When it comes to which type of marketing method is more effective, niche or mass, there’s no easy answer.
To understand which method is better, you must first understand the context of each. A mass marketing strategy is about communicating with the largest possible audience. An example of this would be a TV commercial or a massive flyer printing campaign. Mass marketing is about throwing a net into the ocean and hoping to get a lot of the right fish.
On the opposite end, niche marketing focuses on a small group of people that have interests which align with your product or service. Marketing to a niche is like fly fishing where you carefully select the lure and the location and then patiently draw in the fish you want to catch.
Both methods will get you fish, but, depending on your business, one might be a better choice for you.
Niche marketing, typically, requires far less money. It also provides the benefit of your campaign flying under the radar of your competitors. Which, if you are a fledgling business, can give some security while you establish your niche in the market.
It may sound obvious, but if you choose niche marketing, your must first establish your product or service’s niche appeal. For example plumbing as a service isn’t very specific, but if you specialize in working on the pipes of older buildings, you can go after a niche that may be under-served.
In his book The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell describes the movement of the skate shoe company Airwalk from a niche success to a mass market powerhouse. This company found its identity in catering to the needs of skaters in Southern California. Once the niche was won over, the business then had the power to expand and achieve the success it has today. Starting in the niche doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stay there. It may just be your best bet for building a strong foundation for your business.
Mass marketing can be tempting, in large part, because anyone in the world, country or province could be your next customer. Just think, if you could reach three percent of the Canadian population, you’d have over one million customers. But this strength can also be the weakness of mass marketing. Just like you, everyone else in your industry is after those same customers. Competition is high and costs become steep to reach them.
Mass marketing is all about speculating to accumulate. Put simply, if you can afford the cost of mass marketing, you have the potential to make more than you would with niche marketing. Henry Ford realized this when he created the Model T. Before him, the automobile was a niche product for the wealthy. Ford developed a vehicle that was accessible to all and made millions.
Effectiveness and the Relevance of the Product Life Cycle
In his book EntreLeadership, Dave Ramsey talks about a product’s life cycle. At the beginning of a product life cycle, you’re just trying to get the word out and explain to people what you have. Niche marketing is therefore more effective at reaching new audiences with new products. You have more time to develop trust and a greater ability to entice customers to take a risk.
Once you’ve reached the ‘established’ phase in a product life cycle, then mass marketing can be more effective. You have an established user-base that’s willing to endorse your product and a streamlined process that allows you to reduce prices while maintaining profit. This allows you to tap into one of the most effective mass marketing tools: discounting. Cheap or free products are big drivers to motivating the mass market, more than just about anything else. But you can’t afford to offer those discounts without first establishing your profits and the support from clients you earned through niche marketing.
Whether you choose mass marketing or niche marketing, the end goal is the same: catch the fish. You might catch them one-by-one, or you might scoop up whole schools in one fare swoop. By deciding what you’re fishing for and understanding the tools you have to catch them, you’ll be able to decide if niche or mass marketing is best for you.
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