Whenever you search for marketing or branding advice, the thing that crops up the most is the concept of ‘finding your niche’ or ‘niching down’, or ‘nitch‘ as my American friends say.
But what does it mean to niche down? Why is it important? And how do you do it?
Read on to find out…
If we use universal language and try to speak to the masses then our messages won’t be as impactful.
For our marketing to be successful, we need to talk to the individual. Having a focus, or niche facilitates this.
Niching down means having a clear focus on who your ideal target customer is and aligning your marketing to match.
But there is confusion here even amongst the ‘experts’. Focusing on a niche is not an end in itself, it must form part of an overarching marketing strategy. I am going to explain part of that strategy and process here so you can implement it in your business.
The problem stems from the multitude of online “gurus” doling out advice on how to achieve the impossible. Without giving any real, practical steps on how to get there. “You must niche down, you gotta focus dude”.
Let’s explore what this means and more importantly, how you might achieve it.
Classical marketing texts define a process called STP – Segmentation, Targeting, Positioning.
STP is the definition of marketing broken down into three steps.
Segmentation – Identifying customers and their needs
Targeting – Focusing on a particular group or groups (this is the niching down bit).
Positioning – How you position your brand in the target customer’s mind. How you make yourself different from your competitors. Or even better, how you make your competitors irrelevant.
One of the very first questions I ask any client is: ‘Who is your ideal customer? And what are their pains and problems relating to what you do?’
The WHO question is fundamental. If you get this bit wrong, then none of your marketing will work. I repeat NONE of your marketing will work.
And guess what, it is the most likely reason none of your marketing is working as well as you want it to right now.
Remember, the purpose here is to create a compelling brand. And messages that speak to the individual. To a human. Even most marketers forget this. You are talking to people.
Spend time profiling your ideal client and identifying a niche or segment. I promise you it will be one of the most rewarding pieces of marketing you will ever do. If you care about ROI (Return on Investment) at all in your business, don’t ignore this step any longer.
I wrote an article with more detail on profiling the ideal customer that you can read HERE.
What is a segment? It is simply a pocket or a group of people that match your individual ideal customer profile.
Now we can’t simply pluck a segment or niche out of thin air. The segment you focus on must meet criteria that qualify it as valid and worthy of your attention and your money.
Your segment(s) MUST meet ALL of the following criteria.
The segment(s) must be measurable. How many people exist in the segment? If we can’t gauge the size and scope of a segment, it makes it difficult to identify the profit and growth potential.
Research pays dividends.
You could utilise your existing customer database to distinguish main features. Or look externally to market research in your industry.
Another invaluable research tool is the Facebook Audience Insights.
Identifying a segment is no good if you can’t access them.
Whether you identify your audience segment by behaviour (plays golf). Or attitudes (hates golf), or geographical location (lives here), or a combination. If you can’t access them to offer your solution to their problem, the segment is NOT a valid target for your business.
If you run a brick and mortar business, you may start by defining your segment geographically, in the areas that you can serve. But don’t let barriers limit your choice, look at how the internet has allowed local business to access segments on a global scale. Keep an open mind.
Is the segment significant enough to justify you aligning your marketing efforts to it? It doesn’t have to be big. It just has to be big enough to be profitable for your business. If it is economically viable, then you can use it.
What is your average sale value? What is your customer lifetime value? How much does it cost to get a client? The answers will help you to determine if the segment is worthwhile pursuing.
When we speak about brand values and what drives you and your brand, it is important that the segment or niche you choose is in accord with these values. When the segment is in accord, you build your brand with integrity and authenticity. The cornerstones of establishing your credibility and desired brand positioning.
That last paragraph is IMPORTANT. Read it again and let it sink in.
The niche or segment you focus on MUST fit with what your brand is all about. If there is dissonance, then find another segment.
The first job is to identify your segment(s), it’s ok to have more than one, provided you have the resources to create clear messages for each one. Next, you can focus on targeting.
What are the problems your segment has that your product or service solves?
Relate this back to the individual customer profile. Can you see how they are inextricably linked?
This is where you link the client and segment to your offering. Sometimes changing your offering to better meet the needs you have identified.
The ‘niching down’ part means going as tightly focused as you can with your unique process. Targeting the right segment for your business while meeting the above criteria.
For example, we could segment sports, go a step further and identify martial arts as an interest, but this is still quite generic and not tightly targeted.
If we drill-down, or niche-down further we could take the martial art of ju-jitsu. We could go further still and focus on ju-jitsu practitioners who hold a black belt or above.
Let’s pretend our segment is ju-jitsu practitioners at black belt level (people who have trained in the art for many years). Can you see how our messages would need to be different than if we were targeting beginners (white belts)?
Similarly, if we didn’t know our target was the master practitioners and just used ‘ju-jitsu’, then our messages wouldn’t have the same level of impact. We would be speaking generically about ju-jitsu, but not resonating with our ideal clients.
Can you see now how the clearer you are on your targeting, the more impactful your marketing will become?
The final step is to determine how you will position your brand in the mind of your ideal customer.
Can you say in a single sentence what your brand is all about? What is your one-line response when someone asks, ‘so what do you do’?
Also known as the ‘elevator pitch’. You are in an elevator, and you have 10 seconds to explain to the person next to you what you do before you arrive at your floor. What would you say?
Try it now. Time yourself. Don’t think, just say it out loud in 10 seconds.
Was it hard? If you found it easy then well done. You have clearly focused on who you and your ideal clients are. If you found it difficult, don’t despair. You are not alone.
You can only create a concise positioning statement once you have clarity; clarity on your target audience AND clarity on your brand’s why. This statement needs to fit both the needs of the ideal client and segment and fit with your brand values at the same time.
If you are struggling, a successful formula you can use is: I/we am/are W, I/we help X to achieve Y by Z.
W = You/your brand.
X = Your target clients.
Y = What you help your target clients achieve. The outcome.
Z = How you do it
Example: I am Colin Scotland, Marketing and Brand Strategist, I help entrepreneurs to grow by embracing bold and visionary marketing strategies.
Next Steps to Finding Your Niche
Identify your ideal target client. Get crystal clear on who they are, what their pains are and how you solve these pains.
Think about it. You are trying to get potential clients to believe you are the best and only viable solution to their problem. You can’t even begin to do this if you are clueless as to what these problems are. Make sense?
Follow the STP process to map out your segment(s), targeting and positioning. The summation will be clarity. Clarity on your target client, target market, and how you intend to position your offering as the only viable solution.