What is a niche and what is USP ? 4
What are the benefits of a niche ? 8
Does my business need a new niche? 10
Overview of the Niche Promoter Program 12
What information is needed to select a niche ? 14
How to I design a unique, sensational offer ? 18
How do I know if my selected niche and USP will work ? 18
How do I test my selected niche and USP ? 23
How do I make money from my new niche ? 27
About the author 31
What is the safest car on the market?
Many people would say Volvo because of their marketing decades ago.
Even though this is not true anymore, they still occupy this “top of mind”
spot for being the safest car.
My first job was that of an accounting trainee. I had to select an accounting
firm at which I wanted to do my training program (articles). In South Africa
the top accounting firms were known as the Big. Being a large international
company certainly was a good reason to join one of them. The decision
between the big 5 accounting firms was based on my perception of their
expertise rather than what the actual situation was. It is perception that
drives our decision making, not necessarily the reality.
As part of my training at PricewaterhouseCoopers, I helped with the rollout
of an auditing program that disrupted the auditing profession. The
software made the audit work so efficient that the work could be done at a
fraction of the time and cost than the old way of auditing. The project was
so much fun that I joined the software company, Oracle where my work
was very enjoyable. I specialised in an area that was well sought after and
therefore well paid. I could not believe that was being paid twice my
previous salary for “playing” all day! This experience taught me that it pays
to be an expert in an area with few competitors. I also learned that all you
need to do to stop working is find a job that is fun.
I started to work for Yahoo! where most of their clients were “Dotcoms”,
being clients that make their money over the internet. In 2000 – 2001 the
investors realised that many Dotcoms businesses were bad investments
and withdrew their funding. With many clients going bust Yahoo! was in
trouble. This was made worse when Yahoo! did not buy Google’s search
engine that was up for grabs for a few Yahoo! shares. The lesson Yahoo!
learned was a tough one: Only Google had technology to deal with the fast-
growing internet. Their technology allowed them to dominate the internet
After my Yahoo! days, I set up a software company with General Electric as
my main client. GE has the philosophy not to enter or remain in any
industry sector if GE could not own the largest or second largest market
share of that industry. Why? Because if they dominate a market then they
can ask premium prices. The alternative is to always compete in price and
often struggle with profit margins. This was also true for my small
consulting practice. We developed financial software for a niche market,
being GE subsidiaries. Being the developer of the software set us up as
experts in our field and we saw the financial benefits being their trusted
I then applied this niche-philosophy with a real-estate development
company I started. We found a beachfront property in South Africa’s
beautiful Garden Route where the climate is the most moderate in the
world (after Hawaii). Because it was only one of a few properties on an
exquisite coastline we build a hotel on the beachfront. South Africa’s
property prices were booming and our capital growth was exceptional. This
then was my next lesson: Only enter an industry when the whole industry
is on the “up-escalator”.
The proceeds from the hotel we invested in a game reserve development.
The development checked all the boxes as to being unique and to make it
sought after. I decided to share this opportunity with my friends. Within a
couple of weeks most of my friends invested in the game reserve exactly for
its unique properties without even visiting the country! The real estate
agent thought I was some sales wizard for selling more properties for him in
one month that his branch sold the previous couple of years. The unique
location and services of this big five game reserve made it easy and
pleasurable to promote it in Europe. In 2007, in the middle of the
development, bank all across the world froze their lending to developments
and the whole project with us as primary investors went bust. This re-
emphasized the importance of the lessons I already learned about only
investing in an industry which you have a passion for, which is on the up-
escalator and make sure your offers is unique and sensational.
