Why Your Brand Needs a Narrow Target Audience and Niche Marketing
The best way to know your target audience is to know it intimately. The better you know your target audience, the easier it will be for you to offer them true value. Before you start spending on marketing, you must ask yourself, “Which group of people can I best serve?”
While the product or service you are selling matters, it is equally important to know whom you are selling it to. You could sell dirt if you knew who will buy it from you. Simple syrup — water and sugar heated in a saucepan — is sold at stores and even online. From a product point of view, it might seem impractical, but the product was successful because it is marketed to people looking for convenience.
Start by writing down your target audience or target audiences.
Who are the people you are serving? What is their demographic segmentation (location, age, income, interests, etc.)? What is the problem you are helping them solve? Be as specific as possible.
If your personal brand is multifaceted, e.g. you are a full-time accountant as well as a freelance designer, then just focus on one aspect of your personal brand at a time.
Here are some important reasons why every brand needs to narrow the target market:
It is impossible to please everyone.
It sounds great to be able to please everyone, but it is impossible. The old saying “jack of all trades, master of none” best describes where you will end up when you try to please everyone. Your product or service cannot offer value to everyone. Remember that your value proposition must be relevant to your target audience. Are their people in your target audience that may not require your services? Then take them out and try to narrow down your audience further.
The most memorable brands do a few things very well.
As a brand, you will often encounter situations where siding with a particular idea will alienate some people about you. You should not hesitate in taking such steps. You can try to make everyone happy, but then you will not be memorable. In fact, in an attempt to make everyone happy, you could end up completely devaluing your brand and blemishing its identity. For example, Rolex will not be Rolex if it starts selling $100 watches just because market research shows that students are more interested in cheaper watches. Their target audience is not students. So they need to focus on pleasing their existing target audience who appreciate an expensive and quality watch bearing their brand name.
Is your target audience too broad?
If you think “men” or “millennials” are terms for a target market, you are wrong. Millennials are people who might belong to a certain age group, but individuals in this homogenous group can have different interests, beliefs, inclinations, etc. A Samuel Scott’s article, Millennials Are Not Bad — and They’re Not a Marketing Segment Either — sheds light on how people within the same generation can be completely different, and how painting them with the same stroke of the brush is a huge mistake. Even people of the same age group who live in the same city could have very different consumer habits and require different services.
Test your idea with 50 potential customers
When you create a product, service or personal brand, you may not have customers yet. You only assume who your customers will be. You should start by defining a small market and test the waters by introducing your offerings to it. For anyone who is starting a business for the very first time, I recommend talking to 50 potential customers about your idea first. Once you have exhausted your options of friends and family who fit into your target audience, you’ll likely need to expand your circle and ask strangers who might be more likely to share their true opinions. Be humble and not defensive when you listen to their opinion and suggestions. If you conducted your initial market research correctly, you probably would need to redefine your target audience, which is likely different from your initial assumptions.
For example, you want to be a copywriter and you assume you will be writing for lifestyle magazines. However, you pitch your services to 50 publications and you realize that you have the best reception from online interior design magazines aimed at women readers between the ages of 45–55. Now you have a much narrower target audience and you can save time by pitching to only the online publications that generally fit that description.
Can your target audience be too narrow?
Note that if you are struggling to find 50 potential customers, then your target audience might be too narrow, or you may not have the right channels to access your target audience (that’s a different problem on its own). If you are looking for a job in a particular area, then it’s better to do thorough research on your top 10 or 20 dream companies and tailor your CV and online presence for those niches. Your time is limited so a more targeted approach will have better success rates.
Can a niche business return sustainable revenue?
One way to evaluate your business’ viability is to run the calculations on how many target customers you have multiply by how much they are likely to spend with you. Then you’ll figure out what is your potential profit. Then take away your expenses, you’ll have your net profit. Is the net profit high enough to sustain your business? If not, then you need to either improve your product or service so it targets more people, or improve your product or service so you can charge more per customer.
Number of Target Customers x Average Spending Per Customer = Potential Profit
Potential Profit — Expenses = Potential Net Profit
For example, if you want to sell pet food to people who have pet tigers, you want to price it high enough to cover your costs and then make some profit, knowing that there are only a handful of pet tiger owners in the world. If your niche market is too small to give you a sustainable benefit, try to broaden it in unique and creative ways, or enter a new market altogether.
A Forbes article, Niche Brands Are the New Kings of Retail, explains why niche brands are thriving online because the barriers to entry have decreased significantly. It takes less time and cost to build a direct-to-consumer brand and to scale the business. Therefore, you can easily test your idea with a shoestring marketing budget on Facebook ads or Google ads to find out if your product or service is desired by people and who are they?
Some of the biggest brands started with niche markets.
Mark Zuckerberg did not start Facebook thinking that it would serve billions of people around the world. When Facebook started, it was only for select Harvard University students who had a need to connect with each other online. Once those students realized the value of a product, they become its brand ambassadors, and Facebook’s audience grew. Microsoft also started by focusing on business to business solutions and still to this day remain focused mainly on its B2B solutions, even though its target audience has expanded over the years.
Save advertising costs with niche marketing.
Advertising costs can be a huge blow for startups but making your word reach your audience is nearly impossible without it. The best approach in this dilemmatic situation is to narrow your target market and to spend your capital to address the needs of only that group of people. A point of focus here is your return on investment. Advertising to too many people who are not interested in your product will not generate enough ROI for you to market further. It is a matter of quantity vs. quality.
You can expand your business later.
The perfect example of a business that started with a narrow market and then expanded to multiple businesses and markets is Virgin. Richard Branson started Virgin Records as a mail order service that sold CDs from a limited number of artists. Now the record business has expanded reach customers around the world. Branson also expanded his business into other industries such as airline, spaceflight, banking, films, consumer electronics, insurance etc. His business did mail-order record exceptionally well, which helped him build his brand. Consumers trusted his brand which helped him launch into other fields more easily. When you start to build your brand, start by doing the one thing that differentiates you from your competitors and do everything you can to provide the best service to your target audience.
Having a well-defined target audience that isn’t too broad is crucial to your brand. Identifying the right customers can help you find life-long fans of your products or services. In the end, it is also worth mentioning that your brand must offer a solution to a real problem. You can’t get people’s attention and turn yourself into a successful brand without being valuable.
If you are still unsure if you have the correct target audience, please contact us for a consultation and we can help you identify the right audience and design your marketing strategies.
Originally published at kaitlinzhang.com on December 12, 2017.
Kaitlin Zhang is an award-winning personal branding consultant, helping entrepreneurs, executives and celebrities manage their online reputation. Follow her blog to learn more about personal branding, corporate branding, digital marketing and reputation management.