My experiment in micro-niching (and how it’s going)

I’ve offered many different things over the years, alongside the Certified OBM® program which has been a mainstay since 2009.

CEO Business School, Best Team Ever Intensive, Automate your Profit Membership, Call to Lead Retreats, 6-Figure Agency, Hire Up, Elevate Inner Circle, LEAD Mastermind and more mini classes and trainings than I can remember! Plus various coaching groups, mentorships and VIP Days.

You name it I’ve pretty much done it at this point. And frankly I was a bit tired of it all.

So I decided to micro niche – offer a very specific thing to a specific type of client.

In the summer I chose to focus solely on offering my Certification Accelerator program where I help Coaches, Trainers, and Authors turn their IP into a licensing or certification program so they can leverage what they’ve already created into a new revenue stream and be seen as THE leader in their industry.

There were a few reasons for this decision:

  1. It’s my favorite kind of work to do – I LOVE helping folks bring certifications to life
  2. I’ve got a lot of experience in this area – having founded and run my certification program now for 14 years
  3. I was tired of feeling like I was getting lost in the crowd of every other business coach out there – the coaching space is VERY crowded right now and it can be a tough one to compete in.

So far my marketing focus has been mainly on Facebook and I’ve been posting there regularly about certification and licensing since September. I hired someone to help with content and have been posting daily(ish) to gain traction.

Now I have to tell you, it’s been an interesting journey so far! Many, many good things but also a HUGE shift in how I approach and think about my business. Here are a few of my biggest insights so far:

When you go narrow you get known <– This was one of my biggest goals when deciding to focus solely on my Certification Accelerator. Not many folks work in this area, and I want people to say “you have to talk to Tina” anytime certification or licensing comes up in a conversation. And this is very much starting to happen even after just a few months of focusing here. (oooo yea baby!)

Most folks will NOT be a fit for this program (and that’s OK.) <– This has been a bit of an eek and adjustment for me, as MOST folks are not going to be an ideal client or ready for the Certification Accelerator (I have some specific criteria around this.) It’s a shift from marketing to the masses (and trying to stand out from the crowd) to talking to a specific person with specific needs/desires. On one hand, I love it, as I’m getting to talk with and work with some amazing folks that I would not have worked with otherwise, but it’s still hard to break the “create something with mass appeal and you’ll never run out of prospects” mindset that creeps in from time to time.

Shifting to a longer sales cycle vs. a ‘launch and enroll’ strategy <– I wasn’t necessarily thinking of this at first but it’s become clear along the way. Even for prospects who are a fit and want to create a certification, they may not want to do it yet (based on current priorities and such). This means a longer sales cycle, relationship building and follow-up so that when they are ready – even if it’s a year or two down the road – I’m the gal they turn to. I like to look at it as planting lots of seeds that aren’t ready to sprout yet, but if I tend to them they may sprout down the road! And, it’s a shift from the immediacy of the ole ‘launch and enroll folks now’ types of programs that I’ve offered in the past which again – it’s a bit of a habit to break.

All in all I’m thrilled with this focus so far. And I have big plans in 2024 to expand my reach even further in this area and build my brand around it.

I’m curious – are you feeling the call to micro niche? If so, what are you thinking of? Comment below and let me know.

Saying no even when they want to hire you

I upset a woman I spoke with a while back who reached out to inquire about my Certification Accelerator… I told her she wasn’t ready to create a certification.

She had just started her business and a previous coach told her that she should start a certification program. She spent months working with this coach laying out a training that she wanted to turn into a certification program.

When I asked her about her experience in the area that she wanted to certify folks in her response was “I haven’t actually worked in this area before – I just thought it would make a great certification program.” Because she didn’t have experience with what she wanted to train folks, my suggestion was to hit pause on the certification and instead focus on working in this area so she could test and prove her methodology first. She was disappointed when I recommended this to her, as she wanted to jump straight into creating the certification.

She was ready to hire me and I told her no.

It is SOOOO important to know when a client is ready to work with you – and when they are NOT ready yet.

We talk about this a lot in our Certified OBM® community too. There are often business owners who show up saying “I want to hire an OBM” but once we dig into where their business is at they aren’t ready for an OBM. What they really need is a good VA or a business coach.

When we say yes to a client that really isn’t ready for us, we are setting ourselves up for failure (and unhappy clients!) We are putting ourselves in a position where we can’t do our best work, and might even feel obligated to do work that we don’t really enjoy or know how to do.

And we are setting our clients up to expect things that their business isn’t really ready for.

It’s a guarantee that things will fall apart and it’s usually not a fun experience. I’ve been there.

I get it! It’s really hard to say no when someone is saying “I want to hire you”. It’s hard to say no to the money (especially if it’s money you need!) It’s hard to say no to being wanted.

But it’s also a huge gift to say to someone “I’m not what you need right now, given what you’ve shared with me I recommend X as your next step”. Folks often don’t understand what they really need and will appreciate your honesty and guidance.

Are you clear on what needs to be true in order to do your best work with a client? What are the criteria that make them a good fit for what you offer? (or not!)

This is one of the things we are going to be working on in my upcoming Build Your Framework workshop. Your framework is the clearly laid out path for how you create results for your clients. It’s the key to getting yourself out of delivery (as per my last newsletter) and is also the key to being able to guarantee results for your clients who then become raving fans.

Should I go the Agency route or Certification?

When you have a big vision and want to impact as many people as possible with your work it is important to consider your business model.

When I was ready to scale years ago I had two options I was considering – the agency model or a certification.

Now there are many benefits to the agency model, but I know for a fact that choosing the certification model has allowed me to change the lives of thousands of people over the years (probably more like tens of thousands at this point!)