Although I enjoy working with large corporate clients, I prefer dealing with
small businesses owners because the decision-making process is quicker. I
also become more emotionally invested in the success of their business and
improvement in their lives. For this reason I decided to buy a business
advisory business where I could live out my passion and apply my training,
skills and experience. I was about to buy a business when an ActionCoach
invited me to their annual franchise meeting. She told me upfront that I’d
see the franchise business “warts and all” because the franchisees would be
discussing business issues they need to deal with. At the meeting I did hear
many of their problems, but what really struck me was how passionate
these coaches were in helping their clients. They weren’t “salesy” at all
because they had an effective system with many success stories to back it
up. I wanted in! This is where I learned my next lessons on niche: One’s
niche needs to be measurable and proven. And, for me, it needs to be very
From my experience alone, you can probably learn much of having a niche
for your business. There are many benefits and very few risks of
specialising. The only reason why business owners don’t spend more of
their time identifying and developing their niche is because they don’t value
Developing an unique offer for a niche market segment is not something
that one should do in isolation. It is a complex process that should best be
done with business advisors or a business coach that specialises in the
process. The aim of this book is therefore not to be a self-help book but to
give business owners an understanding of the importance of a profitable
niche and what the development of a sensational offer involves.
I believe that this book will motivate you to find a better niche for your
business. I firmly believe that you’ll gain a good understanding of what is
needed to help your business flourish even times when competition is
tough so that you can gain the lifestyle you really deserve.
What is a niche and what is USP ?
USP is the abbreviation for Unique Selling Proposition. It is the offer of
products or services to a buyer where there are no competitors that offers
that combination of the products and services to that group of buyers. The
competition for that type of offer is either small or does not exist. The
business with that USP therefore is dominating that market segment and
won’t lower their prices because of a competitor’s prices.
A Unique Selling Proposition is the answer to the question:
“What sets your offering apart from other offerings in the industry?”
Many business owners would answer that they offer professionalism, high
quality or value for money but those answers can be given by competitors
A USP states a benefit to a customer group that others cannot rightfully
claim. It is often included in the slogan of a company. Here are a few
slogans of well know companies where they do state what their unique
selling propositions are:
• Domino's Pizza - You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30
minutes or less or it's free.
• Avis - We're number two. We try harder.
• M&Ms - The milk chocolate melts in your mouth, not in your hand.
• BillFaster - Professional invoices within 7 seconds
• Bee’s Wrap - The ‘new’ old-fashioned alternative to plastic wrap
• FedEx - When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight
• Watch Co - 365 Days return policy
A niche is that segment of the market to which you offer your unique selling
proposition. Because there are no, or few competitors in that segment it is
called a niche.
Now the link between a USP and a niche is clear. If you find a niche it will
make your offer unique for that segment. Alternatively, you can design a
USP for your existing market segments you sell to, thereby turning that
segment into a niche because of your unique offer.
It is better to considered both the niche AND the USP when setting out to
define a sensational USP to fulfil a strong demand in a niche market. It can
be compared to finding both hungry fish AND offering bait they cannot be
What are the benefits of a niche ?
A niche is a segment of the market where your offer is unique. You don't
have to drop your prices to prevent your prospect going to a competitor.
You can charge what the client is willing to pay to solve their problem.
The offer that is made to this niche is called a Unique Selling Proposition. A
strong USP helps prospects with their buying decision. In their minds they
have the question “Why should I buy this product from you ?”
Let’s say you want to hang your tools up against a wall in your garage. You
might think you need a drill to make some holes for the screws onto which
you’ll hang my tools. You may search on the internet for drills and a local
hardware store which stocks that cheap drill.
But let’s say you get to the store and you see an advertisement where a drill
is advertised with a 2 year guarantee. You may then decide to pay a bit
more for that guaranteed drill.
And let’s say you get to the counter and the sales assistant asks you why
you need a drill? He then introduces you to a space saving shelving system
that already has all the things in place to neatly store your tools. You’d
rather have this because it is a unique solution for your problem. You then
buy it because it was conveniently offered to you while you were in the
store. And voila! Within that hour you show your neighbour your neat
garage. Guess what he got himself for his birthday !
Your problem was not that you wanted a drill. Nor was it that you wanted
holes in the wall. You needed to organize your tools better and with that
specific need, you became part of a niche of garage owners that want
A strong USP will guide a specific group with a specific need to a product or
service that uniquely answers their question “Why should I buy this product
from you”. And if the product or service adds value they’ll be willing to pay
the price to meet their need without consideration of competitor’s prices.
