Why do some small businesses choose to remain that way?
In the business narrative, there is often an underlying message that a firm must grow – meaning that it should seek to expand, increasing its client base evermore, introducing new products and having continuously broader appeal. In a world of fickle consumer tastes, that’s the way to stay on top of the game and maintain a healthy bottom line, right?
Businesses are always happy to have more clients; some even envision their brand becoming a global household name, like the Kelloggs or Shells of this world. But this is not always the case. Some companies may not be able to meet widespread demand, or their products may not have widespread appeal. This does not mean that those businesses are unprofitable – far from it, in some cases.
Worldwide, small business operators are proving their worth as they cater to niche markets, providing specialty products for an exclusive clientèle. International chocolatiers, for instance, consider TT’s Trinitario variety of cocoa to be among the best of the high-grade, high-flavour beans on offer. Thanks in part to this attention, cocoa, once the “king of crops” locally, has been enjoying something of a revival. The Montserrat Cocoa Farmers Co-operative in central Trinidad was able to obtain a geographic indication (a type of intellectual property rights) for their cocoa, and there are other producers who are taking up the challenge of cocoa production. There has also been a commensurate rise in locally produced speciality chocolates for both domestic consumption and export.
While cocoa holds significant potentially as an export product, there are several others, particularly in the agricultural sector, that offer a world of possibility to those bold enough to invest. The global demand for natural and organic products is increasing; yet, there is a common complaint that although the demand is there, production is often insufficient to meet it. While this can lead to problems if you’re trying to satisfy a broad customer base, there is a case for treating your product with the respect it deserves – recognising that it may be seasonal and therefore not always available. In this way, you can fill the niche demand for a product or service that has a ready clientèle.
Niche marketing has several benefits. Your competition automatically decreases based on the rarity of your product and its uniqueness, and it is harder to replicate. It also prevents you from spreading yourself too thin by trying to meet a constant and broad-based demand. This can be particularly important to small companies and micro-businesses, which often have limited resources. These types of businesses can focus on a select group and cater to their specific needs, even offering personalised services. You can develop your expertise as you go along, which works to your benefit as you become known as a “go-to” person and get more referrals. Working in a select market also helps you to more easily identify new clients and attract repeat business.
While you might be concerned about missing out on income if you focus on a small group of clients, this can actually work in your favour. Far from limiting you, it can actually expand your horizons, making your product more attractive and developing your reputation as a provider of high quality goods. How many people do you know who make handcrafted shoes, for instance? Even as technological advances are revolutionising our lives and creating a borderless world, the thirst for exclusive products is increasing – and the market is global. Whereas selling a hand-embroidered pillowcase might once have been confined to your circle of acquaintances, your network today is as expansive as the reach of the internet. It just may be the perfect time to find your niche.