In this series so far, we have discussed why
- ‘Old school’ product marketing must change
- You should encourage buyers to pull your information in instead of ‘pushing’ out your marketing
- You want your customers to do the selling not you.
- Customer-centric marketing is more effective than product-centric marketing
- You want clear and natural writing not impressive professional martekese
- Marketing budgets should be invested smartly not spent lazily out of habit
Here, in part 7, we’ll look at niches and how narrow or broad your marketing should be.
- Don’t broadcast a general message to everyone
- Do focus your marketing on a specific niche or customer segment
The classic software marketing mistake is very understandable. It is natural to boast how great your software is, talk about all the great things it can do, and how it is useful for everyone – so everyone should rush out and buy it now.
But that is a big mistake. Marketing to everyone fails. Always.
Marketing to Everyone is Marketing to No-one
Don’t market to everyone. Your message will get lost in the noise. We are all exposed to thousands of marketing messages everyday and have trained ourselves to tune out almost everything.
To get noticed, you need existing brand recognition, massive budget to pay for attention, or to be exceptionally lucky.
If you cannot tie your content to a specific audience, your messages will inevitably drift towards you and your offerings. Boring.
People don’t care about you and your solution. When looking to buy, they only care about their problem. Without a target audience, your content will be unfocused, bland, and boring.
I know companies hate to narrow their market, but something that claims it’s “useful to everyone,” usually isn’t appealing to anyone in particular.
— Peter Cohen
Focus Software Marketing on a Niche
You can be the “big fish in a small pond”. Follow Geoffrey Moore’s “Crossing the Chasm” advice and establish your beachhead. Choosing one niche and completely focusing on that niche will dramatically improve your product development and marketing effectiveness.
Selecting the right niche is important.
- Start by identifying some candidate niches, interview people.
- Discover who has the problem your solution solves.
- Find out: how painful is it for them? are they willing and able to pay for a solution? how easy is it for you to reach them?
After your initial research, stand back and look for patterns.
- Often your research will throw up new ways for segmenting potential customers.
- Maybe you thought income and age were important factors, but it turns out that urban/rural, education level, and gender are more important.
Look at how you can expand your target by including similar people who have the same problem and you can reach the same way. But be careful, most people make their segments too broad.
If in doubt, make your niche more specific, more focused.
Pick one niche. But don’t wait too long to decide. There may be several niches that could work, but picking several or none is far worse than picking a niche that is marginally sub-optimal.
Why Niche Marketing Works
Your first big benefit is you have identified a group of people to target.
- You can find them, talk to them and learn how they express their problems.
- Listen to how they phrase the problem being solved, what is important for them.
- These will form the basis of your marketing messages.
Interview people in your selected niche to see where they go to find solutions.
- Do they search online, ask friends, look for review sites, or go direct to shops.
- This will guide where you will do your marketing.
Find out how they use your product to solve their problems, which parts they don’t use, and where functionality “gaps” are a real problem.
In a niche, you will get a clearer, more consistent set of customer feedback for your product development, pricing and packaging plans. Being able to simplify your products by removing under-used features is especially useful for a niche.
Now your marketing will resonate as you clearly specify this solution is “for people like you”.
People who share the same problem
- Use similar words and search in similar ways
- Go to similar places online and in the real world
- Like similar images and concepts
- Marketing offers that appeal to some are far more likely to appeal to others in the same niche or customer segment
As your customer list grows and you know more about them, the benefits accelerate as customer referenceability and referrals are stronger within a smaller community.
Additionally as you focus on a niche, you will learn more about the segment, the issues, the important people.
You can use your increased domain expertise and network in your marketing by blogging, conducting webinars… until you become a well known and established player in this niche.
You can also invest in customizing your marketing within the segment, defining sub-segments and even preferences for individual customers.
Email marketing is wonderfully customizable, allowing you to target your various audiences with different messages. Take advantage of this — and avoid blasting the same content to all contacts — by personalizing the content you send.
— Shawn Naggiar on Content Marketing Institute
Test Your Marketing, Learn and Repeat
The days of “marketing is an art” have long gone. Marketing campaigns based on “gut instinct” and “creative genius” are no longer defensible. Marketing is now a science, and just like scientists in a laboratory, marketers should always be testing…
- Write down a hypothesis
- Devise a test, typically an A/B test but could be interview-based
- When you have enough data, stop and analyze results
- Write down what you learned
Testing in a Niche
Look at your whole funnel. Learn how to get this niche into your funnel and convert them into happy customers.
Test to learn
- Where do you find your target niche
- How do you get their attention
- What are they looking for
- Which messages are most effective
- How do you keep them interested
- Why would they buy – or not buy
Initially, do not worry about optimizing the details. Finding out whether green or orange buttons are more effective can wait.
Get the big factors nailed first.
- Why do they buy, what convinces them?
- Where do they see the value, which benefits are most important?
- What stops them proceeding, which objections must be overcome?
- How valuable is your solution, what is the right price point?
- What is the most effective sales process, is a trial needed?
When you reach the point where you are no longer learning about this niche, it is time to stand back and re-evaluate your niche selection
- Are you a big fish or a little fish?
- Is the pond large or small?
A niche is successful when you have established a reputation within the niche as the default choice, or you have sufficient momentum to be confident you will achieve that in the short-term.
- Next step: find a related niche and repeat e.g. doctors and dentists. Using what you learned from your first niche will make this much easier
If you are getting absolutely no traction in your niche, then you should completely change strategy. But you are far more likely to be finding success within a particular customer segment or for one part of your software solution.
- Next step: reduce the scope of your niche « the smaller the niche, the easier it is to succeed and you can expand horizontally later
- Next step: focus on one part of your solution, emphasize that in your marketing, even remove the rest from your product
- Identify and test different niches for your software
- Check they want to pay you to solve their pain
- Choose your segment and immerse yourself in it
- Learn everything about that segment and focus ruthlessly
- Try a marketing campaign on the segment. Learn. Improve. Repeat.
Next time in this series, we’ll look at sales. When to include sales and how big your sales team should be.
Do you focus your software marketing on a niche? Please share your tips and experiences in the comments below.