How to Find a Niche Market & Make It Your Own

Niche Marketing Can Be Your Ticket to Success

Senior woman choosing fabric with shop assistant in interiors shop
••• Cultura/yellowdog/ The Image Bank/ Getty images

One common path to success for many small businesses is to find a niche market and establish themselves as a dominant player in that niche.

Because no matter how hard they try, no large retailer can be all things to all people, there are always going to be segments of the population whose needs for particular products and/or services are going unmet – leaving room for the small business to succeed by meeting those needs.

So how can your small business capitalize on these unmet needs and find and dominate your own niche market? Concentrate on these four basic concepts for niche marketing success:

1. A unique product or service.

For starters, if you’re going to master a niche market, you need to have a unique product or service. Ideally, you want to be the only one selling what you’re selling.

The trick to coming up with such a product or service is to look on the fringes for unmet needs. For example, one East Coast entrepreneur's business consists of creating hand-made medieval outfits. Large retailers and even shops specializing in costumes don’t supply these types of garments.

Don’t forget that processes can be products as well. Someone once looked at an inkjet printer cartridge and came up with the idea and the process for refilling them, for example.

Need help getting started with this sort of idea spotting? 7 Sources of Business Ideas will spark your thinking.

2. A marketable product or service.

Maybe there’s no one selling fried insects from a vending cart on your street, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. The niche market of people who enjoy eating fried insects is fairly small, after all. There has to be enough of a demand for your product or service for your business to make a profit.

How do you find out? By trial and error, or by conducting extensive market research.

The latter is likely the better, and more economically feasible, option. If you want to know if there’s a market for coats for dogs, bamboo flooring, or counseling for the iPhone-addicted, the best way to find out is to get out there and ask. Making or buying a lot of something and throwing up a website to see if there’s any interest is for people who don’t want to make money.

3. Choose a niche market that’s available.

Remember, niche markets tend to be smaller, so there’s only room for so many players. If you try to jump on a bandwagon, you’re only going to fall off the back. Before you started such a business yourself, you would certainly need to carefully research the competition and the size of the market to see if a new business in this niche would be viable. 

4. Market, market, market.

Marketing is perhaps more important for niche businesses than for any other kind, because the niche market business is by definition unknown; your success or failure hinges on making the connection with exactly the right kind of customer or client.

If I open a Starbucks, for example, people know right away what that business is about and what kinds of products to expect. And because Starbucks's market is “anybody who likes coffee”, they really don’t have to worry much about advertising at this point in the game.

But if I open a business providing naturopathic treatments for pets, selling tub/shower conversions for the elderly, or providing virtual assistant services to professional speakers (to give just three examples), people won’t know what to expect, or even that my niche business exists at all, unless I make the effort to reach and educate them. So market, market, market – and once you have a customer or client, make contact on a regular basis.

A unique product or service that will fulfill the unmet needs of a specific group of people – that’s niche marketing in a nutshell. If you apply all of the four concepts above, your small business will enjoy the powerful competitive advantage that mastering a niche market provides.

Do You Need to Find a Niche Market?

If you are looking to start a business, there are many proven business ideas in existing traditional markets that can generate full or part-time income if you can:

  1. Deliver the products and services that your customers need,  and
  2. Provide better customer service than your competitors

For example:

Sometimes you can boost existing sales of your products or services by simply reorienting your business. For example, customers are increasingly concerned about the environment and by incorporating eco-friendly business practices you may gain new customers. (See 10 Ways to Green Your Business.)