Be the ONE In Your Niche: Unique Strategies for a Successful Online Business
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I've been thinking a lot about being the ONE lately. And by extension, I have been thinking a lot about whether other people are thinking about being the ONE as well.
In other words, are you thinking about whether your business is different enough to stand out from the crowd. Do you have a unique selling proposition? Do you have a unique product offering that is going to help your business thrive?
I feel like I need to write about this subject for 2 reasons: First, I can easily look back at my own business and see where the majority of my income is coming from, and it's directly tied to the uniqueness of my business; and second, I know that many people reading this blog are just getting started in their online business and they NEED to hear how important it is to not copy other people's business.
If you want to make real money, you have to be the one.
What does it mean to be the ONE?
Well, let's look at a quick example.
Let's say you are looking to open a Burger restaurant in Mesa, Arizona (where I grew up). How many restaurants are in Mesa? Oh, probably several thousand. So, you are not the ONE restaurant.
How many of those sell burgers? Easily still hundreds. So, you are not even the ONE burger restaurant. Unless, you can make your burger restaurant unique you are going to struggle to make money most likely. (This is a HUGE reason that most restaurants are failures…they are just a copy of what already exists).
However, what if the interior of your burger restaurant is surrounded by huge aquariums with all kinds of aquatic life and the tables move throughout the restaurant on a moving belt? Suddenly you become the ONE restaurant that has moving tables with amazing aquariums that happens to serve burgers.
Now you might have a business.
Throughout the post today, I'd like to dig a little bit deeper into making your online business unique and why that's so important.
Oh and if someone wants to steal that burger aquarium idea, be my guest.
Not the ONE…
My passion for this subject runs deep. I've seen so many people try and fail with their online business and it's heartbreaking. However, when I look at many of the online businesses I see out there, I have to simply think, “Well, how was your business any different?”
In fact, if I were able to go in the past and talk to myself 4 or 5 years ago, I would have warned myself of the risks associated with niche sites. Since, I can't go back in time, I want to warn you if you are putting all your eggs in the niche site basket.
Niche sites are not unique. Yes, you can make money from niche sites; however, they are more like a loophole, rather than a real business.
I mean, I'm still making money from niche sites…but I KNOW it's a loophole and won't last forever.
Be honest with yourself and think about it. Let's say you have a niche site that is about the best BBQ grills. Even if your articles are “unique”, you are really no different than thousands of other websites that provide information on BBQ grills.
When I do a search for “best bbq grills” on Google, I get 1.9 million results. You are 1 of nearly 2 million, definitely not just the one of one.
Sure, you might be able to rank #1 in Google if you play your cards right and make good money. But it's a loophole, it's a marketing play (more on this later), not a real unique business.
In general, any site that makes money strictly from affiliate income is not unique (yes, there are exceptions). You should not bet your future on something that many others are already doing (providing great information on bbq grills).
You should do everything in your power to be the one.
In this example, instead of writing about BBQ grills, maybe you can actually manufacture a unique BBQ grill or a tool for a BBQ. And I do NOT mean just private label a BBQ tool…that's not really being unique either.
It's time to step up your game.
Yes, I still have niche sites and I still try to take advantage of these “loopholes”, but my real effort and income comes from unique businesses that I have.
In other words, you should start with a business where you can truly be unique (be the one), then if you want…chase other less unique opportunities like niche sites or affiliate income. But for most people, the real money is always going to come with the unique business.
3 Examples From My Life…
I want to share 3 examples from my business to hopefully drive this point home.
1. Long Tail Pro
About 4 years ago I created a software product called Long Tail Pro. This business wasn't an overnight success, but I've stuck with it and it's grown consistently. In fact, after a couple of years the business had grown tremendously, and is currently an EXTREMELY successful business that is able to employ several people.
Long Tail Pro has the advantage of being the ONE. Let me explain.
First of all, how many keyword research tools are out there? There are lots, but let's say there are 50 keyword research tools. Already my odds are 50 to 1 versus competing against 1.9 million webpages.
However, Long Tail Pro has some unique features to help it stand out from the competition. The software is easier to use, it's faster (see comparison to Market Samurai), and it allows you to search multiple seed keywords at once.
