You’ve most likely heard of the term niche market before. Often business owners are asked specifically what theirs is by business advisors, accountants, financiers and other owners. What we’ve found though, is that there is a reasonable amount of owners who still haven’t identified their own, or have little understanding of what the term means.

Let’s give you an example. Jess runs her own business selling handmade baby clothing. From merino baby coats through to cloth nappies and baby bibs, it is certain she is working within the baby clothing market However, this is a wide market with many variables, and what she should be focusing on is one specific aspect of that niche market. This will narrow her focus within the baby market, but allow her to specifically tailor her marketing, manufacturing and messages specifically to her target audience.

To help you find and dominate within your niche market, we’ve put together this handy article.

What is a Niche Market?

A niche market is a small specific part of a larger market. It is a gap in the competition, something that no one else is targeting or can target as you can. Your USP or unique selling point targets a highly refined customer audience, and this forms a big part of how you find your niche market. For instance, your target audience will need to have either a large potential for growth as well as a significant amount of market potential.

Like most businesses, the chosen niche tends to be a passion of the owner of the business. They often have an interest in a specific industry or experience within it. For instance, a person has always enjoyed gardening. A sudden redundancy has allowed them the opportunity to start up their own business and they’ve chosen to focus upon the plant industry. They are tending to lean towards the growing of plants from seeds rather than opening up a nursery, on-selling to retailers and not the general public.

How to Find Your Niche Market

You’ll already have identified the broad market you want to target, be it women’s shoes or gift baskets. What you need to do is narrow this down further using five key points:

  • Price – will the product be low or high priced? Does it need to be regularly discounted?
  • Quality – will it be a handmade product, mass-produced, premium or economical?
  • Location – will the product be marketed in a certain country or city?
  • Demographics – what is the age, income level, education and gender of the target market?
  • Values – what morals, values, attitudes and interests does the target audience have?

In the case of Jess and her handmade baby clothing, she used the five key considerations above and further narrowed down her niche to merino baby booties. She will now have the clarification she needs regarding her niche to be successful:

  • Price – mid to high priced booties, no discounts.
  • Quality – handmade in small batches.
  • Location – New Zealand wide, mainly in large cities
  • Demographics – tertiary educated, double-income families, female
  • Values – like artisan products, limited editions and one of a kind products

From here, Jess can take this information to adapt the content on her website, where she advertises, the social media platforms she targets, as well as the manufacturing and pricing of her products.

Then next comes the creation of a business niche or niche strategy to help your business take over the world or your specific target market that is. As well as identifying your target market and the unique selling proposition you can provide, you’ll need to research and understand your target audience intimately, create a business plan and start marketing to them. This moves us on to the world, or rather niche domination.

How to Be Successful Within Your Niche Market

Having identified your niche market, then now is the time to put all of your hard work into play. Of course, if you have not been thorough enough, now is also the time you’ll find out and may need to head back to the niche identification stage.

Assuming everything is all good with your work though, you’ll be able to start marketing within your identified niche. You’ll already have an advantage that the big players don’t have, and that is a highly targeted audience. It is to them that you will consider when making every decision you now come to. This means you’ll need to:

  • Identify the best ways to communicate with your market. Do they want face to face contact, or would they prefer using social media or emails?
  • Instigate a solid communication strategy with your target audience. Trial and error, surveys, questions and asking for feedback will help you identify what works best. Then once you’ve nailed it, it is important to set a regular schedule for communication with them and let them know what it is.
  • Offer products which you know your target market will want. Remember you want to be highly specific here. You can’t provide the enormous selection the big players can, but you can be very narrow in your offerings to your great advantage. Customers who want exactly what it is you are selling will want to deal with you because they can get what they want when they want it.
  • Keep growing and seeking advice. No business is an island onto itself. Asking for support from a business advisor can help keep you on the right path, solve issues as they arise or help hold you accountable for following your business plan.
  • Be a real person. This means making a personal connection with your audience, moving away from being a faceless name and instead be someone they can relate to.
  • Be accessible. Provide exceptional customer service, tailoring the ways you do things to meet the needs of your audience. Take the time to ask for and respond to feedback, as well as utilising the optimal communication channels.
  • Market your business. Having an excellent understanding of your target market, you’ll be able to run the most effective advertisements in the right locations for best uptake. Make sure you can keep an ROI for all marketing promotions you undertake, as these will ensure your money is always well spent.

