You and I talk about niches. (And penguins.)

Penguin Ornaments
Hey sweetie, we need to have a talk. (That came out sounding a bit ominous, didn’t it? Don’t worry, it’s cool.)

A talk about what? you say.

It’s about your niche… and how you don’t really have one.

I do too! you say.

Oh really? What is it?

Well, my website is about penguins, and so it’s for anyone who is interested in penguins.

Isn’t everyone kinda interested in penguins? They’re a part of the human experience.

Yeah, I think everyone has a need for penguins, deep down. And that’s why I want to make this work, because so many people would benefit from it!

I know. And that’s your problem.


Look, if I took a hundred random people off the street – some businesswomen, and a grumpy guy from the post office, a few gothy teens and little old ladies and a muscle-bound dude headed to the gym, and lots of others – and put them in a room… could you rock their world? Create big shifts in their attitudes about penguins? Get them taking action?

I could educate them!

Does that matter? Is it important that they know more about penguins, or that they change their life to create more penguin-y goodness?

Well, if they knew more then they could take the action…

Really? Are you saying they don’t already know pretty much everything they need to about penguins? Because most people do, the same way they know that smoking will kill you and that multi-level marketing is Satan’s toilet paper.

I guess you’re right. But I really want to help them take action! I know how much penguins could improve their lives!

The problem is that unless you chain the doors closed and kidnap your audience – and I’m pretty sure that’s illegal – you can’t force anyone to change.

I know, but…

…but you really wish you could.


I know, sweetheart. It’s tough, but it’s the way things are. Since you’re not going to resort to Stockholm Syndrome, you need to stop trying to convince everyone that they need more penguins, and start talking only to the people who are ready to take penguin action.

Why can’t I talk to both?

Remember that room with a hundred random people in it? Tell me one phrase that will inspire every single person in that group.

Umm… penguins are great! The more you get them into your life then more your life will improve!

Can you imagine the politely skeptical faces?


Okay, what if you were talking to Bulgy McMuscles over there? What would you say to just him?

If you get more penguins in your life, you will have more energy, and a much faster recovery time from muscle strain!

And the goth triplets up the back?

You know those moments when you really connect with the music you’re listening to? Your whole life is more emotionally intense when you’re connected to your penguins!

And the little old ladies?

Penguins make you feel twenty years younger!

Okay, now swap those statements. Do the little old ladies care about building up their lats and delts? Do the goth triplets want to feel twenty years younger?


So if you try to talk to everyone, you talk to no-one. If you choose one specific group to talk to, you can rock their world.

But the other people still neeeeed meeee…

That’s your opinion, not theirs. You can’t change anyone who doesn’t want to change. You can have sorta-kinda success talking to people who are sorta-kinda ready to change. Or you could create massive and transformative change for the people who want more penguins, value more penguins, and believe they can achieve more penguins.

I look really pouty, don’t I?

You really do. I have some good news for you, though.


Imagine that you focus on Bulgy McMuscles – and people like him – and ignore everyone else. As a result of that focus and personalisation, you bring an exponential number of penguins into his life. How does he feel?

He’s never felt so good in his life.

And so what does he do next?

He… tells everyone about it?

Indeed he does. He tells all of his buddies at the gym…

…and that leads to lots more clients for me.

It does, but it’s better than that. He also tells his girlfriend, and his work buddies, and his little sister the goth, and his grandma. He spends hours telling them how penguins would rock their world, too.

Oh, and maybe Grandma decides that she could use a bit more penguinosity in her life!


And I can help her get it!



Sorry, duckling, but you have to choose one group to serve. But you CAN send Granny to another penguin wrangler you know who specialises in people over 60.

So how do I choose which group to work with?

That’s easy. Who do you love the most?

Why does that matter?

You’ll be spending a lot of time working with these people, creating penguin products for them, answering their penguin-related questions… you need to know this group intensely, be able to speak with them intimately, and to identify their hidden problems and objections and fears. It’s much easier to do that with people you know and love. Also, it’s more fun for you.

I’m pro-fun.

Me too. So are you gonna do it?

I have to, don’t I?


Okay, I will. And stop looking so smug.


