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We need to be part of our customers’ community

If we’re in a fairly niche market (and most of us are), it can be easy to forget where we are. I think this is a mistake. Customers want suppliers who understand them, and we need to put in a lot more effort if it’s not obvious from the way we position ourselves.

A brand’s authenticity is so important in a niche market. We need to be part of a community of buyers and suppliers. If we make blue widgets for the aerospace industry, those aerospace companies which need blue widgets aren’t a separate group for us to address – they’re a community that we need to be part of.

Ideally we’d be called The Blue Widgets For Aerospace Company. In practice, we’re more likely to be called Acme Widgets, so the smart move would be to develop an image to make up for that – perhaps starting with a slogan that says something like “we make blue widgets for the aerospace industry”.

Branding is a priority

In a small niche, we probably know our customer universe very well. For some suppliers, that suggests advertising needn’t be a priority. Again, this may be a mistake. Branding and image is very much a priority, and advertising has a big role to play in this.

It’s likely that there are  few (if any) specialist competitors, so the customers’ alternative is probably to go to more generalist suppliers. We can differentiate ourselves by demonstrating at every stage that we’re part of the customers’ own community. What should a more generalist supplier fear about us as a competitor? Understand that, and make the most of it at every opportunity.