Reaching out to your niche
Sponsoring community events to your niche helps to market your products to that niche. One example is Challenge Enterprises of Ghana which sponsors The Pastors’ Bookset, an annual conference for pastors and other Christian leaders. As part of the program, Challenge packages for each participant a set of books and Bibles. It is a subtle but viable marketing strategy to a niche that patronizes their products. The participants later return to their parishes as ambassadors of the organizers.
At Step Publishers in Ghana, we are developing a church library project that enables us to supply books to churches and community libraries. In addition to opportunities to speak in churches about the need to read Christian literature, we also receive invitation to address community gatherings to promote reading.
There are many conventions in Ghana during festive occasions: Easter, Christmas, evangelistic crusades, durbars (state receptions) of chiefs and their subjects. One bookseller chain has adequately pitched its tent in that niche. Their mobile literature vans move from convention to convention playing Christian music and attracting the crowds to temporary bookstores pitched against their trucks. People who attend these conventions know that this bookseller will be there to market their literature products, and that creates a path to their chain of bookshops throughout the country.
In today’s world of networking and partnerships, a person wears many hats, and those hats can provide the niches. A publisher may be a church leader, a member of a board of governors, affiliated with a university, or part of a parents’ association. These are all open doors for reaching out to market niches. Even where high-tech methods for reaching niches are unavailable, it is possible to advance Christian literature ministry.
The niche in book launches
The use of authors’ acquaintances is gaining ground among publishers as a tool for marketing books to niche communities of readers who are interested in the authors’ works. Some authors are community leaders, church ministers, and renowned politicians who have a large following. Sub-Saharan Publishers, a general publishing house whose titles range widely from biographies and autobiographies to textbooks and literary novels, has harnessed this niche for years. In addition to distributing books to the general market through traditional bookshops, they organize book launches. How are they able to fill a thousand-seat capacity auditorium regularly for a book launch? The authors themselves pull in their own crowds of acquaintances.
The trend is catching on among publishers, who are noticing the reality that niche communities of interested groups such as authors’ publics are reliable sources of markets for their products.
The power of focus
The strength of marketing to a niche is focus. Ivan Delman, in his article “Niche Marketing Vs Mass Marketing”, says, “It is more effective, less costly, and produces better results to target a smaller segment of your community over the entire community.” He therefore advises against putting all of your eggs in one basket and rather recommends “developing several niches rather than having to depend on one.” Many gurus of niche publishing and marketing caution against jumping onto the bandwagon—that is, going into one niche whose needs everybody is rushing to meet. Again, Susan Ward believes that “The smaller and more cohesive the niche, the better.” Within a popular niche, one can find a unique one. For example, in our publishing outfit we have found a small but potentially viable niche: non-fiction books based on school mottos and anthems. Every school has a motto and an anthem whose meanings are largely unknown by the teeming populace of students entering and leaving each year. We are marketing this product to meet the need.
For such marketing to be effective, it is advisable that the books we publish for our niche must be unique, marketable, and certainly available. By inference, the niche indicates a small and specialized area, which therefore calls for the need to make the book known.
What modern technology offers
A Ghanaian proverb says, “When the times change, you must also change,” which points to the need to be creative and vigilant in adopting better ways of doing things. Today, the big change is the presence of information technology with all its opportunities enabling us to reach our niches more easily. Recently a private mobile phone company in Ghana announced its two-millionth customer. That information was a smart marketing strategy—a phenomenon that spreads across major cities and towns of Africa. In partnership with countless FM radio stations now reaching rural communities, the mobile phone companies raise millions of dollars from niche marketing programs they undertake soccer, beauty pageants, political campaign, and talk-shows.
The same can be said of e-mail, Web sites, and information and communication technology products. Their presence creates new marketing paths to niches that must not be lost on publishers. Recently, when our publishing house attended a conference of heads of public institutions, we not only spoke to them but solicited their email and mobile phone numbers. Reaching them directly has given us a cutting edge to that niche.
How is the future?
Those who prophesy that the future of books belongs to niches—rather than general populations—may or may not be proven right. It does not really matter. What matters, in my estimation, is to find your own niches, creatively maintain them, and keep looking for new ones. Even in the wilderness of book markets, we can trust the Lord to open our eyes to unique segments of our populations where we can reach out and minister with Christian literature.
© 2008 David C. Cook Global Mission. First printed in Cook Partners, May, 2008.