Part 9: The Critical Importance of a Niche Audience – Part 2
So, what is a niche audience?
In This is Marketing, Seth Godin suggests identifying the smallest viable market. He says that we should obsessively focus on a specific, tiny group of people who share a similar worldview. Most content creators and marketers use the term niche audience, which is basically a subset of a larger audience. It’s a very narrow group of people. For example, left-handed female shooting guards would be a subset of all basketball players. Here are a few more samples:
|General Audience||Niche Audience|
|Skilled Technical Workforce||Female Industrial Pipeline Welder|
|Air Travelers||Business Travelers who own flip phones|
|Vegetarians||Urban Carrot Fanatics|
There are an endless number of niche audiences, but identifying a niche is only half the task. Look for one that’s under-served. In other words, find a niche audience that has an unmet need. Once you do, target that small group of people with content they need or want. Serve them – solve their problems, answer their questions. If you consistently publish valuable content for that niche, Google will recognize you as an authority in that space.
I need to be careful here because that previous statement echoes back to old-school marketing. That is, a time when marketing was a one-way communications channel where brands would shout to the market, “Here I am!” Your audience does not care about your product, services or brand. They care about their problems and they want to be engaged and empowered so they can solve them. Engagement allows them to take ownership when solving their problems. So, my caveat is: publishing valuable content on a regular basis to a niche audience is only part of the equation. The other part is engagement. Engaging with your audience is critical to your success. I cover engagement in subsequent posts, but it is important to mention here.
So, why do you want to focus on a niche rather than focusing on everyone?
As we saw on our autism project, identifying a niche may be counter to how people have approached audiences in the past. Some of our external team members wanted us to come out of the gate on this project targeting anyone with an internet connection. The temptation is to go large, to have a very wide audience. Why not? After all, three percent of a large audience is better than nothing, right?
Don’t let size fool you.
The problem with targeting a wide audience is competition. You’ll be the classic tiny fish in a massive ocean, swimming up against a sea of established titans. These titans have been around for a long time, so they have loyal followers and lots of resources. They are meeting their audiences’ needs—otherwise, they wouldn’t have an audience. Back to Godin. He has a great metaphor to illustrate how ideas spread via a niche market. If you were to take a teaspoon of thief-detector dye and drop it into a swimming pool (a niche audience), all the water within that pool will turn bright purple. If you were to take that same teaspoon of dye and drop it in the ocean (an audience of everyone), “no one will notice.” However, Godin’s visual representation here doesn’t explain why your content goes unnoticed. That reason is competitive advantage. Whether you go niche or not, you’ll come up against others who have competitive advantage.
In the autism world, there are established organizations and websites that have the same audience and offerings as our project, but our niche audience is a small percentage of their total audience. Here’s where our qualitative audience research provided some insight that led to opportunity. The established autism titans had a wide audience. Most of the larger entities published content and provided online resource to anyone with autism and their families. According to our research, their content didn’t satisfy everyone’s needs. Their content wasn’t relevant and wasn’t helpful to everyone within this audience. Specifically, we found that autistic students that wanted to transition to college to pursue a STEM career wanted online resources for support. None of the other big players were meeting the needs of this niche. For this small subset of the autism audience, the existing autism online resources were not solving their problems. And, we also learned that some within this subset had major ideological issues with a few of the established organizations.
We identified and capitalized on this need for the Stairway to STEM project.