Starting a business is daunting enough. What if you're doing so in one of the more highly saturated niches, like marketing, cooking, fashion, or DIY, that have tons of bloggers, YouTubers, and other content creators with large audiences?
That's the position I was in when starting my travel blog, The Discovery Nut. I was joining a very crowded vertical: travel. I focus on adventure travel on the West Coast of the U.S. and beyond, and as someone who loves to discover hidden corners, I try to encourage my readers to do the same by showcasing unique and less discovered destinations.
As a newbie, it's easy to feel intimidated by—or even discouraged from—starting your enterprise. You think to yourself, "who am I to have people listen to me, let alone buy from me?" And, to be fair, making a name for yourself in a crowded niche—no matter how awesome your product or service is—isn't simple. But there are a few things you can do to increase your odds of standing out.
Finding your niche in a saturated market
If you want to succeed in a crowded niche, you need to identify the gaps. Because no matter how crowded a niche is, there will always be gaps.
One of my favorite niche food blogs is Vegans Baby—and I love it for more than its clever wordplay. It's mostly about the booming vegan scene in Las Vegas, but readers can also find guides to plant-based restaurants in other cities, a great sub-niche that brings in even more traffic.
Speaking of saturated niches, how about travel blogs? It might seem impossible to break through, but again, finding that gap can help. Take Travel Mexico Solo. The website owner, Shelley, created a very narrow target audience: female solo travelers who want to see Mexico. On her blog, Shelley offers advice on solo travel in Mexico—everything from top destinations to safety tips.
I landed on adventure travel because I saw that there was a gap. Too many blogs cover the same destinations and "Instagramable" spots that become overrun with tourists and lose their authenticity and charm as they become too popular. So my focus is specific: adventure travel, mostly the West Coast, less discovered destinations.
Niching down eliminates a decent chunk of competition—both in terms of what you offer and for search engine optimization (SEO). So figure out what's missing and see if you can own the gap.
Determining your target audience
You need an engaged audience, which means you need to know your audience. Start by creating a customer profile. Who's going to love your brand or buy your products? Once you know that, you can tailor your marketing (and your actual product and services!) to them. There's a long list of things to consider when creating personas, but be sure you think about both demographics (like age, gender, and location) and psychographics (like hobbies, values, and interests).
Nerd Fitness, for example, knows its audience: "people with desk jobs that love nerd culture, games, books, and movies, but also know they need to make healthier choices in their day to day lives." The business focused on this target audience and is able to speak to them specifically and authentically, connecting with their clients on a more personal level.
At Discovery Nut, my audience is mostly people who like to travel along the West Coast of the U.S. I've traveled extensively in this area, which means I understand what people are looking for, whether they're planning a national parks trip or they want to do more of a city-heavy tour.
Crafting your brand identity
Now it's time to craft your brand identity. This fancy term includes everything from your business name and logo, to colors and fonts, to your brand voice.
But most of all, this is a chance to tell your story—to present your business's mission, your core values, and your identity in the same package. Because even if other brands in your field offer similar products or have audiences similar to yours, your story can make you stand out.
When I was developing my brand for The Discovery Nut, my goal was to show people that anyone can have a great adventure—even if you're traveling solo. That's the story that I focus on throughout all my brand assets.
Building a brand is a process—and you should be ready for lots of revisions—but it should always be rooted in the gap you're filling and the audience you're addressing.
Continuing to stand out
It's not enough to stand out from the crowd initially—you need to continue to stand out. Here are some tips for making sure you don't get lost in the crowd after a successful launch.
Solve your customers' problems. To get people to buy from you, you need to provide value—not just a good story. Value can come in many forms, depending on your business. It might be blog posts, videos, training, or free products or consultations. The best way to stand out? Look at what everybody else is doing in your niche. If your competitors are only offering free advice in the form of an email newsletter, you can offer a free, personal consultation. For example, I offer an extensive guide to the best West Coast destinations, which speaks to my audience's pain points.
Choose the right social media platform for your brand. Every brand should have a primary domain—ideally a website. But in addition to your main presence, you should be visible on other platforms. We're talking about social media. Zapier has a guide to how to choose the best social media for your business. You can't be on every platform in full force, so you need to figure out which makes the most sense for your audience. For my brand, I choose to focus on Pinterest and Instagram, which are both great for visual industries (like travel).
Stay consistent. Regardless of the platforms you use, make sure your messaging and brand identity stay consistent across all of them. For example, if you promote yourself as a sustainable brand that makes products from recycled materials, that should be your go-to messaging on every platform, even if how you present it changes depending on the medium. Inconsistency can breed distrust, and consistency can create a seriously loyal following. After all, staying consistent is one of the best ways to stand out in our rapidly changing world.
As I've been building my brand for the last couple of years, I've had plenty of ups and downs. But finding my niche early—and sticking to it throughout the process—has allowed me to create cohesive content and build a dedicated fanbase.