Niche domination

My thesis is that conversions on the web that force more business only come from having a niche. So, take the accountancy example: if I just set up a page about, I’m an accountant, I can work with anyone, no one’s going to want to work with me because they don’t really know me. If I want to work just with people in Dulwich, I might get only 5 enquiries a year, but if they are all from my niche I might convert 80% of them, so I get 4 new clients from that.

The thing about this is, as a small business you cannot compete with the large businesses on the web, you simply can’t do it. You have to find a way, an angle, to get in at the side. The angle that I use is this thing called ‘finding your niche and dominating it’. Now, the thing about this is that you can dominate your niche on the internet. Just because you can’t afford to buy billboards on Bishopsgate or wherever because it costs lots of money, you can’t compete with the big guys in that sort of advertising sphere. But on the web, where people are searching, you can dominate it, because that’s what the search engines want to do. They want to find someone who fits the exact niche of the search and then give them that result, because that’s what people want.

So, how can this work, and why does it work?

Okay, here’s why it works. We are accustomed to seeing curves like this:

standard deviatoion curve

standard deviation curve

standard deviation curves, curves that contain averages. So, if everyone in this room had their height or weight measured we would get a curve. Some people would be taller, some people would be shorter, but there would be an average of 5′ 6 or whatever it is in here. The same thing goes for a multitude of things that we see in our daily life. I met a guy who used to work in IT in the City, his company car was an Aston Martin. My jaw dropped because I’d love to be able to afford an Aston Martin and he didn’t even have to afford one, he just had to get the job that would give him an Aston Martin as a company car. Now, even an Aston Martin doesn’t have 10x the top speed of, for example, a Skoda or a Lada (if I can use those terms in a derogatory fashion today). The Aston Martin will have something like a 250 mph top speed, which is about 1½ x what the average top speed of a saloon car would be. Lots of things that we are accustomed to in daily life have this sort of curve, averages. It’s tempting to think that this is how it works on the internet, but it doesn’t work anything like this on the internet, because the curves that describe behaviour on the internet are curves of this shape which are called power laws.

Power curve

Power curve

For example, if I was to plot the number of visitors versus the ranked websites (this would be Yahoo, Google, eBay, all those big websites that get millions of page views per second, or whatever it is), what you’d find is that the first three or four websites get 96% of all the page views, everybody else is down in this tail. There’s no such thing as an average behaviour on the internet; you either dominate or you’re nowhere. These big guys dominate in terms of page views, which is fine. Your website and my website is down in this tail somewhere and this tail extends to Swindon, it really does, it extends to Swindon. We are down in this tail here because we are small businesses, so how can we even find a niche, much less dominate it, if these are the sorts of curves that apply to the internet? Well, there’s one law you can apply and this isn’t an experimental law, it’s been shown to be true. What it says is that these types of curves are invariant of scale, the shape of them does not change, no matter what scale you go to.

If this is 10 million, and my website is down here in the tail in the thousands of visitors, if I was to plot an equivalent curve where the top part is now 1000 visitors, the curve would have the same shape. This is the key to niche domination on the internet, because no matter what part of the curve you might be, whether you’re in the 1000 visitors or the 5,000 visitors, or the 50,000 visitors, this law applies to your niche. So, the point is, if I can find out how to dominate this part of the curve, and reach no.1 in the search engines, it means my website gets 96% of all the enquiries for ‘Accountants in Dulwich’.

Whatever niche you’re in, if you can set up your web application so that when the curve is applied to your niche, you are on this side, and not on this side, you don’t just get some of the enquiries, you get the majority of enquiries, all of them. All your competitors are down here in 4% simply because this curve is scale invariant.

The point is that you are not simply an accountant, because that’s not a niche. You are not simply whatever it is you’re going to describe to me over lunch, probably. You are something much finer, but the finer you get your niche, and the finer you get your description, both to me on the table and on your web pages, is the more you will engage with people who want precisely that solution. And those, after all, are the only people you’re after. You are not interested in people who want to buy tennis shoes or Wimbledon tickets or anything else, you’re interested in getting accountancy prospects in Dulwich. There will not be many, but if you can dominate you will get all of those enquiries.

So, niche dominations leads to conversions; conversions leads to prospects, that’s how the process goes. It starts here at niche domination.

Hopefully you’ve seen that if you can go about finding a niche and finding who wants to find you in that niche, you will succeed because of the way the laws work; they do not work by averages. There aren’t an average number of people going to an average number of websites. Certain websites dominate and the rest are in the tail, but the scale is invariant.
You don’t want 10 million visitors a day, you want 100 visitors a day, or whatever, and the power law will apply to your niche as well. You start by getting a niche. How do we do that?

Hopefully, all of you are now going over in your mind what you’re say about your 2 minutes, so that when you describe it to each other at lunch it’s got the basis of a niche; it’s not just, I’m an accountant, or I’m a this, I’m a that. You have a certain target market, and let’s be frank: if you cannot come up with a statement that describes your niche at this networking meeting, you’re better off not being here because no one’s going to listen to it or even less remember it 5 minutes later, I can assure you I won’t. What I will remember is a niche; is an actual thing I can refer a particular person to, because that person is exactly what my problem needs a solution for. Accountancy, I don’t even remember the names.
So, niche, how do we go about it?

Find your niche next.