What’s the deal with having a niche?

If you think back to just about every business adviser since the flood they have all said “You need a niche” and then they leave it at that other than some general statements about it being good for business.

Here’s a link to an article I wrote on another site about what having a niche means for your business, and it also tells you why they say you need to identify your market. I hope you enjoy it, and that you get some profit from it.

Why do I need a niche?

The Two Pillars of Marketing

Marketing is a much-maligned industry, often accused of various nefarious deeds that help part people form their money. But that’s not what marketing is.

Marketing is about informing – or even educating – your market about your product or service. Let me expand on that a bit.

Let’s say that you have the best widgets. They are better quality, have more features, and come in more sizes and colors than your competitors. People who use yours have a product that is easier to use, cheaper to run, and that has some additional automated features that really make it stand out from the crowd. Wouldn’t you be doing people a favour if you let them know about the real benefits of your widgets compared to others? Of course you would, and that’s called marketing.

We can assume that you have a product or service with a competitive advantage. Now you need to tell people about that. There are two areas that you need to jointly focus on, and missing out either one will mean that your marketing is less effective than it should or could be. The thing is that most marketers focus only on the second factor. You are about to learn about both.

Both are equally important. One without the other means that you are substantially paying somebody to print their magazine, host their website or whatever applies to the media you chose. In other words you are only supporting your advertising medium, you are not supporting or promoting your own business.

The first pillar of marketing is an understanding of the human mind. You have to get into step with the mind of your target, otherwise they may not even be aware of your attempt to educate them! Let’s look at that in a little more detail.

Your body is bombarded with literally millions of pieces of information every second. The cells of your skin each report back with they feel, your eyes and ears constantly provide updates as do your other senses, and you also need to control the beating of your heart and your breathing. Imagine if you had to consciously control all that.  Luckily your body has a mechanism that filters out stuff that you don’t consider important.

You have probably bought something, a special purchase like a new car, new suit, new pair of shoes etc where you thought the item was unusual, that it stood out from the crowd and you’d never seen one before only to find that on the way home you saw a half dozen of them. That’s your filter at work.

Your filter only allows things that it knows you want to know about: updates on usual things like things your partner says or does, statements by or about your favorite store for example, and things that are really out of the usual like a celebrity suddenly appearing in front of you.

Your filter wasn’t tuned in to the item you bought until you bought it, as you went back home your filter allowed them through and you became aware of them. That’s why they ‘suddenly’ appeared. You know they were there all the time, it’s just that now you are aware of them.

That just means that your marketing message has to be positioned to get through your target markets’ filter or they effectively aren’t even aware it exists.

Your message then has to demonstrate relevance almost immediately, otherwise they will be aware of your message but bypass it anyway.

This is why in printed copy your heading and sub-heading are so important, and in audio and video why the first few seconds is so important. You must break through the filter and then demonstrate relevance or your marketing message has missed its target.

That’s all good, and now you need to wrap that into something that generates an emotion – excitement, fear, loathing, happiness, joy – you must build on the initial ‘relevance’ and generate a real connection.

How do you break though the filter? You can describe their problem or the solution to their problem. That will attract their attention in the first instance.

Then you talk about how they benefit by doing business with you. For example if you have a problem with your marketing you might respond to something like:

“The two pillars of marketing – learn about the vital second pillar and become a price maker not a price taker”.

“Wasting money on advertising? Discover the vital second pillar and never waste an advert again”.

“Are you being gouged because you don’t know if your advertising agency is doing the right thing by you? Learn how to review their work and save money while producing more effective advertising”.

These are of course only a very small sample of what you could say. and you can’t see the rest of the copy, which might then describe exactly your problem with a solution that is elegant, effective and costs less than your current solution –  the point is for you to understand the use of both the filter and emotion when creating the introduction to your message.

Failure to have a solid foundation could mean that your message isn’t even consciously seen, and failure to include some emotion might mean that although they like your statement they aren’t inspired enough to follow your call to action.

Get excited for your market, tell them what you can do for them in ways that resonate with them and I promise that your business will go from strength to strength.

News Flash! Business Will Shrink!

