Seth Godin: How to Scale in Your Niche

Whether you’re a start-up or you’ve been in the game for years, one thing that you must do if you want to reach true success is to embrace your niche. Focusing your efforts on marketing around the smallest viable audience is a key strategy that Seth Godin, author of Seth’s Blog, has advised fellow entrepreneurs to do for quite some time.

But, how can you scale in your niche?

What are some practical ways you can do this effectively without putting your livelihood on the line?

Seth Godin joined me for an incredibly interesting conversation that dives into this topic further. We also explore burnout, which many of you know is a topic very close to my heart, and why playing safe is risky.

What causes burnout?

Burnout is an emotional state whereby you feel so overwhelmed, stressed, and drained, that you are unable to meet the demands being asked of you. It’s a very difficult thing to go through because it can leave you feeling physically and mentally exhausted.

Emotional turmoil due to burnout also tends to emerge as physical symptoms. Some of these include reduced creativity, exhaustion, headaches, stomach aches, and many more. You may also struggle to maintain your original performance level as burnout eats away at your cognitive thinking processes.

As Seth pointed out, “What causes burnout is not effort. What causes burnout is stress.”

Stress is the result of wanting, or feeling like you have to, do two things at the same time. You may not want to do those things, but you feel the pressure that you must. At the same time, your self-confidence dips and you’re not even sure that you can do those things well or on time.

How to navigate your way through burnout

The first step to overcome burnout or evade it completely is to avoid any profession where everyone is burned out. If you’re talking to people a certain profession and all of them mention how they feel tired all the time, stressed out, and down about their jobs, stay clear of that profession. It’s probably not for you.

You will not burn out doing something that you enjoy. Seth has written for his blog every day for years. He has written 7000 posts, which would give many people a headache just thinking about. However, because Seth enjoys it and he’s passionate about what he does, he has never experienced stress because of his blog.

Here’s what Seth has to say about this:

I gave myself permission a long time ago to stop doing it when it’s not what I want to do, and that very permission turns into something I get to do instead of something I have to do.”

What stress looks like for freelancers Vs entrepreneurs

A lot of people who run small businesses misinterpret their stress because they do not understand the distinction between freelancers and entrepreneurs.

Seth clarified the confusion by reinforcing how both sides get paid. Freelancers get paid when they work. They can’t necessarily scale that because it’s solely based on them. Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, must do work that causes other people to do the actual thing that’s getting paid for.

The problem comes when you’re a freelancer who wants to scale.

So, you might decide it’s time to become an entrepreneur. Great. There’s just one little thing to take into consideration…cash is tight. When a project comes along, you hire the best person for the job who also happens to be the cheapest. You hire yourself…over and over again.

The cycle continues like this and you’re stressed because you’re struggling to scale, and you’ve become both a freelancer and an entrepreneur at the same time. It’s difficult, it’s not fun, and it’s stressful.

How can a freelancer scale?

If you’re constantly hiring yourself to do every project that comes your way, you will never be able to scale. You only have so many hours in the day and so, you need to move up.

According to Seth, the only way a freelancer can scale is by getting better clients.

If you start trying to hire junior versions of you, you’re going to get stressed out of your mind.”

“Every minute you’re not doing it because you’re managing someone who’s not quite as good, not quite as brave, not quite as hardworking as you, you’re subtracting from your art and your beauty. Stop doing that.”

The solution is to get smaller. Niche down and recruit higher-paid people. People who are just as good as you, just as hardworking, and just as passionate about the job, clients, and scaling the business.

Why playing safe is risky

For whatever reason, the idea of focusing on a niche scares a lot of people. To truly understand the power of niching down, you need to understand why playing safe is so risky.

Seth challenges you to think about who your business or creative heroes are. We’ve all got someone we look up to and aspire to be like in some way or another. Seth argues that those people will fall into one of two categories.

The first category is the lucky ones. Maybe they were in the right place at the right time and somebody happened to “pick” them. But, most of your business and creative heroes are specific. They are not vague or general. They have a niche and you will never be able to follow in their footsteps by being generic. It’s just never going to work.

