Why there is value in being a specialist – staying niche

The value in being niche

One of the most oft-recurring conversations I have with small business- and even some larger businesses – is whether they should ‘do more’. That is: sell a wider array of goods or services. Diversify.

There is a true fear of missing an opportunity by being a specialist, being niche. And I completely understand this because when I’ve worked completely as a freelancer, there’s a tendency to say yes to everything to ensure you can keep paying the bills.

Yet there is some real value in staying niche – and that’s the opportunity to be positioned and perceived as a “specialist”. A true expert, with specialised knowledge, is what many people are seeking from either a service provide or a retailer.

I was recently reminded of this when I received this (unsolicited) email. Despite the fact it’s obviously quite ugly, mass-produced and inherently ‘spammy’ looking, the actual content is worse. Why? Because can one person, or one business, possibly be expert in all of those things? Of course not. They can likely DO all of these things, but that doesn’t mean I’d trust them to be “the best choice” for any one of them.

Value of specialisation

I’m not alone in the call to consider the benefits of staying niche. I watched a recent interview with Andrew McCutchen of Time & Tide (as part of a series of Officeworks videos). Andrew’s publication is one of the most niche media offerings out there: a publication focused only on watches. Yet it seems to be thriving at a time when much larger media vehicles are dropping like flies. He talked about not being afraid to delight in the detail of what you do, and “showing your passion for it” which, in turn, “will show authority in the space”.

At a time when Department stores are hitting truly hard times, specialist retail is also gaining traction. An impressive example of a niche retail business that’s thriving is store C.W. Pencils in New York. It is a store dedicated to – you guessed it – pencils. Yes, there’s some other stationery on offer, but this store has made itself a true retail destination by being perceived as a pencil specialist. Don’t think there could be anything in that? A hint that it’s working is not only all the media they’ve garnered, but their Instagram following that tipped to over 100,000 people in a year.

So if you’re considering your business and marketing planning for the coming year, it’s a good time to consider what it is you and your business really excel at: are true experts in. Then consider if there’s value is focusing more narrowly on this speciality and really building your authority in that arena. Some short term challenges may evolve into genuine, long-term, competitive advantage: being sought out by prospective customers as an expert in your field. The ultimate, zero budget marketing dream.

A clever retail email campaign example – Offer + social proof

It’s an inbox war out there. More and more emails sent. Less and less attention paid. So when an email makes ME stop and pay attention, I make the effort to consider why – and help us all learn from it! So I thought I’d share this recent clever email marketing campaign that combines the double whammy of a great offer AND social proof.

It’s an email from an Australian online bag and carry retailer, Rushfaster. (I haven’t bought from them before but I entered a rather compelling competition a few months ago, which is where I expect they got my email address.)

To start with: the offer in this email is great – 25% off is a decent discount. But a lot of retailers offer 25% off in their email marketing, so it isn’t enough to motivate someone who’s not really in the market for what they’re selling right now. Particularly when trying to drive FIRST purchase, they’ve recognised the need to work harder. In this case, Rushfaster is betting on social proof. That is – 99.4% of customers said they’d shop with us again.

Now that is an impressive lot of satisfied customers. Huge numbers any marketer would be proud to have. So if I was worried about Rushfaster in any way – about their legitimacy, quality of product, ability to deliver – this would alleviate this. It’s an impressive use of social proof and a great way to use research for more than just making your boss happy!

This campaign is a great example of how to use a hook and a call to action really well.

I should point out, I didn’t actually shop as a result of this email. Which isn’t unusual, of course; if we all bought something every time we got an email, we’d be broke in a week!

But it did make me consider – what would ultimately make this campaign even better? In my opinion, it would be to include some product at the end. Because, like many of us, I’m a bit of an impulse shopper when I see something I love.

Adding some desirable product below the hook and call to action may have closed this for me. Of course, it may not have too! So still lots to learn from this smart little marketing campaign – and a reminder to make each communication piece you send always work as hard as it possibly can.

