Direct Hit

No Mass Appeal

The realm of niche marketing is--by now, you've probably guessed it--a wild ride. Perhaps that's the reason it's taken small businesses so long to catch on. Actually, niche marketing "can be somewhat complicated and costly but no more so than other [types of] marketing," says Meredith. "The payoff, however, is that the marketing results are much more targeted and effective. So small-business owners, to the extent they can apply these techniques and find a niche, can really go after a market and own it rather than having to compete with everyone else."

The Internet should help niche marketing mature, making the concept more accessible for small-business owners as well as consumers. "The Internet eventually will be a vehicle that can reach the masses and yet at the same time target very specific niches," says Russell. "It will provide customized, individual, one-on-one, interactive marketing."

And, when you strip away all the current methodologies, niche marketing really becomes as simple, as low-tech as being able to communicate one on one. "Address consumers naturally, as you would in a personal conversation," says Goodman. "The only way to market to people is to market to one individual rather than to a group. Just create your marketing as if you're talking to John or Jane Doe sitting across the table from you."

This school of thought is worth a try in an era when it's imperative not just to aim for somewhere on the target but to hit the bull's-eye. "People resent being lumped with people they have nothing in common with," says Meredith. "I don't think mass marketing will ever be successful in this country again. The days of Life magazine are over."

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This article was originally published in the October 1996 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Direct Hit.

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