Adapt and innovate are the #1 tenets of marketing. In the best business conditions, the brands grabbing the most market are those who best leverage this concept to their advantage. In a troubled economy, adaptation and reinvention may be your company’s best hope for survival. Innovate and invigorate your brand and drive your business into a niche.
In the past, this blog has talked about beginning with the end in mind. It’s back again but now with a twist, the niche. The niche is the tiny nook or cranny of the market that you define as your target. Many savvy marketing pros say that the narrower segment has distinct advantages; there are certainly many examples in the marketplace of niches done well.
So let’s take a look at what to consider when branding in the context of the niche. The key components to brand marketing don’t change. Only the perspective changes, becoming more focused and selective.
3 KEY COMPONENTS TO BUILD A NICHE
1. Your USP – Your Unique Selling Proposition
How does your offer or your promise meet this specific audience’s needs? Consider variations to your existing lines of products and services. Figure out in what way your products and services provide added value to this targeted market. Answer this question: how is my company’s offer (products and/or services) better and different from the other choices available?
When you look at the retail market for consumer products, you will see an ongoing trend of polarization between the giant warehouse stores (Costco, BJ’s, Sam’s Club) and the specialty retailer. In a mature retail market with more refined consumer tastes, product categories are getting smaller and smaller. New players are successfully entering the market in these niche categories.
In their specific niche these smaller brands are more innovative and exclusive. The smaller brands, retailers and businesses in launch mode are energized by the opportunity to satisfy a more selective market. Think micro like microbreweries – creating a small selective niche or micro market.
Tip: Look for trends by examining the demographic shifts in your industry or geographic location. Consider the ways the trends and shifts might align with your company’s product line.
2. Your Message – Your Brand
The customer is king and queen. Get to know them. Talk to them. Speak their language. What is their motivation? What keeps them up at night?
When you write your copy you are talking in the voice of someone on their team, someone who knows them. You are “in the know” and on the inside. To do this you need to be crystal clear on this market’s key issues. Are you being attentive to the customer? Are you developing customer intimacy?
The good case study for examining customer attentiveness is the consumer banking industry. One of my banks was recently acquired by a bigger bank, and this larger bank leaves me feeling as though they don’t understand me as a business owner or as a consumer. A different bank I use seems to be friendlier and more customer-focused. They are at least willing to listen to me. Be the company that listens, the company that puts the customer first at each and every stage.
When someone calls your company, are they greeting by the automated phone attendant? These phone systems are affectionately known here as the gateway to the inferno of hell. How many minutes of your customer’s time are wasted listening to what your company wants to tell them? Turn it around and find out why the customer is calling you before telling them anything.
When you create your brand and message, you’d better be delivering a benefit or you shouldn’t waste your time or money. Can you deliver on your promise? Are you engaging the customer, nurturing them and creating a dialogue, or are you talking at them?
3. Test and Measure
Look at your competition. What do they use as their key selling points? What are their price points? How do they deliver their service? What is their service like? Is there any competition at all for what you are going to offer?
Reduce your risk by testing your marketing to see how well your idea is received. Test your competitors’ marketing to see how they’re doing.
As a small business owner, one effective niche strategy is to build awareness for your brand regionally. You can avoid spreading your resources too thin by focusing most of your marketing activities within the region. Integrating the area’s uniqueness with your brand to serves to strengthen the attraction, tying your company image with the local flavor. Kraft Philadelphia brand cream cheese was an originator of this niche strategy.
Tip: Keyword research is an essential step to uncover the potential for your company to sell your company’s product or service. It’s time-consuming detective work to figure out your market’s keyword demand. At the end of the exercise you will learn the best words and phrases (compelling copy) to optimize your marketing efforts. You will learn more about your customer, regional and national market demand.
You can create quite a buzz with an integrated marketing strategy using social media to get the word out beyond the local market. The Internet is a game changer so long as you understand the commitment of time and advertising costs to build the buzz. Keyword research is one of the first steps you should take.
3 Major Niche Marketing Trends
Here are three major trends have lured many companies big and small. Nearly every product and service category and both B2B (business-to-business) to B2C (business-to-consumer) companies will be able to find a way to integrate a key trend into their brand statement.
Aging Population – Consider the fact that the population boom is aging. Shifting your products and services to the older market niche is a very popular move.
Green Movement – Consider the ecology and how many companies are tweaking their products and services to entice customers in this segment. Eco-friendly, eco-conscious, eco-products…the list of branding statements goes on. Solar energy is a category that is very popular nowadays. How about the alternative energy companies who call to entice you to switch your service from a current provider to save money?
Healthy Living – The focus on health and products for healthy living is pervasive. It’s not enough to eat yogurt every day. Touting the pro-biotic Activia® Yogurt has invigorated the Dannon® brand. Niche marketing in the health care can be seen in the line extension of famous brands like Campbell’s® with the additional of their Healthy Request® sodium-free soups.
Still stuck on finding a niche for your brand or company?
Another idea is to develop a unique feature or expertise that cannot be replicated on a larger scale. The complexity of implementation will make it nearly impossible for the big boys to deliver the concept to the market. Using this type of strategy means your company will need to attract the market segment that will value the benefits of this type of product and service.
Tip: If you cannot differentiate your product, focus on innovating the packaging. Remember when L’eggs® pantyhose launched? It wasn’t the product that was so different; it was all about the packaging. Another great example of revolutionary or at least innovative packaging is the Keurig® K-Cup®, a packaging change whose brand statement is “Keurig® brews the perfect cup of coffee.” The brand is about the benefit, not the features, of their product.
5 Niche Categories for Consumer Marketing
1st Convenience – Time-saving, easy to handle, portable
2nd Health – Natural, organic, vegetarian, medical
3rd Fitness – Slim, energy, well-being, cosmetic
4th Pleasure – Fun, sophisticated, exotic, appeals to the senses
5th Ethical – Environmental, citizenship
5 Niche Categories for Business Marketing
1st Convenience – Time-saving, turn-key, single resource solutions
2nd Ecology – Eco-friendly products and services, conservation and sustainable resources
3rd Minority/Women-Owned – Meet government contract requirements
4th Industry – Caters to a specific industry or a particular segment of the industry
5th Geographic – Limit the market footprint to economize on marketing impressions