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What if niching wasn't a destination but a way of being in your practice?

marketing niching Jan 12, 2023
The idea of "niching" your business is one that's been well-worn by marketers and consultants alike. It's often presented as an essential step in the process of growing a brand, and it has become such an ingrained part of the way we talk about marketing that we often don't even question it anymore.

But when it comes down to brass tacks—niching your private practice—do you really have to choose just one thing? Isn't there room for growth beyond any single niche?

I think so.

In fact, I'd argue that niching isn't something that happens once but rather something you do all along as a practice owner and psychologist.

Let me explain why:

Niching isn't a destination; it's an organic process.
I strongly believe that niching is a verb, a doing word, and therefore a continual, organic process rather than a place to land. When I looked for photos on 'niche' in the database, I was shown images of shelves hewn into rocks. A niche into which statues were placed (in the niching world those ‘statues’ are often called avatars).

However, I know that niching, even as a doing word, brings up a lot of struggles for psychologists in private practice.
  • “Do I really need to niche?”
  • “Does that mean I can't work with other people or communities that I also love to serve?”
  • “What if I get a niche and then decide that I don't like it?”

How about this: instead of imagining a niche as a destination, what if it was a process of uncovering the stories that mean the most to you and the clients with whom you resonate most?

A process of uncovering more of your own values as a psychologist and how you want to represent those in your private practice work?

What if you knew that as people shift, as the world shifts, and as you grow and shift, your niche will shift with you?

What if niching was more fluid and flexible, like a river?

How would niching feel to you then?

When you niche, you're uncovering a story that flows between you and your clients.
Niching is about finding ways to connect with your clients. It's about telling a story that flows from how you see the world and how you meet your clients, even if it challenges conventional wisdom or expectation.

I think that niching in a psychology practice is more strongly based on the stories of people's lives and their personal journeys than the commercial marketers might have us believe. As you may have guessed, I'm not a fan of 'client avatars' – I’ve seen so many psychologists get stuck with this way of understanding our niches. People and their stories aren’t fixed or typecast. We tend to resist stereotyping and simplifying the people we work with in our practices for good reason, so it can feel alien to us to squish future clients into a characterisation.

A psychology practice niche is about how we hold space for people and all their stories. It's rarely a single demographic we focus on.

Niching in psychology practices isn’t something we do *to* our clients. It’s a way of holding them in mind when we create content or offer our products and services.

Since we also seek to bring meaning and purpose to our psychology practices, that means parts of ourselves show up in that flow of our niche. As we change and grow over time, so does the niche.

Rather than a statue, our niches are like a river that flows between two banks and shapes the banks over time.

The process of niching doesn't have to be a painful one.

Moving away from niches that are mechanically derived via analysis and represented through stereotyping, and towards niches that are continually shaped through reciprocal flows means we don’t have to struggle to find 'the perfect niche.'

Instead, we can use our skills as psychologists to engage with the collective narrative in a way that helps us uncover the stories that bring life to our practices.

In the coaching calls I've had recently, I've been pulling on a slide from our upcoming online programme The Psychologist's Marketing Academy. The module on Discovering Your Niche has eight sentence completion examples, and this is the first:
It's a sentence completion exercise that starts to uncover some of the whys.

Why you might care about a particular problem, or a particular experience people have been experiencing.

What might be on their side of the bank and what might be on yours?

The stories that flow between you.

For example, I know for Inspiring Psychology Practices, "..because of the time, money, energy and heartache it took me to learn how to build a successful private practice, and because I care about psychologists being able to positively impact the world in a sustainable way, I help psychologists in private practice design their own regenerative practices."

And in my corporate practice, Globally Talented, "because of the number of talented people I saw being 'broken' by international job moves, I help corporates to move their leaders around the world in a way that builds them, not breaks them."

These are deeply meaningful and personal insights that help me feel connected with my ‘niche’ and with the clients that resonate with such a message.

The lovely thing about this exercise, if you have a go at it yourself, is that it's also a great way to create your 'one liner', or what's know as your practice 'tag line.' A simple way to explain to someone how you help.

Niches evolve as you grow.

As you become more aware of your practice, as you grow into your own person as a therapist, coach or consultant, your niche will naturally evolve to reflect your needs and interests.

Approaching your ‘niche’ in this way allows your practice to be a place to connect with others, instead of a place to struggle with periods of self-promotion and market analysis.

It empowers you to flex your practice according to your life rather than feel stuck, because all your experiences in your practice shape your side of the river bank and, therefore, shape the stories that flow between you and your clients.

The niching process is not just a destination—it's a way of being in your practice.

It's about exploring and uncovering the meaningful stories that help you feel connected to yourself and others around you. It's about telling stories that flow from those things, and helping others do the same.

And it doesn't have to be painful; in fact, it can be deeply rewarding.


p.s. Need help figuring out your niche story? You can book coaching with Wendy here