Many people who want to begin selling online struggle with the process of finding a market that they can enter, developing a business online that will be profitable, but also selecting a subject or topic that will hold their interest so that “work” isn’t so boring or painful.
The whole notion of “picking a niche” is really a mistake that many would-be marketers continue to make over and over again.
A change of mindset is in order. Picking a niche is different from picking a sandwich at the fast food joint.
Here are twelve tips that I’d like to share about doing market research before you choose the topic or market of your new business venture.
1- Inventory your own skills, education, experience, training, network, passions, hobbies, things you’d like to study or do, and anything others would say you are good at doing.
2- You are looking for something that you know and do better than others. You don’t have to be a master at it, but you should be somewhat of an authority so that you have an advantage over others in that space. You may find there are several things where you have a head start – an advantage.
3- Do some keyword research to find the phrases people online are using to search on the subjects you’ve chosen. You are trying to find the sub-topics of the broader subject where there is demand in the marketplace. Write down those keyword phrases that are similar or that refer to one specific area where you might have an advantage that other folks are also trying to learn about.
Here’s an example. Say you are good at writing and you enjoy doing it. What you’re looking for in your keyword research are those sub-topics that others are searching for online for which you might be somewhat an authority. Writing is too broad a topic. But maybe you enjoy writing poetry. So you notice what keyword phrases are being searched for online relating to writing poetry. Those are possible markets that you might enter with an online business.
4- When you have a list of phrases, go online and search those phrases and notice the top 20-30 sites showing up in the search results. What are those businesses doing? What are they selling? Could you develop a fairly similar web site and produce your own product or service in that sub-market? You’ve already shown there is some demand for it.
5- Go to eBay, Amazon, Dummies.com, Magazines.com, etc and other large sites and search on the same keywords. See if there are books, magazines, reports, etc, on the subjects of these same keywords you identified. If there are magazines and books about these topics you know there is demand.
6- Go online to see if there are forums, blogs, chat rooms, and communities about the topics. Go to these places and join the group in their conversations. Learn about the niche. See if you can identify some issues and common problems these people in the niche are concerned about. Those are things that you could find solutions for and sell as a product or service.
7- Check places like Nextmark for mailing lists of folks in the niche. The idea is to verify that people are interested in the niche and that they want more information about it (hence, they have joined a list, or have bought a magazine subscription, etc.)
8- You should be getting a good idea of whether there is interest in the subject and how many people might respond and become your subscribers if you do a site, email broadcast, or a newsletter on the topic.
9- Before you create a product, service, or even a web site, do a small bit of paid advertising in the niche and give away a free report with tips or something else valuable in the niche. You want to verify that people will trade an email address for content in the niche. If they will, and if you can find some areas where you can solve a problem or help people in the niche in some valuable way, you have a good idea that there is enough demand to create a web site and sell into that demand.
10- The whole idea is to verify that there is demand in the marketplace for whatever niche you have chosen. You should be able to get a good idea of what kind of activity there is online for your topic after spending an evening doing this type of research. You will know if it’s a viable topic for an online business. If you have trouble finding anything online about the topic at all, I would move on to something else.
11- Develop a profile of your “perfect customer.” You want to create the image of the one person who is exactly the customer you are after. Identify his/her gender, age, demographic, interests, desires, goals (if possible), education, training, etc. When you begin to see what the perfect customer looks like, it becomes much, much easier to then identify where and how you need to market to attract the interest of that particular person. It’s almost as if this “made up” person you’ve created can now be searched for online to see where he hangs out, the sites he frequents, the forums he joins, the places he goes to interact (forums, social media, etc) so you can get in front of him with your offers and business.
12- Remember to model the success of other competitors in your niche. Don’t reinvent the wheel. See what systems are in place and already being profitable . . . then follow their lead and do the same things . . . but do them better, in a new unique way, or more efficiently. Don’t copy. Don’t use their content. Just look at their selling process (funnel) and figure out how they’re making money. If it works for them, it can work for you!
That’s really all it takes – just some time online searching for what others are saying and doing so you know that you can take advantage of one of your strengths or passions. From there you can build your authority and presence online by building a mailing list and nurturing your prospects over time.
To your online business success!