Why Everything You've Ever Been Told About Niche Marketing is a Complete Lie…

… and what you should do about it.

When talking with soon-to-be, new, or even seasoned business owners about marketing and branding, the word “niche” invariably comes up in our conversations. After all, most popular literature on business today will tell you to niche yourself down – target a smaller segment of the market.

“Niching in the key to success!” they say…

“Anyone can be successful if they find their niche!”

I call shennanigans.

Just like the “find your passion” mantra, those that tell you to “find your niche” are really only telling half the story.

The problem isn’t niching itself. In fact, everyone reading this should know what niche segment of their market they are working with. The problem comes when you try to market only to that niche – and start focusing on the niche part.

What the heck is she talking about?

Okay, lets get a real, workable example here. Let’s say that you wanted to open up a pet store. On the wise advice of someone you consult (or by your own desire and passion) you decide that your pet store will only sell holistic, organic, all natural pet food. That is your nicheorganic, holistic, all natural pet food.

Here is where people make the mistake. If you’re a pet store in the holistic, all natural, organic niche, where would you market? Well, one would assume that you would be marketing anywhere that all natural, holistic, organic shopping people go, right?

Well, no. I mean you could – and people would read your ad, thinking…

– “next time I need some pet food, I might go check them out…”
– “if I had a dog, that’d be the place I would go…”
– “I’m happy with what my pet is eating now…”

You might get some customers from it, but likely… Not. At least, not right now – and maybe not even in the future.

Okay, so we know what NOT to do…

But what can someone like you do when you figure out your niche? Well, lets pretend you’re the above pet store owner. Where do you advertise?

The same place every other pet store does.

What? That’s the complete opposite of everything I’ve ever been told!

Well guess what? Everything you’ve ever been told probably isn’t working, either! Yay!

Sure, the big chain pet stores have resources that you don’t. But don’t go looking for holistic, organic, all natural people – look for PET OWNERS.

See, most people don’t recognize a need for your specialized expertise – and they rarely even realize you exist.

Someone looking for all natural, holistic, organic pet food is probably just going to look for a pet store that carries it, right?

So if they go looking for a pet store that carries holistic, organic, all natural pet food – and see that you specialize in what they’re looking for – who are they going to choose? You, or the other big box guy that *might* have what they’re looking for? YOU!

This works in other niches, too.

Selling soy candles? Market yourself alongside other candles as a “natural, safe, eco-friendly alternative”. Those who value natural, safe, and eco-friendly products will choose you over other candles – even if they weren’t looking for that type of candle.

Fair trade coffee? Market with regular coffee, using fair trade as your “unique selling proposition” or USP.

Life coaching for women? Market with regular life coaches.

Counseling for couples? Market with regular counselors.

Free range beef? Other beef.

Shoes for 7-toed above average foot sizes? Other shoes.

This literally works for every niche, every market, and every product.

If you have a niche, find out where people are looking for products like yours, and tell them about your specialty!

What do you think? Are you ready to scrap the “niche” part of niche marketing?

10 Reasons to Use Facebook Instead of Email Marketing

Through a service called Networked Blogs, this blog post is about to appear on our Facebook Page and Twitter account – without me having to do a single thing. Every blog post does. It also comes with a handy header that, when a user clicks through to the blog post, appears across the top of the page allowing them to Tweet or Like it right from our blog.

We’re not alone, either. Most blogs with Facebook Pages link to every post from their profile. Increasingly, Facebook is becoming the way that people follow blogs.

This post will also be going out via MailChimp tomorrow morning at 4am, without any action from us.

Did you know that 10 times more people will be reading this post on Facebook than via email?

It’s true. We may be small, but we’re mighty. Not only do we have more people following this blog via Facebook than via email, it seems our engagement rates are higher as well – not just more bodies, but a higher percentage of people read our blog from Facebook than email.

Why? Doesn’t that fly in the face of conventional wisdom, that email lists are the be-all end-all of marketing, and Facebook is only for teenagers?

We thought so, too – so we came up with 10 reasons you should be using Facebook instead of email marketing for your blog :

