Don’t Fear The Niche: How To Create A Niche Competitive Positioning For Your Business (Without Fear Of Losing Customers)
Here's Some Small Business Marketing Advice: Why Being Laser-Focused About Your Offer Is Vital For Small Businesses
Back in January, I paid £100 for a fitness and diet course from vegan bodybuilder Jon Venus. Jon is an Instagram and YouTube star with a combined following of over 350k.
I’d been looking for a new fitness programme for a while
I wanted to keep my pigeon guns sculpted and my chicken legs in shape, but I wanted to find a fitness instructor who wasn’t just a run-of-the-mill ‘eat chicken breast and broccoli three-times-a-day’ sort of guy. Through a sea of online and offline fitness stars, Jon leapt off the page.
So, how did he get my attention?
Jon isn’t just an online fitness coach, he is a fitness coach who specialises in vegan bodybuilding. He also makes great YouTube and Instagram content that shows why vegan bodybuilding is a great idea.
Jon dominates a niche
He has his 'Marketing Brain' switched on, and has learned that he needn’t be afraid of focusing on a niche. Quite the opposite in fact. Embrace the niche!
In this article, I will cover:
- How you can emulate Jon, whatever your business
- Why not fearing being niche in your business will give you more customers consistently over time
- Examples of businesses who are and aren’t afraid of being niche
- Three easy ways to create a niche business
So let’s get going...
1). Why not fearing being niche in your business will give you more customers consistently over time
That’s because it’s a lot harder to get to the top (29,002 feet above sea level no less) than to reach Base Camp (5,000 feet above). Even though it’s scarier to go higher, it’s the people who reach the top of Everest that get the greatest recognition and attention, rather than the majority who stay at a lower level.
It’s similar when businesses create their own competitive positioning
Many stay at base camp. That’s the safe stage, where almost anyone can get to. Yet it’s the place where most businesses stop, where they all say the same things, and where most marketing defaults to.
Although it might feel safe for a business owner, it’s not a good place for a business or its customers, because the latter can't tell one business apart from another, and so don’t know to choose you over the competition.
It's the businesses that are brave enough to be more specific and go beyond base camp however that achieve more standout.
It makes them special, different and relevant to customers. It’s where the pot of gold really lies. Yet not many businesses manage to market their services and products in this way (as we’ll see later). But when they do, it makes for incredibly effective marketing.
You see, Jon Venus didn’t just go to Base Camp (fitness coach)
He didn’t stop halfway up the mountain (bodybuilding + fitness coach)
He’s gone to the summit of Everest (vegan + bodybuilding + fitness coach)
You can see this when you take a look at his YouTube Page below. You can see how vegan + bodybuilding + fitness is displayed loud and clear.
And it’s precisely Jon's bravery to put himself in this niche that’s made him incredibly popular and different, and successful both financially and on social media.
Yet, I’ve worked for so many businesses who ‘fear the niche’.
I hear cries of “But won’t I put off lots of other customers?”, “What if I only get a few customers and go bust?”
Well here’s the world’s worst kept secret:
If you want to put off customers and increase your chances of losing business, then stay at Base Camp. You’re in the zone of marketing yourself as ‘just another company’. It might feel safe, but customers don’t buy safe. They buy different.
Many businesses wimp out
They write marketing positioning statements that include sentences like, ‘we sell high-quality kitchens’. Or ‘we sell design solutions’.
And if you write those sorts of phrases when communicating your business, you'll find yourself in the realm of boring Base Camp at the bottom of Mount Everest. They make for an uninteresting, indistinct offer and are therefore unlikely to make customers stop in their tracks.
Let’s take a look at some businesses who stay at Base Camp and those that reach the summit…
2. Examples of businesses who are and aren’t afraid of the niche
Let's look first at some who have shied away from the niche ...
a). Fitness First Gym
How is this message different from any other gym? And who says it's necessarily for a gym? It could be for a host of other things, like a course on self-confidence or a computer game.
There’s nothing specific or interesting here, so the reaction is, ‘so what?’
b). A nameless small business solutions website selling generic business solutions
My first question is what do they sell? What products and services? What does 'Best-in-Class' mean? There’s very little here to keep our eyeballs on the page, which means it’s time to move on..
c). A small coffee shop
Feel like you've heard it all before? Everyone from Starbucks to Nescafe offers 'exclusive coffee blends'. Whether you're a high-street outlet or an independent coffee house, what coffee company doesn't proclaim to be passionate about their brew?
However, there are lots of good examples of businesses who don't fear the niche and communicate their business clearly...
