Are you on the prowl for a new, lucrative niche? Whether you’re just starting off or already competing in a saturated market, discovering fresh revenue streams is always a challenge.
When it comes to hunting down these areas, there are valuable lessons to be learned from our prehistoric ancestors. Successful hunters have long known that the key to success is understanding their environment, choosing the right hunting grounds, and being prepared to adapt to survive.
The online world is no different. A better solution to an old problem is always just around the corner, and new competition emerges constantly. You need to be constantly on the move for fresh sources of profits.
With that in mind, and taking inspiration from our forebearers, here are five tips for tracking down your next potential source of income and expanding your business into new territory.
1. Seize the Higher Ground
The first thing any decent hunter would do when he sensed change was in the air was to obtain an elevated perspective to ponder the situation. From this elevated vantage point, his keen eyes would be on the lookout for possible threats, or new opportunities for shelter, firewood, and food.
Take the same approach when you are considering a new revenue path. Instead of getting stuck in routine ways of looking at things, shake things up by getting a whole new view on opportunities for you and your team. Try these two simple tricks to get a wider picture:
- Change your physical location. Go somewhere unusual, climb a hill, take your whole team with you. Whatever it takes to break out of your usual surroundings.
- Actively seek out inspiration from outside your own industry. Analyzing solutions from a different vantage point can often give you a much better overview of your own field and help you spot new opportunities. Think of the Kanban software methodology’s roots in manufacturing for example.
2. Scavenge for Opportunities Disguised as Problems
More often than not, entrepreneurial breakthroughs and new niches come disguised as problems rather than opportunities. You should never be afraid of digging into the pain in order to find new paths to revenue.
Consider Swiss engineer George de Mestral. He was annoyed by burrs that attached themselves to his socks when hiking. He examined the problem under a microscope, saw tiny hooks on the burrs embedding themselves in the fibers of his socks and – presto! – the idea for Velcro was born. Use your mental microscope to constantly scan for problems that could pave the way to brand new markets.
Company and product review and rating sites can be fertile ground in this regard. Look for the problems that really get people’s blood pressure up – one of them may well lead you to discover a niche ripe for exploration.
3. Study Your Prey
A hunter is a keen observer by nature and nowhere more so than with the object of his desire – his prey. You should be paying a similar level of attention to your existing and potential customers when it comes to staking out new niches.
Begin where you are by actively surveying your existing customers and clients. Services such as SurveyMonkey give you powerful tools to carry this out for pennies. Once you start soliciting feedback, there is almost certainly going to be something further you could do for people who are already prepared to give you money.
When it comes to looking further afield, services such as BizStats can give you more general business intelligence to dig into for identifying new niches. Google Trends is also a potential goldmine in terms of quickly getting a feel for what is occupying consumers’ minds nationwide.
Last, but very much not least, paying close attention to social channels is hard to beat for brainstorming new niches to exploit. If you have a clear idea of what your existing target audience is, start by making a close study of them in their natural habitat on social media to find inspiration for new ways in which you can serve them.
4. Plan for Winter
A hunter of old wouldn’t pin all his hopes on one particular hunting ground or season. When one waterhole dries up, you need to know where the next one is, or things can get dicey pretty quickly.
Finding a new niche brings similar challenges. You may have stumbled across an attractive looking subset of the market with few competitors, but can it feed you long-term? A huge part of assessing a potential niche is being able to look past the immediate rewards on offer and consider overall value down the line.
You’ll be looking to take both a horizontal and vertical view here. In terms of breadth, can your target niche support a range of revenue streams? In terms of depth over time, is this a drive-by niche as regards revenue, or could you carve out a living here for years to come?
A huge number of factors will inevitably come into play in assessing these questions. You might be looking at whether you are at the mercy of a third-party in the niche you’re entering, or how easily an existing online giant could crush you with a new feature release.
The overall point in terms of niche selection is that you need to be able to plan for Winter (i.e. bad times as well as good) in your initial appraisal to see whether this is a niche you can really commit to.
5. Constantly Scan the Horizon
Modern man faces a bit of a dilemma: from the day he enters the school system he is put into a box; forced to comply, to focus and to fit in. Much of his hunter spirit has been subdued.
From an evolutionary perspective, we’re actually built to constantly scan immediate horizons for danger and be able to anticipate threats. In a modern context, these two abilities often manifest themselves as negative characteristics. The urge for constant checking can easily morph into ADHD (a hallmark of many entrepreneurs) in the context of a desk-bound job, while the ability to sense danger drifts all too easily into catastrophizing.
Handled deliberately, though, these two ancient impulses can be turned to your advantage. The ability to constantly scan the environment for new challenges is an essential part of identifying new niches. The ability to envisage potentially negative outcomes is also critical in being able to assess any niche (as we explored in the previous point).
The key here is in consciously putting these abilities to work for you rather than being distracted by them. Instead of falling into rabbit holes of distraction when potential ideas emerge, maintain a list of future areas to explore and then schedule time for that deeper research. Rather than turning your back on potentially viable niches due to foreseeable problems, remind yourself that threat identification is merely a sensible part of an overall analysis process.
By consciously combining these traits (in the sense of being constantly on the lookout for new opportunities), you’ll soon find yourself with more than enough niche opportunities filed away to explore at your leisure.
Just as hunters constantly need to be on the lookout for new hunting grounds and sources of food, so entrepreneurs must consistently strive to identify and occupy new niches. Let’s recap the five hunting-related tips we covered for helping track down the perfect niche for your next project:
- Seize the higher ground.
- Scavenge for opportunities disguised as problems.
- Study your prey.
- Plan for Winter.
- Constantly scan the horizon.
We’d love to hear how you go about tracking down the perfect new niche to grow your business. Feel free to share any tips and tricks that have worked for you in the comments!
Image Credit: Trojan_Llama