Avoiding niche confusion

 Your question raises several points that need to be addressed. First, you must learn that one of the reasons for creating a great niche is to eliminate “shoulder seasons.” Second, you need to understand the difference between catch-as-catch-can and multiple profit centers all carefully related to the same core.

In essence, catch-as-catch-can happens when you go after anything because it looks like a quick or easy buck. The end result is likely to be serious confusion on your customer’s part about what you stand for. Imagine, for example, Nordstrom offering sailboats. Your eyebrows would move very high on your head as you wonder aloud, “what’s going on?” Serious niche confusion would be the answer. Granted, I’ve stretched the point here to illustrate how important it is to stay close to your core.

That said, strategically offered multiple profit or revenue centers are key to most successful businesses. They also keep your cash register humming around the calendar. I’m talking about revenue centers that grow out of one tight focus. In fact, they strengthen the niche because each stream markets the other. A central key here, of course, is making certain the various streams are all tightly related to your core niche. They must be different vehicles for delivering the overall concept – not a new niche confusing your target audience.

Additionally, your question raises one of the biggest issues most business people face at one time or another: What should I drop in my service or product menu? What do I quit doing?

From a practical standpoint, it’s easy to see that being all over the map drains your energy and resources, both personal and financial. The following questions will help you decide if a product or service belongs in your niche basket:

Is it closely related to my overall focus?

Will the time and energy needed to support the widget add strength my core effort?

Finally, words of consolation and caution: The issue you’re asking about afflicts nearly all companies at one time or another – from multinational to mom-and-pop. In other words, you’ve got a lot of company to watch and learn from. However, the issue isn’t going away. Plan for regular check-ups and niche reviews. Plan, also, to be ruthless in getting rid of junk that detracts from your tight focus.

Dr. Lynda Falkenstein, business consultant and author of “NICHECRAFT: Using Your Specialness to Focus Your Business, Corner Your Market, and Make Customers Seek You Out,” invites your questions and comments. Reach her directly at: drniche@vbjusa.com or 503.781.0966. Please note that the Vancouver Business Journal reserves the right to publish your letter or an edited version all print and electronic media.

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