Whether you're talking about search marketing, blog marketing or any other form of online marketing, small businesses often find themselves competing as a little fish in a big pond. That can be frustrating when your time and your finances are limited. Sometimes those limitations mean you need to start looking for a pond that better fits the size of your marketing budget. I ran across a small business marketing column in the Roseville and Rocklin Today asking "How Big is Your Pond?"

Marie writes:

The goal of niche marketing is to pick a pond small enough to dominate and large enough to be profitable.

This is a very simple idea that often gets overlooked by small businesses looking to launch a new product or service.

When I was looking to launch a parenting blog two years ago, I decided to launch a breastfeeding blog. At the time, there really weren't any other breastfeeding bloggers out there. Two years later, there are dozens, yet the site I launched remains one of the leaders. This is partly because I "got there first." At it's core, the blog is a "mommy blog," but because I was able to focus in on a niche area of that topic, I had an easier time building a successful blog.

Perhaps you're looking to launch a blog for your business, or even as a hobby. As yourself what you can do to target a specific sub-set of the topic you plan to blog about. If you're launching a blog on travel, you might want to do some research to see what niches aren't yet being filled. I'd imagine it's easier to launch a geocaching blog than a cruise blog right now. It's probably also easier to launch a Nordic Ski Walking blog than a downhill skiing blog.

Remember, you have to appeal to enough folks to have an audience, but there's no reason your site can't expand it's topical focus once you've solidified your base. For the first year I ran The Lactivist, I rarely veered away from the topic of breastfeeding. Two years later, it's still the central topic, but I also regularly post about other parenting and family issues, all of which are well-received by my audience.

Picking the right size pond is also overlooked in the way people approach their marketing.

She goes on to explain:

Niche marketing has three major advantages: less competition, higher profits and easier marketing.

In niche marketing you want to be the biggest player or the only player in your specific segment of the market. In other words, you want to sidestep competition. When there is less competition, you will be more visible to your clients and you will be perceived as the expert.

Perhaps you've already built a business around a product or service that's offered by eleventy billion competitors. That means you'll need to pick the right size pond for your marketing program. This is where it becomes important to look beyond price or your love of your own product and to think about how to position your product into a marketing niche.

When it comes to search engine optimization, take the time to explore the long tail and to focus on a niche set of keywords. If you're looking at more traditional forms of advertising, consider digging beyond the most popular ad spots and approaching some smaller properties. Maybe you don't need to advertise in the New York Times. In fact, I'd wager that spending the money a New York Times ad would cost you on a dozen or more smaller, niche blogs could well send even more buyers. Finding several small web sites or blogs that gets targeted, loyal traffic, but run few ads can be a great way to "own" the ad space for a niche market.

Anyone who has ever driven in a large city knows the highways can quickly turn into parking lots when rush hour comes around. That's because everyone is trying to take the same path to their final destination. The drivers who take the time to find back roads may end up logging more miles, but often manage to avoid the gridlock and reach their goal faster. It can work the same way when it comes to marketing. If you find yourself struggling to compete in the most popular spaces, it may be time to sit back, do a little digging and find an alternate route to success.

Sometimes the best ponds are off the beaten path.

Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.

October 2, 2007

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.


Interesting that you single out Nordic Walking. It is indeed still a small pond. I've written a book on the subject (out in 2008). I started a blog to build a platform and maintain it to build an audience for the book. A small pond also means that it isn't teeming with life yet. I have worked hard to find a variety of relevant topics to post.

Good for you Claire! Yeah, it does take some time to build up the interest level when go to SUCH a small pond...but you can always aim for a slightly larger one.

I would imagine you could broaden the scope to appeal to cross country skiers, cross country skaters, etc... (Thinking off the top of my head, I don't know much about your niche) to drive more traffic.

Ironically, my original example was "Kite Skiing" but I couldn't find a blog that discussed it. ;) Guess there's an open niche if someone wants to jump on it.

Hi Jennifer, Thanks for linking to my Nordic Walking blog

Over 6 million Europeans are walking with poles! They discovered the health benefits and Nordic Walking is the fastest growing fitness activity in Europe.

Unfortunately Americans are a little slow to discover for themselves the huge benefits of walking with the correct length poles and proper technique.

The exciting thing is that once folks have been correctly introduced to Nordic Walking they are hooked. When I host clinics the participants are shocked how the stress to the shins, knees, hips and back are radically reduced and yet they are burning more calories than regular walking - working more muscle groups.

I should probably start posting daily the thank you cards and happy customer emails that I receive everyday. Some of these testimonies are posted on my website: http://www.skiwalking.com

Keep up the good work!

Great blog.

I think it's also worth noting that finding a specific niche is usually easier and less taxing in the long run than trying to be a small fish in a big pond.

The reason is that niche marketers have the ability to market or blog or podcast about only the things they find interesting. Higher interest yields much more interesting content.

And, let's face it, if you're interested in your material you're less likely to burn out on it or run out of material.

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