Tuesday, 19 November 2013

What is a Niche, why should you care, how to choose one?

If you’ve spent any amount of time working on selling hand-made crafts, I hope that you’ve done some research online to become more efficient. If you have, then you have run across a funny-sounding word: “niche”. Now, this isn’t talking about a chip taken out of a wall, or when you nick yourself shaving.  It is actually quite an important concept when it concerns selling your handmade goods (especially online).
English: Detail of crochet table-cloth. França...
English: Detail of crochet table-cloth. Français : Détail d’un napperon au crochet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
According to dictionary.com, niche as a noun is “a distinct segment of a market”, and as an adjective it is “pertaining to, or intended for a market niche; having a specific appeal“.  So, let’s break it down in laymen’s terms for you.  A niche is basically a narrowed marketplace.  Let’s say that you crocheted (that’s what I do, it’s familiar to me, it’s going to be our example today).  So, there’s your craft…crochet. There are several different categories of crochet: blankets, sweaters, hats, scarfs, socks.  You can take one of those categories and break it down even further, let’s use hats as our example: hats that look like animals, hats that are for babies, personalized hats, beanies, tams, caps, hats for pets.  So, if you were to find the niche in this example, it would be: crochet hats that are for babies.  It is a very specific marketplace.
There are actually a few people who do not think that having a niche is important at all.  They think that so long as you stay within your specific craft (like crochet), then it is perfectly fine to have several different crochet products (lets say your inventory involved three hats, a sweater, two baby blankets, few pairs of socks and hand-warmers, about a dozen scarfs, an iPad cozy, four coffee cozies, and two newborn baby booties). I strongly disagree.  Especially if you are selling on the super competitive universe of the world wide web, it is very important for you to have a niche and to be an expert in that niche.  Why? Different niche’s have different audiences, different audiences are reached in different ways.  If you are selling crochet baby hats, then you want to reach new mothers, you probably won’t be finding them on twitter.
So, now that you know what a niche is, are convinced of the importance of choosing one, the question might pop up: how do I choose my own niche to sell?  There are a just three steps to take.

  1. Choose your craft.  Painting, Crochet, Sewing…choose something that you enjoy making.
  2. Choose the product.  Decorations, clothing, functional, accessories…
  3. Narrow it down.  Wall-art, maxi dresses, iPhone covers, hand-bags…

It is ok if your niche changes.  During the summer months I tend to focus more on crochet newborn photo props, while in the winter my focus is crochet hats (I know that’s a pretty wide niche, and while I do make all sorts of different hats, I sell more of the personalized sort).  And as you get the hang of one niche, it’s ok to add in another one.  Expanding your marketplace brings in more sales!  I do caution to try to stick with the same target audience, that way you won’t have to advertise in two or more different places.
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