The saying goes “You can’t please everyone.” And what’s more, you shouldn’t try.
Not all customers are alike. And spending time, money and manpower trying to reach all of them effectively is not only foolhardy but impossible. Each consumer demographic has its own unique needs and preferences.
The perfect tone for one audience will inevitably be off-putting to another. The most impactful messaging for one audience will be lost on a different audience. The way you position your brand with your logo and marketing materials can create excitement with one audience and fall flat with another. And, it’s not just about tone and messaging. It’s also about reach.
Small businesses simply don’t have the budget to cover every possible marketing medium and platform to reach every single consumer. Casting a huge net and hoping to catch a few fish here and there is not the way to go.
Instead, small businesses should target a focused, specific market that really connects with their product or service. This tactic (called niche marketing and sometimes, micromarketing) allows you to focus your marketing dollars on the most valuable audience – the customers who are most excited about your product or service.
Think of niche marketing as a subset of the market on which your specific product or service is focused. It’s a smaller, more precise market segment than your overall market. Importantly, a niche market is created by the combination of the target market and the specific product or service.
Despite the name, niche markets can be big. We previously wrote about Kleenex and how they created their own (large) niche market with tissues.
The digital marketing experts at ThriveHive defined niche marketing this way:
More simply put, it means a business is choosing to play to its strengths and highlight them for the people with whom it will resonate the most.
Marketing to your niche increases the likelihood that you’ll reach your target audience. It also provides natural guidance for specializing your products and services and narrows your competition. But not only that, niche marketing will provide a higher return on investment since you’re already “preaching to the choir.”
One important tip to keep in mind as you focus your marketing on a smaller niche: continue to run marketing experiments, even with smaller audiences. As we wrote previously in “How To Use Science To Improve Your Marketing”:
Many marketers develop campaigns based on intuition. Guerrilla marketing campaigns fit this mold. A marketer believes, based on experience or a “gut” feeling, that a stunt might work, and they invest time and money to execute it.
Similarly, landing pages are often designed based on aesthetic look and feel, not on their ability to optimize user conversions. Paradoxically, the best looking designs are not always best. Sometimes, aesthetically better designs simply don’t convert as well.
In contrast, marketing as a science looks to optimize campaigns and marketing tactics to maximize returns on investment. It has become easier and more practical to apply science to marketing because marketing technology has exploded. For example, smart companies routinely A/B test landing pages in an effort to optimize conversions.
The following thriving businesses have embraced their niches to create deeper connections with a narrow customer base. These businesses are getting niche marketing right. And, who better to learn from than the masters?
Flytographer is the brainchild of founder and CEO Nicole Smith. She found herself on an amazing vacation in Paris – with precious few quality photos to capture the experience. A friend was luckily available to snap a few candid pics of the trip… and the seed for a business was planted.
Flytographer pairs travelers with local photographers, capturing vacation memories and creating the perfect souvenir at the same time. They’ve developed a global team of more than 350 vacation photographers in popular travel destinations around the world. Clients book their vacation photographer through Flytographer and the photos are emailed to the client within 5 days of their shoot.
Flytographer’s niche? Vacation travelers, of course! Her business provides one service to one audience; and, it does it well. Within the first year, Flytographer was projecting revenue of more than half a million dollars. The business launched in 2013 and bookings have tripled each year since.
So what’s the secret to Flytographer’s success?
Smith provides a fun and eloquent solution to a common travel challenge. And, she was able to identify this challenge because she was a traveler herself.
Build things that solve actual problems; that people are willing to pay money for.
Flytographer meets a specific need for a very specific, but plentiful niche; and, as a result, has a built-in market and demand. Better yet, they’re pioneering their service; which will give them a leg-up when imitators inevitably appear.
In the meantime, they can focus all of their marketing efforts on connecting with travelers who want to commemorate their trips. And, as long as their message resonates, their business will continue to grow.
Your Action Items:
- Build your niche around solving a problem that you – and other people – care passionately about.
- Know whose problem you’re solving. Then target your marketing to that audience.
We just emailed the info to you.
ThinkGeek is an online retailer selling original and carefully curated third-party merchandise for a very particular audience – geeks. A social moniker that was once considered a pejorative is celebrated with affection and pride on ThinkGeek. And that may just be the key to their success.