Finally, being successful within your niche means sticking to it! It can be tempting to add another product or advertise to a different audience because of hearsay or a special offer being promoted. That’s why it is vital you have an in-depth business plan in place which clearly identifies what you are selling, who you are targeting and where you will be selling.

For advice on finding and succeeding within your market niche, we can help. Get in touch and make a time to chat with one of our business advisory team and let’s get busy.

As many business owners are experiencing, the COVID-19 pandemic has created serious financial difficulties for entrepreneurs. Small businesses especially are faced with cutting their budgets so they can continue to operate—even at a smaller scale—and not have to close for good. They also have to figure out how they can continue marketing themselves so once the pandemic is over, their customers and clients come back to them.

During a financial crisis, a company’s marketing budget is often one of the first areas to face cuts, but halting marketing entirely is a dangerous move.

Instead, try these tips for marketing on a tight budget.

Create video content from home

Video is increasingly becoming a popular marketing tool and it doesn’t have to be expensive. All you need is a smart phone or computer with a camera and some time to film yourself. Create a video series that can be posted on your website or social media feed. Encourage staff to create videos as well, although don’t force them to if they aren’t comfortable with it.

Depending on your business, you can post helpful tips for clients or show some behind the scenes of how your company operates during COVID-19. Hairdressers can show clients how to cut their hair at home (or how not to cut it). Personal trainers can show videos that break down different exercises. Dog groomers can show how to clip pets’ nails or wash the ears.

Host an Online Course

With people staying home and trying to stay entertained, many are looking for ways to keep their minds active. Hosting an online class is a great way to keep your business at the front of their mind, market yourself, and even continue earning money. Develop a course or class that solves your customers’ problems during COVID-19 and advertise it on your website and on social media. It’s up to you if you charge people to attend the course or if you offer it for free.

Think of the obstacles your clients face while they can’t access you and create a course to help them address that issue. Many people right now are looking for ways to keep their meals interesting with limited opportunities to shop. Restaurants or chefs could offer a class (or classes) in creating fun meals with pantry staples or mixing fancy cocktails, for example.

Keep your Social Media Going

Your social media marketing is often free or inexpensive and it keeps people aware of your business. Make sure you continue marketing with your social media posting, even it it’s just to post links to COVID-related resources or informative articles that your audience will appreciate.

Play around with your social media plan to see if there are ways to reach a wider audience without spending a lot of money. Facebook often has credits that make its sponsored posts free or almost free. Those posts reach a wider audience than your regular posts and can bring people to your website.

Divert Cash if you Can

You may have budgeted this year to spend marketing money at trade shows or networking events that will not happen. Instead, put that money in your digital marketing budget. Rather than having your marketing money spread out, focus on one or two areas that get you higher return on investment. These include areas such as search engine optimization and social media.

Final thoughts

It’s tempting to not continue marketing to save money right now, but you run the risk of not having customers when the pandemic is over. Instead, maximize your budget by diverting money into one or two focused areas. Finding ways to engage your customers through videos, online classes and social media will also ensure you’re ready to go when the social distancing is over.

Please get in touch with us if you have any questions. Alternatively, reach out to a marketing expert like The Marketing Baker.

Before you go down the path of seeking capital from outside your business or borrowing funds, identify any other ways of raising capital. If you need funds then sometimes it’s not a loan that you need.

Identify areas in the business to make savings

There’s a good chance that you can generate at least some of the capital you need by using business savings. If you can generate the cash internally, it’s often a better option that increasing your debt or taking investors on board. Look at how much you’ve got available in cash reserves or what contracts or payments are due.

Then look at ways you can make savings and increase your cash flow, such as selling equipment you don’t use very often (and leasing it when you do need it), cutting down on travel expenses, moving some staff from full-time to part-time roles, re-negotiating deals with suppliers for better credit terms and reducing your own salary.

It’s also important to chase up any late payers. Make sure you have robust systems in place for handling debt and collecting what you’re owed.

You’ll be surprised at how much all these savings can add up, generating more cash in the business that can be used to reinvest in business growth.

Shorten Cash Cycles

Shortening your cash cycle will increase your cash reserves, keeping your business going and providing a buffer in times of financial uncertainty. The longer your business goes without cash, the longer it takes you to pay your creditors, and the riskier your business becomes. Encourage your customers to pay using online and mobile payment options – the cash is then in your account immediately. If you have to invoice, do it immediately and incentivise your customers to pay early, such as offering discounts. You can also shorten your credit terms.

