Here’s a sales pitch different from most you might have heard. It goes something like this: “We’re going to sell ugly, silly-looking stuff, and sell out our inventory doing it.”
Sounds kind of stupid, doesn’t it? Except it isn’t.
Start-up clothing company Shinesty.com sells what it calls “irreverent clothing.” Fox Business Small Business Center reports how this Colorado online retailer sold out of its “Christmas Sweater Suit” last holiday season on the Cyber Monday following Thanksgiving, and is already taking pre-orders for 2015.
The idea behind this one-year-old company is to sell a series of “outrageously, ridiculously bold, bright and awesome clothing” thematically pegged to holidays and celebrations throughout the year.
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The lesson here: find your niche, satisfy its needs and have some fun.
What’s the advantage to being a niche marketer? American Express Open Forum notes two:
- Niche audiences are generally willing to pay more for something that addresses their unique needs and tastes.
- Marketing is less expensive and less complicated.
Looking to Find Your Niche?
Niches may be discovered accidentally, by creating a product or service that combines two or more interests. Or, existing niches can be sought out by digging deeply into a broadly popular arena until a narrow band of customers with highly specific needs are discovered. The best niches are those with little competition. The risk is figuring out if the niche is large enough, or wealthy enough, to make a viable business.
Maybe there is a good reason no one manufactures roller skates for pet rabbits, right? But are there enough rabbit owners who would like their pets' faces on their roller skates? Thank goodness for Internet search sales. (Turns out, Rabbits on Roller Skates isn't a product but a children's book by Jan Wahl.)
According to Entrepreneur, niche marketers typically possess the following characteristics:
- Thoroughly understand their customers and engage their needs.
- Produce quality, innovative products.
- Value and reward their employees as part of a “mission” to provide something unique; they pay more to improve retention rates and promote creativity.
- While competition is often minimal or even non-existent, when it does arise, the response is to further improve quality and innovation, rather than resort to cost-cutting measures that have the opposite effect.
- Frequently are family-owned, family-oriented or created by a group of friends.
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Marketing to Your Niche
Selling to niches is different. By definition, it’s not mass marketing. Wordstream advises that you need an entirely different advertising approach.
- Social media is a highly cost-effective advertising medium for small businesses to target niche markets. Hashtags in particular are great tools to promote giveaways and other special offers that are particularly attractive to niche audiences. Social media provides instantaneous feedback on product or service satisfaction and how well you’re doing at keeping your customers satisfied. (And if you do hear about a problem or issue, make it a priority to fix it. While this is true of any business, it’s particularly true for small businesses with a small customer base. In the world of social media, word of customer dissatisfaction tends to get around. And positive word of mouth is absolutely vital to effective niche marketing.)
- Paid social media may be worthwhile to target your niche, but paid search is essential to deliver your messages to just the right audience.
- Make use of software tools like Adbeat, MixRank and WhatRunsWhere to evaluate what strategies your competitors might be employing.
Think Outside the Niche
It’s not unusual for niche marketers to become mass marketers. Starbucks, after all, started out serving a niche of consumers interested in a flavor of coffee different from the ordinary diner variety. It’s also not unusual for one niche to lead to an expansion to another niche. If you were Shinesty selling off-beat clothing to humans, might you not want at some point considering selling off-beat garb to their pets?