche.
Can you guess what happened next? They hit their stride and their growth kicked into high gear. We saw several charts exactly like this, they showed steady increased growth in the beginning, but after that point of reflection, they hit that curve and kept going like a freight train.
That pivot point is where the real growth happened.
No matter where you are in your platform journey, it’s time for a check-in. That’s why I reached out to one of our star students, Mike Kim, to get his input.
Mike was a Chief Marketing Officer for a Fortune 500 company, his career was going great, but he wanted one thing his corporate gig couldn’t give him: freedom to build his own company and a career that fit his life. He craved margin and more time to do the things he wanted to do on his own schedule.
So in 2013, he joined Platform University. He absorbed everything he could from the coaching and training we offer, and in 2015, he left that C-suite job to work on his platform full-time.
Mike’s story is similar to the stories I heard at that conference. They all fit that formula. He knew he wanted to blog about marketing, so he did. Then he came to that same reflection point after some time and work. Finally, it was time to make a choice.
He looked at everything he was writing about—which was marketing across the board—and decided he was really passionate about helping others build personal brands.
The people who were paying attention to my early content were looking to build personal brands. Initially, I tried to create content for small business owners, because that was my background in marketing, but I realized after several months of blog content and podcasting, those folks weren’t listening to my podcast because they were too busy running their businesses. So I decided to adapt my expertise to people trying to build a brand around themselves.
After doubling down on personal brands, that’s when Mike saw real growth with his platform.
When I asked Mike how he helps someone figure out their niche, he said it all goes back getting clear on your purpose and passion. And the best way to figure that out is with these three questions:
- What ticks you off?
- What breaks your heart?
- What’s the big problem you are trying to solve?
Mike believes you need to “lean into your emotions” to discover what’s really driving you. Emotions are incredibly powerful, and if you tap into what is driving your biggest emotions, you can discover what you are truly passionate about.
Take Mike for example: as a college student, he was ticked off because he had to earn a college degree and decide a singular course for his life. His interests were diverse and he wanted to have the freedom to pursue what he loved, not just the thing his degree qualified him for.
Mike admitted, he sees the world very differently now—but still, the restriction of systems are the thing that upset him. He wanted personal agency over his life, instead of being stuck like a cog in a wheel. And he wanted to help others break free from the system. He experienced that freedom first-hand, and that’s what led him to focus on personal brands.
Mike really believes that reflection point is crucial because it gives you clarity. Mike said this and it really stuck with me. “The reason why a lot of people don’t take action is that they don’t have clarity.”
What do you need to do today to get clear on your purpose with your platform?
I echo what Mike says. The majority of platform-builders who don’t succeed, fail because they don’t know who they help and how they help them. They lack clarity.
Remembering the stories I heard at that conference, I believe this wholeheartedly. If you can get completely clear on the people you help and how you help them, you will find your niche.
But don’t forget, before that clarity comes a lot of work. I like to use the example of a GPS. If you are standing still trying to use a GPS, your icon kind of spins around and isn’t exactly sure where you are. It isn’t until you start moving that you’re GPS knows which way you are facing and starts to direct you.
You have to go through a season where you put the time in and do the work. That’s what will bring clarity. Mike didn’t have clarity right out of the gate, he admitted to me that early on he just wanted to leave his corporate job, “But early on, what was I really running to? I didn’t know yet.”
He just knew he wanted to talk about marketing. “As I kept working, kept searching, kept publishing content, I started to see on the horizon what really made me mad and what broke my heart. Then the big problem I’m trying to solve was clear.” With time and effort, he was able to niche that down even further. Which leads me to my final point…
When you think you’ve nailed down your niche, go one step further.
Write one to two pages about your ideal reader or customer. Who are they and how do you help them? Dive deep. What are their fears and aspirations? What’s a day in their life like? What does your help allow them to do or experience that they didn’t have before?
One of our coaches was on a call recently and she was walking through this exercise with one of our students. His face lit up when he nailed this down with incredible clarity. I could see the excitement on his face.
And that’s really the point of narrowing down. Going back to what Mike was saying, if you are passionate about what you’re doing, you’re going to find real success.
Think of it like this: finding your niche is a journey and all you have to do is start on that road. Put in the work, give it a little time, then dive deep into reflection and dial in your niche even further. That’s where the real growth happens.