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Exploiting The Benefits Of Niche Marketing: Strategic Marketing

By James D. Roumeliotis

Who earns more money, a general practitioner or a specialist physician such as an ophthalmologist? The latter has spent additional years studying with an emphasis in one particular area of medical practice which makes him or her both scarce and sought after in his or her profession. The same goes for an organization that has spent years studying the market with emphasis on doing one thing, but one thing extremely well. This automatically justifies higher fees translating to improved earnings. How does an upscale saddlemaker to the horse and carriage trade (originally as a harness workshop in Paris in 1837) reposition itself to maximize its know-how in leather goods to now command more than $5000 for a simple briefcase? Or even hawk silk scarves at $500? Think Hermes.

The answer lies in specialization, craftsmanship, and branding. As with all other specialized professions, a business that, chooses to concentrate on a particular market segment should simply be generating higher revenues. Alternatively, if you join the herd of the mainstream, there is always a vast consumer audience to tap. Profit is driven by volumes. It is harder to compete on price to the point of being perceived as offering a commodity with little or no differentiation — otherwise known as a “unique selling proposition” (USP). The only exception to that rule is when an enterprise keeps churning out innovative, “must have” items ahead of its competition. Yet that requires constant creativity, refinements, and a considerable amount of R&D. Apple is an example of a brand that has managed to hit both objectives. Not bad for an enterprise, that started life in a garage.

Defining the term “Niche”
Strategically, niche marketing is the way to go forward. However, you ought to be on top of the game. Recently, the firm Kusmi Tea has managed to put all the right elements together in an unbeatable combination. It personifies mass marketing and branding. If you have a specific group of people interested in “organic tea”, you have your proverbial niche. Whether promoting niche products, in focused markets, such as those for vegans, cruises exclusively for “cougars and cubs” or geared for the ultra-high net worth individuals, the activities applied to attract those refined targets undoubtedly call for creative strategic thinking.

Targeted Audiences
The best way to start is to define your target audience. An 18 something-year-old girl who wants to lose weight to fit into her frock is interested in an effective and timely weight-loss diet. Your target is her waistline and this will be captured with simplicity.

The family who just purchased a puppy wants it trained and therefore requires the appropriate service. Show you can make a dog shake, rattle, and roll and still act well-behaved in the company of others and you will no longer need to flog dog whistles. Ever notice how a 50 plus-year-old lady wants to hide her wrinkles and is always searching for a miracle formula to make her wrinkles disappear in minutes? This “class act” can be achieved by reading certain women’s periodicals and purchasing any product recommendations. These cited groups above represent finely honed targeted audiences. Marketing to such audiences and building an emotional bridge from the intention to purchase decision always attracts higher conversions. You don’t need to recreate the wheel. All you need to do is to find a suitable product that your target market is seeking and present it on a silver platter. Target audiences desire to be addressed with intimacy and personal contact.

Driving the Niche
Common sense should point out that driving a selected audience is efficient and lucrative. The following key index shows how niche marketing should be your chosen business strategy:
1. When entering a new niche market, generally you will not have much competition to deal with. This is justification alone for choosing a specific market in the first place. It also makes your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) Internet marketing strategy
focused and cost-effective.

2. Niche markets appeal to target customers, and they are generally much more willing to spend money when their specific needs are met. This means that by catering to a specific target market, you can generally earn a better profit margin.

3. Some niche markets contain sub-groups of the main niche. For example, acai berry weight loss pills or natural weight-loss diets are sub-niches from the weight loss niche. Despite their relatively small size, they are actually quite sought after. Identifying this need spares you from having to compete for similar businesses. People who fit this profile will seriously consider your product — especially if it offers them a genuine solution.

4. Niche marketing makes it possible to focus on becoming a true expert within a particular realm while building a reputable brand name. Strategically, it is also more focused and easier to segment and attack.

