Catering to the right niche can help make your small business stand out. You see it in nature; you see it in society, and you see it in business: Systems specialize because it’s efficient. It may also be the key to your success.

The Ups and Downs of Serving a Niche Market

The up side to this approach is that, once entrenched, you have a built in market. The downside is that niche businesses rise and fall with the niches they serve. If you specialized in typewriter repair a couple of decades ago and neglected to embrace the electronic age — well, you get the idea.

Here are some things to consider if you’ve tailored — or want to tailor — your business to serve a niche market:

Becoming a specialist – The broader your marketing target (the more general your niche), the easier it is to lose your message in the shouts of all those other businesses trying to do exactly the same thing. When you specialize, like focusing on resort wear instead of every style of active ready-to-wear, you can refine your message. The potential market is smaller, but you’ll be positioning yourself as a perfect fit. You’ll also lose many of the generalists out there who are trying to latch onto any and every customer who happens by.

When a customer feels you “get” him – There’s an old truism that you can’t be all things to all people, in life or in business. One big advantage to positioning yourself in a niche market is that you won’t have to work as hard to build a rapport with customers. Whether you’re an exclusive importer of the highest quality Portuguese Port, or specialize in reasonably priced, fruity Spanish wines, if you understand the market, customers who know what they like, and like what you sell, will applaud you for your savvy and see you as a comrade in arms. If you stay current with trends and learn to price wisely, you’ll be at least a couple of steps ahead of a competitor who is still struggling to form an identity.

Knowing your niche – There are a surprising number of ways you can specialize. From being an expert in a very narrow field, to catering to a particular demographic (like tween girls), or to a specific geographic region, you have some latitude. Depending on the size of the potential market, you can really hone your focus, like concentrating on landscapers that specialize in hardscapes, for instance.

With the advent of the online marketplace, niche markets are flourishing like never before, allowing entrepreneurs to make even esoteric areas of expertise into bankable businesses. The first step is to find — or make — a good fit for what you have to offer.

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