Live From The MeritDirect Co-op: Niche Happens

Jul 13, 2007 11:53 PM  By

White Plains, NY—Do you know your catalog’s niche? A lot of companies don’t, according to futurist Don Libey.

Kicking off the MeritDirect Co-op yesterday, Libey called niche dominance “extraordinary,” and listed it as one of his 20 practical profit and performance pillars. But what exactly is a niche?

During his keynote speech, Libey defined a niche as “something big enough that we can actually do something.” He says a niche is also something that is scaled, and is also probably something local.

“We have defined a niche in a way in which we can gain depth, and we want to become the very best in this niche,” Libey says. “I’ve set up a lot of companies that have said, ‘I need a niche, now go out and find me one.’”

The problem is the majority of niche catalogers think they fit one definition, but they don’t. When many companies actually set out to define their niche, “after their analysis is done, it was all wrong,” Libey says. “They used to do that, but they apparently do something else, and didn’t know what they were doing.”

It pays to know your niche—and how to serve it. Libey described the niche of a company he helped start up. The cataloger specializes in spare parts for kerosene-fired salamanders, which are used to keep wet cement from freezing in the winter.

This may seem like a tiny niche, but users of the heaters need about a dozen parts on hand at any time; they also need to be trained to fix them. By offering those goods and services, Libey says, the company’s sales reached nearly $15 million in just two years.