5 Ways to Find the Right Niche

One of the first steps in the business planning process is determining who your target market is and why they would want to buy from you.

emineo media nicheIt sounds simple, but do you really know what you are selling and to whom? Is the market you serve the best one for your product or service? Are the benefits of dealing with your business clear and are they aligned with those or your target customers?

If you aren’t sure about the answers to any of these questions then you need to step back and revisit the foundation of your business plan.

The following tips can help you be clear about what your business has to offer, identify the right target market for it and build a niche for yourself there.

Be Clear about What you Have to Offer

Sounds obvious, but more than just a product or service, what are you really selling? Think about it.  Your town probably has several restaurants all selling one fundamental product—food. But I’ll bet one sells drive-thru fast food, perhaps another sells pizza in a rustic Italian kitchen, and maybe there’s also a fine dining seafood restaurant that specializes in wood-grilled fare. All these restaurants sell meals, but they sell them to targeted clientele that is looking for the unique benefits each has to offer. What they are really selling is a combination of product, value, ambiance (or not), and brand experience.

So, if you are starting a business, be sure you understand why anyone would buy from you. What needs does it fulfill? What benefits and differentiators will you bring to the table that will help you stand out from the crowd?

Don’t Become a Jack of All Trades, use Strategy to Focus

One of the pitfalls of not defining what you have to offer is that you can quickly become a jack of all trades and master of none and this can have a negative impact on business growth.

Think about it from the perspective of a consumer. How often do you see marketing flyers promoting the service of a local handy man who claims to be an expert in everything from drywall installation to plumbing repairs, and so on? Now, this handyman may get some business out of his efforts, but he’d win a lot more if he specialized in doing one or two things well, building a reputation for himself, and fine tuning his marketing message.  This is why you need a strategy: it will focus you.

Identify Your Niche

The flip side of being a jack of all trades is finding your niche and playing to your strengths within that niche.  Creating a niche for your business is essential to success. For example, say you want to quit your day job and become a freelance writer. You know there’s a need in the market for a trustworthy, reliable, and consistently good technical writer – and clients are willing to pay a certain price point for that quality and value.

Now you could simply advertise your services on an online freelance marketplace, as many do, and hope to pick up any business from any customer anywhere on the map. But by identifying your niche and choosing to attract customers who will value your services, you will quickly build on that niche and be on the path towards business success.

Source SBA

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Getting Your Marketing Message Right

How do you describe your business to the world? What words sum up your brand identity and what you have to offer? Are you clearly explaining your business value?marketing-messages emineo media

It takes a little time and thought to get your marketing message right, which is why so many small businesses fall back on their “About Us” page or product descriptions to describe what they do and for whom. The problem with this approach is that this message is always about the business itself, and not about those you are trying to connect with – your customers.

Getting your marketing, positioning, and brand statements right is an essential step to building your overall business identity.  In marketing circles, it’s called the “marketing platform,” and here are some tips to help you get it right.

1. Understand Your Target Market and Niche

If you want to connect, you have to know with whom you’re connecting. For this, you need to determine your niche. Ask yourself what you are selling and to whom. Are the benefits of dealing with your business clear and are they aligned with the needs of your target customers? Answering these questions will help you focus your messaging and play to your strengths in that niche.

2. Think About Pain Points, Challenges, Needs and Desires

Every business, product, or service responds to a customer’s pain point: a need, a problem, a desire, or a challenge. How you address these “pain points” is critical to your messaging. For some businesses, like a plumber, for example, these needs seem obvious. For others, pain points may be a little harder to define. For example, an upscale seafood bar and restaurant in a suburban community may or may not be addressing a problem or pain point. But you can certainly weave a benefit statement around the fact that it’s helping residents enjoy a taste of big-city dining right on their doorsteps and meets an emotional need for good times close to home!

