Monthly Archives: January 2011

Guest Post: Before you startup, find your niche

A hard truth that many startups struggle to find is that;

“When you try to appeal to everyone, you appeal to no one.” CEO Derrick Johnson thinks so. Johnson’s message is as simple as the concept itself. Consumers are attracted to “who does it the best.”

Tatango is a web-based company that specializes in one-to-many group SMS communication otherwise known as text message marketing. Their niche? Providing the best group SMS communication application possible.

“About a year into it, we started adding additional features. You know, voice calling, integration to twitter, Facebook; and what was interesting [was] that it became confusing. They didn’t know exactly what we were best at. Pretty much from there we said we wanted to be the best group text messaging website.”

Johnson and his team made a conscience decision not to expand onto other avenues like direct response SMS. His decision clearly paid off.

Here are some things to keep in mind regarding finding your niche:

Be Narrow Focused. Be Specific

If there is a market for your niche, stick to it. Simplifying your focus can only lead to a cleaner product. Consumers will recognize and appreciate anything of quality, rather than something hastily thrown together. Keep your product lean and the function smoothe & efficient.

Look at how simple and basic is, but that same basic website generated over $110 million in revenue in 2010. Focusing on one specific idea will also lead to a product one can be much more knowledgeable about.

Be passionate and find an edge

You can be specific and find an edge at the same time. Ask yourself;

If this market is undervalued, where is it undervalued and why?

There may be more than just a need; maybe there is a niche market? Ex. facebook is the social network giant, but linkedin does a great job of connecting industry professionals. It will be easier to find an edge in something you’re passionate about.

Jason Ross, CEO of Jackthreads, found his fortune through desire. He combined his passions for high and trendy mens fashion and discount shopping.  Niches may be found in questions you ask yourself each and every day. [see Mixergy interview]

Stalling is death

Johnson briefly spoke about the “hustle mentality,” and the meaning behind it. We all know nothing comes easy however, we must also be aware that the web is fast paced and those who don’t progress with the flow of information, don’t make it. Constantly be on top of news, events, politics, laws and how they might could effect the venture.

How Startups should Approach Customer Service

Most people get upset when they get stuck behind a school bus or if the person at Subway has to ask a million different questions (as if they’ve never been there before). This same lack of patience directly translates when people go online.

When people have a question about or problem with your startup they are going to do one of two things:

  • Look up the information on their own


  • Demand the answer immediately

For users look up information-

They still want the answer quickly, but would rather find out on their own. This is why most FAQ / Help pages feature a variety of common questions that you click to find the answer.The first sentence will be the explanation, followed by more detail.

Here is an example found at Macy’s.

Notice that it is a common question that many of Macy’s consumers will have. When will I receive my order? Sure the answer is different depending on what / when you order, but it is addressed here.

For your startup you want to focus on the common questions that your target user base will have. Keep answers as generic and simple as possible, but always remember your users will not be as web savvy as yourself! What might seem like common sense to you, might not be to someone else.

For users who demand the answers now

Connecting with them and providing EXCEPTIONAL customer service – is absolutely mandatory for survival. It’s my thought that:

A start-up is no different than a small business in your local community.

While online you have the advantage of reaching a larger consumer base, but just like a common pizza shop you also have limited resources. Approaching customer service online with a personal touch can convey trust in your brand, even when it’s new or lacking credibility. Your users like to know that their are real people behind the computer screen and will do business with you because they like you.

How often do you find yourself going back to a certain restaurant just because you were treated well the last time you were there? These same basic principles can be applied to your business.

One company that does this really well is Gemvara, a start-up that I discovered through a Mixergy Interview.

Not only can you contact them easily, but they have an entire page that is dedicated to meeting their customer team filled with cute little bios. You can put a face to the voice that you’re speaking to or emailing with. This gives Gemvara a personal feel and allows them to connect with their consumers.

So for your start-up be personal, be concise, and be available when approaching customer service! Connecting with your consumers and treat them with respect.

  • This blog post is the direct result of a response to a question that originally appeared on Quora.