In fact, this one feature of searching for multiple seed keywords at once was perhaps the main unique selling proposition for Long Tail Pro when it was first created. How many other keyword research tools at the time allowed a user to search for multiple seed keywords? None that I was aware of.
Long Tail Pro became the ONE tool that had this feature.
So, instead of playing a marketing game against 50 other established keyword research tools, I was able to simply showcase my one feature that they did not have. When you have no competitors, business becomes much easier. (Obviously there are always competitors in a broad sense…but when you narrow it down to features you truly can stand out).
I wish I was willing to share the monthly income of Long Tail Pro to really drive this point home to you. I will just say that the net income from the launch I shared a couple of years ago are no longer the biggest net income month that the business has ever had.
The business continues to do well each and every month, even though I haven't done a “launch” in over 2 years.
2. Kindle Books
Another business I'm currently involved in is Kindle books. This is a tough business. I will simply say that on the uniqueness scale, writing books is only slightly above creating niche sites. It's extremely competitive and very difficult to be unique.
Yes, our books are unique titles and may cover some slightly different angles on a topic that other books don't, but overall, our book will just be another book in a pile of thousands of other books on the same subject.
Writing books comes down mostly to marketing. If you want to be a successful author, you will probably have to get good at marketing. No matter how unique you try to make your book, there are probably going to be MANY existing books on the same subject.
This is why Perrin and I are doing so much to build our email list and build an audience. Once you have an audience, this because your unique angle to selling books. You know more people than the next guy.
Sadly, the best written or most interesting books don't usually win.
The author with the best marketing strategy does win.
I'm not trying to steer you away from writing books, but I am saying that it's extremely difficult to stand out and be the one when you are an author. The success of your business will probably rely more on your marketing efforts than your writing efforts.
3. Amazon Physical Products
Another business that I've recently become involved with is selling a physical product on Amazon. If you want to hear more about the Amazon FBA business, you should listen to the podcast interview I did with Chris Guthrie a couple of months ago.
This is an interesting business. You can either take the copy-cat approach (similar to niche sites and kindle books) and just create a “private label” of a product that already exists on Amazon. Or you can create a unique feature or even a completely new product, get it manufactured, and sell it on Amazon (and other places too).
For example, during the podcast interview that Chris and I did, we walked through an example of a pet carrier. The unique feature that we discussed adding was a better shoulder strap, one with better padding if I recall correctly.
How many small dog carriers are there out there? Likely dozens. How many dog carriers are there with a comfortable and well padded shoulder strap? Maybe only one.
You can truly stand out from the crowd and be unique with a physical product.
If you are at all interested in the Amazon FBA business, I would STRONGLY advise you to create a new product or a unique feature. ..rather than just private labeling the exact same product that is already on Amazon (this could be a simple as adding more padding to a product, creating it in a new color, or some other minor tweak that customers are looking for).
Either way, you will have to do some marketing. However, when you have a unique feature you will most likely have to do less marketing!
Now let me give you some insight into my own Amazon business opportunty. I'll give a more in-depth report down the road, but for now I just want to make a point.
Before I had a product manufactured in China, I searched and searched on Amazon for how I could make my product unique. I actually came up with the product need out of my own life experience. I will just say that I had something similar to what I eventually manufactured, but could never find something similar on Amazon.
I also read lots of Amazon reviews and so I KNEW other people wanted the same feature I was looking for…but it simply was not on Amazon (at least that I and other reviewers could find).
I didn't create a new invention or a new product, but I did create a unique feature (think about the padded shoulder strap for a dog carrier…something like that).
Well, I had my product manufactured and shipped to Amazon. I listed it, but I immediately went on vacation and have essentially had no chance to do any marketing (promotions, getting reviews, etc.) since I listed the product 3 weeks ago.
However, I was surprised to find that my product is selling pretty well! In fact, take a look at these numbers:
How is my product able to sell well despite the fact that I haven't done ANY marketing? Because my product is the ONE. I have the one product on Amazon that people in my very narrow niche are looking for.
When you have no competitors, business becomes much easier. Yes, this is a very small niche…but I believe with a little bit of marketing I can get my sales up to at least $10,000 a month with this one product.
