Is your business’s brand too vague? “Generic” is the death knell for a small company’s brand. Today, when consumers and business buyers have so many choices available to them and are overwhelmed with marketing messages on a daily basis, your company needs a memorable, specific brand in order to stand out in the marketplace.
Whether you're just starting out as an entrepreneur or have been in business for a while, fine-tuning your brand can give your company a competitive edge.
To fine-tune your brand, you need to hone in on a niche that no other competitor owns. Here's how:
Do your market research.
You may have already conducted market research as part of starting your business, but if it's been a while you did so, now is the time to dig into your market again. Perhaps your target market has changed. For example, if the twenty-somethings you targeted five years ago are now getting married and having children, your original brand may no longer resonate with them. Your SCORE mentor is a great resource for helping you uncover the latest data on your industry, geographic area and potential target markets.
In addition to identifying profitable target markets, part of selecting your business niche is deciding what types of customers you want to work with and who you can best serve. Do you want to focus on a specific geographic region or target a certain type of customer all over the country? Do you want to target a specific age group, income level or other demographic?
While big companies like Walmart or McDonald's can target a huge customer base, a small business’s most successful strategy is narrowing your niche as much as possible. The narrower your focus, the more thoroughly you will be able to know everything there is to know about your niche, learn exactly how to serve those customers and provide them products and services they can't get anywhere else. For example, consider these unusual but successful niches:
- A beauty salon that targets busy, working women by only doing blow-dries (this one started a huge trend and a rash of imitators)
- A website that sells non-electric products (it started out 60 years ago as a retail store selling goods to the Amish)
- A cleaning service that specializes in removing chewing gum from schools, sidewalks and anywhere else it’s stuck
Assess the competition.
What are your competitors’ brand messages? What niche/s are they not targeting that you could serve? How potentially profitable is the opportunity they’re leaving behind? Is there room for all of you in the market?
Define your customer persona.
Using market research about your target customers, create one or more customer personas — imaginary people who have the characteristics of your target audience. For instance, if your business is a service that delivers food from local restaurants to residents in your urban area, you might have a couple different types of customers:
- Susan, a working mother who wants healthy meals for her family without the fuss of prep time
- Josh, a young professional who works such long hours that he gets home too tired to cook or even go out with friends
- Ruth and Joe, a retired couple who enjoy the convenience of trying different gourmet and ethnic restaurants without leaving their apartment
Adjust your niche.
Based on all of the information above—market data, the competition, your skills and interests and the potential profitability of the niche—select one niche to focus on. In the restaurant delivery example above, the entrepreneur seeking to fine-tune her niche might decide to focus on working mothers because:
- There are more of them in her geographic area than the other types of buyers
- They buy more food than the other types of buyers because they’re purchasing for a family
- They are more likely to tell others about the service because mothers are very active on social media and word-of-mouth
- The entrepreneur is a mother herself and can relate to these customers better than the other target groups
Revise your branding.
Once you have fine-tuned your niche, go over your marketing and advertising messages carefully. Do they reinforce your niche and convey your brand, or do they need revising? You can try doing focus groups, customer surveys or social media polls of your target market to test the effectiveness of your rebranded messages. You can also try running different versions of your ads and using slightly different versions of your marketing emails, social media posts and other marketing messages to see which get best results.
The more accurately you can narrow and define your niche, the more specific and memorable of your business brand will be — and the more successful your business will become.