As a niche business, there’s a good chance that you already know that marketing is everything. Used to being a smaller fish in a bigger pond, and catering to a set of specific needs, it’s absolutely vital that you learn how to stand out and explore the many means of engaging with consumers early on. The challenges of being a niche business are many; smaller and more specialized, you may struggle to be seen among the larger brands already canvassing your target audience, or to say, with any eloquence, what it is about your product that’s so special, not to mention your lack of online presence or specialist knowledge. Your marketing budget will no doubt be smaller, but it’s essential that you make the most of it.
While niche brick-and-mortar stores often have the benefit of passing trade, online stores just don’t have that advantage. Marketing, therefore, is the only way to proceed with any confidence. From repeat business and conversion rates, to social media networking and branding, your marketing plan will be the difference between reaching customers and seeing your business boom, and falling into the shadows; it is your transition from an idea to success, and should be followed carefully. How do you create a marketing plan?
Planning for success: top tips for marketing a niche online store
Whether you’re a niche boutique, or baby store such as http://www.skiphop.com/, you’re going to need to follow a marketing plan. Attempting to build your site and accrue a reputation among consumers without one is akin to charging into battle without a strategy. A marketing plan allows you to map your thoughts, objectives, and your results to date clearly and concisely, and to coordinate your next move. Marketing plans are particularly beneficial for niche stores, enabling you to square up to the competition and engage with potential customers in a sea of brightly colored logos and jargon.
Remember your niche
Regardless of whether you’re settling down to create your very first marketing plan, looking into the design of your website, or finalizing the details of your online shop, never forget your niche – that is, your position among your biggest competitors, the ways in which you stand out, and the values that your brand stands for. While much smaller, and catering to a specific group of people, niche online stores are no less integral to our economy; hold your head high, decide what it is that you’d like to say, and find the best way to ensure that your products are seen. Niche stores are to be embraced for their daring and uniqueness, and a marketing plan will help you to define your business as such.
Design is everything
When it comes to marketing, it’s essential to ensure that everything is tied together neatly, that your values and products can be identified in a crowd, and that the design of your website is consistent with your brand. Think carefully about your brand, the logo, and the color scheme by which you’ll be identified, and the domain name you’re hoping will stick in a consumer’s mind whenever they have a need for your products or service. Your brand will hold your marketing strategy together; the two go hand in hand to ensure success. In addition to an easily recognizable brand, now is the time to consider how user friendly your site can be, the types of shipping you will offer, the payment methods you can accept, the ways in which your products will be displayed on the page, and the places you’ll first tout your niche online store in order to engage with the biggest audience possible. Will an ecommerce designer create your site, or do you have the skills to go it alone? Your online store must be flexible and have the capacity to grow with you.
Consider the details
If you’re creating an online store for your company, then it’s highly likely that you’re looking to kick start your business, and to venture out into unknown territory. For this reason, it’s essential to do your research, which is where your marketing plan really comes into its own. As a niche store, you perhaps need to know your customer base even more thoroughly, and be able to identify what it is about your specific products that they need, or want. Who is your target audience? Which companies are your biggest competitors, and how do they market themselves? How does your audience react to different kinds of media, and where are they most likely to find you? Your marketing plan is your chance to consider every eventuality, and to thoroughly cover bases.
Developed by writer and speaker PR Smith during the 1990s, the acronym SOSTAC® is one to live by, particularly if you’re a small fish in a big ocean. Standing for Situation, Objectives, Strategy, Tactics, Action, and Control, this means of considering your business will ensure that you always keep within the lines of a successful marketing plan. What are you hoping to achieve? What is the current market like? Do you have any strategies, and backups, to get to where you’d like to be? More than that, though, SOSTAC® is a model by which you can judge the challenges that may be thrown at you, measure your own results carefully, and review the areas that need to be changed.
Don’t rule out social media
As part of your marketing plan, you should be thinking about how your business will be seen, and the platforms you can utilize in order to introduce your niche store to the world. Now you know and understand your target audience, where do you think would be best to advertise, or market your services? This is the time for digital tactics; will you use email marketing, a directory such as Google or Bing, local or international press, social media, blogger outreach and reviews, or affiliates – or will you traverse a different route entirely? Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are a great tool if you’re looking to appeal to new customers, and can entice “passing trade” far further than your homepage. Be prepared to network, to reply to enquiries that come in via such sites, and to carefully monitor your budget.
Prepare to make changes
Your marketing plan must be a living document, something you return to time and time again in order to monitor results and make changes. While you may be set on certain aspects of your plan, it’s essential to take criticism on board, and to reflect upon your initial ideas at regular intervals. What’s working? What evidently isn’t? You will soon find that you are your own harshest critic – but that’s not always a bad thing.
A marketing plan is so much more than a set of guidelines; it’s a document containing your business’s best chances of success, a template for your website and its design and upkeep, and a strategy of future moves to be used in battle. Whether you’re a niche online store or a bigger brand looking for inspiration, be sure to start with a marketing plan. Consumer engagement depends upon you staying true to your values, so be sure to stay true.