Aspiring entrepreneurs are often caught in a dilemma: Should you offer a product or service that already has an established market?
Or, do you offer something that nobody else does? The first option lets you reach out to an audience that already exists.
However, this would mean that you will have a lot of competitors and this makes your job hard. On the other hand, it is difficult to validate the demand for a product or service that doesn’t have an audience yet.
Not just this, you are now responsible for not only marketing your product but also educating your target market on why they need such an offering.
Business gurus call these two choices as the "Red Ocean Strategy" and the "Blue Ocean Strategy." If you are a bootstrapped entrepreneur with not sufficient marketing budget, it makes sense to offer something that already has a market. This lets you avoid the challenge of educating the need for a product among your target group and thus simply put all your focus on marketing your brand. But how does one carve a niche that already has a lot of players? In this article, we will take a look at some ways this can be done.
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Established brands in a lot of industries price their product or service at a premium. The rationale behind this is that customers are often willing to pay extra to work with a business that is reputable. But this also gives newer entrants to the market an opportunity to get a foot in the door by catering to an audience that is price-conscious.
This helps you find your initial bunch of customers that helps set the ball rolling. But do know that this strategy is not sustainable and will only work if you intend to gradually raise prices and be profitable in the long-term. The best way to go about this is by selling your product at the same price as your rivals and by bringing it down through discounts. This way, you set the right expectations among customers and do not have to face a clientele that is unhappy with your subsequent price rises.
Fast foods like burgers and pizzas are generally considered unhealthy. So when Subway started its aggressive growth in the latter half of the twentieth century, the company positioned itself as a healthy and fresh fast food alternative. This helped Subway carve its own niche within the saturated fast food market. The first step here is to identify a negative ‘stereotype’ that exists among businesses in the segment and then offering your product as an alternative that fixes this problem.
This is a strategy that can be applied to any industry. In the cleaning industry, for instance, it is believed that in the race to offer the cheapest service, businesses routinely use products with cheap and harmful chemicals and this is definitely an issue for clients who have pets or infants at home.
Tashan Barclay, the owner of one such cleaning company in the US says that one way she broke into this saturated market was by launching her own eco-friendly cleaning product that is safe and green. Not only did this help her break into the market, but it also provided her with a sub-niche that had very little competition.
Sometimes, it may not be feasible to find your own positioning within a market. In such cases, businesses can still carve a niche by targeting a specific category of customers. The objective of this strategy is to focus all your marketing and product building effort on catering to one specific category of people. This way, you can wean this niche of customers away from generic offerings toward your specialized product or service.
Both Facebook and LinkedIn launched around the time when MySpace was the most popular social networking site. While Facebook focused on catering to university students who needed a private community of their own, LinkedIn focused on professional networking among business customers. Today, both these social networks continue to exist and there is often an overlap between the users of both these platforms.
What do you do if you offer a mainstream product or service where carving your own niche or audience seems unrealistic? In such cases, one wonderful way to penetrate the market is by creating value-added offerings that your competitors do not provide. Value additions include home delivery (where none exist), free consultations and complementary products. The idea is to enhance the value of your product or service and thereby create an unfair advantage to you over rivals.
Penetrating a saturated market is not easy and the chances of failure are significant. Having said that, a saturated market also gives you a ready-to-reach audience that you could cater to from launch day. By adopting the right strategy, it is not only possible to successfully make a mark, but also establish a loyal clientele.