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Niche Marketing = Raving Fans

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A niche is an area of a given market that specializes in one type of product or service. Niche marketing is a means of serving a very specific need, and it creates a path that encourages the customer  to return again and again, for both specialized and commonplace wants.

Niche Marketing Creates Raving Fans

In his book “Raving Fans,” Ken Blanchard, leadership and management guru, describes a raving fan as, "a customer who is so devoted to your products and services that they wouldn't dream of taking their business elsewhere and will sing from the rooftops about just how good you are.”

You could probably use a few more of those. But how do you generate a high level of attachment in an ordinary marketplace? Consider this success story.

The sugary confection we know as the donut, dates back to prehistoric Native American settlements. It became known in our culture as “olykoek,” Dutch for “oily cakes.” Then, the enterprising mother of a New England ship’s captain expanded upon the recipe and its usefulness. Supplementing the dough with nutmeg, cinnamon, and lemon rind from her son’s cargo, she shaped it around a hazelnut or walnut for even cooking. The resulting “dough-nut” stored reasonably well on long voyages, and was believed to help ward off scurvy. It could also be conveniently anchored to a spoke on the ship’s wheel when rough seas demanded both hands. She found an unsatisfied need (a niche) and developed a product to fill it. She also gave the pastry a more appropriate and somewhat appetizing name — a form of marketing.

In our fast-paced culture, “doughnut” became shortened to “donut,” and the treat evolved into a favorite breakfast, snack, and dessert. Its popularity spawned familiar mega-chains like Dunkin’ Donuts and Krispy Kreme, major contributors to America’s 10 million annual donut consumption.

It is clear that most of us like their donuts, but a smaller organization has developed a “fresh” approach to earn raving fans. The philosophy at Duck Donuts is simple — warm, delicious, and made to order.

Much like that early ship captain’s mother, Duck Donuts recognized an unfulfilled consumer need and met it with a customized product, which suits the individual tastes of just about everyone. Duck Donuts offers ten coating choices and five topping options. Donut lovers order their own special combinations, then watch as the freshly-made donuts roll off of the machine and get dipped, frosted, and sprinkled to their specifications.

“Made to order donuts” is perfect niche marketing for beach and vacation destinations. Vacation shoppers have a little extra time, money, and appetite (and generally ignore diet restrictions). And Duck Donuts grabs visitors at the first whiff, as they walk through the door.

Beach towns are dotted with restaurants, shops, and grocery stores that sell donuts, so why do hungry vacationers seek out Duck Donuts? The shop has created differentiation. They’ve developed a uniqueness, largely centered around customer service, that sets them apart. And they market it admirably.

You can find success in a niche market, as well, by following a similar formula, even if your industry is filled with uniformity and routine:

                    Analyze your business. Take time to step back for an unbiased perspective on what you provide, who purchases from you, and why.

                    Recognize homogeneity. List the primary areas where your product or service is basically the same as that of your competitors. Think about whether those likenesses are by choice or required by regulation. Your best opportunities for differentiation are the areas where most businesses “do it this way because that’s how we’ve always done it.” Figure out a way to do it better.  For insurance folks, this should be easy.  When was the last time an Agency got creative in designing an Auto Insurance quote for someone?  Why not?  Why not YOU?

                    Take a poll. Find out what customers would like to have from you, if they had the ability to “custom order.” Ask a few trusted clients, friends, or family members for candid input on what’s missing from the product or service you provide.  Some Agencies use a Client Forum or Advisory Group, some use a newsletter or email poll, some get feedback from their Facebook Page. 

                    Brainstorm. Examine all the ideas that come to mind to improve customer experience, no matter how impossible they sound. Jot them down, and gradually sort out a few of the best ones.

                    Develop a reliable process. Experiment with one or two ideas in a trial scenario. Consider how you might market this newfound differentiation. 

                    Put changes into practice. Fine tune even small differences in how you manage clients, creating convenience for them, or adding value in the form of information and professional advice. Make sure prospects and long-time customers know about these extras, through advertising, social media, email, and newsletters.  Track client reactions to the change.

                    Enjoy the results. As customers become true clients through loyalty to your unique “brand,” they turn into raving fans.

Too often, consumers are galvanized into accepting whatever products and services are simply available. However, they quickly recognize a provider that fills their niche need more effectively, and they keep coming back for that experience. Make your brand speak to the customer on a deep, private level, and you’ll have raving fans singing from the rooftops about just how good you are.

Don Meincke, CIC, CPIA, LUTCF – www.donegalagencybuilder.com 

“Looking for a few good Sales Professionals that we can help to start their own Independent Insurance Agency in Virginia.”

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