As published on Forbes.com
One of the most common complaints I hear from businesses executives is about the competitive nature of their business. They’ll often say to me “We offer the same service as our competitors. So, if we don’t offer the lowest price, we’ll be in trouble.” While on vacation in the United Kingdom, I experienced some businesses that figured out a way to establish a niche to quickly grow their business.
How Businesses Can Stand Out
In the UK’s Lake District, there are several quaint towns – Each with its own character. Some are for partying, and others for relaxing. We stayed in Keswick, offering great hiking, lake activities, and relaxation. Since our son has Celiac disease and cannot eat gluten for medical reasons, we had to find restaurants and hotels that could cater to our unique needs.
Theresa and Neil own Leonard’s Field House. Several years ago, when Theresa was diagnosed with Coeliac disease (or Celiac as we spell it in the US), they decided to turn a negative into a positive. They thought,
“We want to create a place that is great for those with special dietary needs, while still offering an amazing experience for those without.” Theresa & Neil, Owners of Leonard’s Field House
Much like in our family, about half of their guests have ONE member of the entire party that has specific needs. When my wife was searching for safe places to stay in the Lake District, their property came up first in search results. We booked our rooms. Immediately, Theresa and Neil shared details of local restaurants that offer Gluten Free dining. It made for an incredible experience.
Rising Above The Competition
In Keswick, each street has multiple Bed and Breakfast (B&B) establishments. Each property shares the same great location, same local attractions, and same access to activities.
Leonard’s Field House, however, has a unique position in that they cater to those with Celiac disease. In fact, they cater to a variety of dietary needs. Those of us without dietary needs enjoyed each meal as much as those who had special requirements. Their niche helps drive unexpected business. Neil reports that more than ten percent of their annual bookings come as a referral from other local B&Bs where a guest requires certainty about their dietary needs being met.
Some of the local B&Bs, have discovered their niche, too. A few cater to guests with pets, others cater to families with young children, while yet another property does not allow any children at all. You might think that including pets, you’d discourage non-pet people. Similarly, by allowing families, you’d deter those without children. Correct. And, by being specific, you allow your business to stand out.
Pet people tend to speak to each other. Similarly, those with specific dietary needs tend to speak to each other. This means that those properties, like Leonard’s Field House, stand out within those select groups. And, guess what? Those clients are often willing to spend a bit more than they would for a typical place if they know their specific needs will be perfectly met.
Big Brands Succeed With Details Too
We have noticed that Marriott International offers extensive training for their staff on food safety and specific dietary needs. On our vacation, we also spent time in London at the JW Marriott Grosvenor House Hotel. We sent an email that our son needed to eat strictly gluten-free. When we arrived, the hotel had special gluten-free items waiting for him. Each staff member knew what he could and could not eat, and they clearly understood the proper protocol to ensure safety. Of course, within hours, my wife had shared these details with friends back home to let them know they should stay at the same property when visiting London (not to mention they have impeccable service).
Find Gluten Free For Your Business
The point of this discussion is not Celiac Disease or Gluten Free. What is your gluten free in your business? Your niche might be found in many areas. For example, if you see yourself as an Information Technology provider that does the same thing as many other companies, you might carve out a niche in various areas: You might serve law firms with between thirty and seventy-five attorneys (industry and size); or you might serve medical practices that have a need for HIPAA compliance (specialized by industry and compliance/terminology); or you might deliver mobile solutions to consumer product companies that require iOS and Android deliverables at the same time (industry, complexity, and platforms). In each of these cases, your specialization helps establish expertise and build trust by the narrow markets.
Consider this: if you had a specific medical condition, would you seek out a specialist, or a general practitioner? In most cases, you and your clients would want a specialist. When you take the time to carve out your niche, you can set your business up as a valued specialist. Of course, if you prefer to feel like every other business competing on price, then you are better off just being content as a generalist.
It’s Your Turn
Which business have you seen that carved out an unexpected niche to great success? Take the discussion to Twitter or LinkedIn and share your thoughts.
Keswick, Cumbria in the UK Lake District