Mark Ballett is an ecommerce expert with more than 25 years’ experience helping retailers to grow and evolve. He was Supply Director of Cable & Wireless, and CEO of several telecoms companies at the beginning of the internet era, played a leading role in an £80M broadband start up, as well as leading Norweb Telecom's growth from £10M to £100m turnover.
At the beginning of the year I suggested that finding a niche market to dominate was an essential resolution for online retailers.
for me, it is also the most important and so I want to look at it in a bit more detail.
The term “niche marketing” sounds like it is somehow different to other types of marketing, but it isn’t.
Marketing is the process of finding the best match between what you are good at and a group of customers who are looking for exactly that.
They are the ‘Niche’ and ‘niche marketing’ is simply the process of working out who they are and then communicating with them.
Some people advocate that this requires online sellers to reverse their business thinking and find an unserved niche before they finalise their offering.
That is not the case. If you have a good proposition and reasonable data analysis skills, you can use platforms like Google Ads to gain access to markets that you’d think were out of reach.
How to find your niche
Finding your niche, or finding new niches is not something you can sit down and work out in a meeting. Meetings can be great for generating ideas, but until ideas are tested, their value is unknown.
Right now, the best tool for researching ideas is Google Ads.
Don’t get me wrong, if you don’t understand the platform, or you let Google decide how to run your campaigns, then you can spend a lot of money and get very little in return.
But, if you learn the platform and continually refine your keywords, adverts and landing pages, it is possible to connect with groups of people that are looking for the things you sell (or are similar to the things you sell) relatively easily and at an affordable cost.
You can do the same with your email marketing as well. In your database there will be customers who buy at specific periods, have brand affiliations and specific interests. If you know a bit about data analysis, it is not too hard to find out who they are.
But doesn’t that cost money?
Yes it does.
The problem is that many of us have been conditioned to believe that, thanks to SEO, website traffic is free. It isn’t.
Many retailers are finding it hard to maintain high rankings and when they do click through rates are falling. Google does not make money from its natural search listings. Its strategy is to handle informational type queries using rich snippets (so browsers do not leave Google) and sell advertising in response to transactional searches.
Don’t believe me? Go onto you mobile phone and Google “new shoes”. How far down the page is the first organic listing?
SEO is not dead, but it is often difficult, expensive and speculative. It is becoming the PR-spend of the digital age.
Four steps to niche marketing success
In 2019, the best way to establish a new product category or business is to use niche marketing. You can do this by:
- Testing your proposition using email marketing (to your existing customers) and Google Ads (to potential new customers).
- Refining your proposition until you can generate profitable sales.
- Generating a speedy return by driving sales using direct marketing and paid advertising.
- Cementing your position using SEO and other PR activities.
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