On a recent visit to John Buscall’s blog I was lucky enough to listen to a conversation he had with Ryan Opus about his emergence into the wine industry in Europe. They touched on a series of topics and settled in on Ryan’s approach to using the internet to build his business. Ryan has an interesting approach and if you have a few minutes I highly recommend listening to the podcast. There is some great insight there for any form of business.
There was some discussion on the podcast about Ryan’s niche in the business world.
Is the wine industry niche?
Niche is a subject or attitude that has been of interest to me for some time. This interview between John and Ryan got me back on that particular bandwagon again.
In this context, niche can be defines as:
“Relating to or aimed at a small specialized group or market.”
By that definition only selling Rioja in Spain would be niche.
See what I mean?
So, the wine industry isn’t niche in itself, is it? If you feel it is what then defines an industry as a niche industry? When is a business within that industry categorized as a niche business? When it is focused in on a particular approach, product or service and never veers away from its core business regardless of the other opportunities that might exist.
It is a clear choice to narrow focus.
The guy selling Rioja in Spain can certainly also sell other varietals couldn’t he? Our fictional wine merchant chooses to stick with the one grape and hones his knowledge and expertise to a point where he becomes the leading authority on the particular type of wine in his particular locale. Pretty damn niche in a big, big industry.
Do the following represent niche attitudes toward business?
- Pinpoint brand presence.
- Cutting edge.
- Stronger focus on design, product or service.
So, what about niche in the Architecture & Design industry?
The general sense I get is that in the world of business the Architecture & Design industry still seems like a niche unto itself. When the words small, specialized and market are applied to it then the sense of niche disappears quickly, however, the industry alone, when considering the GDP of a country, is miniscule. Then again, in that context, that applies to pretty much any professional services business.
There, I have just labelled the economic impact of Architecture & Design on the Canadian GDP as the factor by which we define whether it is a niche in the business world.
The services across the industry are broad, the saturation of the markets (where I have worked) are bloated and the size of some of the firms that practice Architecture & Design lead me away from the notion that my industry should be considered a niche yet when someone asks me what I do the general reaction is usually one of curiosity. The general public, it seems, does not have a good understanding of the Architecture & Design industry on the whole. It makes me feel like I am part of a rare species.
That just seems to support the notion that Architecture & Design is truly a niche industry.
Hey Architects! Don’t shoot me for picking just these three. I know there are other giants of this industry that may suit this point as well if not better.
As a member of a mainstream service provider in the industry the question that interests me is can the generalist large scale national or international firms devote segments of their business to niche pursuits and compete in the market with the true niche players?
Gensler, for example, offers off-shoot services such as Brand Strategy and User Research divisions that compete directly with the Thinkspace type of companies of the industry.
Albeit not Architects or Designers there are several global commercial furniture manufacturers who have created consultancies to address specific end user needs that do not involve the sale or procurement of office furniture which compete with Gensler’s User Research division. Would you consider that a niche within the realm of a major industry player too?
In the context of scale niche is not such an easy thing to define then, right?
The big boys can offer niche services on a broad global scale and the true niche firms like local Toronto favourites Berdifelik, Munge Leung or Giannone Petricone can play in the local waters offering similar services and there isn’t a real difference between both as niche when considering sectors or market.
Both have built success in their niche, both are known for their specialities and both market their niche well and are recognized authorities in their chosen field of work. It simply seems to me that niche remains scalable regardless of the industry and does not necessarily mean small any more considering the access we all have to global markets.
Specialised? Yes. Small, well, not necessarily so much anymore.
Are you part of a niche business or are you a niche unto yourself?
- Branding guy?
- Public Relations professional?
- Marketing chicka?
- Business Coach?
- Financial Advisor?
You may be small. You may be part of a big, big industry but you still have a niche. You might work for one of the giants and have a specialty within the generalist fold of the business.
Over to you: What is your niche and how does it fit into your industry?