If you follow politics, you’ve probably seen a discussion of the “Balkanization of America,” and it’s usually cast in negative tones. The idea is that—similar to Eastern Europe’s Balkans—American society is carving itself into small pieces that can sometimes be hostile to one another.
Weighing in on that debate is above my pay grade, but for business owners, operating in a society that is made up of a wide range of interest groups, social groups, language groups, and more can be a great thing.
I say this because as our social fabric evolves into a quilt made up of an ever-increasing number of patches, more and more “niches” are being created, and niche marketing is where business owners can enjoy larger margins on their products and services. Avoiding the pitfall of appealing to a single customer is easier today than it has ever been. It’s also often more simple and cost-effective to advertise and market to the niches.
The key is to recognize the niches, adapt existing products and services to target them, or develop new products and services that will appeal to new niche markets. Let’s look at some examples and strategies:
Food and diet
Sit down to eat with a bunch of your friends today and it’s likely you’ll encounter a range of dietary preferences, many of which didn’t even exist a decade or so ago: organic, vegan, keto, gluten-free, paleo, lacto-vegetarian, ovo-vegetarian, and others. If you delve into these dietary regimes, you’ll find that many businesses are flourishing by appealing to the niche markets they create. For example, while you can get a half-dozen regular hamburger buns for a couple of bucks at the corner grocer, followers of a keto diet will pay $6.50 and up for four buns.
Getting into one of these food-based niche markets isn’t done without adequate planning and there can be hurdles to overcome. Organic and so-called natural foods are often a foundational attribute of these new diets, and it takes time (three years) to achieve “certified organic” status.
This puts aspiring organic growers in a transitional state of limbo. But with cooperation between growers, the local community, and buyers, transitional farmers can still get a premium for their produce. Major brands like Kashi, Chipotle, and General Mills have found ways to use transitional “organic” products and properly communicate this to their customers.
Have you noticed how meteorologists give a name to every storm today? We used to save that for hurricanes. We’re doing something similar with generations. Every decade or so we declare a new generation: Boomers, GenXers, Millennials, Generation Z, and so on. The time between the generations seems to be getting smaller. I’m sure you’ve seen some of the articles about marketing to Millennials in recent years.
In any case, it seems that people get “imprinted” by their coming-of-age decade. The music, the pastimes, the fashions, the movies, the world events, and more make them different from those who came earlier and those who will follow. These shape their attitudes, likes, and dislikes.
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Understanding how these groups differ can create opportunities for niche products and services, and also for niche-marketing ideas. We see this with a revival of old video games and internet radio stations and playlists that appeal to certain age groups.
A simple question to ask yourself is how the various generations view your product or service. Do they see you as out-of-date? Are you using language that resonates with them? How about your imagery? Can you tweak what you offer to make it especially attractive to a specific age group? If so, you can probably command a premium in the marketplace.
One of the biggest and most obvious niches are language groups. Education professionals have told me in schools there can be dozens of different native languages spoken by their students. While the kids pick up English fairly quickly, that’s not always true for the parents.
These people can feel isolated, but if you reach out to them in their native tongue and provide them with support in their language, you’ll be marketing to a niche that is often overlooked and in the process establish some excellent brand loyalty.