TikTok, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram. These are enough to strike fear in the heart of any established business owner over 35 years old, but there’s good news for entrepreneurs overwhelmed by social trends in digital media. You don’t have to be an expert in every platform, you don’t have to change your business model, and you don’t have to hire a marketing intern wizard. You’ve already conquered the enormous challenge of building a successful company or small business. Now it’s time to find your niche and own it.
In his new book, Niche, Please!, Skyler Irvine shows you how to adapt your marketing strategy, meaningfully connect with your customers, and focus on the platform that drives results. Technology may have changed but your story hasn’t. The book will show you how to build a lasting brand that survives downturns, capitalizes on opportunity, and thrives throughout change.
Drew Appelbaum: Hey, listeners. My name is Drew Appelbaum and I’m excited to be here today with Skyler Irvine, author of Niche, Please!. Skyler, thank you for joining, welcome to The Author Hour Podcast.
Skyler Irvine: Thank you so much for having me.
Do What You Want Rather than What You Should
Drew Appelbaum: I’m excited, let’s kick this off, can you give us a rundown of your professional background?
Skyler Irvine: Sure, it’s such an open-ended question, I remember when I was in college, someone coming in and saying, “Don’t worry, the next 10 years, you’re going to do so many different things that it will all make sense in the end,” but at the time, being so nervous about what you’re going to do first, and 10 years go by and a lot of things happen.
My first job out of college was as a marketing consultant for an environmental consulting firm, I was helping the senior marketing person in-house, and I wasn’t there that long before the 2008 recession hit and I survived the first two rounds of layoffs, and then the third one, I wasn’t so fortunate.
That was my first introduction into the corporate world and personally, the biggest thing I took from that was, I was working at a job I hated. I had multiple bosses, it wasn’t very enjoyable, I thought I was doing everything I was supposed to be doing, my parents were proud of me, I had health insurance, but ultimately, I still failed. To me, I was kind of like, “Well, no one kind of told me there was going to be a recession.” No one said anything about that along the way, I thought I’d done everything I was supposed to do and still ended up in that position.
As much as it was unfortunate, it was also very eye-opening for me where I took that as, “Well, if I’m going to fail or risk failure, I’d rather do it on something I’d want to do rather than what I thought I was supposed to do.”
It was kind of a long journey, I moved back home, I had college debt, I was living with my parents, trying to figure out the next step–I’m trying to fast-forward as much as possible and get to the fun stuff but I found success in starting a business.
That business was real estate, and I ended up buying a lot of homes out of foreclosure and renting them out to people who had lost their homes and had terrible credit but still need a place to live. I grew that business until a company called Black Stone came in with billions of dollars of capital to spend at auction that I didn’t have, and that shifted that business model.
I pivoted to helping other people that were my age buy their first homes for their families as they were growing up and getting married. It was an overlooked market because it was millennials and at the time, it was a very new term and most people in real estate either have someone in their family who they use as their realtor or they don’t really know how to find a new agent.
I was a new agent in that aspect, but I was able to grow my business by connecting with other people that were my age, as someone who had personally bought and sold many, many homes. Usually, if you were a 20 something-year-old real estate agent, you don’t have a ton of experience because you just don’t have that much time. I was kind of an anomaly because I had bought and sold so many houses at auction and in foreclosure that at 28 years old, I had a lot of experience. I could connect with other people my age, speak their language, tell them what to look for, what to avoid.
I was able to build a business off of that and I did so through Facebook, which led to my first book, which was, How to Grow your Real Estate Business with Facebook. I’d always been in marketing, I’ve always been in business, I’ve always loved small business, not huge teams, not a lot of employees.
Working with the people you enjoy working with, doing a business you enjoy doing, and then growing it in an enjoyable way. The long journey kind of got me here where I left the real estate business and started RenzlerMedia about five years ago to basically do what I had done for my personal businesses and the businesses of people around me.
To help grow those small businesses, help find that focus and take some of that headache away that a lot of people have when it comes to marketing themselves. Personal brand gives people a lot of anxiety when they hear that. Social media gives people a lot of anxiety when they hear that.
What I wanted to do with my company and then eventually this book was to clear away a lot of that confusion and the noise and really simplify it because it is simple, it can just get confusing, much like anything can get confusing when you don’t understand it.
The First Step
Drew Appelbaum: What happened and why is now the time to share the stories in your book? Did you have an “aha moment” was there something really inspiring out there or did just a number of people come up to you and say, “Hey, Skyler, you need to write this down.”
