by Lisa McGrimmon
Of course you want to own you niche! It's a great way to build a loyal base of people who aren't just customers but are also fans of your business.
In order to own your niche and become that go-to person, customers need to think of you as the person who has the best products, information, and resources first. You need to be someone they can trust to solve their problems and meet their needs.
To become that person, you start by monitoring your niche.
WHAT IS A NICHE?
A niche market is simply a small fragment of a larger business market. For example, someone who starts a handmade jewelry business might decide to focus on a niche market such as making custom bridal jewelry.
Targeting a smaller market can help you own your niche and allow your business to stand out because, instead of having to compete with everyone in a larger category, you are working in a smaller category with less competition and more clearly defined customer needs.
In a smaller niche, it is easier to stand out, meet specific needs, and become the go-to expert in your field.
Monitoring your niche simply means keeping abreast of the developments in your area of specialization.
As you'll see, the research is quite easy to do, and it can help you own your niche and build your business in a variety of ways.
People largely think about niche markets in relation to online businesses. That's because you can reach so many potential customers online, you can get away with targeting a very specific group and still have enough potential customers to make a business viable.
However, the suggestions here also apply to offline sales. The more your customer sees you as a reliable expert, the more you will be able to develop loyalty built on trust.
Tracking developments in your niche will ensure you know the most recent developments in your field as soon as they happen. Here's how you can use that information to build your business:
Following resources that provide information on upcoming trends can provide you with plenty of design inspiration. Also, following designers whose style you admire can be a great source of inspiration.
If you're going to follow designers for inspiration, I suggest you look to people who make products that are different from your own (so there's no danger of copying) but are related enough that you can draw inspiration for your own products.
CURATING SOCIAL CONTENT
If you use social media to connect with your customers, monitoring your niche can make it easier to find content to share with your followers. I know from experience how time consuming it can be to consistently maintain social media for your business. One thing that does help me find great things to share on Facebook and Pinterest is the niche monitoring I do. Craft business-related information is delivered straight to my RSS reader, (more on that in a moment) and I can easily scan through and look for things that interest me and things that might interest my readers.
KNOW WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING ABOUT YOU
Are people talking about your business online? Are they sharing links to your products? You can monitor what people are saying about your business and how people are sharing your information online. That information can give you useful insights about what customers think, what you are doing well, what you might improve, and also which promotional channels are working for you.
KNOW WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING ABOUT YOUR COMPETITORS
You can also monitor what people are saying about your competitors. You might find, for example, that people have a need that's not quite being met by a competitor. Armed with that information, you can step right in and revise and repackage an existing product, or develop a new product that meets the needs customers are talking about.
KNOW WHAT YOUR COMPETITORS ARE DOING
Are your competitors about to launch a brand new product that could impact your own business? How do your products stack up against your competitor's products? If you monitor what your competitors are doing, you'll be in a better position to develop your own products that stand out in your niche.
KNOW WHAT CUSTOMERS WANT
If you know what potential customers in your niche are talking about, you will be in a better position to give them what they want. Plus, if you're "in the know" you'll be in a better position to be first with a product or design that meets people's needs.
LEARN ABOUT NEW DEVELOPMENTS THAT COULD HELP GROW YOUR BUSINESS
Technology changes shockingly quickly. It's hard to keep up. However, it's also great because new developments provide new opportunities. Something that was once impossible, or quite difficult for a small business owner can quickly become very possible with new technological developments. That new development might be just the advantage that helps you own your niche.
You might discover a new tool that changes your production process so you can be more efficient, or so you can create something you couldn't have created in the past. Technological developments have really opened up the options for developing a creative business. You need to be aware of the developments in your own field so you can take advantage of those that make sense for your business.
If you monitor your niche, you will become aware of people in related but non-competing niches. You can reach out to those people and develop partnerships. The custom bridal jewelry designer, for example, might connect with a wedding photographer, or a caterer, or someone who designs custom wedding invitations and stationery. People like this do not compete with the wedding jewelry designer, but they are working to reach the same target market and would be in a position to support each other's business.
