I love how creative entrepreneurs can be—and must be. Last week I wrote about how to create a niche for maximum profitability in your field. On Sunday, an article went up on Lifehacker, “These Five Steps Outline the Basics of the Design Thought Process.”

And it immediately hit me—if you like working with numbered lists, this is a perfect set of steps for figuring out your niche. The Lifehacker article distills an infographic from Design Taxi, which in turn was inspired by a document from the Institute of Design at Stanford. My examples below refer to that document.

The five steps are:

  1. Empathize. The Stanford paper points out, “As a design thinker, the problems you are trying to solve are rarely your own—they are those of a particular group of people; in order to design for them, you must gain empathy for who they are and what is important to them.” This one may seem obvious, but as I mentioned last week, it’s surprising how many meetings are spent brainstorming about what the client wants without ever asking the client. I urge you to talk to your customers; find out what they want that they’re not getting and what they’re getting that they don’t want. This is essential information for designing your niche.
  2. Define. Having gathered information in the first step, you are now ready to make sense of it. You are defining the special place you hold in the marketplace—how, specifically, are you different from the field of competitors? What unmet needs are you going to meet?
  3. Ideate. This is basically brainstorming. “You ideate in order to transition from identifying problems to creating solutions for your users. Ideation is your chance to combine the understanding you have of the problem space and people you are designing for with your imagination to generate solution concepts.”
  4. Prototype. While the actual building of prototypes doesn’t exactly translate for some business types—for example, executive coaching and other services—the idea that you’ll try out the very best ideas generated in the ideation phase is a sound one.
  5. Test. As you build your niche, you must be light on your feet. This is an advantage that small and medium sized businesses can brag about. When something isn’t quite working, you can pivot and tweak to build your ideal niche.

If you’d like to discuss how to implement these steps in your own business, email me at scott@doubledareyou.us and we can set up a time to talk.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/66606673@N00/299261127″>Chrome Blue</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>(license)</a>