Niche Marketing – Creating VALUE In A Down Economy by doing your Market and Product Research
Market and Product Research is essential in allowing you to carve a niche within the AEC environment which has become more and more challenging as the market grows tighter. Trying to be all things to all people is exhausting and time consuming. Not to mention, the marketing message tends to get “watered down” and less impactful. It’s natural to try and position yourself as the right provider for any potential client, especially in an economic situation that attracts and promotes the “shotgun” approach to getting new business.
I recently was presented with the question “What do I think is VALUE in Design and Construction?” Although the idea of VALUE is intrinsic and personal in nature and can carry many definitions, VALUE is what niche marketing is all about. Niche markets often take precedence over mass markets in economic downturns. The most compelling value propositions—the ones that move even a tight-fisted customer to spend in tough times—tend to be the ones that bring a larger return on their investment. Mass markets in a recession become severely commoditized, rewarding only the lowest cost producers. Companies who chase them anyway become unsustainably unprofitable and end up being consolidated. Companies who focus on niche markets, by contrast, find their customers more loyal and their offers more valuable.1
When trying to determine what niche you are going to pursue, I highly recommend taking a step back and thinking about what area you are most passionate. What are you an “expert” at? I once worked for an architectural firm that had “niche” down to a science. Although a small design firm, I would say that they captured probably 40% of their local market. Why? They were prototype educational designers. They knew the market, the users and the student learning habits inside and out. They remained on the leading edge of educational design. They developed a prototype design that could be easily adapted to any site or learning program. As a result, design costs and construction costs were minimized as well as delivery schedules and change orders.
Over the past several years I have probably trained more than two-dozen individuals in how to market to and within the AEC industry. Everything from the basics of industry standards to responding to RFPs and RFQs, to intricate strategic planningdevelopment was part of the repertoire. What I found was not only was I being sought out to train new marketing prospects, but Executives, CEO’s and consultants were seeking my assistance as well. What I brought to the table was a real-world understanding of the industry as a whole, the players, processes and procedures, and how to capitalize on the market to communicate a particular message.
What I have also seen over my many years in the industry is that, although there are a great deal of marketing professionals, very few are familiar with the AEC environment and what it has to offer as a career choice. So when I started out on my own I decided that I would focus on teaching others what I did best-MARKETING. More specifically, marketing to and within the AEC environment.
Another key to developing and growing a niche is to research what seems to be the topic of the hour and concentrate on the area. One fellow marketer works for a ConTech Construction in Winter Garden, FL that specializes in concrete restoration on coastal projects that have been damaged by hurricanes. On a recent trip to the coast I was amazed at the number of vacant and damaged building there still were more than five years after the 3 hurricanes hit Central Florida. The best part about it, they have capitalize on the social media aspect of marketing and incorporated a blog onto their website documenting the restoration process.
Speaking of Social Media … like it or not … it is here and making an impact. I have spent the past 5 weeks in intensive training in the various social media venues and written a white paper on my initial research findings (available through my websitewww.davna.com). I am currently writing a book on Social Media as a viable marketing tool within the AEC environment. One of my goals is to become one of the social media experts for the AEC industry. I am well on my way.
So in conclusion, niche marketing is thriving in a down economy through the VALUE it brings to the table. What VALUE do you bring?