Business advice


The success of niche businesses
October 28, 2009, 6:34 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

It really doesn’t matter how bad the economy is for niche businesses many times.  If you find a need and no one else is filling it, you can make out like a bandit.

Peter Shankman is a PR guy from New York.  I never heard of him until about six months ago.  A friend, also a writer, recommended that I subscribe to his email list: HARO www.helpareport.com .  The acronym stands for “Help a reporter out.”  Reporters knew for years he had connections with experts in all sorts of fields.  When one asked for experts on African soil, it took him five hours to get an answer and that’s when he decided there had to be a better way.  He started a Facebook group and the rest, as they say is history. He now has 80,000 subscribers and earned a $1M over the past year.

Currently, if you subscribe, and I do, you receive three emails every weekday.  There is one text only ad at the top of the newsletter.  There is nothing fancy or any specific layout.  The newsletter simply supplies information for the readers, both journalists and experts who want to get some publicity by putting their name on a reporter’s story  There have been others, but no one designed a model so easy to use and Shankman has left his competitors grinding their teeth in frustration.

Shankman saw a niche that needed filling and he stepped up and made out like a bandit.

The five founding members of Linkedin.com also seem to have hit on a niche.  We all need to stay connected and it gets harder the more we stay glued to our computers 24/7.  The founders started out with 350 contacts and asked all of them to invite their friends.  The site now hosts close to 50 million users and they are in 200 different countries.

Getting connected is important to humans and it is a needed shared by all demographics.  These folks hit on a great idea and others have been following.  Social media truly has changed the world.  Old friends to potential employers check out people on Linkedin.  If you don’t have a profile, it may be held against you when job hunting.

Experts, otherwise known as PR consultants, have been needing the inside scope into how to get in touch with editors for as long as I have been in the publishing world.  In the mid 80s, two ex staffers for a regional magazine got together in a bar and launched “The Bulldog Reporter.”  It launched via hand to hand by these guys speaking at dinner meetings of writers and PR professional groups around Los Angeles.  At the time, it was $101 dollars a year, if I remember correctly.  It provided PR people with the inside scope on what editors wanted and how they wanted to be pitched to.  This enterprise has been resold two or three times, expanded with other services and is still running strong 26 years later.

Niche businesses don’t take much many times to get started.  Look around and see what needs people are having since the onset of the recession.  They don’t have time to take care of their animals in many instances.  In Los Angeles County, hundreds were being turned into animal shelters.  Some, of course, was because of financial reasons.  You might consider fliers in your neighborhood for a dog walking service.

Coupons are a big thing since grocery prices went through the roof.  A couple of Moms have done quite well by starting a website that found the right coupons for certain cities.  The fee was small.  You might find a couple of friends willing to go and apply something similar among your contacts.

Niche businesses start small in many instances but are easy to expand when the need arises.  The Bulldog reporter now offers additional services, daily newsletters, conferences, etc.  (www.bulldogreporter.com ).  Peter Shankman has another newsletter already in the planning stages.

Niche businesses make great sense during the financial times our country is experiencing.

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