There are many advantages to having a clearly defined niche when you set up a small business.
You will have a much easier job creating your customer avatar, selecting the best channels for your marketing campaigns, and designing marketing materials that will appeal to your audience. The main problem that comes up when you talk about niche businesses is that your potential customer base is far smaller than a business with a more general appeal. This may well be true. However, the ability to target precisely the right people in exactly the right places means you will be more likely to achieve a positive return on your marketing spend than if you have to spread yourself across multiple channels and compete with a greater number of similar businesses.
What is a niche?
It’s the buzzword that’s been attached to the simple premise of having a business that focuses on one particular service or product range and has a strong USP (unique selling point or proposition). Service niches would include such things as window cleaning, landscape gardening, tutoring in a specific subject, and book-keeping. Product niches would include owning a bookstore, breeding dogs, selling original craft items, and running a business that services a hobby such as fishing or shooting. Now you might be thinking, well there are thousands of other businesses doing the same thing, what sets mine apart? This is where your USP comes into play.
The vital role of the USP in niche marketing
Let’s take the landscape gardening business as an example. Running a business that focuses on gardening isn’t going to set you apart from all the other gardening businesses in your area, and even specifying that you are a landscape gardener isn’t going to make a massive difference – most people won’t know or care if there is a difference between a plain old gardener and a landscape gardener, however important the distinction might be to you! What you need to find is the unique element of your business that distinguishes you from every other service in your sector; your USP. For a locally based business, location can be a key part of your USP - for example; you could promote yourself as the only landscape gardener in a twenty-mile radius. Even better is having a quality or service that no-one else is offering, for instance, your landscape gardening service specializes in designing and creating ponds and water features. As long as you’re the only business offering this service in the relevant location, you will stand out because you have that uniqueness that will draw customers to you.
Using your niche USP in your website design
Now you’ve identified your niche and USP, how do you use them to good effect in your marketing? The basics of a successful marketing strategy remain the same, with the USP information directing the focus of your efforts. For instance, a website is essential for businesses these days, and it’s easy enough to create your own site using a website builder. However, if you invest in a professionally designed site created by people that are experienced in designing landscaping websites, you will have an even better shop window for your business. Creating your own site using a website builder can be effective if you have an eye for design and know how to ensure the site is user-friendly and accessible, but there is a lot of skill involved in creating a website that will stand out from the crowd. Using a bespoke service will give you more options and flexibility, and help you achieve exactly the results you’re looking for.
Using your niche USP in your other marketing activities
Your website is the foundation of your new business, around which everything else revolves. Now you need to promote it and bring in the customers, so you have to define your target market as precisely as possible. Some niches are easier to target than others, for example, a comic book store owner will know exactly what the majority of their customers will be like and what media outlets they are likely to engage with. The landscape gardener may have a slightly more difficult time because there will be a broader demographic involved. In this case, it helps to refine your customer avatar by looking at some key facts, such as the income band they are likely to be in if they’re considering spending a significant amount of money on their garden. You can then examine the potential outlets for your marketing, selecting ones that will appeal to your ideal customer’s income band, social status, age, and interests. Couple this with a focus on places people would go to in order to find a service that specializes in water features, and you’ll be at the top of the list.
Developing your niche
No matter the niche you are in, things change and in order to maintain your profile in the sector, you need to develop and change with the times. That means keeping abreast of what’s new in your sector, for instance, if you’re a gardener, the most desirable plants of the time, or the trend in using new materials for hard landscaping. It doesn’t mean you have to change your entire business – if you sell collectible books, you wouldn’t swap them for newly published ones; however, you would do well to upgrade your cataloging and management systems to make your stock as accessible to potential buyers as possible. Keeping an eye on your competition is important too because a rival in a tightly defined niche could have a significant impact. If you do find there is a new competitor challenging your position, you’ll need to re-examine your USP and make sure you are still offering something that people want, or whether it’s time to modify your offer and branch out into new territory.
Business owners with broad service or product ranges can find it a real struggle to nail down their ideal customer, target market, and USP. As a niche business owner, you have a distinct advantage, but it will only work in your favor if you make use of the opportunities such a niche provides.