 

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To pop up, or not pop up, that is the question

The challenge with most marketing is that you’re dealing with clients or bosses who say to you “I don’t like that” or “That annoys me” when you recommend a tactic. The “pop up box” encouraging sign ups on a website is one of these tactics that can be hard to convince people of. Because they are a bit annoying. They also work.

I’ve successfully implemented a pop up box now several times. Each time, it has immediately driven increased list sign up – and increased conversions. Despite sharing these experiences, it can still be hard to convince people. So I was pleased to see this new research report of 400 online retailers that pretty definitively shuts down the argument.

According to a recent study by email marketing firm Listrack, pop-ups can help retailers nearly double the rate at which they sign up consumers to receive marketing email. A pop up that includes an incentive, like a percentage off offer, results in an average list increase over a year of a whopping 47.8%!

I haven’t ever gotten a 50% bump. But I have achieved a 20-30% bump. It works best when you have an incentive – both in the box and on the thank you page (and ideally the follow up email with the chance to offer something like an upsell). It’s the ideal zero budget marketing tactic – beyond a little bit of form design, you’re spending nothing at all to increase your marketing effectiveness!

So if you don’t have a pop up box on your website to capture visitors that don’t buy, you’re wasting an opportunity. That opportunity is building your database so that you have a chance to convert visitors later. A sad fact of eCommerce and other websites is that we only convert a small fraction of visitors to buyers. So why not try and capture information of engaged visitors to try and convince them later.

And if you’re left wondering still what a pop up box is…here’s a few examples I’ve come across recently that might help with increasing sign ups to your own website.

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Yes please, I’d like $15 of free money

15 dollar credit example

There’s a LOT of bad marketing out there – money wasted, missing calls to action, ho-hum offers abound. So when you see good marketing, it’s worth noticing and taking a little inspiration from.

Red Balloon have been a “business to watch” for many years. Founder Naomi Simpson is a regular speaker at business events, flying the flag for her business in a one-woman PR campaign!

As a successful but purely online business, they’ve honed what works in terms of online promotion – which is why I was interested in this “account credit” promotion I was sent from them.

I was recently the recipient of TWO Red Balloon gift vouchers, so created an account and spent the vouchers on a weekend away.

A month later, I received this offer: A $15 credit in my account to spend, with 6 weeks available to spend it.

This is an immediately enticing offer. Let’s face it: I feel that I have been given FREE MONEY.

And I am highly likely to use this “free money”…and likely end up spending a whole lot more with them! They’re on the road to making me a repeat customer, something I hadn’t even really considered before receiving this offer.

It’s a clever zero budget marketing tactic that is not used enough in the online sphere.

Why is this ‘zero budget’ marketing. There’s no cost to Red Balloon if I don’t use this offer. It’s a zero budget marketing tactic because the business really isn’t spending money unless it’s MAKING money. And if someone spends a “voucher” like this, the spend is usually 5-8 times a voucher’s value. They’re also moving me from a ‘gift recipient’ to a ‘customer’ with this type of offer – rather clever in itself.

So if you’re in any sort of retail or B2C marketing, consider how you could use this type of offer in your marketing.

 

 

Zero budget sign writing – no budget is no excuse

zero budget sign writing

I always maintain that creativity can overcome the challenges of a low – or zero – marketing budget.

This little sign (that I recently spotted at a market) is such a perfect example of this.

It’s compelling, it makes you smile, it makes you stop and notice it – and importantly: it makes you really want to buy that cake.

A hugely powerful marketing tool – that would have cost around 5 cents.

Whilst someone was pretty handy with their black marker, what is really clever about this sign is the copy-writing. “Shipped down from heaven early this morning” is a visual, new and emotive means of saying “baked fresh”.

So what inspiration can you take from this? What copy can you re-write in a more meaningful, clever, funny, intriguing, engaging, smile-educing way?