Every business must struggle to differentiate itself from its
competitors in order to make a positive impression on potential
customers and make the sale. Niche marketing is a powerful
technique that small businesses can use to carve out a market
segment in which they can excel and succeed.
Defining your niche is a process that begins with a frank
assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of your business in
comparison to your competitors, and also an analysis of the broad
customer base. Once you have identified a potential niche, research
it more intensively. Do any competitors now target that specific
market? Are their efforts effective? Is the base of potential
customers growing? Are there enough of them to be profitable?
Your goal is to focus on a narrowly defined group of customers
that your bigger or older competitors don’t really want to bother
with. Then, you have to focus on their specific wants and needs
when you communicate with them, and craft your message so as to
convey a compelling reason to do business with you.
Often, the most difficult part
of niche marketing is the nagging fear that you are losing sales by
over-specializing. It is important to realize that you cannot be
everything to all potential customers. And, as a small business,
you have a limited amount of money to spend on advertising and
marketing. It is far better to spend those dollars delivering a
well-thought-out message to a focused audience than to take a
generalized, scattershot approach. When you have defined your niche
and decided to pursue it, you have to learn not to worry about lost
customers outside of your niche.
Let’s assume that you have decided to target the “face-lift”
remodel market those customers looking simply to replace an old or
worn countertop, for instance. It would be a mistake to advertise
in a fast-growing suburb consisting of homes that are less than 10
years old. It would be wiser to advertise in an older, genteel
neighborhood with homes built 40 to 50 years ago. It would be a
mistake to get involved as an associate member of the local
association of homebuilders. Instead, consider participating in a
Convey a consistent message in your advertising and your sales
literature. In this example, you would be sure to use “before” and
“after” photos that show your countertops installed on attractive
but unchanged cabinets. After all, it is the countertops that you
are selling, not the cabinets.
Talk to your customers about their needs, and what motivates
them to decide to do business with a company. Emphasize the things
that matter most to customers in your niche group.
Successful niche marketers offer exceptional product depth in their
defined niche area.
Commit to improving your quality and your service, and
communicate that commitment and your achievements to your potential
customers. Your ads, brochures and Web site content must be written
in an engaging, relevant style that communicates a consistent
message. People don’t respond well to generalized marketing talk.
They respond when you speak directly to their individual needs.
Study your competitors, read their ads and their brochures, and
visit their Web sites. Have they defined their own niche market,
either explicitly or implicitly? Don’t try to copy them, but
emulate their successes. Chat with mutual suppliers about your
competitors and the state of the local market. Read every available
publication that deals with remodeling in your community, and as
many of the national publications as you have time for. Can you
discover an undiscovered niche in your local area that is now
unfilled? Can you fill it and succeed?
One of the most powerful tools
in niche marketing is the endorsement of a satisfied customer in
the niche group. You may receive a few unsolicited endorsements in
the form of letters of thanks. You will multiply that number many
times by asking gently for a written comment on your
The best time is upon completion of a job. Inspect the final
installation along with your customer, and present the customer
with a simple form to sign, confirming that the project has been
completed to his or her satisfaction. Underneath the signature
line, provide a space for optional comments about your workmanship
and service, and mention that when you ask for their signature.
Soon, you will have many favorable comments on file. When selecting
which comments to use, look for those that speak to the specific
characteristics of your marketing niche, and quote those often in
your marketing materials.
Another effective tool is marketing to your past customer base.
Unless you have recently made a drastic change in your marketing
approach, past customers are the core of your niche. Mail a
brochure on vanity tops to all of your past kitchen countertop
customers. Or, mail a brochure describing the benefits of a simple
“face lift” kitchen remodel to customers who’ve purchased vanity
tops or wet wall installations from you. Enclose a discount coupon
and encourage your past customers to pass it along to an interested
friend or relative. Your past customers are the most likely to know
other people who fit the characteristics of your defined niche.
Seek out and develop friendly relationships with companies that
offer related products and services to your niche market. Real
estate agents often advise people thinking of selling a home to
upgrade a shabby kitchen. Let the local agents know that you do
that sort of work.
Cabinet shops often get calls from people wanting countertops.
You may often get questions about cabinetmakers. Agree to refer to
them in exchange for referrals to you.
The niche marketing concept may seem like a clich’.
However, a niche is not a rut. The marketing plan must be
constantly reevaluated and modified to adapt to changing market
conditions. This concept is an effective tool that, when carried
out properly, enables small businesses to thrive among much larger
and better-financed competitors.