Finding Your Niche
In the first module of this niche research tutorial series – Introduction To Niche Research, we considered why finding niches is important and how you go about researching a potential niche that you think you have discovered.
In this tutorial and the next, we’re going to look at various different ways of finding initial niche market ideas because most experienced online marketers will tell you that of all the questions beginners ask, perhaps the most common is about how they come up with possible niche ideas.
One thing that constantly amazes me about online marketers is that the vast majority ignore the most powerful niche research tool of them all, one that is completely free and accessible to every single would-be infopreneur.
It’s called your brain…
If you are sitting in front of your monitor reading this on-screen, take a moment to look up to glance around the room.
Almost every single thing you see could be the source of fresh new niche ideas if you will only take a moment to think about what you are looking at (which you don’t because it is all too familiar).
As an example, just looking up from my own monitor, I can see a clock, family pictures and dozens of books.
There are thousands of people every day searching for information about clocks, watches and other timepieces on the Internet whilst according to the Google statistics, ‘photography’ is searched for more than 1 million times every day:
The room is full of furniture and fittings, there are carpets or rugs on the floor, and if you stare out the window, the garden is full of garden furniture.
Every single one of these things could be a source of niche ideas, something which you can establish in exactly the same way as you saw in the first tutorial using the AdWords keyword research tool.
Perhaps you’re reading this after printing it out, somewhere away from your desk and office? If so, good, a change of perspective should help you come up with a ton of additional market or niche ideas which you can research further.
For instance, if you’re reading this in the park, what about using the surrounding plants, trees and bushes as inspiration? Gardens, gardening and all aspects of growing plants are also incredibly popular according to the Google statistics:
What about the wildlife (‘birdwatching’ or ‘keeping birds’) and the people you see? There’s not many parks where there’s no cyclists or kids playing sports so how about using those as starting points for your research?
You see, no matter where you are or what you’re doing, there are hundreds of potential niche market ideas surrounding you. It’s just that up to now, you haven’t seen them this way.
Well, now you need to start doing so.
Another thing you can do without resorting to any kind of external research tools is to think about your own interests, hobbies, experiences and major life events.
Go back over every job you have ever had, every hobby you have ever indulged in, the books you’ve read, the music you’ve loved and (basically) the history of your life. Do this and once again, you’ll most probably find that there are dozens of ideas from which you might be to pull profitable niche markets which you can focus your online marketing efforts on.
This is particularly effective because whilst it is not necessary to build sites or to participate in a market where you already have a pre-existing interest, it is often far more effective if you do so.
This happens because if you already have an interest in or a passion for a particular niche subject or topic, it is far easier to keep your enthusiasm levels up than it is if you have no interest in your niche at all.
As long as there are enough people elsewhere who share your enthusiasm (which is something that you must check), this is often the best way of marketing online because enthusiasm for and excitement about your niche almost always translates into doing a better job.
For example, in sales, it is common knowledge that the best salespeople are always those who have the greatest enthusiasm for and belief in the products or services they are selling. It will be the same with you – if you really believe in and love your market niche, you will do a far better job than you would if it were something in which you had no interest.
As well as your own interests, hobbies and passions, look at those of close family members and friends as well. You may not find their interests quite as enthralling as your own but as long as you are looking for valid niche ideas, you should ignore nothing.
No matter how you come up with niche market ideas, it is absolutely critical that as you come up with more and more potential topics, every one of them has to be written down.
To this end, keep a small notebook and pencil handy (in your pocket at all times if possible) so that you can note ideas down as they occur to you. Add this to a notebook at home or a spreadsheet (but remember to keep a backup copy) so you will gradually build a database of potential niche ideas.
The first reason that you should keep a record of all of your ideas is that you should only ever work on one niche market at a time.
For example, continuing the example from the first tutorial, if you decide to build a site and a business around ‘German Shepherd dog training’, then this must be the only site that you work on until it is self-supporting.
In other words, you must avoid falling into the trap of trying to develop too many website businesses at the same time. Instead, focus on one, develop and work on it until it is making good money and only then consider moving on.
If you don’t have a record of all the ideas, many of them will be gone by the time you come back to start on your next project.
Over time, this record of potential niche ideas will become an invaluable business development tool because after the early days, you will never be short of good niche ideas again.