Skyler Irvine: Content creation for a business is simpler than I think a lot of business owners think because if you ever have a customer ask you a question and another customer ask you the same question, well, that should be a piece of content.
If it happens over and over and over again, then it likely could be a book. A lot of what I do is answering the same 10 questions in different ways because everyone’s business is a little bit different. Everyone, whether you’re in sales or you’re selling a product or you’re selling a service, there are all these little intricacies within a business that people think, “Well, that works for them, but it won’t work for me because my business is different.” That’s where our book comes in because you can’t really solve that in a 60-second video or a blog post. It goes a little bit deeper than that.
What we sought to create with this book specifically was giving people that first step. “Here’s what you need to know, I don’t want you to think you should do YouTube, learn everything you can about YouTube, start your YouTube channel, get to a point where you realize YouTube isn’t for you and you feel like you’ve wasted all of this time and energy.” This is the book that kind of breaks down, “Okay, based on your business, based on what you’re trying to achieve, based on your experience, based on your natural gifts, based on market opportunities, here is a simple formula that will put you in the right position to decide, that this is your most optimal option to achieve success.”
Then you can remove a lot of that self-doubt along the journey because it is a journey, whether you’re trying to start from scratch on Facebook or TikTok or whatever it happens to be, knowing at the very least you’re on the right path is a huge confidence boost for a lot of people, especially if you’re an entrepreneur who is doing a lot on your own. It’s a lonely game at times.
Drew Appelbaum: Clearly you’re a professional in the space, but a lot of times, when you say, “Okay, I’m going to put pen to paper,” you’ll have the idea of the book rattling around in your head, but sometimes just during the writing process, by digging deeper and doing some research, authors will come to some major breakthroughs and learnings. Did you have any of these major breakthroughs or learnings during your writing journey?
Skyler Irvine: You know, this is such a great question, and the two ways I would answer that is one, halfway through writing this book, we got hit with COVID and a global pandemic and it shut everything down and the world changed overnight. I was in the middle of writing this book for a certain group of professionals, and the big wakeup call was for me that this was going to change a lot of people’s paths.
Much like when I lost my job in the recession of 2008 and it put me on a different path, “I don’t want to be doing this. I failed to do this thing I didn’t want to do, I’m going to do this thing I want to do whether or not it works.”
I feel a lot of other people are going to experience a similar path right now, whether it’s, “You know what? I hate this job, I’m going to quit and go pursue this other thing,” or “I like my job but I just lost it because this recession hit and I no longer have this opportunity.” At the time, a lot of people were losing their jobs with not a lot of prospects in sight.
The market continues to change, there’s a lot of good opportunities for people, but I think there’s going to be a lot of people coming out of this with the mindset of, “I want to turn my side hustle into an actual business, I’m not going to wait anymore.” Or, “I’ve worked on this team in real estate for a really long time, I’m not going to go off on my own. How am I going to do that?” This book is how I want to provide that first step for both of those people.
Whether it’s an experienced business owner who has to cut back on staff for whatever reason and say, “Okay, I need to do this myself. I’ve tried hiring my niece to do my social media before and it took six months before I realized she knows nothing about my business and we haven’t updated our page,” or it’s the person who is now going off to start the business that they have experience with but they don’t really know how to turn it into a business, here’s the guide of how to get started.
Taking that idea and turning it into something that you can actually monetize in a business sense, in addition to growing that business on social media. Those were kind of the two big “aha’s” where one of them was an external one that kind of forced me to pivot and the other one was that we spent so much time writing this book and then spent just as much time deleting half of it that didn’t need to be in there.
That was almost just as hard as writing it, if not, harder. Putting out the information is easy because I do that all the time. Spending a lot of time simplifying it, simplifying it, simplifying it, and cutting everything with it that didn’t need to be in there. This book is a lot shorter than it started out, and that was very intentional because sometimes you don’t need to fill the pages if you don’t need to fill those pages, and that was a really big aha along the way.
Identifying a Platform
Drew Appelbaum: Now, when you were writing the book, you put that pen to paper, you said, “I’m going to do this,” in your mind, who were you writing the book for? Is this a book for entrepreneurs and CEOs, is this for marketing teams, is this for that first job out of college?
Skyler Irvine: Yeah, it’s very specific to two groups of people. We kind of have a primary and a secondary. The primary is the person who has been in business, whether the sales professional, entrepreneur, or small business owner, it’s a lot of overlap there, whether you’re a loan officer in mortgages, running a title company, a small business selling products or an online business that individual who is a small team, small business owner, and needs to take on more of it themselves because that’s where we’re at.
