With the new year a couple of weeks away, entrepreneurs and business owners are evaluating their accomplishments in 2015, and setting new goals for 2016.
If I ask you what your goals are for the coming year, your answer will definitely include a growth strategy. Growth is great; growth means progress. However, if your growth goals include expansion into new markets and introduction of new products and services, you might actually be making a mistake.
Before you get up in arms, I am not the Grinch come early trying to kill your enthusiasm for your future. Instead, I am here to tell you that when it comes to business, less is definitely more.
Believe it or not, consumers prefer brands that offer specific and distinct products and services. So offering a new line of generic products will probably hinder the growth you are aiming for.
But don’t worry; I don’t identify problems without coming up with a solution. That’s why below we will look at why niche marketing is important for entrepreneurs and how to find a niche that you can succeed in.
SECTION #1- What is a niche? And more importantly what is niche marketing?
Let’s start by clearing up the most pressing question; what is a niche?
Merriam-Webster defines a niche as “the situation in which a business’s products or services can succeed by being sold to a particular kind or group of people.”
And the Business Dictionary defines niche marketing as “Concentrating all marketing efforts on a small but specific and well-defined segment of the population. Niches do not ‘exist’ but are ‘created’ by identifying needs, wants, and requirements that are being addressed poorly or not at all by other firms, and developing and delivering goods or services to satisfy them. As a strategy, niche marketing is aimed at being a big fish in a small pond instead of being a small fish in a big pond.”
Here is some super personal stuff about me
When I started this blog, I wrote about everything. One week, I’d be talking about social media, the next week I’d be focusing on the technical parts of running a blog, and the next I’d have Infographics.
If you think I’m exaggerating, just check out my posts from May to around October. You might actually think I’m suffering from hyperactivity.
While I had people visiting the blog and enjoying my content, the percentage of returning visitors was low. I honestly believe that most people were not ready to deal with an unfocused blog. Luckily for all my readers, I took a step back and decided to concentrate on one major area ‘entrepreneurship’.
So yeah; I’m now giving advice to budding/stalled entrepreneurs, and I plan to keep my focus here from now on.
I’m happy to say that this change in direction has given me clarity and peace of mind, and has allowed me to focus my attention on building a specific audience. No more promoting my content to every single man, woman, child, and pit bull terrier.
I also think that my content is much better than it was before; though this might just be my ego talking!Anyways, that’s as personal as we are going to get today.
Anyways, that’s as personal as we are going to get today.
So why do you need a niche?
Many entrepreneurs want to market their product or service to everyone. After all, if you have the next big app, shouldn’t all 7 billion people on this earth here about it?
Not everyone will want a piece of what you have to offer, so what’s the point of talking to uninterested people? When you try and market to everyone, you will end up selling to absolutely no one. Furthermore, when you see that ‘everyone’ does not want your product or service, you will start to dilute what you have to offer in order to please everyone.
All of this is quite obvious; you are probably saying ‘duh Davina, what idiot tries to market to everyone.’ Well, chances are that you (yes you) have fallen into this trap at one point or another.
There’s this common misconception among entrepreneurs that if you only sell a specific product or service, you will miss out on tons of customers. Furthermore, specializing is riskier than generalizing.
But here’s the thing, when we make a decision to sell to everyone because we are too scared to sell to just a few people, we end up wasting resources, branding ourselves as generic, neglecting efficiency, losing out to competition, and failing.
Ask yourself this; if you had to invest a new pair of shoes for going to the office, would you go to a shoe store that sells women’s shoes, men’s shoes, kid’s shoes, and sports shoes, or would you head to a store that only sells professional shoes?
When you want to grow your business, you don’t do so by selling new services and new products to new markets, you grow your business by mastering the one product and one service that you have in that one market. Expansion can come once your brand is established and mature.
If you want to stand out and succeed in a world full of failing businesses, you need to narrow down your focus and kick ass in one area. And don’t be tricked into believing that niche businesses have restricted growth opportunities!
Niche marketing carries with it several benefits, including:
- Reduced competition
- Improved products or services
- Increased chances of success
- Decreased spending on resources and marketing
- Improved customer service
- Increased retail price
SECTION #2- The power of the niche brand
In the section above I poured my heart out and told you about my experience with switching from a general focus to a niche focus. But wait a minute, this is currently a small blog, will the niche focus still apply when I’m selling it for a million bucks?
The most powerful brands on earth are niche brands. From luxury cars, to golf clubs, to cooking appliances, to electronics; the brands that excel are the ones that are not trying to be a consortium.
So let’s take a look at the one brand we all love; Apple. When Steve Jobs co-founded this company with Wozniak in 1976, their focus was on personal computers. This was before my time, but I know that the Apple II and Apple Macintosh were huge hits.
However, in 1985 Jobs was kicked out of Apple (watch the movie or better yet read his biography for more insight on the power struggle that preceded this). Between 1985 and 1997, Apple turned from a profitable company to a company that was treading water. When Jobs came back in ‘97, he noticed that Apple’s focus had shifted from personal computers, to a whole host of products and services.
So in true Jobs fashion, he stopped Apple’s foray into PDAs (Apple Newton), internet suites (Cyberdog), and compound documents (OpenDoc) to name a few. Jobs shifted Apple’s focus back to PCs, and invested time into making Apple PCs the most appealing and technologically advanced PCs on the market.
And the result? Well, sales went right through the roof. Only after Apple had dominated the PC market did they introduce the iPhone(s), iPod(s), iTunes software, iTunes store, and other Apple products and services.
And it’s not just Apple. It’s Tiffany catering to upper-class jewelry clients, Starbucks catering to coffee lovers, Target catering to shoppers on a budget, and M-PESA catering to individuals without bank accounts.
