This Niche Marketing thing, what's it all about?
This is a topic that comes up a lot in the marketing workshops I run and with my consulting clients.
The simple fact is, if you run a small business and you have a limited marketing budget, a generic ‘one message for all situations’ won’t cut it.
Imagine you’re the marketing director for a chain of hotels. You’re just about to launch a ‘fine dining’ brand in some of your biggest city-based hotels. You need a photographer to take for the new website, brochures and other marketing materials.
Who ya gonna call?
Ghostbusters!!! (just kidding).
- George. A good solid and experienced commercial photographer who has won awards. He does everything from classy weddings through to magazine and newspaper shots. His commercial work has taken him from taking pictures of North Sea oil rigs through to product shots for Mothercare. His prices are competitive, around 5-10% below industry average rates.
- Martin. He specialises in food and hospitality photography. His portfolio is exclusively focused on food, dining and hospitality pictures. He’s more expensive, around 20% above industry average rates.
Who is most likely to get the job?
Before you answer, let’s consider the different points of view in this scenario.
1. The Client Point of View
“My neck is on the line with this project. I can’t afford to make any mistakes. I’ve got one shot at nailing the marketing of this project. It has to be right. I need to be 100% sure that the creative people I hire can deliver. I’m on a tight budget, but there’s a bit of wiggle room for the right person.”
2. George’s Point of View (the all-purpose photographer)
“I can do big, I can do small. I cast my net wide to make sure I don’t miss out on any potential work. This is a cut throat business, and it’s getting harder and harder to make decent fees. So I have to pitch for everything in order stay afloat.”
3. Martin’s Point of View (specialist photographer)
“I know who my customers are. I know what they need from me. I speak their language. I operate in their world. No-one ever challenges me on price because they can see that my work delivers every time.”
Now, come the YES, BUTS…
Normally when I give this example in a workshop, I’m practically trampled to the floor with the ‘YES, BUT…’ comments.
Of course every situation is different. But I’m not saying the specialist will win every time, but I’m talking about ‘MOST LIKELY’ to get the job.
Of course there are exceptions, that’s life. I once got an incredible copywriting job for a property development firm simply because I didn’t have any property development experience - and they were looking for an entirely fresh approach. But someone like me getting that job was the EXCEPTION - NOT THE RULE.
So here’s the thing. It all boils down to two choices...
1. Spend all your energy going after ‘general work’. The same general work that everyone else goes after. You’re frightened to put your prices on your website because you’re terrified that your competitors will undercut you.
2. You can FLIP IT…. Decide who you want to work with. Study them. Find out about that market sector. Uncover the issues and challenges they face. Work out where the pain is. Then focus your marketing messages on how your offering solves that problem or feeds their desire.
Do I want a general all purpose moisturiser that smells nice? Or do I want the moisturiser that’s going to protect me from the sun, eliminate my wrinkles and firm up my sagging (Deputy Dawg) jowls?
It doesn’t mean you have to turn any new business away that doesn’t focus on your niche specialisms. It just means that from a marketing point of view, you’re focusing your energy and your limited budget to proactively go after certain sectors.
Here're the benefits of looking at this approach.
1. You won’t be spreading yourself too thin
Trying to market to everyone, especially when you’re a sole trader or very small business is exhausting, time-consuming and expensive.
2. It’s easier to spot the people you want to work with
When you’re out and about, you’ll suddenly find it much easier to detect the kind of people you want to work with or who need your product or service.
3. It’s easier to position yourself as an expert
It’s much easier to build your reputation as an expert in one market sector than it is to try and do it in hundreds. Whether we like it or not, consumers position or pigeonhole services and products. The good news is that if we focus on our niche areas, we get to control which pigeonhole we’re put into.
4. You get better quality referrals
If you do networking events, for example, it’s easier for people to refer to you if they have accurate information rather than general information. I know it sounds nuts, but it’s easier for people to refer a Specialist Food Photographer than it is to refer a General Photographer.
5. The more specialist you are, the fewer competitors you have
Specialisms are a way of blowing your ‘general’ competitors out the water.
6. It’s so much easier to do your marketing
Instead of trying to please everyone, you focus your energy on really satisfying your specialist niche.
7. You’ll get more repeat business
You’ll get more repeat business and your clients will tend to stay with you for longer.