Niche, Niche, Niche — All We Ever Do Is Niche

June 4th, 2007 · 6 Comments
by Kassia Krozser

As news trickles our way from the 2007 BookExpo America gathering (breaking: air conditioning not so very available), we are gathering the threads of a few themes. Meaning, yes, we’ll be analyzing and discussing them over the next few days. A biggie to emerge from the conference is the concept of niches.

Putting advertising where the customers are: so simple, it’s almost genius.

Since the beginning of time, publishing has always been about niches — publishers simply pretended they were catering to a large mass of people, much like television did prior to the advent of lots and lots of cable options. Very few books have ever held an entire nation in thrall. In our modern the era, the closest we’ve come would be the Harry Potter series and, perhaps, The Da Vinci Code.

Otherwise, the market is made up of thousands of little niches. You buy a book about gardening. Perhaps, more specifically, you purchase a book about gardening in little square feet. Even more specifically, you’re seeking something about gardening in little square feet but doing it organically.

It is difficult to market to the niche of people who want to garden in little square feet. You cannot, for example, take out full-page ads in the New York Times. Nobody would stop you; if you wish to throw away your money, there is always someone willing to take it. The problem becomes that such an ad would not reach the target audience — unless the NYT has a very robust gardening section. We don’t know.

The real trick would be to take out ads in gardening sections of newspapers around the nation. Lots and lots of ads, though you begin to wonder if such gardening sections exist. The Los Angeles Times, which publishes in what is clearly one of the best places for gardening on Earth, doesn’t so much have a section devoted to the art of digging around in dirt as it has an area devoted to the home. An ad for a book about gardening organically in square feet probably would be lost among the ads for couches and whatnot.

All hope is not lost. The problem we see with publisher advertising is that it is often unimaginative. For example, today’s gardeners are as likely to seek advice online as they are to check out books from libraries. Thus it would make sense for advertising about gardening in square feet to be placed on websites that offer advice and support for individuals who practice the art.

Rather than cutting a wide swath with advertising about books, marketing departments need to start thinking smaller buys in niche markets, print, web, and virtual worlds. Smaller buys, better targets. Basically, putting advertising where the customers are. It sounds so simple, it’s almost genius.

Oh yes, this would be a lot of work for publishing companies. It is much easier to market to the perceived masses. Marketing staff would need to stop thinking in terms of broad campaigns and start thinking in terms of niche. This would, naturally, lead to the idea of community development…which is a topic discussed long and loud in the BS garden office this weekend.

So as you recover from your post-BEA flights and drives and haze, go ahead and niche today. You deserve it.

File Under: Marketing For Introverts

6 responses so far ↓

  • Don Linn // Jun 4, 2007 at 9:59 am

    Advertising where the customers are or might be? Entirely too logical. It could work.

    An extension: Build the specialty site yourself using a cheap blog tool and excerpts from your book or line of books on the subject . Engage your readers directly. Don’t try to sell them right away (though certainly give them the opportunity to buy).Get their permission to talk with them regularly and (gasp!) find out what they would like to read about on your next list.

  • Kassia Krozser // Jun 4, 2007 at 9:25 pm

    Don — are you really suggesting heresy (g). Subtle, engaging marketing? The, shall we say, soft sell? It’s almost like you’re teeing up my next post or so…

  • David Thayer // Jun 5, 2007 at 8:19 am

    The Romans developed the niche as a place where personal items were stored in public baths. Needless to say the emperor’s niche was larger than most sort of the ultimate high school locker full of cool stuff like Aqua Velva ( Latin again.)
    I’m all for niche marketing but opposed to towel snapping because someone’s gonna get hurt.

  • Kassia Krozser // Jun 5, 2007 at 8:22 pm

    Agreed. No towel snapping. Though, wow, who knew your command of Latin was so, well, comanding?

  • Brian Guerin // Jun 11, 2007 at 8:47 am

    How very finger-on-the-pulse of you, Book Square! At about the same time as you posted this article I was engaging in this type of online marketing on behalf of an English publisher. The niche approach is likely to lead marketing depts to spend more man (person?) hours on each title, but will not cost a whole lot beyond wages. Could this lead to a restructuring of marketing departments in publishing houses? Not if they keep finding students on work experience to do it for free, it won’t (sigh).

  • Kassia Krozser // Jun 11, 2007 at 8:11 pm

    As you know, I do try to keep my attention focused on the actions of each and every project my readers have. Makes it so much easier to focus around here (g). I think your thoughts on restructuring marketing departments are spot on.

    However, before all you publishers out there rush out and hire interns, please remember that there is such a thing as bad publicity. Engaging in online community requires savvy and judgment. The rewards will be enormous, but you need to understand the repercussions as well.

    Also, no matter how much you are tempted (and you will be tempted), do not engage in mudslinging and fighting back. The urge will be great, the damage greater if don’t represent your company on a professional level.