Playing safe is risky, which is why you need to be specific. You need to stand for something and that something may not matter to everyone, but it will matter to you and the specific audience you are providing value for.

Marketing to your smallest viable market

Scaling within your chosen niche starts by marketing to your smallest viable market. Recruiters, for example, often don’t realize that they are marketers. They are marketing to two groups of people:

Clients need to trust you to recruit the best possible people for the job. This group of people must believe you because they’re the ones who will tell their boss why they hired you in the first place, so you’ve got to bring it.

The second group of people that recruiters need to market to are not the unemployed, but the happily employed. Why? Well, as Seth Godin points out, “those are the people that are most worth recruiting.”

These are marketing choices. Remember that marketing is not advertising. You need to think about things like what are you building? Who are you building it for? And, what change are you hoping to make?

Seth shared some practical tips to help you understand and focus on your smallest viable market.

The first step is to think about 20, 40, or 100 people (by name) that your business is for. If you’re struggling to be specific, you’re in trouble because you’re just going to go back to being a generalist.

If you can say ‘specifically, it’s for people like this’, then you can make something that will overwhelm them with goodness. And then you’ve solved an interesting problem and they will tell others.”

But if you are afraid of the critics, if you are trying to fit in for everybody, if you are hustling, then you won’t do that and you won’t find the confidence to actually do good marketing.”

To do good marketing, you’ve got to make marketing an intentional act.

So, are you ready to scale in your niche? If so, you know what you need to do!

To read Seth Godin’s famous blog, which is packed with thousands of incredible blog posts, head over to: https://seths.blog 

Akimbo is a series of fantastic workshops designed to change your life for the better, no matter your niche or expertise. To find out more, go to: https://akimbo.com  

Show Notes for YouTube / Podcast Host 

Whether you’re a start-up or you’ve been in the game for years, one thing that you must do if you want to reach true success is to embrace your niche.

Focusing your efforts on marketing around the smallest possible viable market is a key strategy that Seth Godin, author of Seth’s Blog, has advised fellow entrepreneurs to do for quite some time.

In this episode, Seth Godin joins me for an incredibly interesting conversation that dives into this topic further. We also explore burnout, which many of you know is a topic very close to my heart, and why playing safe is risky.

Interviews with Game Changers

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The Scale Without Burnout podcast is for business owners who want to learn how to devote equal time to their business, body, relationships & mindset to bring their life into balance.
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The 90-Day Reset—and How It Can Transform Your Life

Whether you have a three-year, 12-month or 20-year vision for your life, you can make great strides by starting with a 90-day game plan.

With this plan, you’ll reflect on the type of person you are: whether you’re someone who is naturally results-driven and tends to jump straight to trying to drive up the bottom line, or someone who is more reflective but who perhaps isn’t always good at getting clear on what needs to be done. You’ll focus on getting results in 90 days but see results at your 30- and 60-day benchmarks. You’ll review your progress weekly during the course of the game plan, to establish what’s working and what needs more work. You’ll assess whether you’re heading in the right direction, staying agile, needing to make some changes, or trying different tactics.

To achieve this, we’ll explore the following questions in each of the four keys—business, body, relationships, and mindset:

1. What is the single biggest challenge you are facing in your business, body, relationships, and mindset?

2. What are your desired outcomes for each key in 90 days?

3. What options and ideas do you have that will help you achieve your desired outcome?

4. How will you turn your ideas into a specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely (SMART) targets?

Stretch Your Goals

Whether you’re a sports team or a business, the principles for going beyond your comfort zone are the same. In the film Facing Giants, there’s a scene I share in the Get Fit To Win workshop. It’s a little cheesy, although for some, it is very emotive and inspiring. The coach is communicating with his players, and one guy, Brock, has this limiting belief. He doesn’t think they can win their next game.

The coach turns to him and says, ‘Have you written Friday night off as a loss, Brock, already? Have you written the game off?’

