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Don’t Let Niche Doubts Hold You Back

Perhaps it’s fear of failure. Or, maybe you’ve had a crazy idea about a potential niche—and you just can’t seem to commit. But whatever is holding you back, it’s time to think more creatively about narrowing your market.

For this episode of Elementality, Reese and Carl met with one of our customers to talk about his niche market and the fears he faced before deciding to dive in head first. Colton Etherton, the Tattoo Artist Advisor, explores the many benefits of targeting a niche and describes the doubts that first held him back. Niche marketing has many benefits—and unknowns. Learn how one firm owner found success in a very narrow niche.

 


Podcast Transcript

Reese Harper:
When I built Dentist Advisors, what I didn’t realize was all the power of all the emotional jobs that I started to discover that only dentists really had. And I’ve seen Colton, the fact that he’s here in South Dakota at a tattoo artist conference, right?

Colton Etherton:
Yeah.

Reese Harper:
You know what emotional jobs and functional jobs these customers are trying to figure out. And that gives you a massive advantage in actually doing a better job for the client.

[music]

Abby Morton:
Hey, it’s Abby. Today we have something a little out of the ordinary for you. Recent Carl, met with one of our customers live at a cabin in South Dakota, or so they say. Their guest Colton Etherton has found success in a very unusual niche. It was such a fun interview. We thought we’d share it to help you think a little more creatively about how you might narrow your market. Enjoy.

Carl Richards:
Greetings, Carl here. Just sitting on the undisclosed cabin in… Where did we say?

Colton Etherton:
South Dakota.

Carl Richards:
South Dakota. South Dakota, with Colton Etherton?

Colton Etherton:
Yep.

Carl Richards:
I got that right?

Colton Etherton:
You did. Yeah.

Carl Richards:
Yeah, the tattoo artist. I’ve been super excited to talk to Colton for a long time, just because of the niche that he’s chosen. So Colton, here’s one thing I… We’re gonna talk a little bit about elements in a bit.

Colton Etherton:
Okay. Yeah, yeah.

Carl Richards:
But first I wanna know you heard me describe what I thought about the niche when I first heard it.

Colton Etherton:
Yeah.

Carl Richards:
‘Cause I’m a huge fan of people like put yourself on the hook.

Colton Etherton:
Yeah.

Carl Richards:
Right. Do something scary.

Colton Etherton:
Yep.

Carl Richards:
And I was like, “Whoa, that’s really scary.” How did you feel about it?

Colton Etherton:
Oh, I was terrified. Yeah.

Carl Richards:
So describe the process of like, Seth Gordon calls it, “Putting yourself on the hook.” There’s no going back once you say I’m… Well, obviously you can.

Colton Etherton:
Yeah.

Carl Richards:
But it’s pretty clear like, “If this doesn’t work and you change tax like, “Oh, that failed.”

Colton Etherton:
Yeah.

Carl Richards:
And we’re all okay with that.

Colton Etherton:
Yeah.

Carl Richards:
But how do you deal with it personally? Just this fear of being that niched.

Colton Etherton:
That’s a good question. I mean ’cause it took me about eight months of sitting on the idea before even actually doing it.

Carl Richards:
Describe when it first occurred, you’re like, “Oh”

Colton Etherton:
So, you know…

Carl Richards:
What went on during those eight months.

Colton Etherton:
A lot of back and forth conversations between myself and Justin Green, another advisor. We launched at the same time and he’s niche towards fitness entrepreneurs. So we’d have calls and talk about marketing and that kind of stuff and at that point I was just focused on millennials. And I happened to meet with a tattoo artist, had a meeting and it’s like, “That would be really cool.”

Carl Richards:
You mean as a…

Colton Etherton:
As a prospective…

Carl Richards:
Prospective client?

Colton Etherton:
Yeah. Yeah. I was like, “Man, that would be really cool. No one’s doing that.”

Carl Richards:
So you left just like, huh, that’d be… Like had this wacky idea.

Colton Etherton:
Yeah. Yeah.

