It's Good to Be Niche: Finding Your Niche Market
It’s good to be niche. As a small business owner, you are a unique snowflake amongst the avalanche of conformity and sameness found in the big boxes. Unfortunately, as a special snowflake, it’s also true that your business is delicate and getting noticed can be as challenging as picking out a single snowflake in a blizzard. Identifying a niche market can be your way to shine, and stand out from the crowd.
What is a niche market?
A niche is that special something only you do. Now, you might think, well, I own a restaurant that makes burgers. What’s so special about that, what makes me different? It could be the special pickles you get from an Amish family in Vermont that’s been pickling since the Mayflower. Or, maybe it’s the secret-sauce ketchup you make by crushing the tomatoes in a vat with your feet…on second thought, keep that one to yourself. But, you get the picture—there’s something that you do as a small business owner that makes you special. Even if it’s not a specific product, process, or service, your niche could be you!
Take, for example, my favorite sausage maker, Uli of Uli’s Famous Sausage. Uli runs a business out of Seattle’s Pike Place Market. He’s a very real, very German Master Butcher, and he has the mustache to prove it.
You can ever wear Uli on a t-shirt!
Beyond making some of the most incredible sausage in the world, Uli also has his own very recognizable brand: Uli. Not only does his superior quality product stand out, his business also stands out because Uli is a force of nature. Everyone in Seattle’s Pike Place Market knows Uli, he’s a part of the community, part of the Seattle tourist experience, and Uli has personal relationships and partnerships with many local restaurateurs. Simply put: Uli is sausage, sausage is Uli.
The takeaway is that there is invariably some niche that your particular business fills for your customers. It can be a product, a personality, or an experience.
Finding your niche product
So, we know a niche can be fairly broad, and, whatever your line, you have a niche. But how do you identify that special something that makes you stand out to your customers? Where is your niche market?
The best place to to start looking for your niche is at the source of all your current success: your customers.
Take a minute to ask your customers what it is about your business that keeps them coming back. Or, if they’re new customers, ask how they found you. There are a number of ways you can embark on this mini-research project. You can simply ask your customers when you see them. Another, more thorough and scientific option is to leverage your existing contact list and send out a survey form. There’s no limit to the questions you can ask, but, in order to uncover your niche, at minimum, you want to ask how they discovered your business, what they love about your business, and what you can do better.
One painless way to do this is to create and send out a survey through a service like SurveyMonkey. SurveyMonkey offers a free basic account that allows you to create a survey and send it to 100 email contacts. One hundred samples is plenty to find your niche and that will give you a place to start.
It’s all about discovery. You might find that what your customers love most about your business is your amazing customer service. At first blush, this may not seem like a niche, but don’t sell yourself short. Amazing customer service is not as common as it should be, and many people are willing to pay extra for stand-out service. You may not be able to undercut the price of your competitors, but you can win when it comes to giving your customers the best experience.
On the other hand, you may find that your niche is a particular product you carry that you hadn’t thought much about when you added it to your inventory. If you’re a hat shop and you happen to carry Laulhère berets—well, you carry product from the very last company making berets in France. You might have just thought they were cool but turns out Laulhère berets are actually really hard to find in the United States, and you’d be one of the very few shops carrying this niche item.
Make sure your product fits a niche market
The best way to leverage your niche is to find the people that are searching for your special something. Start by looking at keywords. Keywords are the words and phrases that a search engine like Google uses to identify websites that match the thing being searched for.
To find these magic words and phrases, you can use a free tool like Google Adwords (you’ll need a Gmail account, which is also free). Once you’ve logged into Adwords, you’ll see the Keyword Planner.
Just click on “Search for new keywords,” and you’ll get a lovely drop down menu in which you can enter possible search terms.
Now, you’re set to find the words and phrases that will strengthen the search engine optimization (SEO) on your website (or buy some Google ads).
Let’s walk through an example of a niche product like “locally made jeans Brooklyn” and see if it’s a product that people are looking for. Putting it in our search field, we get these results:
First, it looks like there isn’t a lot of searches happening for “custom jeans Brooklyn” and Google has left the field empty. However, look further, and you’ll notice that under the Competition column, Google ranks the competition as “Medium” for the ranking for the search term “custom jeans,” which means that there is a fair chance that you can rank highly when someone searches for “custom jeans.”
Now, if you look over at the column Avg. Monthly Searches, you’ll see that, although competition is “Medium” for ad space on Google to rank for this term, there are about 1,000-10,000 people a month searching for the term “custom jeans.” That’s a healthy level of interest in a niche product and it doesn’t have a lot of competition, either.
In other words, finding search terms for your niche product with “Low” to “Medium” competition and a high average monthly search is a good indication that showcasing that niche is a good direction for your business.
Think of Google Adwords as a way to research market interest in your niche product or service before you spend a lot of time or money promoting your niche product.
If there’s interest in your product, now you can start promoting that niche.
Market your niche
Whether it’s sweet, succulent sausage, exclusive French berets, or your amazing people skills, you’ve found your niche. So, how do you tell the world that you have that special something they’ve been searching for?
You already know that marketing is a tough gig. Be it social media, email campaigns, in-store promotions, events, or postcards, the truth is, it’s going to take some work. But, you can start addressing your niche market with an easy tactic.
For instance, are you on a street with a lot of foot traffic? You’re already paying an arm and leg for rent so why not get your money’s worth with a little free advertising for your niche using something as simple as a sandwich board.
Did you know that there’s a place with the Best Burger on Earth? I didn’t. At least not until I walked by Allswell restaurant’s sandwich board in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. And, it’s kinda true. It’s a damn good burger and one of the best I’ve had. It’s their thing, and they do it really well. It might even be their niche. In fact, when you search “best burger in Williamsburg,” Allswell comes up in a number of articles and lists.
If you want something more elaborate than a sandwich board, then it’s time to start leveraging your marketing channels.
We’ve covered a lot of ground on Townsquared when it comes to marketing. Here’s a quick recap of the three marketing channels that will be most effective when it comes to your niche market.
The Internet is a seemingly infinite library, housing most of the digitized information in the world. Search engines like Google work by going through billions of pieces of data and serving up to you a list of the most relevant websites for the search terms you gave it. That’s why it’s very important that the niche product you’re promoting be featured in as much content as possible on your website. You want as much relevant and robust the content on your site about the product you’re trying to rank for in a Google search query, as possible. That increases the changes that you’ll come out on top and be the first site a potential customer visits.
Love it or hate it, almost 1.3 billion people on are Facebook, which is a lot of potential customers all grouped in one place. Not surprisingly, there’s a lot of competition fighting for the attention of users. With all the noise on Facebook, you want to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck, whether you’re paying for Facebook ads or posting promotions. The best way to get the information you need on performance is by looking at the data, which is available for free through your Facebook Page Insights. It can get bit hairy trying to decipher all the data, so, if you’re having a trouble, refer to our handy explanation for understanding Facebook insights.
Promotions for your business
Unlike content marketing and Facebook, promotions for your small business are really more targeted to existing customers. Promotions draw on the support of existing customers to refer new customers your way. The key here is that you’re showcasing your niche to existing customers who are already fans of your work. These are the folks who are more likely to become repeat customers and refer you to others.
And there you have it; you are now a niche wizard. Remember that while a niche market can be a gateway to success for any general service or product provider, it can take a lot of work to build and secure your niche market. With perseverance—and strategic planning—you can do it.