I’ve been reading Toby Marshall’s excellent book “Small Business Internet Marketing”, and he says something that I completely agree with:
“If you don’t have a niche, don’t even think about SEO [search engine optimisation]. Complete waste of time unless you are a giant corporation. How can you optimize for everything? Dumb to even think it’s possible.”
Not only do I agree with him, I think it’s one of the biggest mistakes business owners make with their on-line strategy (In fact, with their business strategy overall).
It’s tempting to think that because you’ve got a presence on the World Wide Web that you can reach the world. You can’t. Focus on a specific target market, and work on reaching them instead.
I don’t know a sure-fire formula for success, but trying to be all things to all people is a sure-fire formula for failure.
Find a niche, and serve that niche!
Most businesses make the mistake of trying to reach too many people in their market – which leads to more competition, soaring promotion costs, and minimal differentiation. They cast their marketing net too wide, scared that if they don’t reach out to everybody, they will miss opportunities and lose market share to their competitors.
Take the opposite approach and focus on smaller niche markets. The smaller your market, the better your offerings for that market – which means you can raise your prices, increase your profits, and virtually eliminate your competition.
By all means, search wide to find the right niche markets. But, when you find them, dig deep.
Here are some examples of businesses catering to niches:
- Sales trainer: Focus on a particular industry, such as pharmaceutical companies or financial planners.
- Book shop owner: Cater for readers who would like to form, run or join book clubs.
- Financial planner: Concentrate on a particular demographic group, such as young professionals or single parents.
One of my favourite niche marketing stories is about Internet marketing expert Frank Kern, who makes $1,500 a month from a Web site selling an e-book that teaches parrots to talk. The key to his success is that he’s chosen a tiny niche market. He’s not teaching your bird how to talk (though there is a “Bird Talk” magazine!); he’s not teaching you how to look after your parrot; and he’s not going for the wider market for pet owners. Rather, he’s chosen a specific group of people. There may not be many of them, but his e-book is perfect for them.
- Your products are tailored to the needs of a smaller market, so they are more valuable to customers.
- You understand many of your customers’ needs already, so it’s easier to build rapport and get to the heart of their problems.
- You speak their language, not yours, which puts you a long way ahead of most of your competitors.
- Customers see you as a trusted adviser, not just a supplier. They’ll ask for your help and trust your advice – even when they want help about choosing suppliers!
- You’ll get more referrals from customers who recommend you to their colleagues in the same industry.
- You can charge a higher price for your products and services, because they more closely match the customer’s requirements (That’s why a brain surgeon charges more than a GP).
- There’s less competition. For example, if you’re a book shop owner, when you go head-to-head with Amazon.com, you’ll probably lose. But if you focus on local book clubs interested in theme nights, you target needs that Amazon.com doesn’t service.
- Instead of aiming for expensive mass-media advertising, you focus on lower-cost exposure that more suits your market – particularly on the Internet, with things like participating in forums, commenting on blogs, sending Twitter messages to your followers, and joining certain membership sites.
- When your customers know that you’re offering specific solutions to their real problems, it makes the sales process so much easier for you.
- You become recognised as an expert in the niche, rather than a supplier pushing a product or service to the market.
Finally, remember every customer is already a niche of one. So if you’re not niche marketing already, you’re missing the point.