The moral of the story

For maximum impact, you need to get specific. Diluting your message to reach as many people as possible – or even everyone who you know would benefit from it – leads to homeopathy-strength communication. (Take one drop of your message, and a big bucket of water…)

When you commit to serving one niche, and only that niche, your message becomes a 10cc syringe of impact right to the brain. Here’s the big caveat: your niche must value the benefit you are offering. (Not the solution, necessarily. That’s a magical pink donkey, remember?)


Make the decision to choose a small group: gym junkies, geeks, perkygoths, world-changers, horse-riders, marine biologists, Mythbusters fans. Note that they aren’t demographics. (Because demographics suck.) This is about something much more powerful: identity. We choose our identities, we value them, and we make decisions informed by them.

So choose an identity group that you love. You already know how to move them, delight them, and make them cry. You know how to make them feel welcome, and special. You know how to rock their world.

And why would you settle for less?

If you want to know more about how to choose the right niche for you, then Goddamn Radiant is here to help.

54 thoughts on “You and I talk about niches. (And penguins.)

  1. Penguinosity! Sign me up for somma THAT, please!

    So I could quote every line you wrote here, and then highlight it, and then say “yes yes yes!” next to each quote, or I could just say thank you.

    Thank you.

    Oh, and also, I got out of this that I want to serve the people I want to be friends with. And I totally, totally know exactly who those people are.

  2. You know, darling Catherine, that I adore you…right? Not just because I have been collecting penguins and penguin-related things for more than 20 years. (and by penguins I mean penguin-icons – not the actually animals – that would be weird and illegal and confuse the penguin).

    Now my only >small< hiccup in this AMAZING (as always) story is this — "World-changers" is NOT a small enough group to be a niche, as I've found from personal experience, however, "world-changing healers who want to make a living helping others get through their pain" is doable. I'm still working on tightening it more. Because you are joyfully on the cashionciousness — the more specific you are the more terrific you are for your clients.

    It's hard for those of us who see ourselves as "teachers" first to NOT want to joyfully educate the world on why they need what we've got to teach them…but such a valid point.

    Always, always, always. My life is more full because of you. Thank you.

    1. Really? What a nice co-incidence! I only used penguins because I asked The Dude what I should write about and he said, “Penguins are cool.” I’m glad it made you extra-happeh!

      You’re right, these are VERY broad-stroke. The “what you offer” part further clarifies the niche.

  3. Okay, every damn time I think I can’t love you any more than I already do, then, you do this. Every. Time.

    Also, quit spying on my brain, it’s getting a bit crowded in there, er, here.

  4. At this point I’m sure you are writing your articles from our coaching sessions. lol Again there is that wag of the finger and the sense that you are talking to me. I read your posts because I love them, I need them, and you say the right thing. Coming to your blog is almost like going to the principle’s office, in a scary but thrilling way. lol. Keep it up.

    1. Partly I am writing them from you, but also the twenty other recent coachsulting sessions when the same issue came up. You are SO not alone.

      Also, thanks for that delightfully weird compliment!

    2. Yeah, she’s totally writing it from our sessions, too. You’re not the only one this sounds familiar to! 😉

  5. Just got off our call and read this right away. Pretty fantastic advice and like the other peeps who commented, seemed like you wrote this just for me! Pretty damn good sign you know you’re people well 🙂

  6. Holy crap, that was a great post.

    That really helped me focus what I wanted to accomplish with my blog, niche wise. It feels more like a multi-tiered approach to IDing a niche versus kind of a vague WELL IT’S FOR BODYBUILDERS. At least that’s what I took from it.

    It’s like writing a character for a story. Not even in a demographic sense, but it can’t be one-dimensional. Thanks!

    1. There’s a lot of overlap but still a significant difference between “It’s for bodybuilders” and “It’s for people who CARE about bodybuilding”. Guess which one is more effective?

      (It’s the second one.)

      1. Hmmm. I really get the distinction. My question is how do you *find* people who care about bodybuilding (or any other niche for that matter)? I’m still struggling with that one. Got any ideas?

        1. I have lots of ideas! The simplest is this: identities have a number of common points. If you love bodybuilding then you are likely to be interested in, say, protein powder, physiology, and old Schwarzenegger flicks.

          In all of these interests and values there are places where people hang out. And you can hang out there too, being fantastic and casually mentioning your thing.