In above example we can see that a niche with a niche enabled the
a) Needs were better met with the solution
b) The sales assistant had an easy job to promote the product
c) The shelf producer did not have to lower their prices as their offering
was within a niche segment of the market.
d) The store owner made a bigger profit because of the up-sell
e) The store owner reduced marketing overheads because of word of
f) The manufacturer gets repeat orders from distant retail stores.
g) The offer improved longevity of the manufacturer and retail businesses
The key to all these benefits were that their was a well communicated
promotion done to a clearly defined niche which would solve their need(s)
Does my business need a new niche?
A local health product retailer was struggling to keep their business afloat.
They introduced healthy eating habits to the residents of the town, which
caused a change in the eating habits of the people. The local superstore
caught wind of this and started to stock health products which almost killed
the health store.
The world of business is ever changing with the change of technology,
economy, competitors and new product and service lines. What worked
yesterday is not guaranteed to keep your business afloat tomorrow. The
good news however is that you and your business too can (and should)
Here are a few key questions to determine if you need a new niche:
It is good to keep in mind that long-lasting businesses change circumstances
change and often those that wait to change, change too late.
Because the ratings for above statements are subjective, we cannot e.g.
state that scores less than 70% needs a stronger or new niche. The decision
can’t be made by someone else than you as business owner, all we can do it
so stress the importance of it.
Overview of the Niche Promoter Program
Recently I helped a business to define what exactly it is that clients buy
from them. I asked their clients for feedback on different components of
their business. This allowed us to confirm their strengths, weaknesses,
opportunities and also threats from their loyal customers point of view. We
then defined what set them apart from their competition.
The owner was pleased when he learned what could be done to improve
business. He however thought the process would be easy and he’d do it
without any assistance. The unfortunate result was that because of this
perception the changes that was “easy to do”, became “easy not to do”.
His example is one of many that saw the value of finding a niche, but failed
to appreciate that there is a whole program needed to turn the niche into a
powerful sales catalyst.
Many of the most famous inventions were not implemented by someone
else than the inventory because the inventory failed to appreciate the
process of taking it to market. Below is a diagram showing the stages
involved with the Niche Promoter Program:
As shown above, the process can be split into four interrelated stages.
Often one or more of the stages are watered down or left out, which leads
to a less profitable and less sustainable promotion. In the next few
chapters we’ll look at each of the stages involved in finding a niche and
implementing a strong USP.
In above illustration we can see that unless the little man lifts both sides of
the barbell up, his exercise will fail. Similarly, we need to ensure the finding
and the implementing of the new niche both happens. In the first two
stages of the program we focus on finding a suitable niche and designing a
sensational offer. The last two stages we test that our design works and
integrate it into your business to make money.
The purpose of the Analysis stage is to gather the needed information for
the design stage. We analyse the priorities, suitability and impact of not
only your needs and offerings but also that of your competitors, customers
and your business. The quality of the analysis stage will impact the quality
of the design stage.
During the Design stage we make sense of all the analysis done. We look at
the information from various angles, using different thinking hats to
innovate and select a sensational and suitable offer (USP). This process
requires a combination of systematic, analytical and creative thinking. This
stage is as much a science as an art which is best done with other advisors
The following stage is where we Build and Test the selected USP to
perfection. It is an iterative process where we test the different elements
of the USP and refine it to have the desired impact on your sales. What
often happens is that business owners, consultants and coaches don’t test
all the required areas. Proper testing can ensure a long-term fit for a niche
During the Integrate stage we apply your selected niche and USP into your
business functions to increase your income. Your business’ ability to
promote effectively will impact the success of this stage. We therefore
score your business’ performance using our Niche Promoter Score.
This chapter looked at the stages involved with the development and
implementation of a strong USP. In the next few chapters we’ll look at the
aims and elements of each stage.
What information is needed to select a niche?
