There is a lot of talk on small business websites about the importance of creating your own niche. So what is that all about?
What is niche marketing?
A niche is a focused, targetable part of the market. You are a specialist providing a product or service that focuses on specific client group’s needs, which cannot or are not addressed in such detail by mainstream providers.
However, it is important to understand that there is a difference between your niche and your target market:
Your target market is the specific group of people you work for e.g. women in the City, dog owners, creative female freelancers, ceramic collectors, brides to be, outdoor galleries.
Your niche is the service you specialise in offering to your target market. For example various design businesses can have creative freelancers as their client group: a design company can offer them web design and app development, another company can offer them branding advice or photography. It is the combination of target market and specific service that creates a niche market.
Why is it important to have a niche?
1. Don’t spread yourself too thin
Instead of the risk of spreading yourself too thin, and say that ‘everybody’ is your potential client niche marketing will help you to focus on a specific group of people, and what their specific needs and wants are.
Especially as a sole trader you won’t be able to serve everybody, so it is important to focus on what you do best and for a group of people who will buy what you create.
You will soon find out what is important to them, what magazines or blogs they read, how they talk and dress, who the main people in that network are. You can develop products or services specifically for this group, based on your increasingly thorough knowledge and understanding of what they are interested in.
2. Easier to identify and target potential clients and partners to work with
As the pool of people you are looking at is smaller, it will be easier to identify potential clients and partners to work with as you can be more targeted with your marketing efforts.
3. Easier to become an expert and well known in your niche
It will be easier for others to understand ‘what you do’ and ‘for whom’, which will make you an expert in a certain field. As this group is more targeted and smaller you will be quicker well known within this group of people. Your visibility and profile will increase within this group, and it turns out we live in ‘a small world’!
4. More and better referrals
As it is easier for other to understand what you do and for whom it becomes easier to refer more and better clients to you, as you have build up trust and got more visibility and credibility, and it is clear what you specialise in.
5. More unique = Less competition
There will be less competition, as you provide specific services or create specific products for specific people, in a specific way. The BIG advantage of that is that it can’t be easily replicated!
6. Marketing become easier
Niche marketing will really help with your marketing, positioning and branding as you will attract the ‘right people’ easier. People with similar interests behave and are attracted to similar things. And also a lot of your clients will do the hard work for you as they will refer you, and your profile and credibility is easier known within your tribe.
7. Easier to identify specific clients
You can also identify specific potential clients easier, especially if your clients are other businesses, such as galleries, retailers, or freelancers. You can identify them by name (unlike most consumers) which will make the communication from the start more personal and unique, instead of mass marketing or advertising.
8. More repeat business
As you can provide an increasingly better service or product, based on your client’s needs, the chance is that you will get more repeat business – people will come back for more, and often will start spending more with you as the relationship grows.
Niche marketing really comes down to this:
Who would you rather be: A small fish in a big pond or a big fish in a small pond?
So, it sounds like niche marketing is the way to go! But hang on a minute …
… if I focus on only a small group of people, won’t I miss out?
You might like to be everything to everybody, but that’s just not possible in terms of your time, money and energy. Also, it might not make you very attractive!
Why? Imagine that you have just started dating, and your friends ask ‘Who are you looking for?’, and you respond ‘Any wife will do’. I bet you won’t get that much actual interest!
If you narrow your focus and market you will be able to serve your clients much better, and you can focus on those people who need your products or services the most and get the most benefits of what you have got to offer.
In fact you get to create your best work for the people you like and work with the best – that’s a definite win-win!
… I don’t like to be labeled!
Some soletraders are worried that they will only be known ‘as the person who does x’. Actually, think about it, that doesn’t need to be a negative!
And don’t worry, when you are creating your niche there is one simple solution: Once you are known for a certain niche, and have plenty of clients, you can grow from there.
You can either offer additional services or products based on the actual needs of your client groups. For example a graphic design company can focus purely on creating corporate identities, and expand then into annual reports. A textile designer can firstly create romantic and colourful interior products directly selling to clients, and then expand to working with interior designers and create a collection to be sold in interior and gift shops.
In fact you can ask your clients or users to help you design new services or products with you. And by the way, you don’t have to do this all by yourself! You can work with partners who deliver these other services, and who will like to work with you as they know you have the clients already. For example a graphic designer who works for small businesses, can work very well together with a developer, a marketing consultant, a photographer, a branding agency and web designer to offer a full service.
I have only just started, and I don’t really know what I want or what I am good at!
In the first 3 years or so of any business startup it is indeed very hard to identify what your particular strengths or talents are, where there is a profitable market for your product or what your clients really need (they often say something else than what is really on their mind!).
Also, you need some really practical experience, because sometimes you need to find out the hard way what works and doesn’t work for you, and your clients.
Niche marketing, developing your understanding of your market and improving your skills, passions and network is an ongoing process!
Niche marketing is not a fixed approach, so stay flexible for opportunities and listen to client feedback, and then fine tune to discover more and more about what you are passionate about and the best at.
Niche marketing is really about ENERGY. Especially as a small business owner you can’t be everything to all people, and there are only 24 hours in the day. Niche marketing will help you to focus on two things:
Where and with whom do I want to spend my energy?
Where and from whom do I get my energy?