  1. Facebook hits people when they have time to kill – email does not. Have you ever been running out the door, and decided to scroll through your Facebook feed? If yes, you need help. If no, then you’re like the rest of us – Facebook is a medium you use when you have time to actually use it. Email users are often in a hurry, and skip past emails – even if they want to read them “later”, with good intentions. You have a higher likelihood of a Facebook follower actually reading an entire post than an email follower who gets your rss to email campaign.
  2. Facebook is less intrusive. Complain all you want about email – ever received a loud email notification during a meeting, only to see its junk mail? Yeah – not impressive. But how many pages on Facebook do you unsubscribe from for posting updates at 3am? I think you can see where this is going. People come to Facebook – in droves. Like it or not, that is still an advantage.
  3. Social sharing doesn’t need to be integrated. It was a trend that started about a year ago – including social sharing links in your emails. According to some studies, people are more likely to forward your email than share it through social sites. What does that mean? That if viral, social sharing is your objective, then social networks are the medium that work best! You don’t need to integrate a “Like” button when you’re already putting it on Facebook.
  4. Stats, stats, stats. Google Analytics is great for telling you what people visited and clicked on, and it can be easily integrated into most email campaigns – what can you do with Facebook? Why, view your insights of course! You can see not only how many people have seen and clicked on your page, you can see how many people see and click on your content in their news feed, what percentage of posts actually have interaction, and even pick out what days of the week see the most traffic.
  5. It’s a two-way medium. Okay, so email is too – but it’s different. If you’re blasting out an email newsletter, it is impersonal – much like a newspaper. People don’t call up the newspaper editor to talk shop. But they *do* comment on Facebook Page posts. Now you have a way to talk with your customers that is easy to use and manage!
  6. It facilitates conversations. Not just between you and your customers, as above, but customers can talk with each other as well. How many times has your newsletter spurred a community of 100+ people to have a conversation with each other? Never. How many times has a Facebook post? It practically happens every single second. Believe it or not, those conversations are more valuable to you than one-way communication.
  7. Familiarity, approachability, and personality. Email is impersonal at best – and destructive at worst. What you really want is a medium through which you can make yourself available to prospects, talk with them on an approachable level, be real, warm, and personal with them, and make yourself familiar to them. Social media allows for that because it allows for freedom of expression. Instead of needing to come up with a topic for an entire email, all you have to do is come up with something short and interesting. Thoughts like that pop into our minds all day long!
  8. Easy to leave. Have you ever tried to remove yourself from certain email newsletters, only to find it damn near impossible? Yeah – me too. And I’m willing to bet that you were a little bit more cautious sharing your email address next time! With Facebook, however, every single page has an easy to use “Unlike” button, and half a dozen other ways to hide your content if they don’t like you. Users know that – and they’re more willing to subscribe as a result! It is less of a risk to “Like” you than subscribe to you.
  9. Control. If a subscriber says something inflammatory, untrue, or spammy – you can delete it. Comments, posts, whatever – you can remove it. You can guide conversations, start them, join them, and moderate them as needed. You can’t control what clients say about you in an email. Of course, with great power comes great responsibility – moderate comments only when absolutely necessary, otherwise people may be less willing to comment on your page.
  10. Ease of use. If you’re like most people, learning a new program, website, or piece of software takes work. Guess what? There is a good 95% chance that if you’re online, you at least have a basic knowledge of Facebook. Use that to your advantage! Pages are hardly different from your regular profile, so you already know how to do most basic functions. That means you can communicate much more easily through your page, because you’re not struggling to learn!

Can you think of any other reasons to use Facebook instead of email? Let me know in the comments – either here, or on our Facebook Page!

7 Simple Steps to Brand Your Business

In a post later this week, I’ll be covering why you should brand your business and what a brand is. Before we get to those topics, I wanted to give you some actual usable steps you could put into action today! So here you have 9 steps to branding your business:

  1. Figure out who you are. As a business, as a business owner, and as a person. Figure out what your company values are, what your goals are, what your core products and services are. Figure out the kind of impact you want your business to have on the world. What is your big “why”? Why are you in this business? Why should people buy from you? Why do you want people to buy from you?
  2. Figure out who your customers are. School teachers and rock stars have very different visual appeal for one reason – they have different target markets. School teachers have to appeal to parents (note, not children!) and rock stars have to appeal to hardcore rock fans. Who will be buying from you? Who has the money? Who has the problem that your product solves? Who has the same values as your company? In a perfect world, who would be your customer? Figure that out, and you’ll know who your marketing has to appeal to.
  3. Finish your logo. Note that we didn’t say *design* your logo, we said finish it. Get it done – get it out there. As long as it would be recognized somewhere as your logo, and it aligns with your company values and message, it’s done. Stop agonizing over it already!
  4. Finish your website and business cards. Today. Yesterday. Last week for all we care – get them *done*. A lot of people will spend time perfecting their website, business cards, and other marketing materials because they believe they have to look perfect. That couldn’t be further from the truth! The most important thing about your marketing materials is their visibility – and they’re hardly visible if they’re still under construction! Finish it, be happy with the way it looks, make sure it lines up with what your customers would expect, and get it out there!
  5. Create a consistent appearance. Choose the logo, colors, and appearance that will convey your message and appeal to your target market. Then, make it consistent – use it everywhere. Branding is 5% logos and colors, and 95% conversation. Make the conversation looks consistent so that people can recognize it!
  6. Take control. Figure out exactly where your ideal customers are going to be talking about you. Online in forums and message boards, through social media, magazines, newspapers, and locally. Determine where your ideal customers are going to be, and get your message out there. It doesn’t matter if your customers are already talking about you, what matters is that you get the message that you want people to see out through those mediums.
  7. Then give up control. Realize that your customers are ultimately responsible for your brand, and what it looks like. You can guide the message, get your logo and “visual” materials out there in the world, and facilitate a conversation – but you have to leave the actual conversing up to your customers. You can talk to them, but the most important branding conversations are the ones they have with each other.

