4 Simple Steps To Find Your Business Niche

The average American is exposed to around 4,000 to 10,000 messages per day but less than 100 of those messages will be remembered.

We are living in the most competitive age of marketing yet. Research from StartUp Britain shows that there were 80 new companies started every hour in the UK alone last year. Why should your prospects work with you over someone else? How can you make your message stand out?

In an overcrowded market, a business niche or USP is how you differentiate yourself from the competition, how you make your offering unique and appealing. You have to find a way to make what you are selling different in order to be noticed, your solution must be different.

There’s a simple formula you can use when defining your niche:

Niche = Industry > Market Segment > Ideal Prospect > Reason/Pain Point

We break down how to do this in 5 easy steps, so if you want to cut straight to the chase skip down to the next section. If you need a little more context, we summarise some theory and historical cases that will show you exactly why you need to set this up.

Not convinced you need a niche? History speaks for itself

The idea that you need to be different isn’t new – Rosser Reeves introduced the term ‘Unique Selling Position’ (USP) in the 1940s. His teaching? In order to stand out from your competitors your advertising needs to make a proposition that they cannot match, that makes you stand out as different.

Al Reis and Jack Trout sum it up in the opening chapters of their timeless marketing classic The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing with the Law of Leadership and the Law of Category.

The Law of Leadership

The Law of Leadership states that the brands people remember are the brands that brought something to a market first: Heineken was the first company to import beer to America. They remained top of that market for decades. Even now, with hundreds of competitors across the globe, Heineken is number 2 behind Corona (which has a differentiated offering from Heineken given it is a proudly Mexican brand – more about differentiation below). Domino’s was the first home delivered pizza. Gatorade was the first sports drink. Red Bull was the first energy drink. See a pattern?

The Law of Category

If you can’t be first to offer something, and let’s face it most of us can’t, you need to come up with a different angle, your own niche, and lead in that market. This is the Law of Category – sell your category not your brand. Reis and Trout examine the success of Anheuser Busch’s strategy in the American market. Rather than attempt to compete in Heineken’s niche, Anheuser Busch realised that the fact that there was a market for an expensive imported beer in America also meant a market for expensive domestic beer. Instead of challenge Heineken at their own game, they promoted Michelob, a highly priced domestic beer which grew to outsell Heineken 2:1.*

The same can be said of Corona – offering a specifically different offering from the dutch-made Heineken in their own market with their Mexican beer, and rising to the top of the pile. Given no one actually likes the taste of Corona – a site called RateBeer.com gave the brand a 1.69 out of 10 rating for taste based on 3,200 reviews – their successful marketing strategy is truly impressive.

Michelob and Corona stand out because of their unique selling proposition (USP). Michelob is a high-class domestic beer for the American consumer. Corona is an exotic, Mexican beach-side drink that consumers associate with travel and summer. Defining your niche and coming up with a USP will grab the attention of your prospective clients, setting you apart from competitors and positioning you as the subject’s authority leader.

Let’s Get Practical. How do these 4 steps work?

  1. Identify the larger industry in which you operate. Where could you categorise your company and services? For the sake of clarity, let’s come up with an example: Dave is a social media consultant, so he would be part of the online marketing industry.
  2. Narrow your business to a specific market segment to set yourself further apart from your competitors. What exactly does your company do? What specific services do you offer? Dave works within the larger online marketing industry, so he may be focused on helping startups achieve their goals.
  3. Pinpoint your ideal prospect. Who are you providing a solution to? Who are most of your prospects? Do they fit the same profile? As a social media consultant, most of Dave’s prospects are startups with no following, who want to kick-start their online presence.
  4. Create a prospect profile and map. Ask yourself what problem you were solving when you started your business. What solution are you providing your prospect with? What reason do your prospects have for needing your services? What is their pain point, or motivation for seeking you out? For startups with no following, a pain point may be that they struggle to find their audience, and therefore create conversions.

Once you have identified these four areas, you have effectively defined your niche and USP.

But remember, your USP needs to be specific.

If Dave was to say “I’m a social media consultant who helps businesses”, his USP would not be specific enough, and he would be lost in the sea of other social media consultants selling their services.

You have to narrow your niche to resonate much more with the right prospects. If Dave was to say “I’m a social media consultant who helps startups build their audience from scratch and boost their conversions.” he would immediately stand out from the crowd.

The clearer you are with your messaging, the more success your strategy will have with your prospects, as you will be tapping into their specific reasons for needing your help. Trying to appeal to everyone means you end up affecting no one!

Try this for yourself – follow our simple steps

To keep in mind when communicating your USP to your prospects

Once you have defined your niche and USP, it’s time to consider communicating this to your prospects.

Here’s your question checklist for communicating your USP:

  • Is my USP clear from the get-go? Whether it is in the subject line or included early in the email text, this is important.
  • Am I being concise? “I’m a social media consultant who helps startups who sometimes find themselves struggling to make their audience listen, etc…” is starting to drift off course. “I’m a social media consultant who helps startups build their audience from scratch” is a good, concise USP.
  • Am I speaking to prospects that my USP applies to? Remember that not everyone who comes across your business will be the ideal prospect, so the more you can communicate to the right people without trying to make your emails appeal to everyone, the better.

When you are running campaigns it is really key to consider who your message is going out to and how they will engage with it.

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