Entrepreneurs

3 Proven Ways to Stand Out in a Crowded Niche Industry

Like it or not, few founders have a product or service that is truly the first of its kind.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, part of the reason why a particular market niche becomes crowded is that there is a large audience, eager for these types of products or services.

Of course, the sheer number of competitors in your niche can make it hard for your brand to stand out and establish a strong foothold with your target audience. While niching down can help reduce your competition, every founder is going to need to use proven methods to get their brand to stand out.

1. Disrupt your niche’s standard practices.

Generally speaking, so-called best practices become best practices for a reason. They’ve been tried and tested by successful businesses within the industry, and as such, can easily be applied across a wide range of companies.

But in reality, these standard practices don’t always best serve the company or its customers. The fact that so many brands struggled with the transition to remote work is clear proof of that.

One of the best things you can do as a founder is taking a step back to critically evaluate your industry’s standard practices, and look for areas where things can be done better. Just because something is the norm, doesn’t mean it is truly the best option.

For example, eyeglasses brand Hip Optical says it was able to double its sales twice during the Covid-19 lockdown period by offering all of its products at the same flat price while also emphasizing 24/7 support for its customers. The company also ditched the industry standard of outsourcing marketing by investing in an in-house studio, allowing content to be more in alignment with the brand’s goals. Finally, by establishing its own U. S-based manufacturing lab instead of working with one of the large eyewear manufacturers, Hip Optical says it was able to reduce its production costs by about 50 percent.

As this example illustrates, disrupting industry standards doesn’t have to be as wildly different as streaming movies was to video rentals. Simply finding a better way to do things makes you a disruptor.

2. Own a different unique selling proposition than your competitors.

Every brand has a unique selling proposition — the one thing they do better than everyone else. Unfortunately, founders often make the mistake of trying to focus on the same unique selling proposition as their biggest competitor, or they try to market themselves as being “the best” in almost every facet of their business.

Naturally, founders should strive to identify the one thing they do best. To better differentiate yourself in your niche, it may also be helpful to identify your top competitors’ unique selling propositions. This will tell you what not to focus on so you can emphasize the things you do better than the rest.

Once you’ve identified your unique selling proposition, make it front and center in all messaging. Communicating your unique selling proposition in a quick and clear manner is key to conversion. Affordability, quality, and social status are just a few of the elements that can help a brand stand out.

3. Double down on customer service.

While marketing in a way that differentiates your brand from its competitors is helpful, the experience customers have after they interact with you is what ultimately matters most.

Notably, while 90 percent of buyers are actually willing to spend more if it means getting a better customer experience, 74 percent of Millennials and 86 percent of Gen Xers will switch brands as the result of poor service.

When you provide truly memorable service to your customers, they are far more likely to share their positive experiences with others. In fact, 61 percent of customers report that they have recommended local businesses to those they know. Whether they are leaving a review on your Google profile or telling friends, this word of mouth is far more persuasive than any other form of messaging your business might attempt.

When you take steps to ensure that your company provides the highest-quality service possible, you build a strong reputation that will make customers more likely to seek you out — even if you aren’t the most affordable option.

A crowded niche shouldn’t be seen as an insurmountable challenge. Instead, it represents an opportunity. By using these tactics to stand out from your competitors, you can gain ground over a sizable market and position yourself for earning some major profits.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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