The product really didn't start selling until about April 1st, so the “30 days” number should end up closer to $2k to $2.5k. I know this is nothing to get overly excited about…however it DOES show what can be done with very little marketing effort if you create a unique enough product.
Also, I purposely removed the number of units sold to make it just a little more difficult to find for people that still want to copy-cat others…even after reading this post!
To say the least, I will be trying to scale the sales of this product, but I'll also be thinking of other unique products that I can sell.
I really like being the only fish in the pond.
Strategies for being different
I'd like to cover a few traditional ways that business try to be different. You can call this a unique selling proposition, you can call it strategy, you can call it standing out from the crowd, or competitive advantage.
1. Lowest Price. Wal-mart is known for this strategy. It works for one company, but that's about it. I would strongly advise you not to be the low cost leader. You will simply eat away at your profit margins, and as soon as someone prices their product lower then yours, your complete strategy is toast.
2. Highest Quality. A higher quality product is also usually the highest priced product. This is a great strategy if you can truly create a better product that is higher quality. This is an excellent strategy (think of high priced products for examples: Apple, Chanel 5, designer clothes, etc.).
3. Original Idea. This is really a first mover strategy, because copies will come quickly. If you really can think of an original idea and get it out into the market quickly, this is also a great strategy. This is often why tech startups seek venture capital…so they can scale their business quickly even if it's not profitable at the beginning. By moving/growing fast enough, they become much more difficult to knock off (think Facebook, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, etc)
4. Focus or Go Niche. This is actually directly from Michael Porter's generic business strategies. Basically it means if you can focus on a specific market segment rather than the general population, this can be a great business strategy.
5. Add Unique Features to Existing Products. This is a combination of having an original idea and going “niche”. However, this is a strategy that has worked very well for me (Long Tail Pro and Amazon product). If you can find an existing product and simply make it better or appeal to a new audience with a new feature, then you suddenly have a unique business with less direct competition.
Marketing Can Be Difficult…or Easy
If you don't have one of the above 5 strategies in your business, the only thing you have left is marketing. The good news is that marketing can be very powerful.
So even if you have the exact same business as thousands of other people you can still be successful, you just have to be better at marketing than your competitors.
The downside is also that you MUST be better at marketing than your competitors.
On the other hand, if you create a unique business, you should still try to be better at marketing than your competitors, but you don't necessarily have to be better to have a great business, because your business will be meeting a market demand that others simply aren't meeting.
Marketing is much easier when you have a unique business. When you are the ONE people want to talk about you all on their own. Press comes easy because you are unique.
Instead of searching out guest post opportunities or podcast interviews, they come to you.
Long Tail Pro has been mentioned hundreds of times on blogs and very well known online publications…all without my involvement or knowledge. My product is unique enough and the small amount of marketing that I have done has allowed it to continue to grow organically.
This doesn't usually happen with niche sites or Kindle books. It's extremely difficult and almost impossible to be unique enough with a niche site or Kindle book; so marketing is still required.
Niche sites are a marketing play. You have to build more links or create a content piece that will get shared on social media. All of this is marketing.
The exact same is true of Kindle books. You can share your books on free sites, pay for promotions, and get people on your email list through marketing efforts. The book is rarely unique enough to sell itself.
Overall, marketing is still essential for any type of business that you have. However, it truly does become easier when you have a unique product offering.
How is your business different?
I hope I've made my point. If your business isn't unique enough, you are going to have to rely heavily on marketing. In addition, a business that isn't unique probably won't stand the test of time and any success you are experiencing today, will probably be gone tomorrow.
So, take a good hard look at your business. Are you the ONE? Or are there hundreds (or millions) of competitors doing essentially the exact same thing as you?
If you are just realizing that your business really isn't that unique, perhaps it's time to get those creative juices flowing! What unique idea can you come up with? How can you improve on an existing product?
If you have a niche site or a Kindle book and your marketing efforts aren't really taking off; perhaps it's time to pivot and try become a bit more unique. This could mean creating a software product, a new training product, a physical product, or perhaps simply tweaking the idea of an existing product.
Overall, if you are looking for a long term business that has the best chance of helping you reach your financial goals…you should really be trying to create something unique.
You don't want hoards of competitors.
You want to be the ONE.
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