“Niche Down!” – I heard from one of my favorite business role models plenty of times and nodded in agreement. Serving a smaller market was something I could easily accept… well, up until I started building a strategy and not just doing things as they randomly appeared in my mind.
That was when I realized, that I liked the idea but also feared to cut off any services or any products from my existing offerings. “What if someone needs THAT product?” – I asked myself. I was also afraid to leave out potential markets… “Do I have the luxury of saying no to a new request just because it comes from outside my niche? What if my ideal customer is awaiting with plenty of money to spend on branding, but I leave her out?”
WHAT IS “NICHING DOWN”?
In traditional marketing books, niching down means having a clear focus on who your ideal target customer is and aligning your marketing to match this customer. Serving a niche market means that you talk to an individual, not the masses.
But niching down isn’t limited to the market you want to sell to. It also means to cut off the extra fluff in your business: cleaning up your product line and your whole operation. It means going from being a generic “life coach” to “life coach who gives support in a playful method to teenagers struggling with their parents’ recent divorce”.
This feels risky first, because you feel that you’ll leave someone out. You feel that you lose money on not pleasing everyone with every solution you can possibly create. But it’s quite the opposite: you risk your business success by not niching down and stretching yourself too thin.
THE RISK OF NOT NICHING DOWN
Imagine entering a restaurant. You sit down, get the menu… and it’s 500 pages long. The place serves everything from Indian favorites, like butter chicken to sushi and burgers, not to mention the high-end French cuisine staples, like fried frogs and garlicy snails…
You’ll definitely be able to find something you’d eat but would you trust the chef that he can prepare the meal well? No. I bet you would hurry out that place and go somewhere else.
Many businesses fall into the trap of trying to be everything to everyone.
Well, why not? If I serve as many different people as possible, I can become more successful. It makes sense, right?
You need to do the opposite. Find the one thing that you do differently than anyone else. The one thing that sets you apart from the rest of the world. Then, you need to niche down and offer it to those who are looking for this one thing.
Otherwise, you’ll be one in a million of businesses trying to be better than their competition, and you’ll just make more noise while fighting for attention.
When someone has a specific problem and that’s the specific problem you solve, that’s when you win. You’ll be able to offer a much more personalized solution for that customer than what you could offer with generic products or services.
THE 5 ADVANTAGES OF NICHING DOWN
#1 – CLARITY
You’ll see more clearly who you want to serve and how you want to do it. You’ll be able to define very specific target markets, needs and not just better but more personalized solutions for these needs.
This clarity will guide you in your everyday tasks from copywriting to design and new product development.
#2 – PERMISSION TO BE DIFFERENT
As soon as you start focusing on the specific needs, you’ll start coming up with more unique ideas to fulfill those needs. You’ll leave comparison behind and instead, focus on solving the problems. Your solution might be different then what others do but that’s ok.
#3 – LOYAL CUSTOMER
After helping to resolve the very specific problem of your customer in a way that is niched down exactly to her needs, she’ll be your loyal customers for good. In fact, she’ll be happy to recommend you to her friends facing the same problems.
#4 – EASIER FOR YOUR TEAM
When you niche down, your team will also be grateful for you. Instead of trying to solve everything for everyone, they’ll be able to focus on more specific tasks and see more clearly what’s your vision on the long run.
#5 – EASIER FOR YOUR BUDGET
Because you become more focused, you won’t need to apply the thousands of tools and marketing mediums out there (from TV ads to social media), and you’ll save a lot on expenses. Why would you need to pay huge amounts for local TV advertisements when your niched down market doesn’t even watch TV?
To help you better understand, what niching down can mean in real life, here are some examples:
Starsky Fine Foods
Starsky is a grocery store in the northern GTA, near my home. It’s much smaller than its competitors. It doesn’t sell any household cleaning items and it doesn’t offer insane savings. In fact, there are 3 huge grocery stores in its 1-mile circle plus a Walmart.
How can a small grocery store survive then? Well, it caters to a very specific group.
Starsky sells Eastern European food, from deli to bakery products and pantry items. Lots of Hungarian, Polish, Russian families live in this area and they all like the taste of their childhood.
So yes, when I want savings, I go to Costco or Walmart. But when I want Pick Winter Salami and sweet chestnut dessert or poppy seed strudel, I go to Starsky.
SUBSCRIPTION BOXES VS CAUSEBOX
I’ve talked about Causebox before. They created a very successful subscription box business.
The market was already filled with competitors, so Causebox could have fight with them on price or quality. Instead they decided to niche down.
While all the other subscription boxes were aimed to a generic audience (North American women, who wants to try out new beauty, home décor or fashion items every season), Causebox went one step further. They cater to women who want to support sustainability, craftmanship and education in developing communities.
All their seasonal boxes, the products they feature, and their message became clearer and different in a crowded market.
Any car brand vs Tesla
Tesla – as my husband says – played the Bigger Fool when they came out with the Roadster. Every other car manufacturer thought that there’s no imagination in electric cars. In fact, the market thought that electric cars are boring, ugly, slow and unreliable.
Then came the Roadster: exciting, powerful, beautiful and with as long range as a regular car. Elon Musk realized that there are people (a small but mighty niche market) who want something more sustainable than gas engine cars and something sexier than a Toyota Prius but no one cares to cater to them.
Tesla didn’t fight the competition, it actually made the competition wake up and start to take electric cars seriously.
WHAT MARKET DO YOU REALLY WANT TO SERVE?
So look at your own business and your market. Do you find it too vaguely defined? Can you go a few steps further and specify your market and your solutions better?
I’m not at the end of this process myself. And that’s ok. You go further and more specific along the way. Until then, share in the comments the one step you can do to start niching down – both your offerings and your target market.