Thursday, February 14, 2013

Niche businesses are easier to market

For anyone who's been in business, you know the temptation of wanting to do anything to bring in the dollars. Yet there is real value in being "niche" - carving out a segment that's just yours.

I saw a great example of this recently, with publisher "A Book Apart". Their business produces "Brief books for people who make websites". It's very specific - but also very easy to market. It is PR friendly, it's easy to find the target market, it ha got built in repeat business (if someone finds one book useful, they'll buy more) and it's easy to talk about and spread the word.

This last point is so critical. I've never been involved in marketing anything where word of mouth wasn't critical. In fact, for most businesses, it's the number one source of new business. So if your business is hard to describe, hard to pin down, it's hard for others to spread the word about.

Niche is scary. But less that it used to be, thanks to the Internet. So if you're pondering starting a business, and you've got a cool enough idea, there's a lot to be said for finding your niche and sticking to it.

How to cut your marketing costs in 2013

Not all businesses have an allocated marketing budget. Some people just spend when 'something' comes up (ie. distressed ad space), some have no money to spend at all, while the budget of others are allocated an amount of percentage of sales.

If you do have some money to spend, odds are the amount is never quite enough. You may even find that the financial peeps are allocating you less this year in response to slow sales last year.

So what "zero budget" thinking can you apply to your budget this year, to make sure you get the absolute most from it?

1. Work out what you're spending the most "time" on - and if it's working, see if you can automate it.

The key to 'zero budget' is usually spending time over cash. So with time your most valuable resource, it's something to be protected.

When I first starting working with carsharing business Flexicar, all new member 'inductions" were done face-to-face. Whilst it was necessary to teach people how the service worked, it wasn't sustainable to keep doing this. So instead we made a fun and useful video that "automatically" did the same job, and was actually more convenient for members. It instantly saved MANY hours, and that time could be spent in other ways to help grow the business.

2.  Work out what you're spending the most "time" on - and if it's not working, stop doing it. Make the tough call.

We all have our pet projects, or things we feel we "should" be doing. But if you are really not sure you're getting a result, then it's time to allocate that valuable time elsewhere.

For more thoughts, you can check out what I said in this recent Sydney Morning Herald / Age article.