Another big fish, little fish story
By Joe Whitaker
NICHE: “A specialized segment of the market for a particular kind of product or service”
“Would you rather be a Little Fish in a giant lake or a Big Fish in a small pond?”
This question has faced countless business owners for centuries. And many, many such owners have been at one time or another, forced to choose.
Any industry is populated by some large, sometimes even dominant, companies. These companies often (some say, usually) overlook small but profitable sub-sets of their overall product (or service) genres.
Why? Because of one or more of these three circumstances.
- They operate as complicated entities. Hey, they can’t do everything, right? So, they ignore (or purposely choose to ignore) a market, for simple lack of focus.
- Economies of Scale. They examine a niche opportunity, but come to a conclusion, because of their larger overhead, they can’t make a profit, or at least not enough profit, to make the effort worthwhile.
- Or they simply lack a specialized talent critical to success in the marketplace.
But you, as the owner of a small(er) business, don’t possess the restraints of numbers 1 and 2 above.
If you’re considering carving out (or creating) a possible niche you spot, make sure it’s truly a need not already being served by others.
Here’s a classic example, which I observed first-hand when I ran Marketing at Mattel Toys years ago. For her first two decades, “Barbie” as a newly created “Fashion Doll” category, was never competed with successfully, though several other large toy manufacturers tried mightily. They all introduced direct competitors, with inferior copycat products. Then one year, a small well managed toy firm introduced a “Cher Fashion Doll”, yes, that Cher. Due to her prominence and popularity, the Cher doll was an immediate success, ushering in a new sub-set category, “Celebrity Fashion Dolls”
As a new niche marketer, it’s best of course if it’s in a general growth industry, not a declining one. And is one you’re already participating in to some extent, so you know the distribution channels, the retailers and most important, your target audience.