The marketing well is dry. Business is so bad that your company would gladly be an exposé for a rag magazine—because negative news is better than no news.
Sometimes, finding distinctive ways to promote a business is a challenge. In today's online world of too much information, finding a new marketing technique can be as tricky as finding a needle in a haystack.
How does a company avoid running out of marketing juice, and how can it pump the well with new ideas? What methods can a company use to increase exposure other than search engine optimization, affiliation, newsletters, testimonials and link exchanges?
If marketing juice is plentiful at your company, what other trials are you facing? We've got 100,000 "MarketingProfs Today" readers following ready to attack with great ideas. Submit your dilemma and receive a complimentary copy of our book, A Marketer's Guide to e-Newsletter Publishing.
This Week's Dilemma
We've used a lot of online marketing tactics to promote our business, and we're running out of ideas. Besides search engine optimization, affiliate programs, newsletters, testimonials and link exchanges, what other marketing methods can a company do to increase exposure and gain market share?
—Delaney, Marketing Rep
Marketing in a tough niche field
I have a new product for an old marketplace. This market is tough and highly price-sensitive with many world-renowned players who have established their business. I know my product will run circles around the competition. What marketing and selling activities will help me play in a tough niche field? What tactics would help me take off and sustain this challenging niche market for the long run?
—Stephen, Director of Product Marketing
Summary of Advice Received
Many experts say niche marketing is an excellent way to make the most of your company's marketing efforts and is cost-effective. Stephen, you mention that many players are already established. This should clue you in on the need to employ a niche marketing strategy. Use the following three steps to develop your strategy:
- Identify your product's uniqueness
- Focus on the customer
- Spread the word... virally
1. Identify your product's uniqueness
Do the research to determine how much competition there is in the market. It's possible to have an overcrowded market in a niche field. This doesn't mean you give up on your great product. Rather, buckle down and work harder on identifying your product's uniqueness and target audience.
Jason Jordan, principal with Go To Market Partners, expands on this approach:
One key strategic issue that you should spend a lot of time considering: How is your product different? You need to have a very clear, compelling value proposition that quickly communicates how your product is unique—not only in its features, but also in its benefits to the customer. Thinking through this issue will also help you identify the market segments that you should attack first—those that most desperately need your product and will appreciate its unique value. With your positioning and customer segments identified, you can then think about pricing, channel selection and promotion issues to complete your go-to-market strategy.
Kuldeep Singh, sales and marketing head at Samtel India Ltd., suggests determining where the gaps are and addressing them in the course of action:
Before deciding about selling and marketing tactics, let us understand the ground reality of the market in which you want to enter and then analyze the gap to decide the future course of action. You have:
- New product to launch
- Price-sensitive market
- World-renowned players as competitors
- Niche market as a segment
In my view, the "gap" is in the "competitor scenario," because they are world-renowned players and fighting in a niche segment. As world-renowned players are big in organization size, they are typically slow in action to meet evolving customer needs.
If a small player with a new product and ears to the ground has a better understanding of customers, this means an enhanced offering of service and delivery makes it possible to enter into the niche market. Moreover, the niche market can be further subcategorized to fulfill the need of that subsegment by owning the "mind space" in that category and compensating the loss of volume by adding additional premiums on product.
Lee Traupel, in his article, "Marketing in Tough Times," says, "Understand what's unique about your company, services and products. Once you do, you've created brand uniqueness. Make sure you integrate these themes with all of your marketing. Customers need to know what's different about your company versus your competitors." Another suggestion he makes that could help your company stand out is to "make it easy to do business with your company by offering pricing and terms of service that fit your client's needs."
2. Focus on the customer
What do you know about your target market other than that they are price-sensitive? The more you know, the more likely that you, instead of your competitors, will reach them. An anonymous reader asks what the customer wants whenever she faces this situation before doing anything else:
This is the basic cornerstone of marketing and it always surprises me how often the power of customer research (quantitative and qualitative) is overlooked. Only once you have discovered what the customer wants can other plans be considered. Businesses should follow the outcomes of customer research, never precede it. Based on the results of the research, one can then decide on the marketing mix that would best achieve the desired marketing objectives.
Furthermore, a market is usually price sensitive when it is saturated and there is a high degree of product parity. This means that unless there is a distinct and identifiable customer that is unmet, the quest for sustainable market share will always be an uphill battle.
In "3 Rules for Niche Marketing," Kim Gordon explains how to meet customers' specific needs:
The benefits you promise must have special appeal to the market niche. What can you provide that's new and compelling? Identify the unique needs of your potential audience, and look for ways to tailor your product or service to meet them. Start by considering all the product or service variations you might offer.
When approaching a new market niche, it's imperative to speak their language. In other words, you should understand the market's "hot buttons" and be prepared to communicate with the target group as an understanding member—not an outsider. In addition to launching a unique campaign for the new niche, you may need to alter other, more basic elements, such as your company slogan if it translates poorly to another language, for example.
In instances where taking on a new niche market is not impacted by a change in language or customs, it's still vital to understand its members' key issues and how they prefer to communicate with companies like yours.
3. Spread the word... virally
The Internet has brought new meaning to viral marketing. Kuldeep Singh advises taking advantage of this sales tactic:
As it is new a product for a niche market, try viral marketing strategies to "infect" people with desire to learn more about your product. How does a company accomplish this? Simple: Learn from Hotmail.com. At the end of every email, they added the following message: "Get your private, free email at https://www.hotmail.com." This encouraged everyone who received an email to sign up for the free service. This resulted in 12 million subscribers in its first 1 1/2 years! You can do the same.
You can also create viral marketing messages by creating humorous videos or animation clips that people send to their friends for laughs. It's a subtle way to spread your brand awareness. Creativity is needed to start a viral marketing or "tell-a-friend" spread in a niche segment. Moreover, become a recognized "name" in your niche market by participating in newsgroups, discussion forums or blogs. For example, if you sell mountain biking shoes, then hang out in mountain biking forums—that's where your target market is going to be!
Make research your close buddy, and use the information as a secret weapon when you attack the market.
When you put many heads together, you can get more ideas. Let the MarketingProfs readers bring your niche to light. Tell us what needs improvement, and we'll develop a masterful solution for you.