Focus Your Attention on Sales

Increasing sales is one of the best ways to improve profitability and bring more cash into the business. There are a number of different ways you can improve your sales numbers, such as making sure you and your staff are all trained in how to cross-sell and up-sell, investigating new distribution channels like an online store, implementing a professional sales system so that you can track customer buying behaviour and predict their needs, or even look into franchising your business if demand warrants it.

It’s important to remember the 80/20 rule: 80% of your sales will come from 20% of your customers, so look into ways you can sell more to your existing customers while still trying to gain new customers through your marketing strategies.

It’s always worth considering a price increase too. There are ways to increase your prices without losing sales, and it’s something that should be done now and again, even if it’s just to keep up with inflation.

Alternatives to Capital

Before you jump into researching the different sources of capital that are available, first consider the alternatives. It could be that, depending on what your growth goals are, you don’t actually need extra capital, you just need to be thinking a bit more creatively.

Raising Capital to Grow Sales

If your main goal is to increase sales, you don’t always need extra cash to be able to do this. There are other options that can help your sales numbers and it’s worth looking into them before you go borrowing money.

Strategic alliances are often worth checking out. Business owners are increasingly discovering the advantages of joint ventures and strategic alliances and many experts see strategic alliances as one of the best paths to rapid growth. There are many ways in which you can work with other businesses or people, ranging from short-term joint ventures to more formal long-term commitments. You can form strategic alliances with suppliers, with customers or with complementary businesses or with non-profit organisations such as charities. Think of how often you see a Subway attached to a service station.

It might also be worth looking at updating your business model. A change in your business model might help you find new opportunities for growth to increase your business’s revenue. Direct selling is the shortest route between your business and its customers. It involves buying directly from you without any go-between. It’s probably the simplest and certainly the most direct business model.

Like many businesses, you might currently sell some items through the web but is it time to make a bigger investment in the online world? Global e-commerce is rising daily and the opportunities for growth are significant.

Whether you want your goods distributed widely through wholesalers or via carefully selected retailers, the tweaks you can make to your distribution channels are almost limitless. If you’re a retailer, you might consider also selling at the wholesale level, and vice versa.

Raising Capital to Expand

Your goals may be more focused on expanding your business and you’re considering how to increase your capital to do this. Before you borrow the funds you need, consider other ways of achieving expansion.

For example, look into leasing equipment instead of buying it. If you want to boost your capacity so you can handle more orders, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to fork out for the additional equipment you’ll need – you can lease it. The monthly lease payments are often less than what loan repayments would be. You can also lease equipment only when you need it, rather than having it sitting around gathering dust and being unproductive when you don’t.

It’s also worth looking into contracting out some work, especially for large projects. Contractors will often have all the resources they need to handle work, and when you bring them on board you’re getting access to those resources.

You could also consider forming partnerships to jointly produce your goods. For example, if you manufacture coffee tables, you might align your business with one of your suppliers, making it cheaper to get the raw materials you need.

Talk Through Your Options for Raising Capital

There is a lot to consider when looking at raising capital. To talk through all your options, get in touch with an MBP Business Partner. You can book in a free 30 minute chat with us HERE.

Bootstrapping is figuring out how to reduce the cash you need to start or run your business, by eliminating any unnecessary overheads while finding out who will give you a hand.

If for whatever reason you’re not able to raise enough capital to start-up you might be able to get what you need by ‘bootstrapping’ (finding what you need through unconventional or low-cost methods).

Some Options to Consider When Bootstrapping

Can others lend you what you need?

You don’t have to purchase new equipment to start your business. Think about what items you might be able to borrow over the short term or do without until the business grows.

Draw up a list of your asset needs and make a determined effort to borrow from others what you can while searching online for second-hand items that will save your business money. Are there people you know that are already in business who could lend you what you need?

Call in favours

Time to talk to friends, other business owners’ and family to see which assets, time or money they can help with. It’s a common bootstrapping technique to save money and chances are there is more help out there than you realise.

Reduce your set up costs and overheads

Look at the bare minimum you’ll need for your own living expenses and cut your salary or work for no pay for a time. It’s quite common for business founders to put in this unpaid ‘sweat’ equity to start with.