3. Tell People About your Product – Succinctly

Products are a key part of what you do, but they are not everything. Your product or service should only be a small part of your overall message.  Yes, it’s what you bring to your target audience, but you are offering more – customer service, agility, convenience, reliability, experience, etc. So consider all these issues in light of what they mean to your customer. What’s the “so what” factor? What benefit does it realize for them?

4. Add Proof Points

A proof point backs up what you have to say about your business. Think of it as a “don’t just take our word for it” statement. Proof points include customer quotes, success stories that you write, case studies, and references. They’re important because they show how your business has solved the problems of others. A few words or paragraphs can convey the customer’s challenge, the solution you delivered, and the results they gained.

This is a great exercise because it focuses you on the customer experience. Use these as stand-alone messages or incorporate the common themes you see into your messaging.

5. Figure out how you are Different

What makes you unique in your niche and to your target market? You’ve outlined your product and you know your customer, but how are you different from the competition? Try to tie those differences to perceived value – i.e. why should your customer care about what you do or provide?

6. Decide on a Messaging Platform

What you are aiming for is flexibility. You want to be able to slice and dice your messaging to suit your audience, your collateral, a promotion, or a sales pitch.

A common approach is to create 25-, 50-, and 100-word versions of your message. The shorter version can be used in advertising copy, elevator pitches, or sound bites in marketing materials. The longer versions give you more flexibility to add specific services, benefits, and value statements, backed up by proof points, about why customers should do business with you.

7. Use Your Messaging Consistently

Once you have your message developed, make sure everyone is singing from the same song sheet, from your sales people to your front desk and across your website and marketing pieces. The more your customers hear it, the more likely it will be to resonate and stick.

Source SBA

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Principles of Brand Strategy

In a situation where you’re selling to multiple personalities, it’s best to first connect everyone on a common ground then articulate clearly what’s in it for each of them.emineo media brand strategies

The goal is to stimulate an engaging conversation that allows us to change perception, diagnose expectations and bring clarity to the dialogue.

That’s the essence of developing a brand strategy – the foundation of your communication that builds authentic relationships between you and your audience.

It is by defining your brand strategy that allows you to utilize marketing, advertising, public relations and social media to consistently and accurately reinforce your character.

Without defining the core strategy, all channels of communication can often become a hit and miss expense.

Here’s 12 brand strategy principles I believe to be the key to achieve business success.

1. Define your brand

It starts with your authenticity, the core purpose, vision, mission, position, values and character.  Focus on what you do best and then communicated your inimitable strengths through consistency.

There are many examples of companies acquiring other brands but only to sell them off later because they don’t fit within the brand and its architecture.

2.  Your brand is your business model

Supports and challenge your business model to maximize the potential within your brand. Think of personal brands like Oprah, Donald Trump, Martha Stewart and Richard Branson.

These individuals practically built their business right on top of their personal brand; everything they offer is an extension of their brand promise.

3. Consistency, consistency, consistency

Consistency in your message is the key to differentiate.

Own your position on every reference point for everything that you do. President Obama focuses on one message only during his campaign, CHANGE. BMW has always been known as the “ultimate driving machine.

4. Start from the Inside out

Everyone in your company can tell you what they see, think and feel about your brand.  That’s the story you should bring to the customers as well, drive impact beyond just the walls of marketing.

That’s example how Zappos empowers employees to strengthen consumer perception on its brand.

5. Connect on the emotional level.

A brand is not a name, logo, website, ad campaigns or PR; those are only the tools not the brand.  A brand is a desirable idea manifested in products, services, people, places and experiences.

Starbucks created a third space experience that’s desirable and exclusive so people would want to stay and pay for the overpriced coffee.

Sell people something that satisfies not only their physical needs but their emotional needs and their need to identify themselves to your brand.

6. Empower brand champions

Award those that love your brand to help drive the message, facility activities so they can be part of the process.

If your brand advocate doesn’t tell you what you should or should not be doing, it’s time to evaluate your brand promise.

