One of the cardinal rules of branding is to stake out some unique territory, defend it at all costs, and then leave the remaining ground to others.
That's because brands have to stand for one clear virtue in the minds of busy consumers—a virtue that can credibly be claimed as superior to that of every other competitor. This brand-clarifying process can stake the claim to being the fastest, cheapest, coolest, most luxurious, best-engineered, most customizable, smallest, largest, most fuel efficient, etc.
But you can own just one of those. You'll have to leave the others to competitors to fight over.
An important corollary to this rule of brand focus is the niche market.
A niche market is a claim to—and demonstrated expertise in—a narrowly defined slice of any given market. A company may specialize in serving a certain demographic group (e.g., teenagers, seniors, minority women, empty nesters) or a particular vertical market (e.g., healthcare, finance, manufacturing).
Another way to define and develop a niche is to identify which type of company your organization can serve most effectively. You can specialize in family-owned companies, publicly traded companies, second-stage VC-funded companies, companies with revenues in certain ranges, etc.
To leverage niche marketing, you need three things:
- Demonstrated success in the category in which you stake your claim, backed by testimonials and case studies.
- In-depth knowledge of your niche, its history and its future trends, staying current with blogs, trade pubs and industry thought leaders.
- Customized marketing tools that communicate your emphasis on the niche you seek to exploit ("exploit" in the best sense of the word).
It's possible to credibly and effectively focus on more than one niche at a time. You just have to have all three elements above, being especially careful to do the hard work described above for each.
(C) 2009 David Heitman. All rights reserved.