Furthermore, keeping a detailed list of every one of your niche market ideas enables you to build networks of sites where you can cross promote from one group of customers to another.
For example, if you build one business based on ‘German shepherd dog training’ and another around ‘dog aggression training’, you could easily promote products and/or services from one customer list to the other.
They are not the same group of customers but they have similar interests so there is plenty of scope for profitable cross promotion.
As most experienced marketers already know, the secret to maximizing online profits is to have the ability to promote products and services to prospects and customers that are laser targeted to their interests.
If you build several site-based businesses that are all fairly closely tied together, you have a natural network of prospects and customers to whom you can promote already.
Next, if you have lots of completely different niche ideas, it gives you the choice of whether you want to diversify into various different markets or focus on only one.
Both approaches have their plus and minus points.
If on the one hand you focus all of your marketing efforts on one centralized market with lots of sites within the same market, you vastly increase the possibility of promoting from one group to another.
For example, you might focus on the investment market, with some sites focused on real estate investment, another site group focused on Forex, yet another focused on stocks and shares and so on.
Whilst the members of each of these site networks would have their own specific investment ideas and philosophies, there would be many opportunities for cross promotion in a system such as this.
The advantage of this is that the easiest and most cost-effective people to promote to are your existing customers.
Whereas pulling in new prospects in an attempt to turn them into new customers is a time-consuming and sometimes expensive operation, selling to existing customers is exactly the opposite.
With your customers, all you need to do is send them e-mail information about additional products or services that will be of interest to them and you will make sales without the degree of persuasion that is necessary to convince a new prospect to become a customer.
On the other hand, if you limit yourself to just one market, your potential marketing reach and range of opportunities is also by definition limited.
Whether this is a serious disadvantage would depend on the size of your market (e.g. you could come up with dozens of ‘investment site’ ideas) but it is a potential disadvantage of limiting yourself to only one market.
There are literally dozens of tools that you can use to research niche markets on the Internet and whilst there are some very good tools that you need to pay for, there are also dozens that are completely free.
Perhaps not surprisingly, I would recommend that you focus most of your efforts on using free tools to come up with niche ideas which you can then analyze using the strategies and ideas from the first tutorial in this series.
The first tools that you should be using are all tools that enable you to establish beyond any doubt the kind of things that people are buying on the Internet.
As suggested previously, whether you are promoting digital information products or physical products, you need to know that people are interested in buying what you have to offer before starting to build your site and business.
Using the sites that you will be introduced to here will help you to discover exactly what people want (or need) and are willing to pay for online.
Amazon.com is one of the best online resources for establishing how many products and/or services are available in the market niche in which you have an interest. The importance of this lies in the fact that the more products there are already available, the more indicative it is of a healthy market.
In particular, I would recommend using the books section of Amazon because the one thing you can be certain of about printed book publishers is that every one of the major publishing houses spends hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on market research.
Publishers do not sink a large amount of money into a book launch if their market research does not tell them that doing so will make a very significant profit for them.
In effect therefore, they have done all of the market research work for you already, so why duplicate their efforts to arrive at exactly the same conclusion?
As I’ve suggested many times in this Internet marketing tutorial series, there is no point in reinventing the wheel, so use what those book publishers have already spent to your advantage.
To get the information you need from Amazon, click the ‘Books’ link at the top left-hand corner of the home page before clicking ‘Books’ in the drop-down menu that you see here:
Now, search the site using your keyword term to see how many results your search produces and what sort of price people are willing to pay for information in your market.
For example, these are the results for books related to Forex trading (both printed books and e-books are included by default):
Amazon has 478 books listed that are related to the Forex market which gives you a clear indication that this is a popular topic. Furthermore, you can see from the prices that people are willing to pay quite a decent amount of money for a Forex product which is obviously a good thing for you.
Many of the books allow you a sneak peek at the contents if you click the ‘Excerpt’ link at the bottom of the listing as indicated here:
Take a look at the book contents because this will help you crystallize your ideas about the kind of information people in your market need. Do not copy the contents exactly but take note of them as this is information that you can use on your niche targeted site later:
One strategy that works very well with Amazon is to find books in your market that focus on a ‘how to’ angle because this is exactly the kind of information Internet users want when they are surfing the Internet.
As the name would suggest, magazines.com is a site through which you can subscribe to hundreds of different magazines. As magazine revenue is almost all generated from advertising, any market where there are plenty of magazines published is a market in which there is money to be made and being spent.
