Giles English, Co-Founder of Bremont Watch Company, provides seven top tips for niche businesses looking for global market success.
Niche markets are extremely valuable, if sometimes tricky areas in which to establish a business. Usually containing fewer competitors, growth in niche markets can be fast, though this can be a double-edged sword as the number of possible customers is not only smaller than normal, but harder to find as well.
The Bremont Watch Company operates in the niche of high-end luxury watchmaking. Typically dominated by Swiss companies, our aim was to bring watchmaking back to the UK, which was easier said than done. Still, since launching in 2002 we have navigated the complexities of the hyper-competitive world of luxury goods, and now turnover £18million annually.
It’s not always been an easy road, so based on our experience, here are my top tips for entering niche markets.
1. Do your research
Market research is so important when it comes to the niche markets. It helps you understand your customers, recognise your competition and identify what people are prepared to pay for your product or service. It’s also vital for establishing how big of an opportunity exists and what the opportunities for growth are. Doing this early is vital and should definitely be completed before you start investing serious time and money.
2. Make quality your top priority
In a niche market, consumers can be more discerning than usual, and often have higher expectations. This makes delivering top-quality service fundamental – and not just in the luxury sector. When you are a challenger brand aiming to take on established competitors, ensuring your brand name is associated with quality from the outset is a must.
Continual innovation is also central to staying ahead of the pack. In a competitive market, being one step ahead of consumer trends and competitor activity is integral to long-term success. Innovation can also be a great way to forge new niche markets that didn’t exist previously.
4. Strength in numbers
No new business should ever feel that they have to go it alone and fortunately there are lots of support options available. At Bremont, we were fortunate enough to get early help from Walpole, a UK-based small-business incubator that pairs up-and-coming luxury brands with mentors from across the British business landscape. As we knew from the beginning that ours needed to be a global business, we required exporting advice and support. We were connected with FedEx Express and the guidance we were given enabled us to smoothly manage customs and turn our attention to customer service and delivery. At the outset you won’t know everything so having access to the expertise partners and mentors can provide is invaluable.
5. The team behind your success
A strong, well-coordinated team is behind every company’s growth and success. This goes doubly in a niche market where you want your team to be truly passionate about their work. Before Bremont, watch manufacture hadn’t existed in the UK for generations and this was a key investment for us as we needed a team that possessed specialist and rare skills. If these hadn’t been available, we may not have made it to where we are today.
6. Find your audience
Perhaps the biggest challenge for businesses entering niche markets is being connected with customers as these are often more difficult to locate and communicate with. To achieve this, word of mouth marketing at industry and consumer events or through social media can be extremely effective, as can targeted advertising Supported by a strong PR message.
7. Be broad minded
As niche markets are, by their nature, limited in size you might find that to achieve sustained growth, you need to look abroad. The good news is that exporting has never been easier and it is now possible for even the newest, smallest companies to become international players in a very short space of time. To achieve this, we can’t recommend finding a suitable logistics partner strongly enough. At Bremont, we now export all over the world and have boutiques in both New York and Hong Kong and doing this while maintaining top-notch customer service wouldn’t have been possible without FedEx.