Develop Your ‘Niche Within a Niche’

by WOHe

These days, we hear so much about the concepts of “niche
marketing” and “target selling.” However, we rarely hear about
something equally important the need to choose a niche that matches
our sales and design skills.’

At our company, we’ve always thought of ourselves as niche
marketers. One of our niches is selling kitchens, and over the
years, the niche of “kitchen” has evolved into several other
niches, as well. Both by our actions and our reactions to a
changing market, we now find new niches within the kitchen industry
which require rather specific skills and attitudes to achieve
maximum success.

Some 33 years ago when I entered this industry, I’d be working
on an apartment project where cost was significantly important one
moment, then I’d be fielding a call from a developer who was
marketing track housing, or sitting with a consumer who was
remodeling and had high expectations for design and craftsmanship.
During that era, it was possible to be a “jack of all trades” this
way.’

Today, though, things are different. I don’t feel a salesperson/
designer can be expected to move from one niche to the other and do
it successfully. At the very least, it takes away your edge and
keeps you from being the best you can be.

I believe that developing niches within the industry requires
different products, different selling skills, different design
skills, different knowledge skills and different people skills. It
isn’t that one niche is better than another, or even that one
requires a higher level of professionalism. Rather, it’s that the
fastest way to success is finding the niche you function best
in.

A business which is successful today will usually focus on one
aspect of the market. In some cases, if a business is large enough,
it will focus on several areas, but in that case, the sales
organization will generally be broken down into segments to focus
on specific market areas. This is where I see the need to match
skills toward a more specialized market because these different
segments each have different skill and knowledge requirements
within the industry.’

Today’s salesperson/designer cannot be everything to everyone,
but you can equip yourself to be everything to a given market
segment. Following are several general categories of common
niches.’

Four niches

  • Niche 1 Apartment Selling: Primarily about satisfying the needs
    of potential renters, this niche requires a lot of work in planning
    rooms, and involves doing a lot of take-off plans. This is often a
    bidding process where competitive pricing is of major importance.
    There is limited need for extensive design skills here, but strong
    personal relationship skills are needed to interface with general
    contractors, architects and project managers. There is usually no
    contact with consumers, and compensation is generally comes from
    high volume with lower gross margins.
  • Niche 2 Track Residential: Addressing the needs and wants of
    potential home buyers requires working with present floor plans and
    creating the best possible design within their limits. The
    developer is in competition with other developers, and your design
    skills become a valuable part of your selling skills in that you
    must showcase how you can make the developer’s homes more
    attractive to the consumer. Little or no contract with the consumer
    is involved here, since consumers will view the completed model
    homes and work within the selection offered by the builder.
    Although this market niche is very price-competitive, the value of
    quality products, creative designing and a consistently high level
    of service are also significant factors.
  • ‘Niche 3 Individual Residential New Construction: This
    niche involves not only addressing the needs and wants of
    consumers, it also involves the process of building desires and
    expectations. You will interface with the consumer almost 100
    percent of the time, and will also work closely with the builder,
    as well as with the home designer and the interior designer. This
    demands a depth of industry knowledge, including up-to-date
    product, trend and design information. You must also be a great
    communicator, since you’ll be dealing with a wide range of people.
    The rewards can be great here if the job is done well. However,
    errors and poor communication can quickly gobble up expected
    profits and earnings.’
  • Niche 4 Residential Remodel: This is much the same as
    individual residential/new construction. The major difference is
    that you must ensure that the existing property is properly
    transformed into the expected finished project. This requires the
    additional skills of creatively blending the new with the old. You
    must also be able to visualize any trouble before it exists. You’ll
    need solid knowledge of all the elements of construction and
    reconstruction to do well in this niche. If done well, residential
    remodeling may be the most rewarding of the kitchen industry
    niches. However, it also is the most challenging and
    demanding.’

Take a few moments and review what category you’re best prepared
to be a specialist in. I expect you’ll find you’ve already ended up
specializing in one of these niches, either by design or by
accident. I believe in reviewing what you’re doing today, even if
you’re already successful, you’ll find there are some skills you
need to further develop to be at the top of your chosen industry
niche.’

Likewise, you may want to redefine or change niches, or narrow
your focus to a very specific part of the industry. For example,
your market may support opportunities in the exclusive very high
end of the market. It could be that you’ve found yourself in the
very high-end remodel arena, but you’re struggling to be
successful, and might do better in a different area. It’s not
unusual for a kitchen and bath dealer or salesperson to be caught
in a position where the skills don’t best match the “niche within
the niche.” The challenge you face is to equip yourself with the
skills needed to best match where you want to be.

What does all this niche business have to do with closing the
sale? Everything. Until you either match or develop your skills to
find the best niche “fit,” you’re likely to struggle along, barely
getting by. However, when you equip yourself correctly and find the
right chemistry between your skills and the market niche that best
suits them, you’ll move from being a survivor to a thriver.

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