Small Business Advice
Every step you take is a step away from where you used to be.
I have two wonderful back labs that I have been learning how to train. It has taken a lot of effort on my part since they seem to know exactly what they are doing, and I do not!
Recently, I went to an obedience trial in Jacksonville where, in order to avoid making that incredibly boring trip between Tallahassee and Jacksonville too many times, I decided to stay overnight with my dog, Sophie. I stayed in the La Quinta hotel, which is a pet-friendly chain of hotels. It was evident that I was not the only one who took advantage of the open pet policy. Since so many folks had traveled to attend the obedience trial, dogs were all over the hotel.
Many hotels do not allow pets for a number of different reasons. However, this hotel chain saw a marketing niche that was being overlooked by the market and recognized its potential. I, for one, am grateful as sleeping in the car was not a prospect I coveted.
Recognizing underserved markets is critical to each entrepreneur. Marketing niches typically have very little competition and a customer base that is willing to step in and buy the product. Normally, price is not as much of an issue as availability.
One example of finding and exploiting a marketing niche is the small jet companies that have begun to offer reliable jet service. It is more affordable than chartering an entire airplane and much more convenient than traveling by commercial airlines.
By far, the best niche market developer has to be Fred Smith, who founded Federal Express in 1973. He clearly saw that commercial airlines were only serving customers from one airport to another. Fed Ex was set up to serve customers on a door-to-door basis.
Okay, so how the heck do you find niche markets? Just start listening to what your customers are saying. Phrases such as, “I wish I had a…” are pretty good indicators of an underserved market.
In looking at a niche market, you really need to find one that you have a passion for. Finding and exploiting a niche market is very much like starting a new business in that you have to have a passion for it. As with all ventures, once you have identified a niche market, you need a business plan for implementation.
One final thing to consider: you may have identified the greatest niche market in the world, but if no one is willing to buy the product, it is not a good one to pursue. Before investing dollars in developing a new niche market, it is worth your while to enlist the assistance of marketing research. Marketing research will help you determine if customers desire the product or service.
Now go out and see if there is a niche market that you can develop and profit from doing so.
You can do it!
Jerry Osteryoung is the Jim Moran Professor of Entrepreneurship in the College of Business at Florida State University. He is also the Director of the Entrepreneurship Program at FSU and Executive Director of the Jim Moran Institute of Global Entrepreneurship. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 850-644-3372.