This question is probably best answered by looking who is impacted and
benefits from a sensational offer. A profitable niche will be the answer that
provides the answer to the needs of those groups. Let’s look at a diagram
to illustrate this:
A niche and its related offer should be suitable from four different
It should fulfil your personal needs. Not only your current, temporary
needs but also your longer term requirements because a niche can change
the direction of you business and your life. Just think how business choices
or career decision has impacted your life in the past! A skilled life- or
business-coach is trained to help you unearth those passions, needs and
skills that should be considered in selecting a niche.
When selecting a niche we need to work with actual facts and not make
wild assumptions. Therefore we don’t consider your competitor’s needs
but rather look at the impact of their current offerings, strengths and
Because we’re selling to a group of customers, we also look at their unmet
requirements. A niche however may include a group you don’t currently
serve so we also analyse their requirements.
Rather than starting from scratch, it may be more beneficial to use your
current business as a base for offering a strong USP to a niche market. For
this reason we also analyse the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and
threats of your current business and its ability to serve its customers.
It is important to gather above information in a way that truly reflects the
four viewpoints. If the information is inaccurate then the solution will
mediocre. After accurate feedback has been obtained, we summarise,
analyse and extract the priorities and trends. From this we can then design
a strong USP for your profitable niche.
How do I design a unique, sensational offer ?
This stage is both an art and a science. When your child asks you if it’s easy
to drive a car then the answer will probably be something like “Yes, I drive
without thinking how. I just do it automatically”. This is partly the case
when designing a USP, but there is also a methodology that needs
conscience thought. To ensure the best promotional ideas rise to the top,
we follow steps that can be summarised as:
1. Identify the current products or services that meets the requirements
identified in the Analysis stage
2. Innovate newideas on how these problems can be solve. (This is best
done with someone that is non-critical and skilled in the process of
3. Generate as many benefits for above solutions and encircle those that
are most valuable in meeting the listed needs
4. Evaluate the practicality of the solutions. (This requires more detailed
and critical thinking)
With a you’ll have identified ways to solve specific problems. It should also
leave you exited as no one else are currently offering this solution.
The next stage would be to add features (benefits) to your top solutions.
The ultimate aim is to have an USP to a specific group of people that solves
their important requirement(s). This fine-tuning is done by looking at your
solution from the eyes of the various role players in your prospects’
purchase cycle. The following diagrams shows some of the considerations I
made in the design of my Niche Promotion Program:
There can be a number of viewpoints (roles). In addition to the marketing
person, referring person and supplier we can e.g. also have the prospect,
existing clients, sales team, finance manager etc. By looking at your to
proposed solutions from these perspective highlights additional features
that can add value to your solution. It also helps you visualise the delivery
of the solution so that you can identify possible hurdles upfront. It is
important to remember that a USP is not only a product. It is the full
delivery of a product to a niche in such a way that all involved are “wowed”.
There can be multiple requirements for each role. The list of requirements
and recommendation can become lengthy so we need to prioritise what
we’ll keep to get the best return on investment. For this we’ll rate all the
features and then building up the design of the solution. Here is an
example of how I rated a solution to give it a weighted priority. I only
included the highest priority feature to make the unique offer sensational:
In this stage we listed solutions to unmet needs and systematically added
features to have a sensational, unique offer. The next stage will be to build
the solution and test them to see if they work as well as expected.
How do I know my selected niche and USP will work?
One of my clients had a niche recruitment agency. They recruited
construction workers to implement ducts in building sites. They did fairly
well financially but wanted an outside perspective of how they were doing.
They thought the conversion rate was ok but when I listened to some of
their agents’ phone calls it was clear that they were burning through very
valuable leads. The owner identified a niche market with a strong demand.
He spend most of his capital setting up the office and building a good lead
generation program but then he hired inexperienced, unskilled
telemarketers try and convert these valuable leads. The results were
appalling. Training the team and replacing some of the members the sales
conversion rates and their business did much better.
The recruitment business had an amazing niche and a strong USP and yet
incurred losses. On the other hand if a well established, credible
supermarket adds an inferior product on their shelves they can still make
good profits from it. The lesson here is that all the value adding activities of
your business needs to work well before you can evaluate if a niche will
Search engines use a mathematical formula (algorithm) to give each and
every registered webpage a rating. This rating is called the net promoter
score. It takes in consideration many factors to rate the website for its
intended readers. And the better the net promoter score the better the
webpage’s likelihood to be on the top page of the search engine e.g.
