Recently I browsed Letterboxd.com – a social site for movie lovers and reviewers. Users can create dynamic, custom movie lists, similar to what Amazon and IMDb used to both have. The lists can be general or incredibly narrow. For example, one user had curated a list titled, “Films in which a leggy Australian performs a modernized version of ‘Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend.’ Ewan McGregor is there.” Believe it or not, there are two – Moulin Rouge and the recent Birds of Prey movie.
It seems like a silly example, I know, but imagine if you discovered that your ideal customer was someone who loved only those movies? And had a million dollars to buy exactly what you’re selling? Suppose out of the thousands of potential customers in the world, you find 100 that fit this movie criteria and are eager to spend $1-million dollars with you. Would it be worth it to you to figure out the best way to market to those 100 people to get $100-million dollars into your business? I bet it would.
I’ve discussed before how the riches are in the niches, but very few people really understand the truth of that clever statement. One of the biggest problems we here at Grow the Dream see in small business marketing is brands that want to go too far. They want to appeal to any and everybody. But that is a terrible approach.
Think back for a second to your time in college or high school. There were times when you highlighted portions of your class notes or text book. You did that because those particular bits were important or at worst, you knew they were going to be on the test. But what if you pulled out your notes to study for the exam – and EVERYTHING was highlighted? Where do you focus? Which parts are important? How can you tell? If everything is highlighted… you might as well have nothing highlighted.
To put it another way, trying to point in every direction is essentially the same as having no direction. The same thing is true for business strategy and marketing.
Stephen King has sold some 400-million books. Which means at the most only 5% of the population of the world owns just one of his books. And I throw off the curve because I own a dozen of his novels – and I’m not even an avid reader of King’s work. Yet he’s a best-selling novelist – one of the biggest in the world.
The numbers are similar for John Grisham, Dean Koontz, and Nicholas Sparks. Each holds a small percentage of the novel reading world. And while there’s some overlap – they write radically different books. Imagine if Stephen King penned a tear-jerker romance, or Dean Koontz tried typing up an in-depth legal thriller. Some folks would pick it up just for the novelty, I’m sure. But their core readers would likely be somewhat disappointed. And they wouldn’t somehow convert rabid Nicholas Sparks fans into King readers either.
Diversify and Dominate
In business, many experts will tell you the key to a good niche is finding an underserved market. A niche is a specialized or focused area of a broader market. One that you serve specifically. As author and branding consultant Charlene Walters preaches, a niche is what differentiates your business from the competition and allows you to excel in your sector.
And that’s all true.
But how, you may ask, would, say two pool installation companies set themselves apart? Both do essentially the same work, require the same expertise, the same tools, and, let’s just say they do equal quality work. They’re even in the same section of the yellow pages or a generic Google search. But company A is a smaller business, focused on single home installation sales. And company B caters to large developments – they employ a lot more people and may work on fewer, but much larger jobs.
They’re not really in competition, are they? In fact, they can exist in a near symbiotic state, if they choose. If company A is approached by a new golf course community that wants pools for all or most of their homes, he can recommend company B. And company B can return the favor for company A. Because they don’t have the same customers. And while a search in Google for “pool installation in Sarasota” will yield both of them, those aren’t the keywords either of them is targeting. If they’re smart, they’re aiming for long-tail searches with content posts that are valuable to their potential customers.
What’s more, if company A is contacted by someone they can’t serve and turns them on to a high quality company B that can, the customer is likely to remember company A positively when someone they know is looking for what they offer.
My friend Miles Allen found himself out of work back in March of 2020, when the pandemic hit. He’s an actor who was earning the majority of his income from catering gigs. In fact, he was ready to walk away from acting. But now, he had a LOT of free time and an entertaining skill. So he got on Tik Tok. He does impressions and little skits that are funny and fun to watch.
But suddenly, things exploded. He got the idea to post impressions of characters from Disney movies singing the song Savage Love. Suddenly, everyone was watching him – he’s not quite a year in and has 1.5-million followers. He doesn’t even post as much as he used to. But his top videos are all very specific – impressions of characters singing popular songs. And if you dig deeper, the various iterations of Savage Love top all of those videos. Just one song. And before you say, yeah, that’s just kids on Tik Tok, his acting career has relaunched. He’s building on success after success – all because of those silly videos.
One of the reasons we here at Grow the Dream create specific demographic and psychographic profiles of ideal customers for our clients is because everyone has a niche they can serve and serve well.
And it’s valuable for your business as well as for the customer. Being first or best in a niche allows you to charge higher rates. You’re seen as an expert, the thought leader in your field. Just ask a little company called Apple.
Marketing to and serving a specific niche builds brand loyalty and leads to a steady stream of income. Since you’ve built trust and value in your customer’s minds, they’re less likely to look elsewhere, even if they see a better one time deal.
Building Bigger Niches
We’d be rather hypocritical if we didn’t follow our own advice. And true to form, we’ve built our small business helping other small businesses grow theirs. But some of you might have come to know us through Michael Pink or Zig Ziglar or even John Maxwell or Dennis Peacocke’s organizations – some of the biggest business mentors out there.
And the blessing of being able to partner with and reach out to their much larger customer bases came, actually because we focused on our niche. In the midst of helping small businesses grow and expand, we were exposed to these organizations, and they saw the value of what we were able to offer. So they brought us in – because they saw the value of what we could do for their small business customers. We could provide value and serve a niche they couldn’t always focus on.
But not everyone who heard or read our message took our advice, signed up for our training or contracted for services. And that’s okay – the people who needed to hear it, who could use it, signed up. And some of them have grown beyond our ability to serve them with efficiency. We wished them well – and many of them sent us others who needed us. Symbiotic relationship.
No matter where you are in your entrepreneurial or small business journey, we’re here to help. If you’d like help figuring out who your ideal customer is or how to target them, please reach out. We’d love to do what we can – even if it’s sending you to someone who can better serve your needs. Because that benefits both of us.
Let’s Grow The Dream together!