Added On: Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Funny Thing About Niche Marketing

I learned a really interesting thing about niche marketing recently. Well, I suppose I had always sort of known it, but it struck me very powerfully when I experienced it first-hand.

No, I'm not talking about the fact that narrowing your marketing to a particular niche often brings you more business. Even though that's counter-intuitive, it's also the basic premise of niche marketing. What I'm talking about is that narrowing your marketing to a niche often brings you more business in other areas -- in the broader areas or diverse products and services that you're wanting to offer.

I experienced this first-hand over the past year or so. I felt like I wasn't getting as much business as I should have been, given how hot the topic of my primary business is (I advice companies on how to make effective business use of social networking and social media). So I narrowed my niche -- I decided to focus in on one particular area of specialization (in my case, the use of LinkedIn). I started a blog specifically on the topic, did some free teleclasses, signed with a publisher to be executive editor on a book series about it, etc.

And business started booming. But here's the funny thing... NOT just on the topic of LinkedIn consulting, but for a much broader range of services. See, the highly focused marketing on what is a very hot topic attracted media, prospective clients, publishers, etc. I became "the go-to guy" on the topic, but that opened up opportunities for a broader scope of work.

See, it's easier to upsell related products and services to an existing happy customer than it is to acquire a new customer. If you look around in almost any industry, you'll see this pattern. For example, International House of Pancakes, The Original Pancake House and Waffle House all serve breakfast. The first two don't just serve pancakes and the latter one doesn't just serve waffles. But that's their niche that gets customers in the door. Six years ago, Google was still just a search engine. Today, they're still the #1 search engine, but have a multitude of other offerings. Levi's makes a lot more than jeans, but that's still their core brand. One-hour dry cleaners still launder shirts.

Focusing on a niche doesn't mean you have to stop offering other products or services -- it just means that you have to find a way to clearly distinguish yourself from all of your competitors in one particular offering or to one particular market segment. You can then offer related products and services, either as an upsell to existing customers or even as an alternative to your primary product or service for those for whom it's not a good fit.

For more on finding your niche and some examples of those who have done it successfully, check out this excerpt from the former head of the U.S. Small Business Administration, Hector Barreto's new book, The American Engine: Seek an Edge by Finding Your Niche.

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