Editorial: Finding the Right Niche

By Len Monheit
[email protected]

The concept of Unique Value Proposition is a familiar one to marketers. It suggests that in order to be successful, differentiated from your competition and able to gain customers’ mind-share, your organization must offer some unique attribute and benefit. This unique proposition may involve business model, benefits or relationship attributes.

Traditionally, this has led companies to incorporate novel features into products (based on consumers needs ) or sometimes even to attempt to persuade consumers that they have, in fact, legitimate, pressing needs. In some cases, whole new categories have been created.

It’s quite possible, particularly if you’re a large organization, that your research group has several ‘unique propositions’ under investigation, each of which has the potential to reach the critical point where an investment can be justified to bring the product, service or feature to market . In the natural and nutritional products industry, it may be a blockbuster ingredient, a breakthrough technology, or a novel approach to a high profile health condition. And as you enter the chosen category with a view to capturing dominant market share, you’re aware that you’ve got to be either first or best – at something.

Whether you’re large or small, this same principle applies. If you’re a large organization, you may have the opportunity to define the category (Kleenex and Bandaid). If you’re a smaller organization, you have an opportunity to develop a position of credibility, intimacy and perception of such solid expertise that even the largest of companies with a depth of resources to throw at the niche will find it difficult to penetrate – providing you’ve identified the right niche with a credible and legitimate value proposition.

An example many will be familiar with is the emergence of Jones Soda as a high visibility beverage alternative with a differentiating appeal and attitude surrounding it that has enabled it to gain significant, if not dominant market share with a highly targeted audience. In this case, the company identified a niche and created a value proposition targeted specifically at the niche.

Many companies have taken several stabs at finding that value proposition or niche. Executing with an entrepreneurial approach, they are creative in culture, in tune with market dynamics, and very much ‘involved’ with their highly specific and targeted audience. These companies recognize several realities: You have to effectively deliver your valuable solution to the bulk of the identified niche. You need to be willing and able to execute once your niche is identified. (How many companies or individuals have had legitimate ideas and concepts only to sit on them and watch while the opportunities were uncovered and exploited by others?) Youmust incorporate feedback and experience quickly into your evolving business model. And you must have 360 degree vision, because if you’re successful, others will quickly take note.

All of this is rather obvious.

Less obvious are some of the recent examples and opportunities that can be observed in the natural and nutritional products industry, and some of this past week’s news stories highlight a couple.

Pharmaca, headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, describes itself as the operator of pharmacies that combine prescription drug and over-the-counter products with natural, complementary and personal body care products, which presently has eight pharmacies with aggressive expansion plans. This past week, the company made two public announcements, the first, that Peter Roy, former president of Whole Foods Market, had joined its Board and the second, that it had acquired several million dollars in new equity funding to support its expansion program.



The company has identified a business model and niche that bears watching.

Sound Formulas, LLC also based in Boulder, has identified and begun its research and product introduction program targeting post partum women with a 3-step daily nutritional supplement designed and formulated to replenish nutrients such as fatty acids, alpha lipoic acid, calcium and B vitamins that a mother loses during the birthing process with the objective of helping to offset or limit postpartum moods as well as low energy, joint pains, skin problems and sleeping problems. (Article in Daily Camera)

Other examples of niche identification include the channel strategy introduced by many dietary supplement companies (including those aggressively targeting practitioners), more specific targeting of health conditions, and on the ingredient side, efforts at determining actual product mechanism of action as a differentiating platform.

It’s interesting to note that while some in the industry are fearful of commoditization and perceive a total lack of product or company differentiation, others are creatively and in many cases, scientifically, building a value proposition and niche for themselves. It takes energy, dogged persistence, an ability to overcome frequent dead ends and most importantly, out of the box thinking. The opportunities in our dynamic marketplace are being created every day.

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