Today I read that Facebook is predicted to fail. Not immediately, but it has been suggested that it will be 20% of its maximum size by December 2014. The cause of the demise is that younger users have been moving away. Read more about it here:http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-01-23/facebook-could-fade-out-like-a-disease-researchers/5214524

And there seems to be a debate about the value of Twitter. The company, not the tweets you send out. It is currently valued at 70 times its annual revenues. Refer http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-01-22/kohler-what-is-twitter-worth/5212376

So what does this mean for you and your business? There are two major points that I think every business owner needs to consider.

The first is that any business can fail. The biggest business on the planet in your industry is not safe. No business is too big to fail.

The second is the power of the customer. Your business must provide a need (or want) and take steps to make sure that the customer is happy. Existing customers have a habit of leaving. They change jobs, move house, retire … there are many valid reasons why their situation changes, but they will – sooner or later – stop buying from you. That just means you never stop looking for new customers.

Governments can get away with not always being polite because they legislate for people to use their services, they do not compete.

There are a number of attributes a successful business must have – and one of those is innovation. In this case innovation means additional products or services that add value to your customer, not additional problems for your customer.

How can you treat your customers better?

A Reminder: It’s All About People

I was talking with a friend a couple of days ago about marketing which led us to talk about popular searches  and just for nothing in particular I thought I’d take a look. About 80% of the most popular searches are about a person.

Not the same person, obviously, but to maybe express it more clearly the most popular searches are about people.

The most popular people appear to be those in the ‘Entertainment’ business if you are in the USA. In the UK the most popular people are still in ‘entertainment’ though most likely they will also be someone who did something noteworthy recently. That can be being evicted from Big Brother, confessing to having had an affair a few years ago (Don’t ask me, I don’t know either) or any one of a surprising number of activities that probably wouldn’t get a mention if it was an unknown who had performed them.

In Australia the most popular people were sports people. I guess that’s still entertainment?

How can this help your marketing?

Marketing is about connecting with your target market, meaning with a select group of people. It involves positioning your product or service inside their world, convincing your target market that they need it.

What the popular searches tell us is not to dwell to much on the features of your product or service, instead describe what effect they will have on the person reading your copy. People are mostly interested in people. Connect to that in-built drive and your message will be far better understood and accepted.

Describe the experience of using your product or service from the perspective of the buyer. Show them how it will improve their lifestyle. Include some comments from other people – also called ‘testimonials’.

Remember the world’s most popular radio station: WII-FM. That’s the call sign, their tagline is “What’s In It – For Me?”

Why an Elephant in the room?

We’ve all heard the saying “As obvious as an elephant in the room”. Why not a giraffe? Surely being taller that would be more obvious? Or a rhino? More likely to charge around and cause damage that means more people are likely to notice?

The answer is contained in some ancient stories from India and other places where elephants wander.

It seems that one day five blind men happened upon an elephant and they decided that they wanted to know what one was like. (No, the stories don’t say how the men knew the elephant was there)

They decided to tell each other what they experienced. One touched a leg: “The elephant is like a pillar” he said. Another touched the trunk: “The elephant resembles a snake” was his opinion. Another who touched the tail suggests “It is like a rope” and so on.

In modern context it just means that people are aware that something is amiss, but they do not have the full facts about the matter. That’s why they know they need help to solve a problem, and that they cannot solve it alone, which led to your consulting skills being hired to help them in the first place.

Here’s what Wikipedia (TM) has to say:

“In various versions of the tale, a group of blind men (or men in the dark) touch an elephant to learn what it is like. Each one feels a different part, but only one part, such as the side or the tusk. They then compare notes and learn that they are in complete disagreement.

The stories differ primarily in how the elephant’s body parts are described, how violent the conflict becomes and how (or if) the conflict among the men and their perspectives is resolved.

In some versions, they stop talking, start listening and collaborate to “see” the full elephant. When a sighted man walks by and sees the entire elephant all at once, they also learn they are blind. While one’s subjective experience is true, it may not be the totality of truth. If the sighted man was deaf, he would not hear the elephant bellow. Denying something you cannot perceive ends up becoming an argument for your limitations.”

So next time you see a group of people completely missing the point just understand that they do not have your skills or experience and so are only aware of part of their particular elephant.