In this case, you may need to search a little more generically than you would do with Amazon. So for example, I would search for ‘investing’ magazines rather than ‘Forex’ as there are not many magazines that I’m aware of that focus on only one section of the investment market.
There are 15 investment magazines available indicating that there is plenty of money being spent by advertisers in this market and a decent amount of consumer interest as well.
There are a couple of different ways you can use eBay to further your online niche research, with both strategies being something you can use to further your research into how people spend their money on the Internet.
The first option is to logon to the eBay Pulse page which is a page that shows you several ongoing developments on the main eBay site including ‘Popular Searches’, ‘Popular Stores’, ‘Most Watched Items’ etc.
The default ‘Popular Searches’ shows the top 10 most popular searches over the previous 24 hour period and whilst this information is interesting, you can learn far more by clicking the drop-down ‘All Categories’ menu at the top of the page.
This allows you to look at each individual category to see what is popular, again giving you an indication of what people are willing to spend their money on with the most popular online auction site in the world:
As an example, say that I am thinking of promoting cameras or photographic equipment. I would click the link as highlighted in the previous screenshot to see what is most popular in this particular category:
The most regularly searched term is ‘Pentax 67 300mm’ which (as a non-photographer) I’m guessing is a lens. By clicking the link, I get to the individual product page which is where the second element of eBay niche research comes into play.
I want to see how much people are willing to pay, so I click the link for ‘Completed listings’ in the column on the left hand side of the page:
This pulls up a list of all completed listings for this product showing how many sold and at what price:
This gives you another indication about how popular this particular product is in the market and how much people are willing to pay for it.
You’d probably find it a little strange to hear someone claim that PayPal is an under-the-radar niche research resource but it’s absolutely true!
Bear with me and you’ll see exactly why.
If you have a PayPal account, you may know that there is a ‘Store’ section on the site through which many major retailers sell their goods and services. If you weren’t aware of this, the links are at the bottom of the PayPal login page under ‘Personal Products & Services’:
This is the screen that you will see if you hit the ‘Store Directory’ link highlighted in the previous screenshot:
Obviously, there are some very well-known brands here so if you want information from leading stores, these are exactly what you need.
However, there is a real ‘hidden gem’ that is almost impossible to find if you don’t know it’s there , a niche research tool that almost no-one knows about.
Firstly, to find your way to this tool, you have to be on the US version of PayPal. If you use any other PayPal site, you probably won’t see the search box at the top of the screen as you see here:
Once you are on the US site and can see the search box, type in ‘PayPal shops’ or use this link to open the shops page:
Now you’ll have a page that looks similar to the following screenshot. On the left hand side, scroll to the bottom of the ‘Shops Categories’ column so that you can click the ‘View All’ link to open the category menu out:
What this section of the PayPal site does is feature all small and medium sized merchants who are selling their own goods and services using the PayPal system. These are merchants who are selling online and doing so through PayPal, but here’s the real beauty of this little gem.
After opening up the category menu, click any category you might be interested in.
Let’s say for the sake of argument that it’s the ‘Health’ category:
On the page that opens out, you see all of the smaller merchants who are selling health related products but note that at the top of the page, PayPal highlight that these merchants are listed according to volume (highlighted with the red border).
The volume figure is however different to the figure to the right of the business name that indicates how many verified PayPal members have bought from this merchant:
In other words, the merchant selling Premium Wu-Long Slimming Tea at the top of the page has processed over 53,300 orders (highlighted in green) to verified PayPal members.
If you are looking for a niche where you know people are willing to spend money, it’s hard to imagine that you can have better information than this because you can actually see how many people are buying from each shop site shown!
And as you browse each of the PayPal shops categories, you’ll find lots of niches that you would never have thought of before and have an instant picture of how well businesses in every one of these markets are doing.
This is excellent niche research information but it’s also stuff that very few other marketers are using because they don’t know it’s there and PayPal do not seem to make a big effort to let anyone in on the secret either.
From your point of view, long may it stay that way!
In this tutorial, you have been introduced to many online merchants whose sites offer excellent niche research tools in one way or another. Of course, the most important thing that you can take from all of the sites is the ability to see with far greater clarity what is selling best.
This is a factor to which we will return in the third and final tutorial in this series – More Niche Research Techniques.