Focusing within a niche

November 27th, 2007

What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard Bolles is the top-selling book on changing careers of all time. What many people don’t know about the book is that it was originally written for a very narrow audience; Episcopalian ministers who were losing their jobs in a budget crunch and were looking to find new jobs.

He wrote the book based upon his experiences with his own job situation and self-published it. Other people heard about the book and realized that much of the advice could apply to them and the book started selling outside its original niche. Millions of copies have been sold and it still sells over 100,000 copies a year. Not bad for a book written 30 years ago for a very narrow audience.

Richard Bolles saw a problem right in front of his face. He wrote a book to help people with the problem and ended up creating something that had much wider value than he realized.

I’m wiling to bet that if the book hadn’t had been focused on a niche, it never would have become the success that it is today. In focusing on a niche, three things happened:

1. Bolles wrote a concise to the point book for an audience he understood: Bolles wasn’t writing to an imaginary audience. He knew exactly who he was talking to and was able to write a book that dealt in specifics that addressed their situation. If he had written a more generalized book it wouldn’t have been as relevant to the people he was targeting.


2. Bolles had a very specific market to focus his energy on: Bolles didn’t waste his money advertising the book in places where he wouldn’t get much traction for the dollar. An ad in a magazine ministers read would get more attention per dollar spent than one in a non-focused magazine. He could market to large audiences every time he met with other ministers.


3. A large number of people initially picked up the book creating word of mouth: The first 100 people to read his book were mostly the ministers he targeted it to. Because the book was specific to their needs, they raved about how good a book it was to their non-minister friends. He quickly reached a group of hardcore promoters who took up promotion of the book. Other people found value in it as well and the book took off from there.


Rather than try to write to “everybody”; choose an audience that you understand. You’ll be able to spend more time catering to them and create something they’ll feel more intensely about. When it comes time to market your content, you’ll know exactly who to start with.

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