Marketing 101: Niche Markets
Ever Had Someone Say, “So what do I do with that?”
Welcome to the world of niche marketing.
You’ve got a great idea for a product. It’s fun to make. You love it. Family members love it. But…you show it to strangers and they just look at you. Some even say, “Uh, what do I do with that?”
You have a niche market, a product specifically for a very targeted market. I speak from personal experience, and it took me a while to figure out how to actually market what my husband and I do: create hand-marbled fabrics from a centuries-old process.
At first, our goal was to sell to quilters. I’m a quilter, and I would certainly buy an unusual fabric like this. Quilting is a 4 billion dollar industry, so there must be a constant demand for new fabrics. But – and this is a big point – marbled fabric is a very unusual, very detailed, and very beautiful fabric. So much so that many fabric lovers look at it and say one of several things:
“It’s too beautiful to cut into.”
“I have no idea how I would use it.”
“How could it possibly work in a quilt or garment?”
Hmmmm…obviously some marketing issues to be dealt with immediately. You need to market your product in ways that people can see how it can be used. You need to identify every possible use for your product, and this requires thinking outside your comfort zone, as well as being aware of unusual uses that just pop into a conversation. Just because you see a very specific use for your product doesn’t mean buyers will.
Try this checklist for your product. (My answers in parentheses.)
1. List 3 ways you would use your product. (For quilts, framed quilt blocks, vests.)
2. Ask at least 10 people (and not necessarily family members) how they would use this product. LISTEN for unusual ideas. (marble some ribbon, marble silk flowers, scan the fabric into a digital program and create new designs, create patterns for some of the items you make using the marbled fabric, frame larger pieces of fabric, sew children’s clothes, make covers for kaleidoscopes)
3. Walk through a “big box” store, or a local specialty store and see if you get any ideas. (wrap fabric around prepared picture frame mats, create specific colorways of ribbons to help accent a display, marbled ribbon for floral displays, marbled silk flowers for displays, high-end pillows, pockets/hatbands/trim for clothing)
4. Start a list of additional by-products from your original idea. (Original patterns, tutorials on how to create marbled fabrics, tutorials on quilting marbled fabrics, note cards from digitizing your fabrics)
5. Create an “elevator pitch.” This is a single sentence or phrase you can use when someone asks you “What do I Use this for?” (Our pitch is “you can quilt it, wear it, frame it.” That gets me a second look, a raised eyebrow, and an opening to continue talking about my product.)
After nearly 20 years of marbling fabric, we still come up with new ideas for our fabrics. Most recently we started looking at soft sculptures, with marbled fabrics as the base and embellishment on top.
What’s your market? Share with us your answers to these questions. You might spark another idea in one of us, and you might pick up some new ideas yourself.
Dean and Linda Moran are the owners of Marble-T Design and have been marbling for 20 years. Part of the creative enjoyment they get from working together is what each brings to the process. Dean is the primary marbler and color guru, and Linda gets to be creative with whatever comes out of the marbling tray. You can see their work at “The Art of Fabric,” follow their adventures on their blog, and watch their updates on Facebook.