I was recently interviewed
by a print magazine about niche marketing. In it, I offered several tips and
ideas on how to carve a niche in the marketplace. Here are a few of them:
1) Michel, what do you do? How
do you do it?
If you know my personal
story, you know how niche marketing played an important role in my career.
Long story short, I feared
rejection immensely, which led to a reclusive childhood. I wanted to
overcome my fears and decided to dive into the world of sales in order to
fight them. Years passed and many failures ensued until I finally became the
top producing salesperson in Canada for a Fortune 500 company.
How did I accomplish that?
Since I hated prospecting, I found and developed more effective marketing
strategies that caused high quality prospects to come to me instead of the
other way around. I no longer had to prospect. I no longer had to be
rejected. In short, I went from prospecting to positioning.
In other words, I decided
to specialize in a specific niche -- even though my employer did not require
it of me. I positioned myself as an expert in a specific area (for a
specific target market). Essentially, even though I could sell everything to
everyone from this employer, I decided to specialize in only one product
line for one particular category of prospect.
As a result, I attracted
pre-qualified prospects to my door.
People today are bombarded
with information, commercials and competition. Prospecting online is not
only difficult but also impossible, nowadays. Thus, you have to market in
such a way that causes those kinds of people to come to your business or
website, and not the other way around -- like a magnet.
Therefore, rather than
prospect for clients you must position your business as unique in a
particular category or industry, or for a specific audience or market. And
by being unique, you will naturally become the leader. With all the
competition out there, it is no longer possible to be better than the
others. The goal, therefore, is to be different -- and not better.
2) What is niche marketing? Why
is it important?
Today's world has become
overcommunicated and hypercompetitive -- one huge blur of sameness, in my
estimation. If you attempt to be too general or too wide in your approach,
you will only dissipate among the blur. And people will not see any greater
value in buying from you than in buying from the competition.
One of the greatest errors
committed by most new businesses is that they fall into a trap: they try to
be "all things to all people." And they do so because they are mislead by
the notion that, by offering more (or by serving more people), they will
generate more sales. That's understandable for the survival of any new
business depends on the number of sales it makes.
Based on the law of
averages, you will have to advertise quite heavily so to be in front of as
many eyeballs as possible, all with the hope of attracting an adequate
amount of prospects that will in turn translate into a certain number of
Undeniably, this requires a
gigantic advertising budget.
For most new and especially
smaller businesses, this is quite a challenge if not impossible. Admittedly,
it is true that, the greater your reach is, the greater the potential
quantity of responses will be. But what about quality? Would it matter if
your business or website generates a large quantity of uninterested visitors
that will simply never buy from you?
Let's look at the Internet.
If your online business targets everyone, then your marketing message (and
that includes your website) must therefore be painted with broad
brushstrokes as to appeal to everyone. And the challenge with such an
approach is the fact that you will lose a large percentage of visitors.
They may fall into your
target market, but visitors that leave your website do so because they
likely feel left out or become uninterested fast. Others simply choose
competitors that might provide them with greater perceived value. In other
words, the broader you are in your appeal, the less relevant you will be to
any and every individual visiting your site.
If your site sells
everything, chances are that your audience will not perceive any greater
value in shopping from you any greater than from anyone else. In fact, the
only common denominator, with which they have to work, is price. If there
are no other points of comparison, naturally the cheapest alternative wins.
Sales will increase
dramatically if your site is centered on a specific theme, product,
industry, people or outcome. A niche, in other words. Put in a different
way, the more focused you are, the less you will need to produce a
sufficient quantity of website visitors to produce similar results.
3) How can someone find a good
A good niche is one that:
- is easily identifiable
- is easily targetable.
The most commonly asked
question I receive from aspiring entrepreneurs is this: "What product should
I sell?" (Or "what sells well on the Internet?") Quite frankly, everything
sells (and can sell well) -- from pet food to travel packages -- in some
way, especially online.
In fact, everything is
being or can be sold, somehow, in some form or another. But that's not the
problem. It's not what you sell -- it's to whom. In other words, don't look
first for a product to sell. Look for an easily targetable market with an
easily identifiable need -- a need for a specific product, be it a good or
service -- and provide them with that product.
In order to achieve this,
you need to be observant and listen to the needs of the marketplace.
If people seem to be asking for a specific solution to a problem, obviously
it is because a niche exists that has yet to be filled. Once you have found
a niche, everything will flow from that point. In fact, if you follow this
tactic you will constantly find products to sell.
Simply put, don't carve a
niche. Rather, find one and fill it.
4) What are ways to become an
expert in a particular niche?
If you offer a customary
service or if your competition offers the same thing you do, catering to a
niche helps to project an aura of uniqueness and superiority instantaneously
by virtue of the fact that it doesn't appear as customary. Rather than
copying your competition, you isolate yourself from them.
For instance, if you
required brain surgery, would you choose a dentist? Would you choose a
general, medical practitioner, even a general surgeon? Not really. You would
probably choose a neurosurgeon. It's the same thing for other products. If
you owned an imported car that needed new brakes, would you choose any
general mechanic? Or would you choose one that not only specializes in
brakes but also specializes in imported cars?
Expertise is in the eyes of
the niche. Specialization is in itself a marketing process that, as a
byproduct, generates the perception of expertise. It's amazingly effective
in creating "top-of-mind" awareness among a specific target market.
For instance, an accountant
specializing in car dealerships will acquire more clients than a general
accountant will. An advertising salesperson specializing in home furnishing
stores will sell more advertisements than a typical advertising agent will.
A photographer specializing in weddings will get more bookings than a
regular photographer will. Ad infinitum.
As more businesses get
started, and the more inundated with marketing messages our society becomes,
the less time, energy and money people will have to spend in choosing the
companies with which they will do business. Thus, specialization helps to
solve that problem by projecting an aura of expertise.
Take the mechanic,
mentioned earlier. Rarely would you call a general mechanic an "expert
mechanic," unless she has invested a considerable amount of resources in
branding herself that way, or in educating herself deeply in the world of
mechanics, backed by many, many years of experience. On the other hand, it
would be easy to dub a mechanic -- even a new one -- that specializes in
imported car brakes as an "expert mechanic."
Similarly, by finding and
dominating a niche, you can become an expert by design -- not by default.