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Niche Client or Ideal Client; Same or Different?

Many solo business owners mix up these two terms. In order to really have a strong marketing plan, it is important to understand the difference.
Written Aug 16, 2011, read 3449 times since then.


Niche client or ideal client?  People often use these terms interchangeably but in fact they don’t necessarily mean the same thing. It took me years to figure this out. 

I often go to business meetings where people stand up and say, "My ideal client is..."  They continue on sharing about who they would love to work with and why. Sometimes they even say that their ideal client is someone who is able to pay for their services. This makes sense because ideally, people want to get paid. 

Your ideal client is:
•  Someone you love to work with.
•  Someone who allows you to do what you love. 
•  Someone who will pay you big bucks.

You would likely have no trouble describing this ideal client because it is really all about you and who you ideally want to be helping. So it's easy to describe.

However, many people are often stumped if you ask them who their niche client is. They scratch their head and often answer this way:

•  In generalities; often they will say, "anyone."
•  Begin to talk about what they offer and why it's so great. 
•  Admit that they don't really know.

Here is my easy definition of these two terms, using an an example to make it easier to understand. 

Kate owns a graphic design business. She builds visual branding for small business owners. She loves being creative and helping people. She's an artist. 

Her ideal client: A small business owner who has chosen to get professional design and artistic help for their visual materials and sees the value and the return on investment. This ideal person is committed, willing and has a positive outlook. Her ideal client allows her to do the work she loves and will pay her. She tells all of her friends as well. Her ideal client is about Kate, what she wants.

Her niche client: This is the person powering her marketing plan. Her niche clients are restaurants and bakeries. They are great at their skill of providing good food and products but they are struggling financially and need to have a stronger presence both online and physically in order to grow their business. They need help developing a strong branding and a new look to help their businesses flourish. They are focused on their own issues and the benefits they want. It is about them and what they need. It is not about Kate.

It is important to understand the difference between ideal and niche as it will help you understand your own marketing focus. Don't mix up the two by focusing on your ideal while calling it your niche. This is a common challenge service-based business owners have because they are thinking all about what they want to do. 

Your niche needs to be a narrow, specific group that you are aiming your marketing toward. It is all about them.

Occasionally a new prospective client will ask me whom my ideal clients are. I answer by describing my niche because this is what she means. She cares about herself and her problems and I need to connect with her in that way.

In order to build a strong, powerful marketing plan, you need to learn to really focus on your niche because these are the people who will help you to grow your business. You can talk about your ideal clients to your mentor, as this is more a part of professional development. Does this make sense? Have you been confusing these two things?  I would love to hear your comments.


Learn more about the author, Kaya Singer.

Comment on this article

  • spiritual intuitive, psychic medium, energy healer, angel channel 
San Diego, California 
Suzy Morgan
    Posted by Suzy Morgan, San Diego, California | Aug 16, 2011

    Kaya, you're spot on as my British friend says. After working with you for all these months, I think I finally understand the difference between the niche and ideal client. I have not been a quick study!

    My niche client is the one who will pay because she is hurting. Her life is upended. She needs answers now to move forward with confidence.

    Years ago in my corporate sales life, I took a Xerox course. Here's what I learned but seemed to have forgotten along the way.

    "There is a difference between a need and an opportunity." A need is when you're about to go through a divorce and you're miserable and sad all at once. Or you didn't get the job, again, so now what? Or your doctor gave you a scary diagnosis.

    This is my niche! "By George, I think she's got it!"

    An opportunity is when it would be fun to have a reading and see what comes up.

  • Business Coach and Mentor 
Vancouver, Washington 
Charles Hude
    Posted by Charles Hude, Vancouver, Washington | Aug 16, 2011

    I totally agree with you. There is a huge difference between the two and it is very important to understand you always make it about the client. Defining your niche is the key to the success of any business.

    Many business owners believe that if they appeal to a broader range of customers they have a greater chance of making money. It is quiet the opposite, the more you narrow down your niche the more money you will make.

  • Artist/Art Instructor 
Portland, Oregon 
Karlene Lusby
    Posted by Karlene Lusby, Portland, Oregon | Aug 25, 2011

    Thank you, Kaya, for this helpful article! I am learning that when you've got your own business you need to get your own ego out of the way and indeed, make your client/customer happy!

  • Business coaching services 
Portland, Oregon 
Kaya Singer
    Posted by Kaya Singer, Portland, Oregon | Aug 25, 2011

    Suzy- yes, by George- you got it! Now the next part is to create a marketing plan directed to those miserable women!

    Charles- thanks for your expert words. I just talked about that very topic on my tele-class yesterday. If you operate from a place of fear - which I did once-( ok I still do sometimes :) it is easy to think- "market to everyone and I'll make more money," but really people want a specialist and an expert.

    Karen- Good point- get past your own ego. It is not at all about you. Thanks for sharing.

  • writer, coach 
Sanford, Florida 
Roxana Nunez
    Posted by Roxana Nunez, Sanford, Florida | Aug 29, 2011

    Excellent article Kaya. As I develop the ideas that will lead to my first products, I am always thinking about the client, not about me. It is not about my story or my knowledge, it's about what they need to solve and how to do it.

    Most people focus on the ideal client and not the niche, and that is where they fail. It is important to have an idea of who the ideal would be, it is more important to have the reality firmly grasped. Thanks.

  • The ideas-to-action navigator on your road to results 
Carver, Minnesota 
Kathleen Watson
    Posted by Kathleen Watson, Carver, Minnesota | Aug 30, 2011

    Kaya, the distinction between "all about me" versus "all about them" has always been clear to me, but what I found especially valuable was how you applied that concept to differentiating between ideal and niche clients. Thanks for clarifying my thinking in this regard!