Carl Richards:
Yeah. At that point it’s crazy.

Colton Etherton:
Crazy. Told Justin, and he also thought it was kind of crazy, but could also kind of see it. Told my wife, she was like, [chuckle] “You’re kind of nuts. You’re just starting your firm, why would you go so narrow into something that no one’s done. It’s not proven in a sense. We need income.” ‘Cause you went from working at this other place to now starting from scratch. And I was like, “Alright, fine.” And so I sat on it and within that eight months we had… Justin and I had these calls back and forth all the time and I’d always just throw that out as an idea. I’m like, Alright. So if, for example, we were marketing towards tattoo artists and I kind of play out a scenario and we’d go back…

Carl Richards:
So it’s hypothetically.

Colton Etherton:
Yeah. Hypothetically and then finally September of last year and we had a call… It was supposed to be like five minutes, not even related to the tattoo artist thing. It was unrelated. I was like, “Hey, I got a marketing idea.” Somehow ended up being two hours. And at the end of it, I was like, “Screw it. I’m gonna give it a shot. If anything, I just revert back to something else.” You know what I mean?

Carl Richards:
Yeah.

Colton Etherton:
It’ll sting but if anything I can still just go back to being more broad focused. And mentioned that to my wife too after the call and she’s like, “Alright, you’ve been talking about this for long enough, like…

Carl Richards:
Right, right, right.

Colton Etherton:
I get it. And like she saw some other friends in their niche practices growing. She’s like, “Yeah, give it a shot. I’m not as scared about it anymore.” Right?

Carl Richards:
Yeah.

Colton Etherton:
So I took that week to completely redo my website. I shut down my old Instagram page and started from scratch. Did the logo, all that stuff and then that was way scarier hitting that button to switch my domain over to that new website, then the process of launching my business in the beginning. At that point launching the business… Okay. Yeah, no problem. But hitting that button, I never forget my wife was working nights at the time. So she was working, it was about midnight on a Thursday, I guess, Friday morning, whatever. I had it done. I was like, “Oh… I was like, “Oh man, do I do it?” I was texting her, and she was of course working so she didn’t respond. Right. Like whatever. So I sent it, submitted it and just kind of went from there, you know?

Carl Richards:
Yeah.

Colton Etherton:
And it had a prospective client by… Scheduled by Monday, which is kind of cool, just connected through Instagram and… Yeah, it’s been fun. Still a little scary at times but you know… It’s worth it.

Carl Richards:
Look, I love those things where it’s a thing that keeps bothering you. I describe that sometimes as the unspeakable thing. Like it’s unspeakable for a little while. It feels like a sliver just beneath your skin that you haven’t kind of acknowledged as a sliver, but you’re like, there’s a thing. And then you get to the point and often it doesn’t make sense for anybody else.

Colton Etherton:
Yeah.

Carl Richards:
You tell [0:05:36.1] ____ it to people you get that [0:05:36.9] ____ reaction. Like me drawing sketches on cardstock with a Sharpie, I got the exact same reaction from my wife and she was right. You know, like what, come on, please. Like, I tried to quit. I failed three times I tried, but it was a thing I couldn’t not do.

Colton Etherton:
Yeah.

Carl Richards:
And so I think that’s super fascinating. I love those. They often don’t make any sense. Now determining which ones don’t make sense because they truly don’t make sense.

Colton Etherton:
Right.

Carl Richards:
And which ones don’t make sense because you’re just a little scared or it’s a new and novel idea. That’s an art and I don’t really know how to solve that problem. Other than small experiments. Small experiments and noticing tailwinds. Like by Monday a new client, I would call that tailwind.

Colton Etherton:
Yeah, yeah.

Carl Richards:
Right, just, oh, that’s interesting.

Colton Etherton:
Yep.

Carl Richards:
Right. Maybe I’ll do a little more.

Colton Etherton:
Yep.

