Defining a distinct niche is key to building your small business. The narrower the niche, the wider the opportunity. Easy to say, but hard to do. Where do you find your niche? How do you define it?
|Jay Ehret speaking at the 140 Conference|
Our friend Jay Ehret at The Marketing Spot wrote, “Why I don’t find a niche” also titled as “Is Niche Marketing Wrong?” Great provocative title! I’ll tell you more about Jay’s niche at the end of this post.
Here are eight ways you can define and narrow down your small business niche.
1. Build at an Intersection
Look for a knowledge intersection. Start by listing out areas you know and skills you have. Where could you make those overlap?
- Updated marketing skills for tourism: Sheila Scarborough and me in Tourism Currents
- Economic development for small towns: Jack Schultz’s Agracel
As you read each of these other ways to carve out a niche, think of how you could overlap several of them into an unassailable position.
2. Serve an Industry
What group of people are looking for what you do? Do you have special knowledge of a particular industry?
- Linen service for restaurants and food service
- More specific: for mobile food trucks
- Websites for churches and religious organizations: Emmanuel Press
3. Provide a Specialized Service
Many small businesses make a big mistake here, and try to offer every type of service or product they can for their market. Better to cut down your offerings to the ones you are the best at.
- Provide the education only, not the service itself
- Provide the service only, not education
- Certify others to provide service under your brand: Duct Tape Marketing
- Provide repair for products, no matter where purchased (Huge small town opportunity there.)
4. Target a Tough-to-Serve Customer
Some people have specific conditions or qualities that mean they have a hard time finding service. When they find out that is your specialty, you’ll have a loyal new customer.
- Daycare specializing in newborns and infants (Many centers won’t take them.)
- Serving small businesses at the stage of hiring their first employee (By definition, they don’t have much money.)
5. Provide Your Service in Unexpected Places
Go to your customers. Be a business within a business, like a snack shop inside a bank. I think the business-within-a-business idea has huge potential for small towns.
- Laundry and dry cleaning with office pickup and delivery
- Prepared meals delivered to your home
- Mobile notary services (I’ve seen their trucks!)
- The tri-state area
- Northwest Oklahoma
- Woods County
7. Offer the Best Service
Many say it, but few deliver! If you’re going to try to use service as your niche, you damn well have to be outstanding at customer service.
- Action Wholesale Liquor in Oklahoma City. They say, “Service is our specialty,” and they aren’t kidding!
- United Linen in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. They say, “We bring it!” and they do.
8. Distinguish Yourself with Price
You can be highest or lowest. Either one is better than being in the middle with everyone else.
- The classy steak place
- The cheap eats joint
Why “Small Business” is Not a Niche
Several businesses lately have told me they are targeting “small business.” That is not very well defined. That could be everything from one person working freelance to a 500 person firm, located anywhere in the world, in any industry, with any revenue amount, or with any growth pattern. Be sure you think through the additional ways you’ll target specific small business as your market.
Jay’s Niche at The Marketing Spot
Jay is the one who asked “is niche marketing wrong?” He does not target a particular industry, and that inspired me to write this post. He really does have a niche, even though it isn’t an industry. I would describe it as an educating entrepreneurial small business people on marketing skills, sharing a four point approach through speaking, events, and online content. He’s not doing direct consulting with small business; he’s teaching them. He’s not working with larger businesses and corporations. He’s excluding those who don’t want to learn. It’s a pretty sharp niche.
What other ways can you think of to niche? What outstanding examples of creative niche-work have you seen?
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Jay Ehret says
You are spot on, as usual, Becky. A true niche is well-defined and specific. There may actually be no one else doing exactly what you do. That’s my main issue with marketers defining an industry as a niche.
As far as my niche, you nailed it. We are an education company for small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs. Not everyone wants to learn, but we serve those that do.
Thanks for the guidelines and the blueprint for niching.
Becky McCray says
Jay, thanks for your post that kicked this one off. I’m sure there are more ways to niche, but these came to mind as I was writing.
Dave Thackertay says
I love the angle of knowledge intersection in this article, Becky. I run a creative communications agency specialising in podcasting here in the UK – which is rare enough, but on reading your stuff I have an inclination that I should deep-dive into a specific industry or a theme for our audio broadcasts to make them even more compelling.
Wish I was at SxSW to see you speak!
Becky McCray says
Dave, you might find some more niche inspiration here: How a small town photographer survives in a crowded field.
James Dibben says
I think the smartest thing I did was niche my target market/group.
I knew I wanted to be a business coach but that seemed to vague to me so I chose Blue Collar. The main reason is because I am Blue Collar so I also understand Blue Collar.
By making my niche Blue Collar now I can take product and service ideas that are working for others and I can use those on my niche.
If you just niche your products or service you have such a harder mountain to climb. Now you are forced to innovate so much more.
Great post, thanks for the thought fodder!
Becky McCray says
James, that is a terrific niche! It’s clear and understandable. And it is something you know. Perfect!
Referring to #7, you’re absolutely right when it comes to the need to provide the best service. It is also vital for companies to be true to their word. So often we’re misled by “deals” that aren’t what they promised to be. It’s important to follow through – that’s something that your customers will always remember.
Becky McCray says
Larry Keltto says
Hi Becky — I’m late to the party, but this is a great post. I love the “mobile notary services” niche — I could’ve used that service last week!
Becky McCray says
Thanks, Larry. I appreciate the compliment.