The idea of “finding your niche” is far from a new idea. Business owners learn early on to think about their competitive advantage, finding creative ways to set themselves apart from competitors so that they can capture a share of the market in a way that others cannot. In many ways, this idea has driven innovation over the last few centuries, and it’s inspired businesses to develop compelling solutions to evolving problems.

When it comes to marketing, however, many business owners leave the idea of staking claim to a unique niche behind. They develop their innovative product or service, and then they fight to get to potential customers using the same avenues and approaches as their competitors. This creates a marketing bottleneck: everyone is trying to get through the same door. In these cases, the established brands have the advantage. They have the budget, the expertise, and the reputation to succeed in these high-static scenarios.

Instead of competing where everyone else is competing, find a side door. Look for a creative way to reach your target audience in a way that is new and interesting, doing something that your competitor is not. What this looks like will vary from business to business, and it does not mean that you should abandon traditional avenues completely. Rather, I challenge you to think beyond “well my competitor uses billboards so I am going to use billboards.”

Identify the choke points in your marketing landscape and think about how you can get around them. Some ideas:

  • Is your competitor dominating with pay per click ads? Consider finding new keywords, or tap into a different ad network (like Bing or Facebook instead of Google).
  • Is your competitor spending a ton of budget on big media like radio and television ads? Start at the opposite end and connect with customers through grassroots community organizations and referral partnerships.
  • Is your competitor killing it with direct mail campaigns? Partner with established local businesses to send email blasts to their customer lists.

Be creative, and don’t settle for the same old tactics. Otherwise, you’ll get the same old result.