Niche Now!

Small markets offer big dividends.

Niche MarketMari Gottdiener started Outsource Solutions a decade ago in San Francisco to help clients improve credit scores and resolve identity theft. A former attorney, she offered an alternative to high-priced and often unscrupulous credit “cleanup and repair clinics.” After months of networking at the local Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club, she generated awareness for her services. Still, she struggled to find clients. Gottdiener realized that she needed to reach a more targeted group of prospects.

Through research, Gottdiener learned that mortgage brokers had an ongoing need for her services on behalf of their loan applicants. She began networking with mortgage broker trade associations. She published articles about credit repair in mortgage broker trade publications, gave workshops at several mortgage offices and conducted a webinar for a mortgage broker website.

The Real Deal

GAWDA distributors know a good thing when they see it. The results of a November 2010 survey in GAWDA Connection point to just a few of the niche markets our members take advantage of:

• Artists/Sculptors
• School Welding Programs
• Hobbyists
• Auto Enthusiasts
• Trout Farms/Fish Hatcheries
• University Research Labs
• Agriculture
• Home Brewers
• Wineries
• Food Preservation
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Within a few months, Gottdiener had made the mortgage broker industry her own “Super Niche.” Prospects from all over the country sought her out, and she enjoyed a new ability to charge more for specialized services.

“My decision to focus on being the person who fixes credit problems for the mortgage broker sector transformed my business,” says Gottdiener. “It became easier to define what I could do for them and their clients. Now, my name gets passed around, and I’ve developed a special reputation within that market that makes getting business easier than ever.”

To Find a Niche: Focus!

Many business owners think that selling to the widest possible market is the likeliest path to success. The problem is that the “take all comers” approach is not very effective as an overall marketing strategy; marketing becomes expensive when everyone is a potential prospect.

Today’s small businesses share a fiercely competitive playing field. Combined with information overload, this means that it’s harder to stand out when you have a generic message. If you are merely an “equipment seller,” or a nondescript “order taker,” you risk fighting it out over price with competitors who offer identical products and services.

To rise above the fray, you need a compelling business message aimed at the right people. You need to cultivate your own market niche.

Niche by Design

You can develop a niche market without spending a lot of money. Start by focusing on the unmet needs of targeted prospects and developing a unique spot in your marketplace that flows from these fundamental principles:

  • Narrow your focus to create more opportunities.
  • Establish yourself as an expert.
  • Share what you know, so customers seek you out (instead of the other way around).
  • Offer products and services not found anywhere else—and charge more.

Narrow your Focus. Niches are, above all, manageable. You can get your mind (and wallet) around them well enough to design a marketing strategy that speaks in personal terms to real prospects. You avoid wasting time and money broadcasting your message to a general population that isn’t particularly interested in what you have to offer.

Start by identifying your ideal customers and the communities to which they belong. By targeting the best, most favorably inclined prospects within a niche, you can become your target market’s vendor of choice—and if that market is large enough, you will be a success.

Research the Markets

Market research is like sticking your toe into a lake before jumping in. If you figure out exactly which group of people you want to reach and what their needs are, you avoid wasting time and money. Once you know, you can alter your products and services to fit the needs of your target market more closely, and you can craft a message that reflects your business and your customer.

Market research does not require expensive consultants, surveys or focus groups—it can be as simple as asking your best customers the right questions. To determine if a particular niche is right for you, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do I have an identifiable target population with similar interests and needs?
  2. Is the market large enough to support my business?
  3. Can I tailor my products, services and business identity to address that market’s particular needs?
  4. Is my target market currently underserved?
  5. Can I reach potential customers in a cost-effective manner?

Establish Yourself as an Expert. When you cultivate a Super Niche, you use the power of positioning to make your business distinct, meaningful and indispensable. This enables you to establish yourself as a resource and a trusted advisor within your niche. Like Mari Gottdiener, you’ll use your expertise to communicate competence and industry leadership in a manner that is relevant and appealing to your target market.

People will pay a premium for products and services that address their special needs.

Share What You Know. Becoming a resource within your target market starts with sharing your knowledge. You can give away free information—information booklets, reports that make a difference to your prospects, valuable website content—in a way that attracts interest but does not involve sales pressure. The more you become known as a source of expert information, the more potential customers trust you. You become part of their world, a center of influence, and because people like to do business with people they know, or know of, you will be their first choice.

Offer Products and Services Not Found Elsewhere and Charge More. People will pay a premium for products and services that address their special needs. This provides you with profitable opportunities to create higher-end products and services customized to your Super Niche. For example, a chiropractor could approach moving companies with a seminar, “Proper Lifting Techniques that Reduce Worker’s Compensation Claims.” Or a career coach could target only those in mid-life with a premium-priced mentor program, “Live Your Passion After 50.”

As you establish yourself within your niche, you’ll develop a special reputation that drives word-of-mouth through testimonials, case studies and specific results from others like them.

When you cultivate a Super Niche, you own the playing field. Competitive challenges become a thing of the past. You’ll get more business with less effort and you won’t be competing with similar businesses solely on price. The best part is that cultivating your own Super Niche requires only time and attention. Now, take action!

Gases and Welding Distributors Association
Steven Van Yoder Meet the Author

Steven Van Yoder is the author of Get Slightly Famous: Become a Celebrity in Your Field and Attract More Business with Less Effort. He is located in San Francisco, California, and on the Web at www.GetSlightlyFamous.com.