They failed at trying to outsource their social media to their niece or an outside agency because they don’t know enough to even ask the right questions, or how to put people in the position to succeed. It’s such an important aspect of business today, having that digital presence because so much is done digitally that if you’re unfamiliar with it, you don’t know if someone’s taking advantage of you.
If you’re hiring an agency that’s not the right agency for you, for whatever reason, if you’re trying to bring on an employee full-time to run it because you just don’t want it and you don’t want to deal with the stress. Unfortunately, you can’t really do that if you’re a small team if it’s majorly important. If you are a big company and you can hire an agency and pay top dollar, you’re in a different world.
For those people that are doing a lot of it themselves, whether they’re outsourcing it or not, this is who that book is for.
It’s really to give you the guidance that you need to get started and say, “Okay, we’re wasting our time on this platform, this platform, and this platform. This is where we need to be spending our time because this is where our customers are, this is where our audience is, and here’s how we’re going to engage with them.”
By clearing away a lot of the mess and a lot of the stuff that’s busier rather than productive, it clears up a path for you to really take advantage of those things. Too many of the clients that I work with notoriously fall in love with shiny object syndrome, where they get started doing one thing and all of a sudden, something new comes along and they want to go all-in on that and abandon what they’ve started, and because they do that, they jump from one thing to the next, never really having any success.
Just from the second I put pen to paper, TikTok came from out of nowhere and became a global phenomenon that our former president at one point tried to ban, and now it’s bigger than ever. Along the way we’ve had Clubhouse come and go and now Discord is coming, and these are the types of things that continue to happen.
What my book does is basically break these things down, instead of saying, is it TikTok versus YouTube, it’s really breaking it down to be like, “Okay, what type of platform is it, what type of content goes on to that platform? Does that type of content play to your strengths or weaknesses?”
“What is your competition doing, is our market opportunity in one thing or another?” Simplify it down, simplify it down, simplify it down, so that way you can literally write down on a piece of paper in less than half a page, a couple of different notes and it will be obvious for you what you should be doing, the answers will really jump out to you because it’s pretty formulaic once you realize that, “TikTok is just a new video platform.” It is not really the same as Twitter, so confusing those two it gets a little bit easier to kind of categorize things into, “Okay, this is video, this is audio, this is written, this is visual, this is photography,” and then you can kind of work backward from that.
For example, if you are someone who has a very visual business, it makes sense to lean into photography and visual aspects of it versus something that isn’t.
There are ways to kind of combine two existing contents into a brand new one and really play that to your strengths because you are going to have so much more success by really narrowing that focus and going all in, rather than trying to wrinkle things in a lot of different places and just hope for success, because that just doesn’t work.
Drew Appelbaum: I want to dig into that a little bit more, how does a business actually find their niche, and is there only one kind of niche or are there multiple verticals you could find and attack?
Skyler Irvine: Yes, so it is pretty much infinite. You can basically take any two things and marry them together and find a new opportunity. But the problem is it doesn’t guarantee that it’s going to work, and in this book, we talk about your business niche, as well as your content niche, and your media niche, and those play different games, so let’s just take business, for example, there are a lot of different kinds.
If you’re a real estate agent in Phoenix right now, there is a ton of real estate agents.
Your message to potential clients is what makes you different, how do you stand out among that crowd? If someone wants to buy a house, why would they use you over someone else? That is a little bit different than, “Hey, I invented this new hat that is awesome for people that love to go hiking. I’m someone that goes hiking and I found this perfect hat after trial and error for years and years, and now I’ve got this great new product, I just need to get it in front of other people like me who like to go hiking.”
Those are two different things you need to achieve, so in essence, you have to reach different people and tell them different things. There is not a one-size-fits-all option, but once you realize, “Okay, this is where I fall into this category and here’s what I need to do, and here’s how I need to achieve that,” it gets simple. The formula for finding your biz niche for example is what we call in the book, your business niche is who are you trying to reach, your customers, your audience, who are they?
What do they look like? If you’re a realtor in Phoenix, it’s different than someone that needs to reach people that are hiking around the world. Anyone that is hiking around the world could buy your hat, but people in Phoenix need to buy that house from you, so your demographics are different. Your target audience is different, how you are engaging with them is completely different. All of those things come into play and you need to decide what you need people to do.