Go and talk to someone that works at the Apple retail store or an iPhone owner and you’ll see just how passionate they are about Apple.  It’s a lifestyle and a culture.

7. Stay relevant and flexible

A well managed brand is always making adjustments.  Branding is a process, not a race, not an event so expect to constantly tweak your message and refresh your image.

Successful brands don’t cling to the old ways just because they worked in the past; instead, they try to re-invent themselves by being flexible which frees them to be more savvy and creative.

Here is an example: when the economy tanked this year automaker Hyundai came out with an assurance program that lets you return your car if you lose your job with no further financial obligation and no damage to your credit.

The results?

As of end of February, only two buyers have taken advantage of this program but it has boosted their sales by 14% year-over-year in Q1, only one of the two companies increased revenue while companies such as Honda experienced a drop of more than 30%.

Follow by that campaign in July, as gas prices expected to push higher during peak summer travel months, Hyundai came out with another program that guarantees a year’s worth of gas at $1.49 per gallon on most models.

8. Align tactics with strategy

Convey the brand message on the most appropriate media platform with specific campaign objectives.

Because consumers are bombarded by commercial messages everyday, they’re also actively blocking out the great majority of them.

Invest your branding efforts on the right platform that communicates to the right channels.

Television may be expensive but it has a broader reach, wider demographics and can produce instant impact.  On the other hand, social media may seem cheap but it takes time, resources and may not give you the desire outcome.

9. Measure the effectiveness

Focus on the ROI (return on investment) is the key to measure the effectiveness of your strategies.

Often times it is how well your organization can be inspired to execute the strategies. It could also be reflected in brand valuation or how your customers react to your product and price adjustments.

Ultimately it should resonate with sales and that means profitability.  But don’t just focus increasing sales when you could be getting a profit boost by reducing overheads and expenses as well.

Give yourself options to test different marketing tactics, make sure they fit your brand authenticity and aligns with your strategy.

10. Cultivate your community

Community is a powerful and effective platform on which to engage customers and create loyalty towards the brand.

In an active community, members feel a need to connect with each other in the context of the brand’s consumption.

We all want to be an insider of something, it excites us to tell people which community we’re part of and what knowledge we posses.

In many ways it’s our ego that prides us to be part of a sports team or a professional group.

Guess what car would members of the Porsche club consider first when it’s time to purchase their next vehicle?

Brand communities allow companies to collaborate with customers in all phases of value creation via crowdsourcing such as product design, pricing strategy, availability, and even how to sell.

11. Keep your enemies closer

Even if you have the most innovative, highly desirable product, you can expect new competitors with a superior value proposition to enter your market down the road.

The market is always big enough for new players to improve what you deliver better, faster, cheaper. Call it hypercompetition or innovation economics, competition could be good for you believe it or not.

It challenges you brand to elevate the strategy and deliver more value.

Just look at how the Big Three (automobile manufacturers General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler) got crushed in the past decade by competitions from Germany and Japanese.

Not only do their competitors make a better product, they’re more efficient doing it and command a higher brand loyalty.

In 2008, Toyota overtook GM while Honda passed Chrysler in US sales.

12. Practice brand strategy thinking

IDEO’s CEO Tim Brown calls design thinking “a process for creating new choices.

Essentially it means to not just settle for the choices currently available but to think outside the box without being limited.

This concept actually applies to your brand strategy creation process that I called brand strategy thinking.

It’s always easier to execute tactics than coming up with a strategy because it implies the possibility of failure.

It’s much faster to emulate what worked for your competitor than to come up with something original and creative.

But the truth is, that’s not you and it violates the first principle of brand strategy.  Brand strategy thinking is about creating the right experience that involve all the stakeholders to foster a better strategy.

Leverage the ecosystem that includes your employees, partners and customers to help you articulate your brand strategy so they sync together.

The take away: Having a brand strategy will bring clarity and meaning to your brand so you can focus on making, creating, and selling things that people actually care about.

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