Google’s first page.
We apply the same principle to determine your company’s Niche Promoter
Score. We rate several factors to evaluate your business’ ability to fulfil the
need of your target market. A score of 5 for an area indicates that that area
is well equipped to fulfil the demand of your niche market. E.g. the
recruitment business in above example would score low in the sales related
areas as shown below:
When all the elements are rated, the overall Niche Promoter Score gives a
good indication as to whether the selected USP will work in your business.
The Niche Promoter Score report gives an average for every business
function that contributes to your promotion.
This is also important because a very low average rating in any of the areas
also indicates possible failure, even if the total score is above average. A
start-up business that scores 0 on is unlikely to meet the niche market’s
need, regardless whether it has a strong USP or the other areas are in place.
We look at both your Niche Promoter Score and your balanced score card
to identify areas that need improvement. Here is an example of the
Balanced Score Card:
Both your score and the card are indicators of the performance of your
business. It answers the questions
• “How effective are we at turning qualified leads into sustainable
• “What areas of our business need improvement to ensure we don’t
waste valuable sales leads?”
Once you’ve identified possible weaknesses you need to consider if you
should first improve those areas before taking on a new niche. A business
coach can help you with advice on this and help to improve areas of
How do I test my selected niche and USP?
The saying “What gets measured gets done” is very true, especially with
ragards to sales and marketing.
If you want to improve something in your business, it is important to
measure that aspect for some time before making changes. The fact that
you or your staff is measuring something invariable means that you are
more focused on that area. This extra focus will normally improve that area
even if you don’t introduce changes. It is important to use relevant and
measurable indicators to evaluate the performance in an area. Here are
• Number of contacts made
• Number of advertisement impressions made
• Number of pay per clicks
• Number of shop visitors
• Number of quotes issued
• % Sales to number of inquiries made
• % Decrease in inquiries due to price increases
• Total sales amount for the day, week, month
• Gross profit % by product line etc.etc.
Above are examples of performance indicators that can accurately be
measured. They measure the impact of a change with a fair amount of
accuracy. If we want to evaluate the impact of a change, we only change
one thing at a time and use above measures to see compare the results.
Where possible we also use split tests to make the best choice of
alternatives as we did when we developed a new educational board game.
We were pleased with the quality and we had a broad potential market but
a limited marketing budget. We wanted to test three target markets and
then chose which one to focus on.
We split our target market in three based on age group and ran exactly the
same promotion to the three. The communication method and timing was
the same but the attention grabbing method was different for the three age
groups. Because we only changed one thing, we could see from our results
which age group we should focus on.
When testing your offers, you should split-test a number of elements to
define the formula that works the best. Here are some of the things you
can test with examples of its measures:
What to split test What results to measure
Ease of communication No. of contacts made
Total demand for solution % No. of qualified leads to no. of
Strength of demand (Price % Decrease in inquiries with a price
Which core values are being
met Customer survey avg. score e.g. 1 to
Strength of USP 5 (high)
Number of word-of-mouth referrals
How do I make money from my new niche ?
It is surprising how often businesses get a niche but fail to implement it.
Perhaps the most rewarding part of the process is adjusting the current way
we do business. This however can be tedious because it’s where you’ll find
the biggest pushback because most people don’t like to change.
To rollout your new niche into your business we’ll draw up a project plan
with clear milestones with target dates. For each milestone we work
backwards to identify the tasks that needs to be done. With a task driven
plan, we can identify the right people to take ownership of each project
Most teams consist of early adapters, slow adapters and resistant adapters.
As a rule of thumb it is best to work with the early adapters to implement
your rollout plan. It is those able individuals that are generally positive
when a new idea is suggested. The aim is to get quick results with your new
niche and then to have the early adapters communicate it to the rest of the
It may also be better to use a segment of your business as a pilot test. E.g.
if your business is distributed you can choose to first implement the
changes in the office you work in most and then learn from your experience
with this one segment. Don’t get disheartened if the first rollout takes long.