In this case, it is either buy your hat or buy a house from you and choose you over someone else, and it gets simple at that point because then you just add why are they going to choose you over someone else. If you are selling a hat that’s optimized for awesome extreme hikers and there’s no other hat on the market, that’s a pretty simple way to say, “Hey, if you’re ever going to buy a hat this is the one to buy because no one else has a hat like this.”
If you’re a realtor trying to compete with other realtors for their business, your why is different. Why would someone use you? Well, I was able to target young people buying their first home because I was the same age as them, but I also had a lot of experience buying and selling houses, so I knew what a lot of the older people knew but I also related to younger people a little bit better. My client niche and my content niche all kind of found themselves before I realized it.
Most businesses fall under the same category, and I think the biggest fear that people have when it comes to finding their niche and niching down and having these specifics is that they would lose other business, and anyone would tell you that’s not the case. If you are a realtor that is trying to target first time home buyers, if that is all your marketing and that’s your push and that is how you’re spending your time, it’s not like you’re going to lose out on listings or people that bought and sold with you already.
You don’t lose that other business but if you try to go after all the business, it is hard to capture that business. You end up losing more business by trying to capture all the business rather than focusing on what you’re best at, your best avatar of an audience member, and focusing your content and your strategies on them, you’ll also grow other aspects of your business as well. That is usually the biggest shock for a lot of people regardless if they are selling a product or a service.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, what I loved inside the book is that you actually shared some examples from companies that I think a lot of us know about how they found their niche and how they then marketed to it. Can you share one of those, maybe one that’s top of mind or your favorite one that you provided in the book and maybe talk us through, maybe you don’t know how they find it but how they exploited it once they did find it?
Skyler Irvine: Yeah. I mean, that’s a great question because there are a lot of ones that are really fun examples for me depending on who I’m talking to and what their experience is. I think the easiest one to reference is Amazon because Amazon today for my kids who are eight and five and three, Amazon you just get everything you want anytime you want all the time.
When Amazon first started, it was just books online and there were a lot of reasons for that as a product. It made sense because if you go to a bookstore and you want to find a certain book and they don’t have it, you have to wait for them to get it and they’ll send it to you and storing books at every single bookstore is very, very inefficient. At the time, selling a product online wasn’t that common. It was very unusual, a lot of people were afraid of putting their credit cards on the website because you think you’d get your credit card stolen.
What makes books so special is you don’t really need to hold a book in your hand before you buy it because if you bought one book, you know what all books look like. Amazon and Bezos exploited that because they would say, “Okay, we’re just going to have one giant warehouse, store every book there ever so we don’t want to buy your book, we will guarantee to have that book because we don’t need to have them in location on all of our stores. We just need them in one big warehouse.”
That makes a lot of sense in hindsight if you look at that message, and what makes that so great is now they sell everything. They literally want to be from A to Z all types of products, but they didn’t start that way. If they tried to start that way, they never would have succeeded, and most businesses don’t succeed because they try to do those things early. They were just online books and then they were able to pivot and then they were able to expand.
A lot of that internal stuff is what helped them growing and expanding anyway because once you put your credit card into Amazon, you are less likely to want to put your credit card into another website. As they started to sell more and more stuff, one of Amazon’s biggest advantages right now is it’s really easy to buy anything at all times. If you go to another website because you clicked on an ad from your phone and you get ready to buy a product that you thought was really cool, and you go to the checkout and now, it’s asking you to enter your credit card information, that’s a huge hassle for more people than ever before.
I know my father specifically will see something he likes on any website but then will go to Amazon to buy it because it’s got his info saved there already. Amazon now is able to sell everything from movies to physical objects to books to digital books but only because they were such a specific niche when they started–books online. Now, it doesn’t seem that crazy but at the time, books online seemed very, very crazy.
Drew Appelbaum: It is actually a good point, it was revolutionary at the time. When readers go through the book, they read through every chapter, what are some steps that you hope they’ll take upon completion? What do you think that step one and two in the process is to turn around what you’ve learned in the book and bring it into your own business?
Skyler Irvine: By the time you’re done with the book, you will know exactly the steps you need to take next. That was the number one thing I wanted out of this because most people get stuck because they don’t know where to start and the longer they put off starting, the harder it gets, because if they haven’t started yet, six months later, now not only is it just as confusing as it was before but now there’s three more social media platforms that they’ve heard of and it just seems like they get further and further pushed back.
I want to give the person who’s got 20 years of experience in their industry, they have been a paralegal for 15 years, or they’ve been a part-time real estate agent while their kids have grown up and now they have moved out of the house and has got more free time to do something on their own. I want to give that person with experience a level playing field where they understand that what they’ve learned about their business is way harder to learn than the social media stuff, the content stuff, the uploading, the posting, the managing, the sharing.