Brock responds, ‘Not if I think we can beat them.’

The coach takes the team outside and runs a drill called the Death Crawl. Brock has to carry one of his teammates on his back, crawling with just hands and feet. The coach asks Brock how far he thinks he can get, and Brock says, ‘I think I can get to thirty yards with Jeremy on my back.’

The coach says, ‘No. I think you can get to fifty yards with Jeremy on your back. I’m going to blindfold you because I don’t want you quitting when you think you’ve gone far enough.’

They proceed, with Brock carrying Jeremy, and he gets to a point where he’s in a lot of pain. The rest of the team start laughing, saying, ‘He’s never going to get to fifty.’

The coach shouts encouragement, saying, ‘twenty more yards, five more yards’, and so on.

When Brock takes off his blindfold, he sees that he’s actually gone 100 yards. For Brock, his comfort zone was 30 yards, and his stretch was 50. He was limiting himself with his belief. Once his limits were removed, he had the capacity to attain 100 yards.

I experienced this first-hand as head coach of Team GB Inline Hockey. We were the lowest seed, and the Czechs were the highest, yet I believed we could steal points in the Pool A group against Team Czech and Team Finland. It wasn’t just delusion; I knew with the right tactics we could upset them. But tactics are useless without belief. We had to believe in our tactics, and we had to believe we could win. I remember texting the captain my thoughts. I texted, ‘We have an opportunity to beat the Czechs, who are the highest seed as world championships.’ He thought I had been drinking! In the end, we tied the Czechs and beat the Finns.

Playing Safe Is Risky

As a business leader, you may need to take risks during your 90-Day Reset and embrace the unknown to achieve your vision.

On Team GB, one of our mantras was ‘Playing safe is risky’. Whilst there are times when it is appropriate to play safe, it is also a sign of complacency or avoiding a perceived threat.

You’ll see players turn away from their opponent, failing to execute a play in the hope they won’t make a mistake or get turned over. It is a sign of nerves, the inner voice keeping them safe when really, they need to be on the offence. This is as true in business as it is in sports. Playing it safe can prevent you from moving forward and reaching your full potential, but you can commit to being on the offence and going for the win.

Executing your 90-Day Reset will require the right mindset to deal with your inner voice that will try to derail you. The reset is about going all in, so timing is key. It’s about action that keeps you motivated and driven; you’ll need to keep your purpose at the forefront of your mind as a daily reminder of your why. This keeps you going forward and frees you of any fear and anxiety about the outcomes attached to risk that keep you in your comfort zone. If you play it safe, you’ll never reach your full potential. Commit, be on the offence, and go for the win!

Mastermind Example: 90-Day Reset

Ready to create your plan? Here’s an example of a 90-Day Reset that came from Mark Baker, who is one of my Get Fit To Win Mastermind participants. You’ll see there is a mix of metrics and plenty of non-urgent, big-picture objectives.

1. Business Key:

  • Improve profit per salesperson and increase overall business profitability by 12 per cent
  • Change commission plan to reward overachievers and pay less for those under target

2. Body Key:

  • Lose a stone (6.5KG)
  • Do 3–4 gym sessions a week and 1 × 15-minute HIIT session at home per week
  • Stick to a healthier diet and no alcohol at home during the week

3. Relationship Key:

  • Arrange a date night every week
  • Spend more quality time with my daughters (even though they’re grown up, independent, and busy doing their own thing – I don’t see them enough)

4. Mindset Key:

  • A minimum of ten minutes of meditation per day
  • Take time out for a 15 to 20-minute walk at lunchtime to get out the office and away from the desk every day

By considering how The 4 Keys affect your life and tailoring the 90-Day Reset to fit your needs, you can take the first step toward long-lasting change.

For more advice on career performance, you can find The 4 Keys on Amazon.

Andrew Sillitoe is a business psychologist, author, and speaker. His innovative approach to leadership and work-life balance has earned him invitations to work with a range of global companies, including Pfizer, Nationwide, Virgin, and the BBC. Today Andrew runs the UK’s number-one training company for entrepreneurs and business owners who want to succeed in business, health, relationships, and mindset.