And if you need an example of a brand that went off the rails, look no further than General Motors. They had tens of subsidiaries making every car under the sun a few years ago, no wonder they filed for bankruptcy in 2009. Hopefully they can remain focused now that they have a second shot at success!
SECTION #3- Don’t be a jack of all trades and a master of none
While some people seem to find their niche in a seamless manner, most of us struggle to find that one thing that we can succeed at. That’s why below I’ve provided tips on finding your niche.
1. Identify your most valuable skill set
Whenever I read/watch an interview with a successful entrepreneur, they always mention their strengths, and then explain how those strengths played a big role in growing their business.
We are all blessed with skills, and those skills are what we need to exploit in order to achieve our goals as entrepreneurs. You need to build your enterprise on your most valuable skills. So how exactly does this work?
STEP 1: Take note of your skills (writing articles, charming people into following your lead, hitting notes that Mariah Carey once did, telling jokes and stories, playing an instrument, solving problems)
STEP 2: Take a note of all your unique skills as these can help differentiate you from potential competitors. You want to give your customers something that no one else can.
STEP 3: You will probably come up with a list of things you are good at, so you need to order your skills based on your passion. The skills that make you the happiest should be at the very top.
P.S. Being great at something and enjoying something are two different things. You do not want to focus on a niche that your heart is not into.
2. Research and find your primary business stream
Now that you’ve identified the skills that you are passionate about sharing with others, your first instinct might be to make yourself known immediately. But you need to cool your heels cowboy. While passion is great, you cannot let it push planning, analysis, and research out of the way.
You need to move forward with a clear mind.
STEP 1: Find out if your skills solve a problem for your target customers. While you may be skilled in calming cats down, do people really need this skill? Will they pay good money for it?
The only way to definitively answer this question is to do your market research. When doing research you will segment your market based on demographics (age, gender, income, race) or psychographics (beliefs, interests, ideas).
STEP 2: Once you determine that your skill is desired by a certain segment of the market, you need to narrow down your focus so that you have a specific ideal customer.
For example, if your skill is in retail and your passion is in fashion, don’t just stop and say that you want to sell clothes to people on a budget.
Go further and say that you want to sell second-hand clothes to women who want casual outfits. Yes, this is very specific, but you will make a bigger impact in a smaller niche.
STEP 3: Go out and talk to your potential customers. Listen to what they have to say about the product or service that you want to offer them. They might tell you straight up that it sucks, or they might say that it caters to their needs perfectly.
Testing and regular feedback are crucial to the success of your ideas.
STEP 4: Pay close attention to the events taking place in the industry that you want to enter. Read and watch news regarding technology, innovations, expansions, cut backs, government regulations, industry leaders, local trends, national trends, and even international trends.
Keeping up to date with news will help you spot opportunities that you can turn into a valuable niche for your business. You can also use this news to shift your focus away from actions that will fail, and towards actions that will succeed.
Don’t get frustrated when the process of following industry news, conducting research, talking to customers, making adjustments to your product or service, and testing again, takes you months. Entrepreneurship requires a lot of patience on your part.
3. Turn your crazy idea into a venture
Once you have followed the steps above, you need to take action. It is at this point that you will need to totally step out of your comfort zone. You will need to put fear on the back burner, and take the leap. This risky step requires a lot of courage; however, you will be more confident when you know you’ve done thorough research and testing.
Make your dream a reality!!
4. Don’t remain stagnant
If you want to fail in business, all you need to do is remain exactly the same when everything around you is changing. Change is hard, but it necessary.
Some people believe that niche businesses are a bad idea because niche markets can discontinue. And there’s some truth in this argument; if you were in the niche of selling walk-mans a few years back, you now have no market.
But here’s the thing, as an entrepreneur you should be flexible enough to evolve with your niche. That’s why we mentioned following industry news and getting regular feedback.
If the business owners selling walkmans were attentive, they would have seen that the industry was moving towards digital musical players. Therefore their next move would be to carve out a niche for themselves in the growing digital musical player industry.
Catering to a niche market does not give you an excuse to resist change. Adapt to big and small changes alike, and improve your product, service, and bottom line. Don’t just think of what your niche market requires in the short-term, figure out what they will need in the long-term, and then make plans to provide it to them.
Your aim should be to cultivate loyal customers, not to constantly look for new customers.
And remember, the species that did not evolve eventually became extinct.
5. Time for you to expand
The whole point of this article was to show you why narrowing down your focus will help improve your chances of success. Once you have dominated your niche like Apple, Amazon, Coca-Cola, M-PESA, or Walmart, then you can start thinking of expanding into new products, services, and markets.
And how do you know whether you are dominating your niche? Simple; you will witness a regular flow of income.
Back to my point. Once you have solid footing in your niche, you can branch out without fear of spreading yourself too thin. But only once you have solid footing!
Narrowing down your focus and identifying your niche will ensure that the business model you create will leave competitors in the dust. If you’re just starting your business venture, use the tips above to identify your niche market, and then create a marketing strategy that is centered on your niche brand.
On the other hand, if you are struggling with your current venture, take a step back and see if your products and services are a reflection of your skills and passion. If they aren’t, then it’s time for you to say goodbye. I know it’s hard, but it’s necessary for you to go back to the drawing board, and follow the steps outlined above to identify a niche market that you can dominate.
I know that I don’t always follow my own advice. There are several things in my professional life that I’m pursuing which do not fuel my passion. I am a work in progress, and so are you.
However, I vow to find my niche, and you should too.
If you found this helpful, share it with your friends, family, and colleagues. Also drop me a comment and tell me about any skills that you want to turn into a successful business. And don’t forget to subscribe; I promise I won’t spam you.
It was good talking to you today, and I’ll see you back next Monday!
P.S. It’s okay to tell your customers that you don’t offer a certain product or service, let someone else do it.