That stuff is actually easier than you think but because you don’t know it, it seems so much more difficult. It seems like your kids have such a huge advantage over you or those 18-year-old life coaches on TikTok that are telling you how to become millionaires have a better advantage than you because they’ve got more followers on TikTok, but the reality is your knowledge, your skillset is way more valuable. That type of experience you can’t get through anything other than time.
If you are able to overcome the fear of putting yourself out there and taking that knowledge and finding a way to monetize it, then the steps of this book will kind of layout, “Okay, here is step one, two, three that I need to take,” and I like to look at this like this is your intro 101 to growing your business in today’s world, whether you are starting it from scratch or you have one that you’re trying to grow, this is the intro book that will point you in the right path.
“Okay, here is the path you want to go on, don’t get distracted by the other stuff. Stay on this one path and within a year, you’re going to be in such a different position that you will probably be shocked with how quickly things happen when you have that narrow, laser focus.”
Information is Everywhere
Drew Appelbaum: Are there other resources out there that maybe you offer or that you could suggest for readers of the book if they want to dive further?
Skyler Irvine: That’s when things get really easy because everything that you’d want to learn is basically out there at this point and once you realize, “Okay, YouTube is my path, here is how I’m going to do that,” because that’s what this book will show you, the next step of how to start a YouTube channel is free on YouTube. There is so much information for that out there on all of these different platforms, whether it’s Discord, whether it’s TikTok, whether it’s Clubhouse, whether it’s the old school stuff like Facebook and Instagram, those things exist, pretty prevalent.
My website, we have a lot of follow-up information. I’ve got an e-newsletter that updates people on the latest in the digital world, but that is the stuff that I think is most overwhelming to the point where there is so much information out there that it paralyzes people from knowing which one to do.
That’s a great question that you asked and a lot of that follow up is where I saw supply and demand of there’s a huge supply of this but there isn’t enough supply of, “Okay, well what should I use for me?” or “How do I do this for business” or “That’s cool about how to grow your followers but that’s not really what most business owners need.”
They need clients, they need customers, they need money in the bank, and a lot of the stuff that’s out there for the channels is here’s how to grow the channel. Once you realize that, “Okay, I have my existing business, here is how I make money, how can I use social media, digital media to grow that customer base?” That’s where this book comes into play. This teaches you the business stuff because the social media stuff is in huge supply.
Drew Appelbaum: Well Skyler, we just touched on the surface of the book here but I want to say that writing a book that’s really going to help a lot of small businesses is no small feat, so congratulations on having your book published.
Skyler Irvine: Thank you very much. I really do appreciate that. It was definitely a journey and I can’t wait to start the next one and hopefully, there’s not any more global pandemics in the future.
Drew Appelbaum: I do have one question left and it is the hot seat question. If readers could take away only one thing from the book, what would you want it to be?
Skyler Irvine: Confidence, to be honest, the confidence. That’s most of my time talking with people one-on-one is almost listening to people talk themselves out of it and it’s usually from fear of putting themselves out there, fear of their competitor, it looks like they are so much farther along than they are, the fear of being embarrassed, the fear of starting a YouTube channel and having no one watch it or having their friends laugh at them for whatever it is.
Usually, the more successful that person is in their business, the more fear they have of trying these types of things because they are afraid they are going to lose it all or lose what they’ve built or lose what they’ve gained. The one thing I would love for people to take away from this book is the confidence to know that none of that’s true, and once you can break through that barrier, things become really, really interesting.
Drew Appelbaum: Well, Skyler, this has been a pleasure and I’m excited for people to check out the book. Everyone, the book is called, Niche Please, and you can find it on Amazon. Skyler, besides checking out the book, where can people connect with you?
Skyler Irvine: Social media. I am pretty easy to find but the best place is skylerirvine.com, my website. Now that this book is over, I can get back to writing my blog and putting out more videos, and starting up my podcast, because this book has kind of sucked up all of my content creation for quite some time. I’d love to connect with people wherever they are. Twitter is a really fun one for me, but my website is probably the best place to find more information about this book.
How to take those next steps, whether or not they have discovered their niches, and what they want to do next. So, that’s what I would recommend, the website, skylerirvine.com.
Drew Appelbaum: Well, Skyler, thank you so much for coming on the show today, and best of luck with your new book.
Skyler Irvine: Thank you very, very much for having me. I really appreciate the time.