  7. Absolutely loved this! The most creative way I have ever heard someone talk about choosing a niche. There are so many great points in this post I wouldn’t even know where to start. Thank you!

    I’m off to find those people I love!

  8. freaking brilliant!
    “So if you try to talk to everyone, you talk to no-one. If you choose one specific group to talk to, you can rock their world.”
    i am off to share this post with my niche right now….

      1. Yes, Catherine, please. 😉 I adore the way you express your thoughts. You have made me into a loyal fan. I’d love to support you on a Facebook fan page. 🙂

  9. Aha! I found my favorite people today: skeptics who nevertheless are excited and inspired by the mysteries of life. That wasn’t as weird as it sounded, right?

    1. Wow. What an awesome niche. Let me know when you get started blogging. I’ll be right there with you. The mysteries of life are awe inspiring, and I’d love to hear your perspectives.

      1. Oh, I thought it would come up when you click my name, but twitter does instead. I’m currently at and I’ll be easing into that niche over the coming weeks…Fridays would be the best time to show up, but you’re welcome anytime!

  10. I think finding your niche is right up there with writing your About Me page. Not impossible, but it means putting your thinking cap on. Thanks for the reminder to keep narrowing in on this. Love the way you express your ideas.

  11. Argh, niches. I suck at niches. I made the decision recently to focus on dialogue/conversation, but I’m still working with people who may be from 5 different industries. I _think_ it’s better, but I may still be too vague.

    (And I am experimenting with blogging every day and it is KILLING me. It’s only Day 3! :0)

    1. Do the target people from the 5 different industries have some identity in common? I work with coaches, web designers, crafters, techs, accountants… but they all identify themselves as people who want to make money while doing meaningful work.

  12. This is so perfect for me right now, Catherine, as I try to get my mind around what my teaching business is. Thinking thinking thinking…don’t try to educate everybody about why they need what you’re offering…

  13. Ahhh… I, too, feel like you’re talking directly to me. You’re obviously doing something really damn right if we’re all feeling that way….

    I still keep going back and forth & am having all sorts of insane ideas. I think it might be near time for our next session.. though I’ve yet to do my confessional post… (yikes!).

  14. I’ve read a lot about niches, and this is the first time that it “clicked” for me as to why I should have one, as well as what a good niche should look like. The wheels in my head have been turning for the past few hours, and thanks to this post, I’ve managed to further clarify my niche in not one, but *both* of my little ittybizzes. Yay, Catherine! Keep the insightful posts coming! 🙂

  15. Y’know, it’s funny. I listened last week to a webcast with Bob Bergin (the voice of Porky Pig, amongst other things) talking about this exact same principle with regards to your voice over career – a specific niche, and specific goals to target, and how important it is.

    Of course, he didn’t use penguins, but not everyone has your flair for happy feet.

      1. Pretty much everyone in the industry has to have commercial/retail work as their bread and butter, and I’ve worked out my specialty here: I’m the guy who softly twists your arm to donate to charity, or convinces you that smoking’s bad by talking about poor Sarah, who misses her dad. An empathetic soft-sell.

        Other than that, I’ve got my eye on video games and audiobooks at the moment. Audiobooks is more likely to bear fruit, because I’m not competing with A-list Hollywood talent, but I’m not giving up on video games without a knockdown fight. 😉

        How are you defining your niche at the moment?

  16. Waterfowl!!!

    After reading this, it looks as tho’ after a year and all, I’m STILL not sure of what my/our niche is.

    Also, when you have no real idea of how to communicate with ANYBODY, how do you know how to communicate with those in your niche?

    Btw, a quick explanation of how Niche & Bestest People interrelate would be veriest helpful.

    Thank’ee’s & keep up the great work! 🙂

  17. I remember a long time ago hearing that you should write to one specific person… I guess I forgot about it because it’s scary to think that if I write to that one person I’m risking the other 6 Billion 🙂 But the truth is I don’t want to work with those 6 B… As always, awesome post! (I don’t know why, but I always have trouble logging in to leave a comment)

    1. You are right! Also, it’s a lot easier to engage one person than six billion… 🙂

      P.S. Sorry to hear about the comments! Disqus is generally great, but i does seem to take an irrational dislike to some people. *poke it with a stick*

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