The “Ideal” Niche Player
A niche market player is very effective at working closely with customers to build and maintain long-term relationships by innovating and challenging the existing norms in the industry, thus adding value to the project, program, and organizational level. If one is considered an expert in what one does by focusing on one area, then great success will follow. The value proposition must be relevant to the target market. This signifies a target market must be clearly defined. Focusing on a specific market requires knowing it inside and out. This includes conducting a market analysis, stating a precise target market description and goal, as well as being clear about the type of relationship one would like to achieve with his/her market.

By definition, then, a business that focuses on a niche market is supplying a need for a product or service that is not being met by mainstream providers. As such, one can think of a niche market as a narrowly defined group of potential clients offering them the best of what you have. In return, their vendors will profit from higher margins and customer loyalty. As for targeting smaller “sub” niches, you will find them much easier to dominate.

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Diffusion of Innovation: Getting past the first wave of innovators and early adopters to reach the tipping point

By James Roumeliotis

Diffusion of Innovation is a theory which explains how, why, and at what rate new ideas, including technology, spread. The concept was conceived by Everett Rogers, a professor of communication studies, which also inspired his book “Diffusion of Innovations” first published in 1962. It is considered one of the oldest theories in social science. Professor Rogers popularized the use of this premise with the intention of explaining how over time an idea or product gains momentum and grows in use and popularity among a specific population. Consequently, Diffusion is the process by which an Innovation is communicated through certain channels over time among the members of a social system.

What is it?

Diffusion research examines how ideas are spread among groups of people and focuses on the conditions that increase or decrease the prospect that a new idea, an innovation, product or practice, will be embraced by a certain population or society.  This concept ought to be taken in consideration when launching a new product if it is to succeed because no matter how good and innovative a new product is, it is very likely that a few people will adopt it just because it is new or novel.  The initial trend of those who adopt the change or innovation are called the “Innovators.” They represent about 2.5% of the population.

The next level and surge of people represents about 13% who will adopt an innovation, and these are referred to as the “Early Adopters.” Beyond these first two waves is the next portion of the population who represent the tipping point for a system. The tipping point is the moment of truth, the breaking point, and highlight. These are not the easy ones, as the law of diffusion of innovation tells us that you have to comprise between 15% and 18% of a population to accept an idea before you hit the important tipping point. That said, you must get past the first wave of Innovators and Early Adopters so as to accomplish the tipping point. Within the organization, according to Simon Sinek, author of five books, including ‘Start With Why’ and ‘The Infinite Game’: “If you are trying to get employees to embrace a new direction or innovation, it is even more crucial to engage people in the why of the initiative and not just the how.

Why is this beneficial?

The Diffusion of Innovation theory benefits marketers by helping them understand how trends occur. Moreover, it benefits companies in assessing the likelihood of success or failure of their new product or service.

How is it applied?

For starters, it is essential to determine where the majority of the target audience falls as this will indicate their key motivators.  Those insights will help determine how the product is marketed toward them. 

1. Innovators: Innovators are a minor group of people that constantly explore new ideas including technology products. These are the people who are influential and responsible for the creation of products that will then go through diffusion of adoption.

2. Early Adopters: Early adopters are considered as opinion leaders or influencers. They are open minded to change, and often share positive testimonials and feedback about innovations that have left them satisfied, as well as feedback regarding how new products could be improved.

3. Early Majority: People that fall in the early majority category of adoption are basically followers of the early adopters. They take the opinions of the early adopters seriously. As a result, they are likely to perform behaviors such as reading reviews prior to purchasing a product. 

4. Late Majority: People in the late majority category of adoption are the skeptical ones who are not very familiar or comfortable with change. Quite often, those in this late majority category will only accept new products or innovations when they begin to feel pressure from those around them making them feel as if they would be left behind if they do not embrace the new products or innovations.

5. Laggards: They are the most conservative of the bunch. They only embrace new products or innovations when there is no alternative to doing so and often are persuaded to accept by facts found through their own research and reading reviews. Another common motivator for this group is the pressure felt by the other adopter groups.

If you are launching a new product, such as software, you can use the Diffusion of Innovation concept to help you identify the most ideal marketing strategy and approach for each group/category. Although the Adoption theory is beneficial when looking at new product launches, it can be equally useful when launching existing products or services into a new market.