There is normally a big learning curve and the following segments can go
Up until now there has been more focus on the marketing and sales aspect
of your business. With this rollout plan we’ll look at all the functions of
your business. An idea is to use each function as a milestone e.g.
Functional Area Milestone (for Head Office) Date
Finance Finance system updates fully 30 Sep 2015
Operations Technical product training 15 Jul 2015
Sales training Sales people trained 30 Jun 2015
Sales Process Sales process, procedure, 23 Jun 2015
Having an experienced project manager to oversee this rollout projects is
valuable. The project manager’s task is to create a plan with realistic
budget and timelines and to keep to it. We follow a proven project
methodology that ensures that communication, risk-, issue- and progress-
reviews are included in the overall project plan.
The process of finding a profitable niche, defining a sensational USP and
promoting it successfully may seem daunting if you consider all things. The
best is to chunk it down into focused stages as I’ve done in this book. And
by now you probably gained a good understanding of the process. I hope
that you’re exited about finding a profitable niche market and defining a
USP to super charge your profits.
What excites me the most when going through the Niche Promoter
Program is how it increases the longevity of your business. It can be a
valuable contributor, not only your business success, but also an
exceptional and sustainable lifestyle. Below is a list of $ billionaires that
changed there niche which changed their lifes in a short period of time. It
may not be your goal to become a billionaire, but this shows there is a big
upside for finding and implementing better solution for the people we help:
• Jeff Bezos – became a billionaire in 9 months with Amazon, an online
shopping mall with a ‘one click’ ordering process
• Jay Walker became a billionaire in 1 year with Walker Digital, a R&D lab
that is using Internet networking to create brand new methods of
• Gary Winnick became a billionaire in 1 ½ years with Global Crossing,
laying the very first private fibre optic cable across the Atlantic Ocean.
• Pierre Omidyar became a billionaire in 3 years with eBay, an online
• Cheng Weibecame a billionaire in 3 years with Didi, an app based taxi
company for China’s many inhabitants
Above entrepreneurs all identified their niche markets and then developed
strong USP for it. And the stronger them team was to help them do that
the faster they moved and the better their chances of success were.
I wish you all the best with the (re-)invention of your business. You
can find more details of our Niche Promoter Program on our
website. You can also do a free test to determine your business’
Niche Promoter Score, which is also on our website:
About the author
Deon is a constant learner, has a wide business experience and is
passionate to help others achieve their goals. As an experienced business
owner, Deon van Zyl knows the practical issues business owners face in
today’s competitive environment. He has a passion for helping business
owners and if he is not coaching, you may find him hiking in the mountains
or kayaking on a river somewhere in Africa.
While studying to become an accountant, Deon started working for
PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) as an audit manager. By relying on
systems, he reduced his audit team from 19 to 5 and finished a large audit
in record time. He was commended for this achievement by the senior
partner of PWC, which motivated him to join Oracle Corporation and
specialise as a financial system architect. He then went to the UK where he
helped Yahoo! implement their financial systems in multiple countries
With this global project management experience, Deon started his own IT
consultancy. His creativity, leading abilities and systems experience helped
to grow his consulting company. The company developed financial, budget
and tax programs primarily for General Electric’s subsidiaries. Deon also
established a few offshore teams to support his clients. But Deon preferred
working with small business owners and stepped down as director and
owner to become a certified business coach, initially with the global
Deon, using his knowledge gained through the coaching system also build
and sold various businesses, including a boutique hotel, health practice,
travel agency, game reserve and property development company.
It is the unique combination of Deon’s passion helping small business
owners, his experiences, training and being a positive mindset that enables
him to help many clients improve their businesses.
Recently Deon authored the Niche Promoter Program to help business
owners overcome the pressure of increased competition. At a recent
seminar Deon explained:
"Growing my businesses came at a big price. I hardly saw my family and my
health was declining with lack of exercise and stress. My big dream became
my big trap. If I had a business coach and program to help me the whole
process could have been much more lucrative and fun”.