jueves, 9 de febrero de 2017

Why Niche Marketing Matters

Lois Geller ,


I write about marketing, with a focus on results.

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

Philip Ryan and I

Niches don’t have to be small.

Last year, I spent two weeks floating down Ukraine’s Dnieper River in a small cruise boat. Later, I spent 10 days on the massive Oasis of the Seas. The Dnieper Queen was the size of four of Oasis’s lifeboats.

The Dnieper cruise wasn’t anything like the leisurely luxury Caribbean cruise. No casino, no stage show, no fancy restaurants. Nothing fancy at all. Our cabin was tiny and the whole bathroom doubled as the shower stall. The food was so so and available only at mealtimes.

But it was a great trip. One reason was the crew. Another was our tour guide, Philip Ryan, an Englishman, who spoke Ukrainian, knew everything about the country and was welcomed with smiles everywhere along the river.

But what made the trip truly memorable were the passengers in our group. They were all alumni (and spouses) of Ivy League schools with a few from Northwestern, Stanford, Dartmouth and the University of Washington. What wonderful company.

Dartmouth Alumni Group

The cruise wasn’t about relaxation. It was about the people, the land and the culture of Ukraine.

We spent a few days in Kiev, then floated gently downriver to the Black Sea, stopping at towns, cities and small farms, and enjoying concerts, museums and opera in the cities and a Cossack horse show in the middle of nowhere. I had my first shot of moonshine in a farmhouse, 10 miles past the middle of nowhere.

Yalta Conference

We eventually made a left turn at the Black Sea to the Crimean Peninsula (Krim in Ukrainian) where we recited the Charge of the Light Brigade exactly where it happened near Sevastapol, ate at a McDonald’s in Balaklava, toured Stalin’s secret nuclear submarine base which had been tunneled into a mountain and visited the Romanov vacation home where FDR, Stalin and Churchill met at the Yalta Conference. The Conference table and chairs were still there.

Then we went to beautiful Odessa.

Who offers a trip like this?

The company that put together everything is called AHI in Rosemont, Illinois. Curious about how it developed this niche business, I called one of the owners, Joe Small.

He told me that years ago when his father was a student at Notre Dame, he thought of the idea of making charter flights available to students. That led to offering interesting learning excursions to alumni of great universities. Most of the trips went to the usual tourist destinations but with a twist. Knowledgeable guides would take the travelers behind the scenes of the famous cities and even into the homes of the people who lived there.

Joe’s Dad expanded his programs from Notre Dame to East, then West Coast universities and eventually to Canada. The unique approach to travel caught on with alumni and word of mouth worked its magic.

Today, Joe and two of his brothers run AHI and they offer trips to the schools and some organizations only. The market is growing, because graduates and the 55+ age group have been growing, too.

AHI now has a “Travel Insiders” Group with which they communicate directly and they’ve started an ocean cruise division that is growing nicely.

When independent travelers contact them through their website, they look them up on their database and send a commission to the university. About 250 alumni associations offer AHI trips.

My takeaways are:

This company could have been an independent travel agency offering fascinating experiential trips to everybody. Just like everybody else. Many of us work like that. But instead Joe Small’s Dad thought of a way to make his whole business bigger, by having alumni groups all over the nation list his special trips. It’s a lot like an affinity program, where you use other people’s lists, but capture your own buyers.

There’s a place for many of our businesses to be offered to other companies’ customers. Years ago, I mailed special offers for Marshall’s discounts to credit card companies’ customers. The credit card companies provided the mailing, the postage costs and got the usage on their cards in the Marshall’s stores.

What can you do in a niche to get your product or service up there in the stratosphere? Any ideas? Leave you comments here, and thank you. We can always help each other grow, learn and be happier every day.

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