The following is an example of how this concept can be applied to digital marketing strategies (credit: smartinsights.com)
Launching new software to the different groups.
  • Innovator: Show the software on key software sites such as Techcrunch, or Mashable. Providing marketing material on the website, with relevant information and lead to potential sales with downloads.
  • Early Adopter: Create guides and add to the major software sites, providing marketing material such as case studies, Guides and FAQs.
  • Early Majority: Blogger outreach with guest blog posts and provide links to social media pages, key facts and figures, and ‘how to’ YouTube videos.
  • Late Majority: Encourage reviews, comparisons and share press commentary on your website. Provide a press section and social proof with information and links to reviews, testimonials, third party review sites etc
  • Laggards: It’s probably not worth trying to appeal to this group!

The take-away

The diffusion of innovation is important to marketers and innovators because it considers adoption in context of a larger social system. The first two groups on the diagram (the “Innovators” and the “Early Adopters”) are the only ones willing to accept the risk of purchasing a product first, whereas, the other/subsequent groups are willing to wait and have others they trust try it first prior to making a purchase commitment themselves.

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Sources: Rogers, E.M. (1976). New Product Adoption and Diffusion. Journal of Consumer Research. (March). p290-301.

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Giftvertising — a Brilliant Trend and Unconventional Marketing Tactic

by James D. Roumeliotis

WestJet's Christmas Miracle 2013 - Hamilton Airport, Ontario, Canada

WestJet’s Christmas Miracle 2013 – Hamilton Airport, Ontario, Canada

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Sadly, every day we are inundated with a slew of advertising messages almost everywhere we turn. There seems no escape.

A new study of media usage and ad exposure by Media Dynamics, Inc. reveals that a typical adult’s daily media consumption has grown from 5.2 hours in 1945 to 9.8 hours (or 590 minutes) currently.

Companies that wish to cut through the advertising clutter and stand-out are constantly utilizing unconventional and bold tactics through creative and methodical strategies. Through Giftvertising ‒ or gift giving captured on a video for advertising purposes, a brand develops memorable organized events with elements of surprise, while concurrently filming the reactions. The filmed message conveyed is one of generosity and caring to enhance customer perception.

Guerrilla marketing in video format

“Guerrilla” Marketing, a term was coined by Jay Conrad Levinson in his 1984 with his initial book entitled ‘Guerrilla Advertising’, is regarded as a bold, unconventional and low budget marketing/advertising strategy with effective results. In marketing, the element of surprise is a crucial method in breaking through a plethora of traditional advertising media. ‘Giftvertising’, an advertising trend, where marketers surprise their customers with free gifts, is akin to “Guerrilla” advertising in an online video format. Its aim is to create a highly entertaining and emotional bond with its customers and viewers. Furthermore, the scene filmed on video is anticipated to create buzz thus go viral on social media.

The advertising industry is constantly under pressure, by its demanding accounts, to create elaborate experiences for their targeted audiences. Ingenious campaigns are expected to break through the clutter, whilst differentiating a brand and improving its image which elevates its perception as trendy and customer driven. To be noticeably effective, the campaign required a public relations strategy approach, as well as be distinguished as authentic and purposeful by its viewing audience if it is to go viral.

Within the last few years, several brands experimented by launching their share of emotional based Giftvertising videos including WestJet Airlines which started it all with its “WestJet Christmas Miracle” − followed by others including TD Bank with its “Automated Thanking Machine”, Air Canada’s “Gift of Home for the Holidays” and MasterCard’s “Priceless Surprises.”

Case Study: WestJet

If there is a contemporary brand which inspired other Giftvertising campaigns which followed, it is none other than Canadian carrier WestJet Airlines Ltd. In December 2013, in time for the Christmas holiday season, it became one of the most watched viral videos over the Internet with over 40 million YouTube views (and counting). Additionally, it received numerous press mentions around the world. Consequently, other companies launched their own videos yearning similar results.

