Targeted Niche Markets and Sublimation

Finding your niche is essential to all businesses regardless of the industry, but it is especially true for decorators. Whether you are a laser engraver, promotional products reseller or sublimator, owning your niche is extremely important to your success. The wall of content and noise that is prevalent in today’s social media driven society makes it difficult to reach customers without a defined and micro-targeted niche. You must own that niche at a level that makes it impossible for any potential competitors to be anything other than number 2 to you in that specifically defined place. That doesn’t mean that you have to own a wide niche like sports teams, it means you need to own the niche that you shine in, like girls club volleyball in your local region for example. It is actually very easy to do this, as long as you hyper-focus your niche to one specific area that you can serve very well.

For those of you that know me or have read any of my articles in the past, you know I have a passion for sublimation and the different niche markets it allows decorators to target. Sublimation is still growing and with major companies, suppliers and consumers embracing the technology for a wide range of uses, there is no better time than now to get on board and grab your niche. I don’t have to tell you this, but just in case, your customers are demanding a faster turnaround time and smaller minimum order. As I write this I’m drinking a cup of coffee from a mug that I made on a whim to show off my weekly podcast, 2 Regular Guys. One mug that was made in 30 minutes, from idea to finished product, that I would have certainly paid $10 to $15 for.

While the growth in the sublimation market is good for business because more people are looking for those products, it also makes for more competitors and more “noise” that you have to rise above. To keep from fighting over nickels in profits, it is again extremely important to find and own a niche. If you don’t want your products and services to become a commodity. When you are owning a niche it allows you to create ways to increase the perceived value your customers see in the items you sell and make yourself a singular. Meaning your customer will buy from you because they can’t get the same service or products from anyone else. Therefore, the sales price is somewhat irrelevant as long as they feel you are not gouging them. 

So, you are probably asking how do I find my niche market and once I do then what? Many people I talk to about niche marketing seem very opposed to it in the beginning as there is some confusion as to the goal of it. When I ask people what their niche is, many of them answer with specific broad areas or say they don’t have one because they don’t want to be limited in what they can do as a company. Hence, the confusion as that mindset has to be changed. By setting a niche you are not pigeonholing yourself into only doing that, you are just crafting your message and spending your precious marketing resources in one focused area. So, if you can frame your mind in that mindset when determining your niche, it changes the game and makes it less daunting.

The easiest way to find your niche is to think through the things and places you feel most comfortable about outside of your business. Is that at your kid’s soccer game, or at the local poetry reading night? I suggest making a list of 10 to 20 potential niche markets. Don’t over think it at this stage, just start writing. You will have some duds in there, but you will also have the gems. From that list choose one or two max that will match up with your business capabilities. Now, you have your niche! Think of all the ways you might serve that space and how their needs are not being met. That will be the intersection of your message going forward along with your ability to provide them a product or service they will happily pay a premium. Within this process, set some specific goals for your new niche and measure it continuously to correct the course as you move forward.

Let’s put these ideas and thoughts into some real-world examples you can use as a spark for your creativity. Here are two I have come across in my travels that I thought were very unique.

The first example makes use of a great sublimation product, that according to a recent survey found in the Sublimation Report of this magazine is the top-selling sublimation product, the Mug. Embee Mugs (www.embeemugs.com) has been providing mugs to people for a long time, but she understood the need to focus on her niche and because of that focus she has hit several jackpots. One of my favorite ones was taking something that was hot and familiar and offering ancillary products to Lularoe Sales teams, in this case, personalized mugs. See, many people think that multi-tier marketing programs like Lularoe and others are about selling the leggings, but in reality, it is about selling the business opportunity. With that business opportunity comes a need to “provide the shovel” as I call it. See the people who got rich during the old-time gold rush were not the miners who did the back-breaking work to find gold, but the people who sold them the shovels needed to dig that gold out of the mines. That same theory can be very profitable today as side hustle type business opportunities are all the rage. So, Embee Mugs saw the need, focused her niche, and provided personalized coffee mugs to Lularoe sales teams.

The next example is someone who has taken a look way outside the box and found a segment that was struggling and took their expertise in the digital age, added sublimation and has had a hit on their hands! The co-founder and CEO recently presented at a conference about digital decorating and making the products on demand for customers. His name is Tim Williams and his business is the YR Store Inc. (www.thisisyr.com). His niche was understanding technology and they saw a problem where retail brands were being left behind because malls were closing and no one had any reason to go to a department store. They took their technology plus sublimation and used that to allow them to develop unique pop-up stores with major retail brands, like Polo and Levi’s. Now customers had a reason to go to the mall because this was their chance to get an original Levi’s product that was customized for them. Using technology customers could choose the design they want and then customize it to fit their personality. Shirts sell for over a hundred dollars and people were happy to pay for them. Customers line up for these limited edition products with a brand name label on it and the garment is decorated while they shop and they get a text when it is ready.

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