Carl Richards:
So it’s one thing to decide that you’re going to have a niche and let’s even say a really narrow one. Talk a little bit… Forget the tattoo artist idea just for a minute. But a little bit about the benefit of having a narrow niche. ‘Cause we all know that’s scary, but there’s a… The reason we talk about it, is ’cause there’s a massive… There’s a whole series of massive benefits.

Colton Etherton:
Yeah, just even that first prospect we are talking to, one of the things she said was, “Your website spoke to me. Everything you said on there was like…

Carl Richards:
So good.

Colton Etherton:
“Do you have this? Do you do?” And it’s like, “Yes, yes, yes.” So, you can kinda get in their head a little bit more…

Carl Richards:
Yeah, yeah.

Colton Etherton:
Than a broad client base, broad market. And so that really helped. And then same thing just with marketing helps because you can figure out something that makes sense to them and kinda turn it…

Carl Richards:
Right.

Colton Etherton:
Into a planning discussion. And same thing with the actual planning process, right. So it’s like, okay, these people are all gonna have the same or similar problems for the most part, at least on the big scale and then you narrow down and it’ll probably be a little more unique, but it helps to kinda start there and instead of jumping around. ‘Cause it could go from business owners to people that stock compensation to retirees to and to just be all over the place.

Carl Richards:
Yeah, look, it seems to me that the world, our world particularly is got… The whole world, but so noisy that the idea of being signal amid the noise and there’s only one way… I think there’s only one way they’d stand out in that noise. Well, there’s two. One, you can be outrageous. Like continue to say increasingly outrageous things and we’re seeing that on the tiki tik, tok tok, right. You see that stuff going on, and so you can be outrageous or you can be relevant.

Carl Richards:
And the idea of being relevant where you’re using like so Friday launch, Monday new client, first discussion, your website spoke to me, right? Immediately relevant. To me the thing that’s really important about this discussion is that the reason we suggest having a specialty or a niche is because you can be relevant quickly. There’s knock on benefits of knowing where those people hang out and what they read, and by the way the planning practice gets easier too. Because you quickly become pattern… Like really good at pattern recognition. So you can either be outrageous which is no fun.

Colton Etherton:
Right.

Carl Richards:
Or you can be relevant. Imagine you being here.

Reese Harper:
Hey guys.

Carl Richards:
Hi.

Reese Harper:
What’s up?

Carl Richards:
How did you make it to South Dakota?

Reese Harper:
Well, I was sent… This hat was sent to me and I just decided to track it down, and it led me to the mountains of South Dakota where there’s extra
hats.

Carl Richards:
I’m assuming you’re here because you have something to say about niche.

Reese Harper:
I love this. This is awesome. One under… Those of you who have heard me write a lot about functional and emotional jobs, when you’re inside of a niche you get to have a huge super power advantage over your competition. Which is you get to discover jobs. A job is something the client wants to get done. We call that a functional job if it’s something like, “Set up my new tattoo shop.”

Colton Etherton:
There you go.

Reese Harper:
Like, “I’ve gotta get financing to open my office or I’ve gotta get new chairs. I don’t understand it, you would know the words.”

Colton Etherton:
Yeah.

Reese Harper:
Okay. Not me. But that would be like a functional job, but there is emotional jobs too of like, “I gotta get to the right conferences. I’m a tattoo artist that needs to go to the right conferences. I feel like I’m missing out on being in the right places or knowing the who’s who.” And when I built Dentist Advisors what I didn’t realize was all the power of all the emotional jobs that I started to discover that only dentists really had. And I’ve seen Colton, the fact that he’s here in South Dakota at a tattoo artist conference, right. You know what emotional jobs and functional jobs these customers are trying to figure out. And that gives you like a massive advantage in actually doing a better job for the client, because most of the advisors are just living in a general world where they share common functional and emotional jobs with everyone.

Reese Harper:
Set up a Roth IRA. Help me feel confident about the stock market. Those are generic jobs that aren’t niche specific, but they can be augmented in such a powerful way when you understand a niche and expanding on those otherwise very generic jobs that we do. So, just wanted to share that, ’cause I’ve seen Colton do a really good job of starting to not only be in a niche, but start to identify the ways to support that niche customer with functional and emotional jobs that are really unique to that client. You can’t learn them unless you pick who you’re gonna serve.