Look around your home and decide what you can sell to raise the cash you need. If your business is that important to you then sell everything you can.

Harness free

Search online for what’s happening in your industry to see if there is any specific support in your industry.

Find willing volunteers

Tap into any family and friends that are willing to help which could be cash or just a helping hand setting up and spreading the word you’re in business. You’ll be surprised who in your circle of friends will help.

Work from home

Depending on the type of business you’re beginning, you may be able to work from home or use a workspace that costs little or even nothing. There are lots of shared office options and some businesses with spare capacity may rent out their spaces or equipment to save you signing up to long leases or buying equipment.

Harness social media

You don’t need a large marketing budget to build a customer base. The Internet can help you develop a strong presence for free.

Whether you decide to create a presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram, regular interactions and postings are the keys to gaining customer awareness.

Use crowd funding to raise cash

Having gained popularity over the last few years, crowdfunding lets you receive donations on the Internet to help get your business idea off the ground. You can offer people incentives to encourage them to get behind your business.

Some examples include:

Each of these sites has great case studies and examples you can view.

Delay payment

Possibly you can negotiate with suppliers a much longer payment cycle, free trials or a number of months’ rent free in a new lease agreement.

Low cost marketing

Effective marketing can be creative rather than costly. Some ways you can get your brand in front of potential customers include:

  • Email campaigns – as you begin to sell to consumers’ you’ll want to get them coming back for repeat purchases. This is where building an email contact list and sending out regular deals with calls to action can keep your business going.
  • YouTube videos – images can speak louder than words, and video even more so. Whether you’re explaining what your business does or showing how a product works, videos are a cost-effective medium for getting your messages across to your target market.
  • If you sell direct to other businesses then use up some leather and go visit (walk, drive, call, fly). Face to face meetings don’t require an advertising budget.
  • Build word of mouth referrals by actively asking new customers to refer you. Don’t wait for word of mouth to build over time as it tends to be too slow.

In summary outline all the ways that you can save money by first reducing what you need and then from what you can borrow. Spend your time like a currency and do as much as you can yourself (with friends) before you start paying others.

Your next steps

Research your local industry to see if there is any specific start-up grants, subsidies or support that you may be able to tap into and talk to your trusted advisors (like your accountant) if you’re looking to fund from the crowd to make sure you’re doing the right thing.

List everything you need and brainstorm with others how you can get access without paying for it and be confident you’ve accumulated more goodwill than you think; if you don’t ask you won’t get.

Book in a chat with us to discuss your next steps. The chat is free, so is the coffee. We also have access to a range of 50% and 100% funded business services.

Using stock photos for your website or other advertising media sounds appealing, especially if they are free. But before you start taking images off the internet, it pays to understand exactly what the rules are for using stock images. And we’re talking pays because if you get things incorrect, you could end up paying big bucks.

Beginners Guide to Using Stock Photos

Stock photos generally come into two groups: free and paid. Paid images are mostly sold by giant stock image websites. They let you use the photo for a fee, where the fee varies according to the size and quality of the image, what you want to use it for and how often you want to use it.

Free stock images are free to use, but often have specific limitations on them. Not following their guidelines can also prove costly. Here is an explanation of some of the major terminology regarding using stock photos:

  • Rights Managed – this license gives you the ability to use a photo for a specific purpose for a specific length of time. Usually, it is for the sole usage of the image and if you want to extend its use, then you pay.
  • Royalty Free – this is not a free photo, but rather one you must pay for. The term royalty free is referring to a flat rate you pay to use the photo wherever you want, to a set limit.
  • Extended Licenses – should you wish to use a Royalty Free image beyond the limits of what the seller has set, you’ll need to pay an extended license for it.
  • Creative Commons – there are two parts to this. The first, CC0 is where you can use the image without attribution because the owner has given up all rights. The second is CC 2.0 where you can use the image but must give attribution to the image owner.
  • Public Domain Image – this is an old image which copyright has expired, or there are no longer any ownership rights.

The next thing on your to-do list is to find the right stock images to use.

Finding Free Stock Photo Websites

Who doesn’t like things for free, including stock images? Here are some of the most well-known websites which offer free stock images (not Royalty Free, by the way):

If you are happy to pay for a photo, you could try Shutterstock, Adobe Stock or Getty Images. What are your favourite stock photo sites? Let us know in the comments below!