How to find your niche
We often see shops on Folksy that sell a bit of this and a bit of that, but most successful small businesses have built a reputation for doing one thing and doing it well. They have found their niche. As an independent maker, or just starting your own business, you’re perfectly positioned to build a niche business – whether that’s through the products you make or the market you target.
So why is being niche important for independent designers and makers… and how can you find your niche?
The advantages of being niche
It’s a common mistake to think that if you have a wide variety of products, you’ll appeal to more customers. For most designers and makers the reverse is actually true: limit your product range and / or your target market and you’ll find it easier to grow your business.
This is because:
- If you pick the right niche (one where there isn’t much competition), it’s easier to get noticed.
- Do it well and you can ‘own’ that space, becoming the go-to person for that product or market.
- Having a limited product range allows you to achieve economies of scale (ie buy your materials at cheaper prices).
- It’s easier to target your market if it’s smaller and more defined.
- Niche companies are more likely to have loyal fans.
- Loyal fans are more likely to share and ‘evangelise’ about you.
- It’s nearly impossible to please everyone, but when you’re niche you can thrill a few.
How do you find your niche?
If the benefits of being niche are clear, how do you find that niche? Sometimes it’s easy. It could be that you already have a skill that’s in limited supply (eg. an axe-maker who has inherited tools and knowledge passed down through generations) or you’ve spotted a gap in the market in your own searches as a buyer (eg. Lindy Hop clothes for children). If you have a particular passion, that can be a great starting point for a business too, as you’ll already have valuable insight into what people want.
If nothing jumps out at you, you’ll need to do a bit more research. Is there a sector you could appeal to who aren’t currently catered for? Is there a point where two trends meet that hasn’t yet been occupied? Have a look on Pinterest for inspiration, but be wary of copying or just following trends because you can’t ‘own’ that space if it’s already ‘owned’ by someone else or is on the way out!
Do your research
Once you have an idea, research it well. Is anyone already doing it? How many people offer something similar or target the same market? If there isn’t much competition, your products and brand have a better chance of getting seen. If there is already something similar out there, what can you do to be different?
However, it could be that there isn’t much competition because there isn’t much demand. So the next step is to find out if it’s something people actually want. You could ask friends and followers on Facebook or Instagram, but as these are people who already know you, your results might be skewed. You might get a more useful response on a forum where your ideal customers hang out, or by talking to a blogger who focuses on that sector.
Another good resource is Google Trends. Just type in a word or short phrase and it will show you how many people are searching for it and whether it’s more or less popular than it used to be – so you can instantly see if this is a trend that’s on its way up or on its way down!
Own your niche
When you’ve found your niche, make sure people know you’re there. Be in all the places where your perfect customer lives, read what they read, comment on the same feeds.
Be passionate about what you do and keep one step ahead – if you’re successful, people might try to move in on your space, so make sure you’re seen as the innovator and the original by coming up with new designs and nourishing your fans so they stay loyal to you.
Abi Simmons has built a successful niche business Red Hand Gang, designing and making wooden clothes hangers. We asked her to share her 5 top tips on how to find your own niche…
1. Decide who your target market is.
Understanding who your ideal customer is helps to focus your thoughts, ideas and ultimately your designs.
2. Don’t be afraid to experiment with ideas.
It took quite a while for me to hit my stride. I started off making books before going off on a tangent and ending up with wooden clothes hangers!
3. Do research before you actually start making.
While designing the hangers I spent lots of time making sure that what I wanted to make wasn’t already out there and that there was a gap in the market for what I was about produce.
4. Keep trend watching.
I always keep an eye on what is currently popular in the world of kid’s decor. Instagram and Pinterest are great for this. Although I have my own style, the colour ways I make are often determined by customer demand.
5. Have a strong product range.
If you can transfer a design or theme to a few different products it’s a great way to expand your business while keeping your style consistent and recognisably yours.