Many small businesses in Nigeria struggle to stay afloat in their spaces because they’re being crowded out. There’s just too many ventures offering the same sort of product and service as they are. The market grows, but so do the number of competitors. Growth is difficult in such environments because they’re bulging with businesses battling for scraps of a limited market.
There’s one way for businesses to avoid this problem: they can create a niche for themselves, a corner in which they build and sell products and services that are unique, instead of marketing the same old type of stuff that everyone else does. This gives them a less crowded environment to operate in, away from the muddying, bruising competition of the mainstream commercial space.
Here’s an example. We have a market for smartphones. It’s dominated by a number of tech giants with billions of dollars to spend on ads and huge loyal following. Besides the top brands, there are numerous others down the ladder, already struggling for a slice of the market. How do you break into this space?
One idea would be to avoid the mainstream smartphone market, and creating a niche instead. How about making a mobile phone for specific demographics- say, children and young teenagers, or physically challenged persons? You’ll have a unique product, a real but largely underserved market, and less competition to worry about. That’s what having a niche to yourself does for you.
If the idea I’ve shared above seems interesting enough, you should read on. This article should help you come up with a few great niche building ideas of your own.
How to carve out your own niche
You should consider the following points if you’re looking to create a niche for your business.
Target specific demographics
This is what we were getting at with the mobile phone example. Find sections of the market that haven’t been properly served (or underserved), and shape your product to meet their needs.
This point seems lost on a lot of businesspeople in Nigeria. This is partly because many of us tend to be driven by the herd mentality (what everyone else is doing). But if you’re doing something simply because it looks like the trendy thing to do, you’re likely going to miss the point of it. Your focus should be on satisfying customers, not just making money from the latest money-spinning venture.
In summary, you should look for the underserved customer, and offer them what they’re looking for; they will gladly pay you for doing this.
Borrow ideas and fit them to your space
Some things that are commonplace in one business environment might, in fact, be a missing solution in another one. You can build a niche for yourself where you’re at, by borrowing ideas from elsewhere and adapting them to your local environment.
Achenyo Idachaba did just this with her business, Mitimeth. The company crafts accessories and home decor using water hyacinth. Idachaba says she came across the idea while looking for a way to turn the environmentally troublesome water hyacinth into something useful. She found out that it was being used to weave personal accessories in South East Asia, and decided to adopt the idea for her Nigerian setting. The result was the start of a business with an international customer base.
Chop and mix things from multiple sectors
This is a version of the previous point. You can mix aspects of already existing businesses, to produce a novel business model.
An example of this at work is the Nigerian coffee chain, Neo Cafe. The idea of an indigenous coffee chain is interesting enough. But Neo Cafe isn’t just for coffee; it’s also a workspace for a new generation, remote working entrepreneurs who want the joys of a stimulating drink and a nice atmosphere in one place.
Introduce easy to use versions
How can you make a product much easier to use? If you have a viable answer to this question for something that’s widely consumed, you’ll be on your way to making a niche of your own.
The need for ease and convenience is a major driver of innovation. Much of what we recognize as revolutionary technology are popular because they are easier or more convenient to use than their older alternatives.
If we make this a broader point about removing inconvenience, we could come up with even more niche-spurring solutions. There might be something unpleasant about an existing product type. If you’re able to come up with an alternative that doesn’t have that weakness, you could build a good niche with it.
Turn norms on their heads
We could be used to things being a certain way or taking a definite shape or form. But when someone comes along and presents them in a completely different way, there could be a lot of talk about it. If it’s a positive disruption of the norm, it’ll attract a good deal of interest.
This applies to business as it does to other aspects of life. Run with an unconventional business model; have a brand messaging style that strikes people with its uniqueness and authenticity; operate with slightly different open hours to what everyone else in your industry does. If you’re able to appeal to a big enough section of the market with these sorts of unique features, you could create a real niche for your business.
Approach marketing differently
We alluded to this in the previous point. Your marketing style could help reinforce the perception of your niche’s novelty in the minds of your customers. A key ingredient of successful niche marketing is proper target marketing. You need to know who your typical customers are, and devise smart new ways of reaching them that’ll capture their attention.