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Business Observer Friday, Jun. 18, 2004 18 years ago

GET BIG think small

Your corporate 'road to riches' is assured with segmented market niches.

GET BIG think small

Your corporate 'road to riches' is assured with segmented market niches.

Strategists for mass marketed products and services tend to search for a common denominator within a large segment of people; even if that audience is just one Gulf Coast market. In niche marketing, you're also looking for a common denominator. However, you'll dig harder and penetrate deeper into a smaller target audience for more qualified, profitable effective results.

Move Up the Target

Like the guerrilla marketer, in niche marketing, you'll be thinking of narrow casting instead of broad casting, micro marketing instead of mass marketing and market space instead of market share.

You can't approach Niche Marketing from a Mass Marketing standpoint. That's because with mass marketing, you'll appear to multiple segments with a single offering. Segmentation or niche marketing implies multiple messages and requires a deeper understanding and more focus.

The 5 in 1 challenge

Let's assume you're going to split the mass market into five segments. Now you have the challenge to take a close look at each one of those five segments. And while you may not actually do it this way, you'll need a separate written strategic marketing plan for each segment. Then, a separate research plan, a separate advertising budget, a separate communications message, a separate post-buy analysis and a final executive summary analysis of what you have accomplished versus the strategic goals you have set.

The key is to "differentiate" yourself; not just be different. There must be clear and significant benefit to your target market. Always ask, "What do I have and what do I offer that my customers really value most?" That's what differentiation implies. Your existing customers are your very best source for this critical information. If you listen to their voices and their hearts, you'll hear where your new business will come from.

Just do it

Do it by satisfying customers better than anyone else. Do it with a product or service strategy. Do it with a distribution strategy, a quality strategy, a selection strategy, a delivery strategy or a price strategy. Pick one single, well-communicated, brand image proposition to which you and yours will dedicate your long-lasting profitable corporate lives.

Authors Robert E. Linneman and John L. Stanton, Jr., strategists on market segmentation to Fortune 500 companies and prolific speakers on the subject, say: "Today's traditional markets are splintering into smaller and smaller segments. The era of mass marketing has come and gone. To profit from the new market realities, you'll need keen insight into your desired niche."

Light a fire

Gulf Coast entrepreneurs hunting new business can learn from the primitive tribesmen in the African bush. These hunters realize there are two ways to cook an elephant. They can devise one very large pot, big enough to cook the entire animal. Or, they can measure it, dissect the pachyderm cutting it up in digestible pieces, and then cook it in a number of small pots.

Markets, of course, are not pachyderms. And yet, cutting up a market into smaller niches often leads to larger "stakes" than the original animal. By cutting up traditional markets into little pieces, you can conveniently control separate strategies for each piece.

You'll be strategically selling to "pieces" that more closely seek your unique differentiated value. Best of all, people will pay more for products and services that more precisely meet their needs. It's a good way to heat up your investment returns.

Let's sum it up this way: Think Small To Get Big! Dissect your customer base using current reliable information. In a Niche Market profile, you'll naturally need demographic information such as age, income, education and position. Just as important to your initiative will be a psychographic profile; how they live, where they go, what they value and even how they think.

Accept this winning concept! Get senior management to buy-in. Begin the initiative. Communicate it. Measure it. Manage it. Profit from it. I promise you'll be ecstatic with the results.

So, start the pot boiling, dissect the marketing pachyderm. You can get rich with niche.

Lou Lasday, an independent marketing adviser who resides on Longboat Key, creates action-oriented strategic corporate initiatives for Gulf Coast emerging companies. A career direct response executive, he has been a general partner of a national marketing communications firm and regional president of the American Marketing Association.

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