The Certified OBM training has directly changed the lives of well over a thousand folks who have taken the training over the years… and then many many more based on the clients and team that they have in turn been able to serve and support!

Reminds me of that old shampoo commercial from the 80s “And they tell 2 friends… and so on… and so on… ” 😂😂

And with my licensed trainers, we can train sooooo many more folks than I ever could on my own (and be able to be as high-touch as we like in our training.)

This is way more people than I ever would have been able to impact via the agency model, as I would have been restricted to however many people my team and I could serve at any given time.

Now don’t get me wrong – there are so many business models and they all have their plusses and minuses. And I love many things about the agency model too!

But certification is a visionary’s model.

Every time you certify someone, you are expanding your vision and impact exponentially. And over time – together with the folks you certify – big visions can become a reality.

Reason #23 I love the certification model. 😊💜

If you are looking at ways to expand on a really big vision and want to explore certification – message me and let’s talk.

When folks start using your stuff without permission

Might sound funny to say – but folks taking and using your “stuff” may be a sign that it’s time to start a certification or licensing program.
I had this conversation with someone last week who shared that some of her past clients had started using her materials with their clients, and she wasn’t sure how to handle it.
“I’m really quite mad about this – what makes them think it’s OK to just use my stuff?”
I agreed with her of course – this is so frustrating when it happens!
And then I asked her:
“Have you ever considered offering certification or licensing? Folks obviously like your stuff and want to use it with their clients… so perhaps there is an opportunity here to make it official?”
She hadn’t really looked at it this way, and we came up with a strategy for her to reach out to folks to 1) give them a loving reminder that they aren’t allowed to use her IP and 2) to see if they would be interested in becoming certified so that they could use it legitimately.
Yes, we still need to protect our IP and reach out to folks if/when they are using it without the proper permission… sometimes folks need a reminder of this.
And there is a certain elegance to harnessing what is already happening – people using your stuff – and looking for a potential win-win. Folks get to use your stuff legitimately and you are paid (valued) for the IP that you’ve created.
I know this isn’t the best path for everyone as I know many folks who don’t want to do certification programs – but it is certainly worth a pause to consider if this comes up for you.

Certification is NOT the right business model for most people

Even though I’ve done it for years now, I can’t lay claim to having helped “hundreds” of people create a certification program… I’ve worked with “tens” of people over the years, not hundreds. (55 people to be exact – I just looked it up.)

Why so few? And why would I admit that? Isn’t that like some major marketing faux pas!

Well… I don’t think it’s the right business model for most people. So I don’t market it to the masses.

There are certain criteria you need to have in place to be ready (as I shared in this post). Plus it’s not a business model to be taken lightly.

There are bigger picture considerations to really think through.

Are you willing to risk your reputation? What if you certify someone and they suck? <– biggest fear of most folks I work with (and one that can be mitigated).

What about creating your own competition? When you certify people to ‘do what you do’ then there are more folks out there who do what you do. (Which can be fine of course, AND is a very real consideration.)

There are A LOT of nit picky little things you need to be aware of and ready for – legal, structural, curriculum, IP, licensing, renewals, etc. You want to think through and make decisions on ALL of these things before you enroll your first student, otherwise you are putting your business and brand at risk. (I have a Master Decision Checklist that I work through with my clients so that we don’t miss anything.)

Certification is not a model where you can just ‘jump in and make it up as you go’… there is simply too much at stake. Other business models allow for that – heck, I’ve done that many times myself with other training and coaching programs I’ve started! – but it doesn’t work for certifications. When I started my OBM Certification 13 years ago I was making it up as I went, and believe me… I’ve made plenty of costly mistakes along the way because I didn’t know better. Ooof.

It also takes TIME… probably more time than you might think to bring it to life. I’ve had clients take a year or more to prep and build before launching their certification, which might seem like a long time in our fast paced online world, but allows them to do it right, at the right time and set the stage for long term success. (I was just talking with a client today who is about to launch her certification that we started working on together 15 months ago… she’s done an amazing job working through all the little bitty things and her program is smoooooking hot!)

Certification is my favorite business model for sure – AND I’m also aware it’s not the right one for everyone. So I’m never going to market it as the “hey world, this is the latest and greatest thing that everyone should do!” Because it’s not…

If you are thinking about certification or licensing and wondering if it is the right model for you feel free to email me – I’m happy to chat through a few things to help you decide.

There are two prerequisites to starting a certification or licensing program

[Creating a Certification Series – Part 4]

When people ask me about creating a certification program the first thing I always check in on is whether or not they meet the two criteria for starting a successful certification. 

First – a PROVEN business model

The main benefit for a person to become certified is that they are getting access to a proven, successful model – one that they can plug into their own business and use (vs. them trying to build from scratch and figure it all out on their own.)

Have you created success with this model in your own business? And for how long? I want to see at least 2-3 years of being successful with something before turning it into a certification. 

If you are newer to your model and haven’t proven it’s success yet focus on that first! Spend the time to create success for yourself/your own business first so that you can then teach and certify others from a place of integrity and alignment.

Second – your OWN proprietary IP (Intellectual Property)

Your IP is the foundation of your certification. It’s the very thing that people are buying from you… and it needs to be yours.

I occasionally see people want to start a certification off something that they learned from someone else. Not only is this super ick on an integrity level, it’s also breaking copyright agreements/laws and may get you in some serious legal trouble.

If you want to teach something that you learned from someone else, check in with them! They might have an option for you to become licensed to teach their materials or maybe partner with them (This is how my Certified OBM Trainers got started back in 2017… when someone asked me if they could teach the program I had created.)

Create the kind of success that others want to create for themselves ← that is the first (and most important!) step

Interested in creating a certification? My Certification Accelerator will take your program from concept to first sale in 6 weeks – learn more here.