SCORE: Finding your business niche

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QUESTION: I own a small retail business in a highly competitive marketplace. How can I differentiate myself from my competitors?

ANSWER: If you are a small fish in a very large pond, you need to take a hard look at the products or services you provide and determine where you can obtain the best return for your investment of time and money. In other words, you must find your “niche.”

A niche, by definition, is “a necessary small segment of a larger market that is under served.” One such example could be a real estate agent who specializes in arranging corporate housing for highly skilled individuals who like the comforts of a home while working on a project of short duration.

Finding your niche requires extensive market research. Your product of service must be unique and fulfill the unmet needs of a specific group of people. Ideally, you want to be the only one in the area selling what you are selling. Once you have settled upon an idea, determine who the competition is. If there are already a number of established providers, stop and look for another idea.

If the idea truly fits the definition of a niche, begin to develop a list of ideal “target” customers. This is done by using a process called Market Segmentation. If you intend to serve a local community, determine the demographics. These may include age, gender, education, income, marital status, ethnicity, and lifestyles, to name a few.

If most of your prospects belong to an association or trade group, be sure to join as an associate member, and volunteer for a committee assignment. Contribute articles to their newsletter or publication. Develop an attractive and user friendly web site that projects the image of you being an expert in your field.

SCORE counselor, John Kelley, Ph.D., writes “If you are already in business, gather data about current customers. Quantify which customers account for the greatest percentage of volume and profits. The two groups may not be the same. Look for patterns to exploit and, going forward, spend your time and money marketing to your ideal customer.”

To learn more about management issues facing your small business, contact SCORE Naples. Counseling is provided FREE of charge to all U.S. citizens and legal aliens. To register call 239-430-0081 or visit our web site http://tinyurl.com/43aqelw.

If you would like an answer to your question, please fill out the form located at http://naples.score.org/mentors. A counselor will contact you within 48 hours. Please include your name, email address and a contact phone number.

© 2011 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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