Niche Marketing: AKA Stop trying to be a prom queen

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Niche marketing drives lots of new business owners crazy, I think. A default way of thinking about business and success in business is that you want to appeal to as many people as possible so that you have the most opportunities available to you. And I totally get that idea, but it’s not the way you’re going to find success.

Let me show you something, these are my Google Analytics stats for my company during December 17 – January 17:

What do you notice?

  1. The amount of hits I get to the website is really low.
  2. Like, how am I making a living on a company that gets less than 1,000 hits a month?
  3. But seriously…how?

The answer is in the rest of the stats: I have a low amount of people coming to the site, but from those who do, 25% of them reach my conversion goal (which is getting to the “thank you” page after a checkout). Also, my bounce rate is really low (bounce rates are the percentage of people that come to the site, look around, and say “nope” and bounce out).

So for every 4 people that come to my website, 1 person decides to make a purchase.

“Yeah, yeah Megan. Way to show us a high conversion rate during CHRISTMAS. Duh.” Okay, fair enough. Here’s last week:

What was happening during this timeframe? Valentine’s Day, sure, but if you look at my Facebook or Instagram for MSC, you’ll see that I ran no promotions. In fact, I barely touched the social media or the website because I was really focused on getting Perfect Product Copy going. And still, I had ~1 in 4.5 people buying from my website. That’s all thanks to developing a super specific niche marketing strategy.

Is it embarrassing to show that I don’t get a bazillion hits to my site every month? Kinda. But I don’t need a bazillion hits on my site, because I’ve got a tribe of people that are my people. That’s what niche marketing is all about.

I don’t need a bazillion hits on my site, because I’ve got a tribe of people that are my people. That’s what niche marketing is all about.

When I talk about not marketing like a prom queen, I mean it like this: Thinking back to your high school prom queen, she was probably someone that was liked by many. She probably was fairly popular. In my high school, the Prom Queen was a nice girl, she wasn’t really a Mean Girl, but instead, she was well known and seemed friendly. She was all in all, fairly harmless. When she won, we all clapped and I was happy for her, but then I went back to hanging out with my friends and forgot about it.

“Prom Queen marketing” is about reaching out to as many people as possible, being everyone’s friend. Being popular sounds great, definitely, but think of the work it must be to maintain that popularity. You can’t ever get really deep into something, because that will drive off fans/friends/customers. So you stay at an even keel, trying to please everyone and, let’s be real here, driving yourself crazy trying to make sure everyone is still your friend.

To me, that sounds awful. You can’t make a joke, because it will offend someone. You can’t like bacon pics on Pinterest, because that will offend customers that are vegans (True story. My bad). You can’t like the Yankees, because your fans might be Orioles fans. In the end, trying to appeal to everyone means you lose what makes you special, you lose your identity.

In the end, trying to appeal to everyone means you lose what makes you special

Now let’s talk about the other side of the coin.

I was a geek. I still am a geek. I was in marching band (originally played the sousaphone [tuba] but moved to the baritone horn) and my main group of friends was also in the band. I was into obscure-ish music and wasn’t totally into pop. I had a goth phase (I guess I’m still sort of in that…goth lite). I was no one’s Prom Queen, that’s for sure. But for the most part, I got by in high school without too much strife (besides the usual teenage drama fest) because I didn’t really pay attention to much going on outside of my friend circle. To be fair, I had a few friends “on the outside” that probably prevented me from being hassled, but all in all no one really bothered me. I don’t really think anyone gave me much thought, except for my friends, which was the best thing ever. No one paying attention to me meant that I could geek out at my heart’s content to Tori Amos songs and spend hours on the phone giving my own dialogue to MST3K episodes with my best friend, Mary.

So this is what I’m saying: Niche marketing, or geeking out, is what needs to happen when you build a business. Will everyone get what you’re trying to do? Newp. And that is BALLER. Niching down to a very select group of people means that you won’t get a lot of attention from the outside, and but in the inside of your tribe, you will be the BEST thing that ever happened.

When you’re feeling like you’re trying to get too specific with your customer base, remember that is a good thing. To feel fully free to geek about what you love about your business means that you’ll find others that love that EXACT same thing. It’s not that you won’t find customers out there that aren’t into what you’re into. There’s actually a pretty good chance they’re out there, but the challenge is finding them. That is definitely no easy task if you’re not willing to put the effort in to find out where they are.

Who was my market for MSC? Women and gay men that liked complex scents and detailed packaging. My customers weren’t really into ingredients, but they liked my stuff was organic as an extra bonus. They cared that it looked pretty and smelled good. Also, a bonus customer base were men that liked the packaging because it usually matched their bathrooms (black/white). There were a TON of people that didn’t get it. At shows I had people come to my booth, sniff things, and walk away. They were replaced with my tribe of people that stood there talking to me about my products for 20 minutes because they were so into it.

I don’t have the same client base as a company with clean, white, simple packaging and I don’t want that. ESPECIALLY because I’ve got this small tribe of people that come to me and buy from me. They get it, and I get them.

That’s what I mean when I say “don’t try to market like a Prom Queen.” By learning niche marketing, you narrow down your customer base to a super small, super specific base and provide so much value to them that they don’t even think of another company. Straight women and gay men in NYC that are really into Victorian decor? That’s my tribe. Graphic designers with sarcastic wits that can tell how much time it took to wrap and box my products? That’s my tribe. Crunchy hippy Moms that want to know about where I sourced my palm oil from? Not my tribe, go to Whole Foods. We’re all happier people when we find our bros and stop looking for validation everywhere, both in life and in business.

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