Niche Marketing – What is It?
In marketing it’s understood that if you claim your market to be everyone for a specific product or service, it will likely result in no one purchasing. In other words, the more targeted your products and services are to meet the specific needs of individual customers, the better chances you have to generate interest, satisfy those needs and create, sustain and grow profitable customer relationships.
According to Susan Ward in About.com, “A niche market can be defined as a focused, targetable portion of a market. By definition, then, a business that focuses on a niche market is addressing a need for a product or service that is not being addressed by mainstream providers. You can think of a niche market as a narrowly defined group of potential customers. For instance, instead of offering cleaning services, a business might establish a niche market by specializing in blind cleaning services.”
Some advantages of a successful niche marketing strategy can include:
- Higher-margined business,
- A competitive advantage among other small businesses who don’t know of your niche and among large businesses who simply do not want to bother with that particular segment, and
- More efficient and effective use of marketing that is streamlined and targeted.
Ward goes on to say that “The trick to capitalizing on a niche market is to find or develop a market niche that has customers who are accessible, that is growing fast enough, and that is not owned by one established vendor already.”
Niche Marketing, An Example (from marketingtitan.com)
Toyota, a huge company with a global focus on the auto business, is an excellent niche marketer. They were one of the first companies to realize there was a group of car buyers who would be very interested in environmentally friendly cars. Toyota answered this need with development of the legendary Prius, the first mass production hybrid car. Where other car manufacturers saw Toyota taking a huge risk, Toyota saw it as an opportunity to identify a new niche and establish its brand in that niche. In marketing, it is often the first brand to market, if executed successfully, that can own the niche market with their brand.
Once Toyota took the plunge, it pursued an effective niche marketing plan. It didn’t promote the Prius in just any media. It focused on media outlets that were watched, read or listened to by people concerned about the environment. For example, it heavily promoted the car through environmental groups and their publications. As the only game in town at that time, Toyota not only dominated the niche – it was the niche. Today, with increased competition in this niche market, the Toyota Prius is still highly regarded as the niche leading brand.
Simply identifying holes in the market and filling them, is, often times not enough. It takes extensive research, careful planning, execution and extreme adversion to risk to successfully develop, introduce, execute and dominate a niche market with a specific product or service.
Guiding Rules to Successful Niche Marketing
You can minimize your risk for taking on a niche market by following some basic rules:
- Meet the customers’ unique needs. Find the sweet spots. Offer benefits that specifically appeal to that market niche. Be sure what you offer is new, unique and/or compelling to service their needs. Kim Gordan, author of “Maximum Marketing, Minimum Dollars,” in her article “Three Rules for Niche Marketing” suggests to “start by considering all the product or service variations you might offer. When it comes to marketing soap, for example, not much has changed over the years. But suppose you were a soap maker and you invented a new brand to gently remove chlorine from swimmers’ hair. You’d have something uniquely compelling to offer a niche market–from members of your neighborhood pool to the Olympic swim team.”
- Listen first. Then, say the right thing. Listen first and understand your niche market’s hot buttons, or what makes them respond, buy and evangelize (don’t forget ‘evangelize’ as we are living in a social media-influenced society). Forums, ratings, and other online networks are great for this. Then, speak their language, as if you are one of them, yet communicate as they prefer to communicate with companies like yours.
- Manage production and distribution costs. Selling a large number of narrowly targeted products and distributing those products does not have to be a huge undertaking. Standardized production for many slight variations is likely possible if you are manufacturing a product. Consider flexible and/or shared inventory and distribution methods. The same holds true for a service business where specific training is necessary in order to distribute specialized services to specific audiences.
- Use messaging to differentiate and always test-market. Know your competitors and be sure you know how your product or service will differentiate. Analyze competitors’ ads and other marketing collateral to get a good understanding on key selling points and where you fit in. Always test-market carefully to test the market’s receptiveness to your product or service and message. Manage your risks and move cautiously.
- Know when to cut your losses. Establish success thresholds and realistic metrics to know when it’s time to drop a niche market offering. A good example of this is the “flavor graveyard” on Ben & Jerry’s website. It serves as a reminder to all companies that the flip side of creative expansion of a product line is understanding those that no longer resonate with the customer. The other side of that coin as we all know are many successful niche flavors (thank you Ben & Jerry for that!)
Remember, successful marketing entails creating, sustaining and growing profitable customer relationships. Niche marketing fits in well with that. Find and win your niche market and successful sales and profits will follow.
- Gordan, Kim,“Three Rules for Niche Marketing,” March 4, 2002.
- Clemons, Eric, Nunes, Paul, Reilly Matt, “Six Strategies for Successful Niche Marketing, Wall Street Journal, May 24, 2010.
About the Author
Angelo Biasi is General Manager of SMART Marketing Solutions, LLC, a leading full-service integrated marketing company in Florida and New York since 2001. He has helped create and execute marketing plans and integrated marketing solutions for companies such as Playtex, Bic, Rogaine, Tauck, and over 35 colleges and universities, to name a few. Angelo has an MBA in Marketing from the University of Connecticut and teaches Marketing at New York University where he has for over six years. He has been quoted and/or featured in USA Today, Mobile Marketer magazine, Mobile Commerce Daily, Luxury Marketing magazine, BNET TV and Business Currents magazine, to name a few. For more information or to learn more, email him at abiasismartmarketingllccom (abiasismartmarketingllccom) , visit www.smartmarketingllc.com, call him at 239.963.9396 and follow him on Twitter @angbiasi.