We hear a lot these days about niche markets and the huge opportunities that they offer for businesses to succeed.
This might seem a little counterintuitive when much of the rest of the business world seems to be focusing on creating big global brands. When a giant like Amazon dominates the world of online shopping and Apple have the lead on creating cutting edge computer tech you could be forgiven for wondering where the businesses with smaller ambitions fit into the picture.
But niche businesses do succeed and that’s for one simple reason: they have a clear and precise idea about who their customers are how to go about attracting them.
A niche business defined
Before we get to the ways that they achieve this, a few words about what defines a niche business. Generally, it will be an enterprise that sits within a larger sector, but which satisfies a very particular niche within that business. So, for example, within the food sector there are many businesses that will deliver to your door including all of the major supermarkets. But a business like Green Earth Organics has looked at consumer trends and found that there’s an increasing demand for fruit, veg and other groceries that are organic and which don’t come wrapped in single use plastic.
Another Irish example features one group of people who are certain to be passionate about the service being offered – dog owners. The whole premise behind Gudog is that it helps people to find sitters and walkers nearby to look after their beloved pooch. Started in Dublin in 2016 by brothers Timothy and James McElroy, the business has expanded hugely thanks to crowdfunding and now it offers the service in five other cities too, London, Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow and Berlin.
Our third example comes from the world of online gambling. While many of the highest profile sites are all about glamour and excitement, along with the chance to play games like blackjack, roulette and poker, the operators also identified a very particular niche audience – namely people who tend to enjoy the game of bingo. This has led to a proliferation of bingo sites which satisfy a particular demand.
So how do businesses like these go about attracting new customers, especially when they’re occupying a niche that may not ever have really existed before?
Surprisingly, the very fact that they’re operating in a niche can make it far easier than might be imagined. That’s because their very obvious target audiences can be fairly straightforward to find and have particular triggers that will get them to sit up and take notice.
To take the example of online bingo, it’s always been the case that the majority of players are women and the reported split for the online game is 65/35. If you take a look at most of the sites, you’ll find that their branding and look and feel is very much female-orientated with the emphasis on having a bit of social fun.
In the case of Gudog you’ll find lots and lots of pictures of adorable dogs. On the other hand, the more “rough and ready” style of Green Earth Organics makes it look like a farm shop in which you can virtually sense the actual earth is still on the produce – very different from the sanitised view of fruit and veg which is how the big supermarkets would choose to display it on their websites.
Another feature of the niche business is that its innovative nature is a part of what has attracted customers to try it out. They’ve been looking for the solution to a particular need or desire and this is where they’ve found it. But to maintain this level of interest it’s vital that the innovation continues. By constantly enhancing the product or service, and having something to talk about, it continues to create a buzz around the brand.
Attracting the media
This, in turn, is going to start to attract attention from media like papers, radio stations and even specialist websites in the same sector. Once the PR bandwagon starts to roll, this is also sure to bring in an influx of new customers and the fact that they’ve heard about the product or service through an independent source lends even more weight to message.
Another method of spreading the word that no business, of any size, can afford to ignore these days is social media. This means that any niche business that wants to start reaching its audience absolutely has to be active on all of the main platforms including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It can even be a good idea to set up a You Tube channel, especially if there’s the potential for product demonstrations of any kind.
Once a niche business has started to get a foothold in the social media landscape another feature of it can also come in to play. It stands to reason that customers for niche products or services are also likely to be friends with like-minded people. So, before long, personal recommendations might also start boosting custom. Using marketing incentives like rewards for recommending friends can also be a very effective way to build the customer base, as well as generating loyalty amongst existing customers too.
The world of Search Engine Optimisation can be a confusing one, but it’s also one that niche companies need to be on top of if they want to succeed. People will be looking for all kinds of solutions online and turning those searchers into customers means getting a business high up in the search engine rankings. But getting SEO right can mean that more and more people will click through – and getting it wrong will mean a business will never be found.
So there are many ways that niche businesses can attract new customers and keep ahead of the competition and the first step towards success is having the initial idea – unfortunately this is also the most difficult by far!