Carl Richards:
Have you seen that?

Colton Etherton:
Mm-hmm.

Carl Richards:
Can you think of an example of like, “Oh, I was just thinking of this maybe this will help.” I was just thinking about like even the statement “Help me become comfortable with the stock market.” It’s a generic statement, but I was literally thinking like, “If I was a dentist, how is that answered different.” And we did some research on dentists in Southern Nevada. When I was there we wrote a white paper called, “Unchained From The Chair.” And we learned quickly that because their work… Their most valuable asset was the present value of their future earnings, in other words, them. They were their most valuable asset. They had to quickly find a way to throw… That’s why they said, “I feel chained to the chair.” Throw money we called it over the wall, into an asset that would grow passively. Well, they feel much differently about that asset than somebody else who is not… Like an entrepreneur feels way different. Way different about the behavior of the stock market than a dentist does.

Reese Harper:
And the way they relate to the language, the vocabulary, the way you discuss a topic. It is… And I would call those again, emotional jobs more than functional.

Carl Richards:
Right.

Reese Harper:
And it’s a huge… Any generic job can be augmented by understanding…

Carl Richards:
Just by the languages. Like earlier today, I shouldn’t throw Reese out under the bus for this one. Earlier today Reese said, “Well, can I… All other tattoo.” And then he… It’s not really bad, is it?

Colton Etherton:
No.

Carl Richards:
It’s just… Oh, yeah. Tattoo parlors… And Colton was like, “No, no.”

Colton Etherton:
I could feel [0:13:01.1] ____ it wasn’t bad coming out of my mouth. I’m like [0:13:02.7] ____ It didn’t feel bad. It’s not bad.

Carl Richards:
This is totally irrelevant…

Colton Etherton:
It felt like… Yeah, Is that what they call it?

Carl Richards:
It sounds like 20 years ago.

Colton Etherton:
They call it that.

Carl Richards:
So that’s an example of if Reese was to try to serve a tattoo artist and he said, “Hey, can I come by your parlor sometime?” [laughter] They would know Reese doesn’t know the language.

Colton Etherton:
Yes and this happened in…

Carl Richards:
And Carl would say Studio or shop. Yeah, so can you think of an example of that?

Colton Etherton:
Yeah, the stock market is one, ’cause a lot of them are… You can get that emotional job but also taxes, getting that comfortability with taxes, and getting that because there’s kind of going back in time with tattoo artists. And even still a pirate lifestyle if you know where there’s a lot of cash.

Carl Richards:
I’m a super fan of pirates.

[laughter]

Reese Harper:
Yeah.

Carl Richards:
Yeah.

Colton Etherton:
There’s not a lot of systems that are in place. And so the tax…

Carl Richards:
Just like the rebel thing outside the system.

Colton Etherton:
I mean it wouldn’t be out of society if you will, but it’s changing a bit. You still have those…

Carl Richards:
They’re turning pro.

Colton Etherton:
Artists that are doing that way, but there’s also newer artists and even some older ones where they want to do it above board. They wanna…

Carl Richards:
Be professionals.

Colton Etherton:
Right from the beginning. Yeah. ’cause they wanna buy a house. They wanna do that, whatever, and they recognize that or like I mentioned in our other conversation, where they come from a different background. So they’re used to… They’re not this outlaw pirate-y kind of person in the beginning. Right? It’s… They come from…

Carl Richards:
Was an accountant.

Colton Etherton:
Yeah. Like the painter who… So they’re used to already doing things in a regular fashion. So now getting into this role of being self-employed, and so getting that under control or they let it go for a couple of years, ’cause that’s what their mentor or someone at the shop told them to do is just… Mattress money is a common term. And so just…

Carl Richards:
Wait, wait, mattress money is a common term among who?