The 4 Keys on Amazon

Your Business—and Life—Need a Firm Foundation

Whatever you’re doing or creating, you need a firm foundation on which to build something that lasts. If you build your house on sand, it’ll be unstable and unsustainable as the sand erodes from beneath it.

Businesses often establish values, but if they don’t reflect the company and its people, they’re merely marketing jargon or words on a wall. When you define your own core values or those of your business, you will need to dig deep and really think about the kind of person you want to be—what you want to stand for. Envision your future self, perhaps a year from today, and where you and your business will be if you begin to live your core values today.

Working with Team GB, I took a clinical, pragmatic approach to values. I introduced a set of core values to the locker room and witnessed a genuine shift in behaviour. Furthermore, there was an obvious connection between the behavioural change and the results we achieved. This dramatic shift made everyone feel safe in the locker room—even guys who fought like cats and dogs every week. Having those values gave them common ground.

Because it worked so well for the team, I began to question my own values as a human being. I realised that sometimes we hold on to values that work against us, often subconsciously. For example, when I was a kid, I’d always look for the easiest route, or I’d not do my work, then try to make up excuses. That subconscious value left over from school of always looking for the easiest way was not helpful. It was destructive and limiting. I had to make a conscious effort to replace it with something that does serve me, such as, ‘Give every task 100 per cent of my effort, and never make excuses.’

My mum was an extremely optimistic person, and she encouraged me to pursue my dreams and play hockey. She instilled many values in me that later enabled me to be more resilient. However, she also let me do almost anything I wanted, and she didn’t pressure me to do things that I didn’t want to do. For example, if I didn’t want to go to school, I had nobody to tell me, ‘It’s not about whether or not you want to go, it’s about resilience, commitment, and long-term gain,’ so I was allowed to be lazy without correction. My dad was also very laid back, and while their relaxed parenting encouraged me to be a free thinker, which I am grateful for, it didn’t teach me the accountability, responsibility, or any other core values that every child needs.

This is another example of how past experiences shape us, and not always for the better. Because of my lack of parental discipline, now I make a concerted effort to instil the right values in my daughter. I help her develop a work ethic by letting her know she has to do the work. I instil in her that it’s not okay to make excuses or lie, and that she must be honest and speak the truth about the way she feels. I don’t just preach at her, however. I make an effort to be a role model for her, practising these values in all aspects of my life so she has a clear example to follow. Legacy isn’t just about what you leave behind financially; legacy is about the values you leave behind for future generations to live by.

The Four Foundations

This clear set of values makes up what I refer to as the Foundations. You can use them to guide your decisions and create sound, meaningful, sustainable change.

1. Do the Work.

2. No Excuses.

3. Always Ready.

4. Speak the Truth.

Simple, right? Implementing these foundations seems easy, but if the stories that shaped you don’t reflect them, you may have to make a conscious effort to instil the foundations into your current everyday behaviour. For some of us, the Foundations are ambitions we aim to live by, even though we may fail from time to time.

Think ahead to your future self and what your life will be like if you applied the foundations starting today: Do the workNo excusesAlways readySpeak the truth. If you lived your life by these, what could you achieve in just three months? In five years? You can likely achieve more than you realize.

For more advice on career performance, you can find The 4 Keys on Amazon.

Andrew Sillitoe is a business psychologist, author, and speaker. His innovative approach to leadership and work-life balance has earned him invitations to work with a range of global companies, including Pfizer, Nationwide, Virgin, and the BBC. Today Andrew runs the UK’s number-one training company for entrepreneurs and business owners who want to succeed in business, health, relationships, and mindset.

The 4 Keys on Amazon

Passion vs. Purpose—Which Drives You?

There’s a difference between passion and purpose, but they both play an important role in your personal and professional lives.