A year later in 2014, WestJet put out another remarkable Christmas video. This time it was set in the Dominican Republic. However, it did not reward its customers but instead it gave back to a small town in that country the airline flies to. Both videos average 5’30” each – an ideal amount of time to communicate the occasion without getting carried away.

Not surprisingly, both Giftvertising campaigns had a positive impact. They dramatically increased WestJet’s website visits along with bookings compared to the same month the previous years. All told, the company’s revenue soared by more than 80%.

All things considered

It takes unconventional marketing wisdom with bold tactics, along with a demonstration of genuine admiration and care for the customer, to produce emotional and memorable occasions including utter joy displayed by company employees. All this can have a profound effect on the millions of viewers. If it succeeds in its intended purpose, the publicity it generates on social media will be well worth the investment.

Giftvertising, undoubtedly, establishes a strong emotional bond between the brand and its customers just as it conveys a strong emotional impression boosting its positive image of a company one should certainly consider doing business with.

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Branding Strategies for a Fundamental Differentiation

by James D. Roumeliotis

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Most businesses have an opinion on what branding constitutes, though how do you go about standing-out apart from similar product or service categories? Let us begin the thought process on this issue by first looking at what the word “Branding” is defined as in the Cambridge English dictionary. “Branding” is “the act of giving a company a particular design or symbol in order to advertise its products and services.” Sounds very simplistic. However, we know that it takes plenty of thought, creativity and flawless execution to truly define a brand which radiates externally to produce notable customer experiences. A brand is essentially an intangible asset which is injected with personality – values that consumers like and can relate to. Moreover, a cleverly created and executed branding strategy develops an intangible association with consumers

Defining the Brand
We start with the idea of what we want the product, service and its respective company to be perceived as. What do you want it to represent? Specifically what category does it belong to that will be in the consumers’ mind? Defining your target market too will help to strengthen the brand’s effectiveness. Explain what your brand stands for and why it is better than the competition. This is where you execute your brand communications. Commonly used methods of brand communications include advertising, events, sponsorships, promotions, direct marketing, customer relationship management programs and public relations. In defining who your brand and your audience is, you create the foundation for all other components to build on. This requires a distinctive brand vision, positioning, personality and affiliation for the product/service. Those are crucial factors that will make it truly unique. Proper branding can also get you out of the commodity trap and attract value in terms of higher pricing.

Customer Experiences
This is what truly creates differentiation from mass and from competing brands. The key objective is to create a relationship of trust. The world’s powerful brands establish trust and friendship with their customers. They develop emotional capital, and gain passion. This is what makes them great. A brand’s image is how consumers perceive it and this may not be the same as how the owner wants it to be seen. It is important to note that without a premium product or service quality, a strong brand image is difficult to create.

Every customer contact (“touch points”) should be handled with the utmost care to ensure that the total brand experience a person has is consistent. This involves properly training and occasionally evaluating employee performance and when necessary, changing strategy, systems, technology, methods, services, products and even physical premises to produce a positive customer experience. Complacency should be replaced with continuous improvement.

Standing-out from the Crowd
Brands can’t stand out by blending in. They need to be distinctive, compelling, create buzz and call for action. Advertising in almost every industry appears to look the same. Visually distinctive brand features enhance customer recall and positively influence intent to purchase. “Advertising” creates attention and promotes an image and the brand. On the other hand, “Marketing” compels someone to buy. Since we’re constantly bombarded with advertising, it’s important to cut through the clutter. You only have one or two seconds to grab the attention of your intended audience. Compared to your competition, take an unusual approach by being first, different and bold in the way you create and deliver your message.
Marketing campaigns should have elements of:
 Imagination
 Mystery
 Memory

Whether a product or service is a luxury brand or falls into another category, it is how you stand out from the crowd that distinguishes you. Know your target audience, get inside their heads and understand how they think and feel. What are their fears, emotions and anxieties? It’s not just about demographics, it’s about neuro-psychology. Once you have this down pat, you then manage the brand consistently.

YOUR COMMENTS/OPINIONS ARE WELCOME.

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