Why You Need A Niche

So what’s niche marketing?

Niche marketing is focusing your product or service on a well-defined group of people. Business Plus Baby guest blogger Frances Weir of Big Book Little Book Cardboard Box sells boxes to keep toddlers’ books tidy and easy to reach. She could  sell boxes to help people store their DVDs or move house too, but she’s chosen to focus on boxes for children’s books.

Why is a niche is a good idea for a (very!) small business?

You don’t have the time or the money to reach out to a wide range of buyers, so you need your promotional activities to be focused in one place.

‘Niching’ can be scary, though. It’s tempting to try to be all things to all people because you don’t want to lose customers. The trouble with this is that if you don’t know exactly who your customers are, you can’t go to the places they hang out. And you can’t explain to them that you’ve got a fab new widget that will solve a pressing problem of theirs.

You don’t have the time or the money to reach a wide range of buyers.

Having a niche doesn’t mean you have to turn other people away. Lets say a craft shop owner discovered that Frances’ boxes happened to be perfect for storing model-making  paint pots and brushes and they wanted to buy twenty to sell in their shop. Frances wouldn’t say “No, my niche is just children’s books so you can’t have them!” In fact, she’d probably be delighted! Your niche is the focus of your promotional efforts rather than a strict rule about who you can sell to.

Here’s another big advantage: if you’ve got a niche, you can become an expert in your chosen area much faster than you would otherwise. Given the choice, wouldn’t you go to the expert first?

How should I pick my niche?

When I was training to be a coach, most of my tutors told me how important it was to pick a niche. But they didn’t fully explain how to do it, other than to pick one where I had some interest and experience. This is a good place to start, but I was missing something. The trick is to find a group of people that a) already hang out together and b) really want something that you have (or can get for them).

Why? Well it’s a lot easier to find your customers and talk to them as a group if they are already meeting up, reading the same websites or buying the same magazines. Plus it’s easier to sell to them if you have a solution to one of their problems than if you think you’ve got something they might like.

I picked ‘solopreneurs’ as my niche, one-person businesses. I’d been freelance for a few years so I knew the problems this group faced very well – ups and downs in workload and cashflow, being let down by clients, struggling to stay motivated and the Government taking an outrageous amount of tax out of your pay packet (IR35, if you’re interested!). I have always been fascinated by tiny businesses, the type where someone says “Right, I’m sick of being a cog in someone else’s machine, I’m going to do my own thing instead”. So I had both experience and a passion for this niche.

Good start.

My problem was that this was actually several niches, rather than just the one. An IT engineer working on 3 month contracts was entirely different from a self-employed complementary therapist, for example. Yes, they had similar problems, but they lived in different worlds, thought in different ways and hung around with different people. Self-employment wasn’t bringing them together at all.

If I’d picked IT contractors or complementary therapists or journalists or one (wo)man craft businesses or plumbers I might have got somewhere.

Interestingly, Naomi Dunford of Ittybiz.com has succeeded where I didn’t, but I think the secret of her success is being, well, Naomi Dunford! If you read just one of her blog posts you’ll see that she has a full-on style all of her own. It takes a lot of personality, confidence and hard work to pull that off, though.

I’ve got a niche. What should I do next?

So you tell everyone you know about your niche, you send mailings to the places where your niche gets together, you set up a Facebook page and you expect the orders to come rolling in.

All good steps, but don’t stop there. Now go and immerse yourself in that community. Get to know what’s on their minds, where they shop, what they really want from a product or service like yours. Tell them what you’re doing and ask what they think. If your product or service is slightly off track, this is where you’ll be able to realign it. Plus, you’ll become the person this community go to when they need that product or service.

Instead of being the person whose phone number is on a leaflet on the coffee table, you need to become a little bit famous in that community. Good examples of this are Amy Taylor who is the mumpreneur’s accountant and Suzanne Dibble who is the mumpreneur’s lawyer. Now neither are going to be mobbed by fans as they walk down the street. At least I doubt it!  But  if you have a legal problem as a mumpreneur, Suzanne’s is the first name that pops into your mind. If you’re a mumpreneur who is baffled by your tax return, Amy is the first accountant you’ll find.

That’s the position you want to have in your niche.

you need to become a little bit famous

You could become a bit famous in your niche by getting articles published in the magazines or websites that your niche reads, public speaking at their events, partnering with someone else who is already an expert in that niche, starting a blog, arranging events for this community, networking at their events and many more.

Now you might be thinking “how am I ever going to be a minor celeb in such a clever/talented/good looking group of people?” Yes, this is going to take little self-confidence. But once you get out there and start talking to people, you find they are just people. People like you. And if you’ve picked your niche well, you will have something valuable to offer that community. You just need to keep listening to them, giving them what they want and giving them great customer service along the way. Take it one step at a time.

So there you go, a beginners guide to niche marketing. Why not drop me a comment and tell me about your niche?

Creative Commons License photo credit: [nohide]gmtbillings[/nohide]

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