‘Search the web to plant trees’.
You can’t get much clearer than that. And look at the little counter that shows you specifically how it’s working. Not only is that specific, it's interesting. Who says that niche should be feared?
2). HP Printers focus in on one problem: how one printer can bring down an entire company.
Okay, HP isn’t a small business, but look how focused this mega brand are when it comes to selling their Secure Managed Print Services. And they have a lot of customers.
Managed Printing Services sounds dry doesn’t it, until you realise that they have focused on one specific, interesting area: how one printer can bring down an entire company. That’s some Jonny Big Balls news right there, whatever company size you are. And that's why they can offer to be the industry's strongest print security protection. Who'd have thought printers could spark such emotion?
3). A small gym in Bangalore called Unleash.com
This small gym in Bangalore have focused on the tangible, niche area of “getting your clothes to fit”. Most of us know exactly how it feels after we’ve rinsed through a few too many Ben&Jerry’s Cookie Dough tubs.
Even though they are both to do with fitness, Unleash and Jon Venus focus on different areas i.e. ‘vegan body building’ and ‘getting clothes to fit’. Both manage to be specific and interesting (rather than being broad and general) while being part of the wider fitness market. And it's by focusing on a niche offer or niche problem that gets customers to pay attention.
So how can you do it for your business? Let's look in the final part.
3). three easy ways to create a niche business
Think about what your company offers today.
Is it on Base Camp level? Is it halfway up the mountain? Or is it at the Everest summit? If it’s the latter, well done, you're onto a winner.
But if not, there’s work to do.
So what needs to be done?
i.) The first way to creating your niche is to talk to one of your ideal customers and find out what their specific problem is that they care most about.
When developing my business, I interviewed my ideal customer early on, and her problem was: ‘how do I get chosen over competitors down the road who keep taking my business?’. I focused on this area of ‘getting chosen’. Which then led me further on to the niche of 'how to interrupt customers’ brains' in order to help my ideal customer get chosen more often.
Notice the ingredients there? Be interesting and be specific. And that came from interviewing a customer, finding out their biggest problem and hooking it into my own expertise (marketing strategy in my case).
ii). The second option you could try is to focus on a specific audience with a broader, more generic offer.
Home insurance (broad offer) for mums under 40 (specific audience) for example. Or Running Shoes (broad offer) for marathon runners (specific audience).
This can work well. I’ve recently worked as a consultant for a London content & media marketing agency who specialises in B2B technology brands. They are doing incredibly well. This is because they didn’t fear the niche, and didn't try to focus on all customers. Let's look at what they did...
- Content Marketing – nope, they skipped that level (Base Camp)
- B2B Content & Media Marketing – they skipped that level too (Half-Way Up The Mountain)
- B2B Content & Media Marketing for Technology Brands – ooh, hello profitable niche right there (The Summit)
Yes, they’re ‘nailing that niche’ (if you’ll excuse the Millennial language there), and by not fearing it, they are bringing in business left, right and centre.
iii). The third way is to is to take it further so you have both a niche audience and a niche offer.
This might be: Home insurance for properties worth over £1million for mums under 40. Or Hatha Yoga for people recovering from back injuries.
The Brain Wheel's niche audience is ambitious but low-ego small business owners. We don’t call it out often, but it shines through in our testimonials.
Of course, you could try all three ways. It's up to you.
But how niche is too niche?
It is possible to ‘over niche’ yourself out of business if your audience is too small and your price point is too low. Such as, 'Engine Oil For Men Who Only Drive Ford Escorts selling for $10 a time' isn’t a sound offer. Or 'Macha Green Tea for Health Fanatics Who Are Under 10% bodyfat for $3 a box' isn’t going to buy you your mansion, yacht or pet panther.
So if you are going to focus on being ultra niche (i.e. having a niche audience and a niche product), you have to own that niche market space and charge a premium to make it worth your effort.
But what if you are still afraid of being niche?
Remember, we naturally feel safe copying what everyone else is doing. We are herd creatures by nature, and that's okay. But when it comes to marketing, being part of the herd isn’t the best way to market your offering.
Instead, being niche is the secret to appealing to lots of customers
Being niche makes you interesting and specific and that's what gets customers' eyeballs and brains paying attention in the first place.
Just like Jon Venus, the vegan bodybuilder. And look how well he’s doing. Who thought vegan bodybuilding could be so popular?!
Now, I’m off to the gym to sculpt my pigeon guns and chicken legs.
Simon | The Chief Brain
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