[I originally wrote this post for Entrepreneur but I wanted to share here too..]
When you start out in the business world, instincts tell you to sell your product or service to everyone. It's understandable — why would you deliberately choose to exclude a portion of potential paying customers?
But I want to challenge that notion and explain why niching down makes everything else you do in your business much clearer.
WHAT IS NICHING DOWN?
A concept made popular by two Harvard professors, called the Blue Ocean Strategy, explains the value of niching down. Where you're in a saturated market, you're in a cut-throat space fighting for the same customers, creating a bloody red ocean. For example, in a sea of hundreds of online electric bike stores, you have to do something that sets you apart from the rest. You could slash prices, but once one store does it, it’s a race to bottom where nobody wins.
On the other hand, if you can find a corner of the market that isn't served, you can take that market all for yourself and have your very own blue ocean.
WHO, NOT WHAT
When you try to be everything to everyone, your message is generic. You can't speak to 20-year downhill racers the same way you would to a boomer trying to keep up with their grandchildren in the park. But if your message stays generic, you don’t get noticed.
Keeping with the electric bike scenario, there are plenty of ways to niche down. Think of who uses electric bikes. You could target adventurers going off road for action packed rides, retirees looking to stay active, people looking to reduce their carbon footprint or simply commuters that don’t have an hour to sit in traffic in the morning.
Let’s say you go with retirees. Now you can give a clear message with laser-focused marketing.
You can target your audience with retirees on bikes enjoying life, or product descriptions that highlight how an electric bike will help to stay active and keep up with grandchildren on those Sunday park rides.
You see? Being laser focused will attract your customers because you speak directly to them. You are no longer a generic-sounding website saying the same thing as every other store. You have your blue ocean.
HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR BLUE OCEAN
When choosing to niche down, you need to be sure there are enough people to serve.
If you've been selling to a broader audience until now, you could dive into your sales history and see who buys from you the most and look for trends. For example, if you discover there are 100,000 searches per month for ‘ebikes for boomers’ then you know you won’t run out of customers.
Once you have identified your ‘who’
Now that you know who you want to serve, so it’s time to get to work. Everything on your website should speak to your new tribe. The content you produce should be about them, their pain points and their challenges. When you have this valuable content, go to where they hangout online and share the content with them.
Don’t try to sell to them. Instead, be there, engage in their forums, offer advice, answer their questions and be their go-to person, so that yo'ure top of mind when they are ready to buy.
By positioning yourself as the expert in the space that doesn’t push for the sale, your new tribe will come to you. And when they're ready, they know who understands their needs and requirements best.
It can be daunting to deliberately eliminate 90% of your potential customer base, but when you niche down and truly serve one corner of the market, you can dominate it. Most of your competitors will be too scared to make the same call and they’ll continue to swim around in a red ocean, competing with everyone else.
When you no longer try to be everything to everyone, you truly can serve and provide real value to people.