What the heck is a niche? Webster’s Business Dictionary defines a niche as a “particular market or specialty area where a company finds it profitable to concentrate its selling efforts. Niche marketing offers a concentration of clients in an area of limited competition. It can be a market niche that can be a specific geographic area, such the Mid-Atlantic Region, or a specialty industry such as sugar-free desserts, or an ethnic or age group such a Gen Y, Generation X-ers, or any particular group of people, such as people who do not own cars.” The key words here are “concentration of clients” and “limited competition. When you start a niche business you can spend more time generating business and less time looking for the market.
Finding your dream niche. A niche can be anywhere from under (or on) your nose (think Breathe Rightâ„¢strips for snorers), to cyberspace, where eBayâ„¢ and YouTubeâ„¢, among others, have generated millions. You might stumble on it. I spoke to a CPA friend of mine who only specializes in restaurant accounting. Do something that no one else will, like picking up dog poop (and make great money doing it). Sometimes, a niche can be created by improving a common product already on the market. Think the Swifferâ„¢, the sleek hand duster or Splendaâ„¢, the sugar substitute. A business that focuses on a addressing an unmet need can be a niche business too. Think grocery store chains in inner-cities, or a car sharing business for people with an occasional need for wheels. Your first assignment is finding, or inventing your niche. Here are some general guidelines:
Go With What You Know. If you have expertise in an area, for example: tax accounting, automobile repair, computers, or other profession, do you know enough to open your own business? Where would you get your customers?
Look for “You Must Be Kidding” Opportunities. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and what some would see as unattractive jobs, others see as a key to the mint. Typically, if you pursue an “ugly” business you can generally bet that the competitors will be few and the potential unlimited.
Turn a Hobby into a Money Machine. Stories abound about rib kings, cookie makers (Famous Dave Anderson, Famous Amos, Mrs. Fields, etc.) who went from the kitchen to national enterprises because they were tuned into America’s taste buds. For example, a local toy store in my area grew out of the owner’s affection for model trains. He now specializes in selling unique toy trains nationwide using the Internet.
Invent Something. Mother Necessity is always looking for solutions to problems. The Butler Bagâ„¢, PedEggâ„¢, Snuggieâ„¢ and plastic garbage bags are just a few of the many products created by inventors who made a niche where none existed before.
Why Niche? Niche marketing can be cost-effective. The more focused on who your customers are, where they shop, where they live, how often they buy things, what their values are and what their struggles are…the easier it is to sell to them. By knowing your customer you can eliminate a lot of guess work and your marketing dollars will go a lot further.
Use the internet to go deeper into your market. For example, I know a lawyer who created a website focused on Driving Under the Influence (DUI) infractions to advertise his law practice. He researched the key words people used to search for help with DUI’s and made sure to use those key words in his blog posts. His business really took off after he launched his DUI focused website. Use the web to establish your niche brand, and become the king or queen of your niche.
Do you agree that starting a niche business is the way to go? Tell me about your niche business?
Melinda F. Emerson, known to many as SmallBizLady is one of America’s leading small business experts. As a seasoned entrepreneur, professional speaker, and small business coach, she develops audio, video and written content to fulfill her mission to end small business failure. As CEO of MFE Consulting LLC, Melinda educates entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 companies on subjects including small business start-up, business development and social media marketing. She has been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, Entrepreneur, Wall Street Journal and Black Enterprise Magazine. She hosts #SmallBizChat weekly on Twitter for emerging entrepreneurs and publishes a resource blog www.succeedasyourownboss.com Melinda is also the author of the national bestseller Become Your Own Boss in 12 months; A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business That Works. (Adams Media 2010)