DEVELOP A REPUTATION AS BEING SOMEONE WHO IS INFORMED
When you monitor your niche, you have up-to-the-minute information. If you share that information with your customers, you can own your niche and become known as the resource in your field. That can bring a lot of credibility to your business and help you build trusting relationships with your customers.
There are a multitude of strategies and tools for monitoring your niche.
You don't need to use them all. In fact, you shouldn't. That would be a huge waste of your time time.
What you're looking for is a couple of tools that work well to bring you the best information for your purposes in the most efficient way possible.
The tools that work best will vary from one person to the next depending on what type of information you are looking for and how you like to access your information. I'm not going to overwhelm you with a huge list of resources. Instead, I'll list a few that I use.
Consider signing up for a few, select newsletters that are relevant to your business. That might include a craft business newsletter, a newsletter specific to your niche, newsletters of related but non-competing businesses that you admire, and perhaps a few newsletters belonging to your competitors.
Newsletters contain up-to-the-minute information about a business, and sometimes they include sneak peeks of new products that are in development. Be selective about the newsletters you follow; clearly you don't have time to be overwhelmed by an over-crowded inbox, but following the newsletters of a few key people can keep you on top of your niche.
I adore the RSS feed reader, Feedly. It is my favorite way to stay on top of the information that is relevant to me.
Feedly is a tool that allows you to track sites that interest you. If the site has an RSS feed, you can follow it using Feedly. There is a paid pro version, but I just use the free version, and it completely meets my needs.
I use Feedly to track specific blogs I like, relevant YouTube channels, and I can even follow photos with relevant tags as they are uploaded to Flickr. I use the information I find on Feedly for business and personal interest and inspiration. I also use it to easily find interesting items to share on social media. I can access in on my computer and also on my smart phone, which means I can easily get caught up on reading wherever I happen to be, whenever I have a spare moment.
Buzz Sumo is a tool that allows you to see who in your industry has the most social shares. It offers paid options, but the free tools are quite useful.
Buzz Sumo sorts articles based on which ones have the most social shares. So, if you type in a keyword that's relevant to your niche, you can see which pages are shared most on social sites including the specific number of shares on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Google+.
In addition to keywords, you can also search by URL, which is quite interesting. Type in your own business URL or the URL of a competitor's site and see exactly how many times a particular item has been shared on each social site. This option can give you some good insight into which social tools are working for you and you competitors.
You can also use Buzz Sumo to find people who are influential in your niche. Look specifically for people in related but non-competing businesses who you might be able to connect with to support each other's business. Or look for direct competitors to find out who the big players are in your niche.
Google Alerts is a tool that will notify you whenever a page containing a specific keyword has been indexed by Google. If you want to be aware of anything and everything that might be published related to a specific topic, Google Alerts will do that for you.
The problem with Google Alerts is that you often end up sorting through a massive amount of irrelevant material to find a few gems. It is great for less common search terms. If, for example, you wanted to monitor what people were saying online about you or your competitors, you could set up a Google Alert for your name, your business name, and your company's URL.
You can also set up searches for your competitors' business names and URLs if you're curious.
I found I had to play with Google Alerts for a bit to get the right level of information. Initially, I was inundated with piles of new postings. Over time, I realized which keywords brought up useful information, and which keywords just wasted my time. I deleted the time wasters and kept the helpful alerts.
To effectively monitor your niche, you'll need to invest a bit of time to get started, and to fine tune the tools so you're getting the most relevant information. Once it is set up, however, monitoring your niche can be a low effort, high reward practice.
Newsletters, Google Alerts and Feedly RSS feeds will come directly to you. There's no additional searching required after the initial setup. The free version of BuzzSumo does require you to go back to the site and search when you want information, but you can save important search terms to make the job easier.
When the information comes straight to you, it's simply a matter of skimming through to find, read and possibly share the relevant gems. It's that simple to be well informed so you can own your niche.