Niche marketing has been all the buzz in recent years and it makes sense, particularly when you’re starting out, to be the big fish in a small pond. By winning the undying support of a small crowd, you position your marketing efforts and indeed your business for future success. But how do you go about discovering and defining your niche?
Find the problem you will solve
This is perhaps the most complicated step on the journey. But if you can find an existing problem and solve it elegantly, you’ll always have a market, niche or otherwise.
So how do you discover the issue you’re going to solve? The easiest method is to leverage your insider knowledge. You may not see it now, but every one of us has insider knowledge. Whether this is focused around accounting software, Game of Thrones or 5-a-side football, most of us have an inside track on at least one industry or market.
Being an industry insider gives you a distinct advantage when it comes to creating a niche. Your understanding of the pain points, opportunities and future directions of your industry are a direct avenue to creating a niche.
In my case this occurred in the procurement and supply chain space. I had founded a procurement events and research organisation, and over the years had heard countless senior executives in this space discussing the fact that supplier collaboration was the future for their business. Crucially, I also learnt that the biggest hurdle to success in this area was the fact that there was no software to support this critical endeavour. My niche and my current company were born out of that insider information.
If you don’t know your industry’s pain points and opportunities, it’s time to start researching them!
Understand who you’re solving for
Once you’ve identified your niche, you need to find out who exists in it. Who are the influencers, the decision makers and the roadblockers that you’ll meet on your journey? Now is the time to understand these people and their motivations and fears in order sculpt your positioning and pitch in a way that will resonate with these people. If you win over the influencers in your space, you win the niche. Remember it’s better to have 100 people who are fanatical about your product or service than 10,000 who are lukewarm about it.
Bring your niche along for the journey
If you’re solving a niche problem, chances are you’re treading new ground. The best way to build a bond with your niche (and gain valuable market and product insight) is to involve them in the development of your product or service. Countless businesses have set out with a bold ambition to solve a business problem and have spent a great deal of time and effort in doing so only to find out when they launch, that they’ve missed the mark ever so slightly because they never involved the end user in the development phase. There are numerous ways to do this ranging from informal connections all the way through to customer advisory boards. It is vital to maintain this feedback loop throughout your product lifecycle. If you want to remain current, you need to remain in touch with your end users.
This one is tough. Throughout your journey you’ll doubtless see other opportunities and new problems to solve. It’s critical that you stay on task and serve the community and solve the problem you set out to solve. Two half solved problems do not make a whole (or a business). This can be a particular challenge for those of us with an entrepreneurial mind (probably most that have made it this far through the article).
You might question at times if your niche is big enough. To that, I’d echo the advice of Seth Godin who said in a 2014 blog: ‘There’s no such thing as a niche that’s too small if the people care enough’. If you think you need a bigger market, you’re actually saying that the market you already have doesn’t need you/depend on you/talk about you enough.
You might not need a bigger niche. You might only need to produce more value for those you already serve.
Mark Perera is CEO and founder of Old St Labs.