ThinkGeek invites their audience to “Join in. Geek Out.” Their message is welcoming and encouraging. They’ve created an online oasis where geeks are free to not only be geeks, but to revel in their geekdom. And this message has been received loud and clear – in large part because of ThinkGeek’s own “geek cred.”
For its target audience—sci-fi addicts, practical jokers, anyone who has ever worn a calculator watch—ThinkGeek inspires an Apple-like level of cultish adoration.
The team at ThinkGeek has earned this loyalty because they’ve made it very clear that they really understand geeks – because they are geeks. Their original products – developed by their in-house R&D department “GeekLabs” – celebrate geek culture. Their consistent branding supports the core messages they’re communicating in their marketing.
While their products are largely novelties, the GeekLab designers think deeply about them and ask the tough questions they know their audience would ask. In the case of one product – their Schrodinger’s Cat Executive Decision Maker – this prompted merchandiser Ty Liotta to ponder,
If meowing is observing, is that determining the state?
If you don’t get the reference, that’s okay. The Schrodinger’s Cat Executive Decision Maker probably wasn’t meant for you. But the people who do get the reference are Ty’s people. And, at ThinkGeek, that’s who they aim to please.
ThinkGeek understood intrinsically that in order to connect with their audience, they needed to understand them. They are geeks creating for and marketing to geeks. They bring respect and love to their business and the products they create. This authenticity has allowed them to make knowledgeable (and profitable!) choices.
Your Action Items:
- Choose a niche that you truly, deeply understand and then speak their language in your products, services, and marketing.
- Don’t just try to sell to your niche audience, celebrate your niche audience.
Ties.com has always been very clear about their niche right from the start. They sell ties. But, their brand has become so much more than just an online retailer of ties.
What began as a mere online fashion retail business has grown into an educational hub for all things “tie”, as well as a cultural center for tie aficionados and fashionistas:
- Ties.com’s Man Academy is a sartorial guide for men featuring such articles as “How to Fold a Pocket Square: a Gentleman’s Guide to Folding,” “Tie Bar 101: The Ultimate Guide,” and “Slim Your Wallet: Put Your Wallet’s Fat Ass on a Diet.” This is a one-stop source for men’s fashion advice delivered in a playfully irreverent voice.
- Their blog The GentleManual: A Handbook for Gentlemen & Scoundrels is a lifestyle guide for the fashionable man; covering fashion, cocktails, hygiene, accessories, and bacon. Discussing far more than ties, the blog topics are selected to appeal to their ideal customer. As a result, customers have more reason to check in and stay in touch. And, the cheeky tone makes it fun to do so.
- And, the Style Guru Society features an “exclusive group of passionate menswear influencers” – not quite fashion demi-gods, but certainly not mere fashion mortals either. Each “guru” has a short feature interview and photo spread where they discuss their style and philosophy. For a fashion-conscious consumer, this group provides an ideal to aspire to.
Ties.com has cleverly mined the depths of their niche. Their products (ties and accessories) are supported by educational and community-building offerings that encourage their audience to be comfortable with, knowledgeable about, and inspired by ties and accessories.
Ties.com has gone the extra mile to build a relationship with their customer. They’ve positioned themselves as experts and the prime resource for every man who wants to know more about ties.
As a result, Ties.com has become sort of like the cool, fashionable uncle you never had who taught you everything you need to know about how to dress like a man. And when you need a tie, you can bet your bottom dollar that you’ll remember Ties.com.
Your Action Items:
- Go above and beyond to build relationships with your audience.
- Make yourself an invaluable resource to your audience by providing customized content they will value.
These businesses are thriving in their niches because they know their audiences well enough to provide services and products of true value to them. Whether it’s providing a service that only a pleasure traveler would need, designing gag products that are the ultimate inside jokes, or educating your consumer in all ways tie; these companies are speaking their audience’s languages.
That’s the beauty of a niche.
It’s all about knowing your customer so well that the product or service you provide speaks directly to their wants or needs. When faced with a company that knows them so well, how could a customer not return the favor with their loyalty?
This is where the choices you make with marketing and design either help or hurt your messaging. For example, when you market to prospective customers (especially a well-defined audience), it’s very important to be sure your messages and the design support your brand stand out. We wrote about this in “5 Ways Stock Art Is Killing Your Small Business Brand”.
Niche marketing – done well – shouldn’t be purely transactional. Instead, businesses invest in, support, and serve their niche; generating truly loyal customers who will come back again and again. These six tips will help you do just that.
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