Passion is what we love. For example, I’m passionate about roller hockey. I love it. Passion is what serves us. Purpose, on the other hand, is about serving others. Your purpose becomes your why. How do you, through your purpose, serve others? Your customers? Your team? Your friends and family? From this identification of purpose, your values begin to manifest.

What is your motivation for change? Why is it important to you? Who, besides yourself, will benefit from these changes? Answering these questions encourages you to think outside of yourself. Why did you create your vision? What would future-you say to present-you in a postcard? Who else benefits from that future?

When I spoke to young hockey players, I told them how much I loved the game. I played and practised every day. I always wanted to win. I wanted to be the best. I would get quite upset and frustrated when, particularly at men’s world level, other players would go out drinking at the world championships. They’d say, ‘We’re away for ten days. We’ve got to relax and have fun.’ I would be thinking, We’re away for ten days to play hockey, not to go out and drink. Then they’d turn up for a match the next day hung over, and I’d be so angry. On reflection, this was selfish of me because I was only serving myself by fulfilling my passion. However, if you play with purpose, you’re still playing with intent, but you’re playing with the intent to make the rest of the players better. For me, this is at the very heart of leadership.

Like many other young players, in my early playing days, it was all about proving myself to the coach, Mark Cavallin, and holding on to the puck a bit longer to try and beat more players or pull off a fancy play. I was a selfish player. At one point, I apologised to my coach for not scoring goals, and he told me to stop trying. He told me to instead focus on assisting other players and letting them score the goals. Suddenly, through this selfless play, I started scoring more goals. Mark led the team with purpose. He was more concerned with developing and teaching us as individuals and not just players, and his consistency and sense of purpose made me really trust him.

The same principles of selflessness and serving others can be applied to business. The best way to get out of your own head is to serve other people. Move the puck quicker and give other players more time on the puck. You’re stronger when you’re serving others and when you’re working as part of a unit, so dare to let go and allow others to thrive so they can realise their visions as well.

Align Your Why Across The 4 Keys

It’s easier to find the purpose for your business than for your relationships because the purpose for a business tends to be more pragmatic, although it may border on marketing messages. While they may have value, business whys can distract from the deeper, more meaningful whys that transcend across all four keys.

My why has often been about helping people create an environment in which they can thrive, feel inspired, and reach their full potential. This translates into helping them become fit and healthy with a positive mindset. I did this with Team GB and with businesses and executives.

However, I didn’t think about the environment I was creating at home. I wasn’t present for my wife or children. For example, I’d never look at my phone halfway through a client meeting, but it never occurred to me that looking at texts and email messages during dinner with my family was just as wrong.

Once I took a deeper look at my purpose—I get up in the morning to help others thrive—I realised my why shouldn’t be limited to my professional life. Paying the bills may be an immediate priority, but it meant very little in the long run, especially compared to other priorities, like my children. Tapping into that why and applying it to my relationships was incredibly important. When I could do that, I connected better with my family, and this reflected back across my business by making me a better coach and team leader.

Each of The 4 Keys is linked. Business. Body. Relationships. Mindset. When something impacts one key, the effects are felt across all four, whether the influence is positive or negative. If your business suffers, so do your relationships. If your health improves, so does your mindset. If your mindset improves, so do your relationships.

For more advice on finding your purpose, you can find The 4 Keys on Amazon.

Andrew Sillitoe is a business psychologist, author, and speaker. His innovative approach to leadership and work-life balance has earned him invitations to work with a range of global companies, including Pfizer, Nationwide, Virgin, and the BBC. Today Andrew runs the UK’s number-one training company for entrepreneurs and business owners who want to succeed in business, health, relationships, and mindset.

For more advice on career performance, you can find The 4 Keys on Amazon.

Andrew Sillitoe is a business psychologist, author, and speaker. His innovative approach to leadership and work-life balance has earned him invitations to work with a range of global companies, including Pfizer, Nationwide, Virgin, and the BBC. Today Andrew runs the UK’s number-one training company for entrepreneurs and business owners who want to succeed in business, health, relationships, and mindset.

The 4 Keys on Amazon