Know Your Niche

Three ski instructors walk into an apres ski bar. The bartender asks about their day. Let’s eavesdrop on their replies:

Instructor #1: Don’t ask! Never-evers. I love teaching, but I just don’t have the patience for newbies. Heck, I started skiing when I was a toddler. I’m a natural, and I just can’t handle this “I’m so scared stuff.” I don’t think the students were happy. Not one tip. Now, if I had a group of intermediates who wanted to learn moguls, we’d see some happy campers. I wish Jim would give me that type of group.

Instructor # 2: You think that’s bad, I got kids. I don’t like working with kids. I don’t even want kids. Why does Jim think that women are naturals with kids? By the end of the lesson, the kids were screaming and the parents were complaining. I’d love to lead one of the backcountry groups, but Jim never assigns them to me.

Instructor #3: Sorry guys, but I had a great day. Jim assigned me to three teenage brothers, who wanted a semi-private lesson in the terrain park. What a blast! Big wide grins at the end of the lesson. Can’t believe I get paid for this. To top it off, the parents tipped me 100 big ones. Oops! Gotta’ run. They’re taking me out to dinner.

Instructor number three has found his specific niche. His clients are ecstatic at the end of a lesson. He’s so happy he can’t believe “he gets paid for doing this.” What’s his niche?

It’s not just teenage boys. That’s a demographic. Teenage boys who want to kick butt in the terrain park are his niche market. That’s why the director assigns him semi-private lessons.
Not sure about your own teaching niche? Here’s how to find it.

The Niche and The Fortune Cookie

People don’t buy what you do; they buy how it makes them feel.

This is the premise of Bernadette Jiwa’s book titled The Fortune Cookie Principle.
People don’t buy fortune cookies because they taste better than every other cookie on the shelf. They buy them for the delight they deliver at the end of a meal.

In skiing, the lesson is the “cookie,” or, as Kiwa puts it, “the commodity, the utility, the tangible, the facts, the logical benefit.” The lesson has concrete values, such as:
– The skier got out of the wedge and into a parallel stance
– The skier graduated from green to blue slopes, or blue to black slopes
– The skier mastered her first mogul run
– The skier won a pin on the NASTAR course

If you are a decent instructor, you can accomplish these things in a lesson, but which one gives you the greatest sense of accomplishment. Your answer to this question will help you identify your niche.find-your-niche-here

The Fortune, Wherein Lies Your Niche

The “fortune” is the intangible part of the lesson. It’s the thing that produces the “big wide grins” and “delivers delight at the end of the lesson. It’s the thing that changes the way people feel. For example:
– The student changes her perception about herself as an athlete
– The student no longer dreads winter’s arrival, because she looks forward to her ski lessons
– The student gains enough confidence to compete in ski racing
– The student starts to ask detailed and informed questions, showing that he is truly committed to learning the sport. When you explain, his smile reveals an Ah Ha! moment, which pleases him as much as his physical accomplishments.

This feeling is why they choose a particular instructor. It’s the reason why they choose you. This is an important part of your niche.

You Know Your Niche: Now Make It Known

Let’s get back to Instructor number three. “Jim,” his ski school director, obviously knew his niche, but how did he find out? There are a number of ways to do this:

  1. When you teach a great lesson that jives with your personal niche, tell your ski school director about it. Don’t just say it was a great lesson, say something like ” I really enjoy working with (name your niche).
  2. Tell fellow instructors.
  3. If your clients had a great lesson, ask them to fill out an employee praise form. Eventually, your ski school director will see a pattern in the type of classes that make you shine as an instructor.
  4. Ask your ski school director if you can do a special class that focuses on your niche.
  5. Find a mentor. Work with a senior instructor who specializes in your niche market.

Last, but not least, let potential students know your niche before they even get to the mountain. Set up a Facebook Strategyy and make yourself known!

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  1. Alan Schietzsch says:

    Very wise, it makes sense to teach what you love, to the folks who will love what you teach.

  2. Anne Royar Kerber says:

    Great information I will certainly be sharing this with my instructors.

  3. Vicki Groff says:

    In a perfect world, everyone would get to do what they most enjoy. But to get those big smiles (and nice tips) from most clients, I’d encourage some empathy and a desire to help them improve, no matter what level skier they may be. It could be the start of a lifelong passion for a great sport.

  4. SnoCoach says:

    Vicki Groff I agree 100% … none of this “Business Stuff” matters if you’re not giving your clients a great experience. This post is about finding the clients that allow you to deliver your best. PSIA promotes the Guest Center Teaching model. Which is all about what you are saying, understand what your client needs so you can deliver the best experience.