What do you think, moms? How do you brand your small business?

All About Mompreneurs

Since it is my first Mothers’ Day today, I’m not going to be posting. Instead, I’ll give you a tour of some great mompreneur related posts around the web! These inspiring mompreneurs should get you back in your groove and ready to hit the post-mothers-day week with a new bounce in your step!

10 Innovative Mompreneurs and How Their Businesses Were Born – courtesy of Bnet

Simon Sinek’s Refocus Blog – read everything here.

5 Rules for Productivity at Home – from MOMeo Magazine

Mompreneur Magazine’s Top Mompreneurs of 2010

And of course, the reason a Mompreneur needs Mothers’ Day more than any other mom :

Is Your Glass Half Full? Why You Need to Fill Your Cup Before Others

Our Services – Not Just for Moms

I’ve been doing some thinking… And I want to make a point.

We are marketing our services by moms, for moms. We exist to help moms and mom-owned businesses to change the world.

But just for the sake of saying it – just because you’re not a mom doesn’t mean we can’t help you.

In case that wasn’t obvious, all moms are women – but not all women are moms. Whether you’re a mom, a mom-to-be, or a never-wanna-think-about-kids die-hard single gal – we’ll help you.

If you have a vision to change the world and a gender that matches ours, whether you have kids, want kids, or hate kids – we’ll help you.

We are all mothers of this world. We make a difference in our own unique ways, and nurture those around us whether they’re our genetic children or not.

I’m saying this because I struggled with infertility myself.

Years ago, I never thought I wanted kids. After I met my husband, I spent too many nights up crying about wanting so desperately to be a mom to sit here, saying that you can’t be a part of this worldwide movement unless sperm-meets-egg.

Who knows – if we did that and got really popular, we might have women getting pregnant just to get in! *wink*

Take from the mom label what you need to take from it, but don’t think of it as one of exclusion. If you’re a mom of kids, a mom of step-kids, a mom of your significant other, or a mother of the world at large – you’re enough of a mom for us.

How Community Building Helps Businesses

a community of momsCommunity building is so important to a business.

Sure, you can advertise in the Yellow Pages, put up a website, use Pay Per Click advertisements, you can even use television and billboard advertising – take out a full-page spread in a national newspaper if you want. But what will that do?

High cost per lead, low ROI.

Okay, okay – so “cost per lead” and “ROI” are typically thought of as big-business terms, but aren’t. You should know how much it costs you to get a customer, and you should know how much you get back for dollars spent in various ways.

For example, if you know how much your Yellow Pages advertisement costs you each year, you should find out how many customers you get from that ad – and the average amount of money those customers spend.

If your Yellow Page ad costs $240/year, and you get 12 customers from that ad (one a month, which is more than most businesses get from Yellow Page advertisements)…

Your cost per lead is $20.

Now, if we say that your cost of goods sold is $20, and your average customer spends $50, then we know three things :

1. That your Yellow Page ad is getting you about $10 in profit for each new customer.

2. That you can use any form of advertising you want, and as long as your cost per lead is under $30, you’re going to break even… And

3. That the lower your cost per lead is, the higher your profit per customer is.

We all know that online strategies like blogging and social media have drastically lower costs per lead than traditional strategies, but it gets even better – when you build a community around your business!

Within a community, you have the evangelists… They go out and sell your product or service for you. And no, you don’t have to pay them – they’re customers and community members who are so impressed with you and what you’re doing, that they want to convert other people to their way of thinking – they want to make other people buy from you.

You also have the technical support… These are users who know your product inside and out, and answer questions on your behalf to solve problems for customers – thereby increasing the value of your product, since “everyone knows how to fix it!”

You’ll have the beta-testers… Those who feverishly buy up every new product or service you release, and give you constructive feedback through your contact forms to improve the product.

You’ll have the re-tweeters… Not as prolific as the evangelists, but they believe in what you’re doing, so they share it with their friends through Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites.

You’ll have the commenters… The insatiable commenters. They’ll discuss anything and everything you have to say. They attract massive amounts of attention to blog and social media posts by providing a level of interaction. Don’t discount “trolls” either – those who start arguments for the sake of arguing. Sure, everybody will respond to the arguments – but in the meantime, they’ll be reading your content to see what started it.

All of these personalities come out when you build a community around your company, and every one of them will give value to your business beyond what they may buy.

Communities are simple things. Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, once said (and I’m paraphrasing here) that you can never “build” a community – you can just create great tools and hope that a community uses them.

That is what we do.

The right tools are never a guarantee of success, but if companies like Apple and Coke have taught us anything, making a cult following look easy takes time, effort, and patience.

Watch for our coming series of posts on things *you* can do to build a community around your business.