Colton Etherton:
Tattoo artists.

Carl Richards:
You’ve heard that more than one time.

Colton Etherton:
Yeah, yeah.

Reese Harper:
So it is a vocab [0:15:08.4] ____ out there.

Carl Richards:
____ Sound a little good. Right?

Carl Richards:
That would be such a good name for a White paper.

Colton Etherton:
Yeah.

Carl Richards:
Right? Just literally like a small… And we wouldn’t call it a white paper.

Colton Etherton:
Right.

Carl Richards:
The dentist thing, they can get a white paper, but the tattoo artist probably doesn’t want a white paper. They want a manifesto or a small book or something that feels like it was written for them, and it’s called mattress money, or how to handle your mattress money or whatever.

Reese Harper:
Or just pictures on an Instagram feed, it’s like Mattress Money, picture, mattress money… You just don’t know. Again this is like a…

Carl Richards:
But it’s certainly not a white paper.

Reese Harper:
No.

Colton Etherton:
Yeah.

Reese Harper:
And it happened in Myspace a lot too where everyone says they work with dentists and doctors.

[laughter]

Reese Harper:
Dentist and doctors.

Colton Etherton:
Yeah.

Reese Harper:
And I was always fascinated by that. I’m like, “Well if you work with both of those, you’re gonna have a completely different vocabulary.” Because dentists don’t even… The word revenue is not a dental term. Collections is a dental term. Doctors don’t have a concept of gross revenue because most of them are employed through a larger group, even though they might be 1099, like an anesthesiologist group. They’re not responsible for the revenue side of their financial equation. If you go in there and you kind of assume these people are in the same world, you look kind of foolish, like me using, tattoo parlor. Well, I didn’t do that. Okay, I was checking. I asked.

[laughter]

Carl Richards:
So good.

Reese Harper:
But anyway.

Carl Richards:
So you were on your way to another example though. Were you or do we…

Colton Etherton:
Well, yeah, just the tax thing. So either they wanna get ahead of it ’cause they’re transitioning from some other type of role, or it’s one where it’s this beast, it’s kind of been building. And they’re looking over their shoulder like, “Ahh, two more years of taxes that I haven’t done, three more years.” They know they [0:16:57.7] ____ don’t wanna get caught up. They wanna do it right, but it’s understanding and they wanna set it up for the future too. Where it’s like, “How do I just make this simple, it can’t just… It doesn’t have to always be this hard.” And so coming in there and saying like, “Okay, here’s a real simple way to set up everything, track everything so when it comes to tax time, it’s not this scary thing we have to try and figure out how much cash you took on Tuesday the 13th and where your expenses are, and all this other stuff?

Carl Richards:
Yeah, I love that. I think of those as… I often call it the nod test. If I can nail in the first sentence or at least the first couple of sentences of my website or anywhere else and have the intended audience nodding along like, “How did you know that I’m worried about that tax demon?” You even used the right word. If you are like many of the people I talk to you might be a little worried about that. “How did you know?” Like that idea. Well, crazy we asked you. We actually cared enough to ask you. So good. Amazing. Well, thanks, Colton. And thanks Reese for showing up.

Reese Harper:
Yeah nice.

Carl Richards:
Coming out to South Dakota.

Abby Morton:
Next time on Elementality.

Reese Harper:
Think about all the businesses you know. Think about every business out there. Think about every industry, if that’s helpful. Think about hotels. How many different flavors of service are available for you to get a room? Right? How many car wash options are there? How many restaurant levels of service are there? Right now, we just… In our industry, we haven’t innovated around what an amazing service level might be for someone who doesn’t need as much time or as much…

Carl Richards:
And not just service, but tools and business model.

Carl Richards:
Yeah.

Abby Morton:
You can learn more about the Elements Financial Monitoring System at getelements.com/demo and schedule a time to talk with one of our friendly financial planning experts. Elementality’s executive creators are Reese Harper and Carl Richards. Elementality is produced by Abby Morton and directed by Jordan Haines. Have a good one.

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