The terms are used interchangeably but there’s an important nuanced distinction between the two. Birds of a feather so to speak. However there’s something important to understand that goes beyond the difference between vertical and niche. In fact, having that understanding may be the difference between the success or failure of your business.
Think of a vertical market as a bird aviary. It’s for people who want to discover, see, and experience birds in their natural habits. Aviaries consist of a many different kinds of birds and can contain as many as 500 species from all over the world. A niche market is actually a sub-niche that would be aviaries specifically for people who are interested in or love parrots.
Let’s say you stared out in a niche market and decided to sell aviary building kits for bird enthusiasts who want to have their own aviaries. Your business becomes wildly successful until Birds R Us steps in and makes aviary building kits part of their product line. Birds R Us is an example of a vertical market. In this case, they operate within the pet category and have staked a highly profitable territory selling products (including bird aviary kits) for bird lovers. As a result, they’ve become an online store for one-stop- shopping for a wide range of bird products.
Is it tombstone time for your aviary kit business? Not necessarily. You have three choices.
- Go vertical
- Go sub-niche
Before you accept the idea of folding as an obvious option, you should explore options 1 and 2 first before throwing in the towel.
Your aviary kits were selling like hotcakes until Birds R Us arrived on the scene. You built a business with a loyal following that was based on trust, respect, quality, and your own personal touch. Perhaps your history and hard-won reputation is an opportunity to grow as a business that specializes in aviary-like kits for reptiles, amphibians, and terrariums. In other words, you offer a high-quality personalized product for people who want to create their own enclosed natural environment for a certain species. Now you’ve expanded into a vertical niche market from a niche market because while you still specialize in enclosed natural environment species for one specific species to enclosed natural environment for different types of species. Do your SEO right and you could become an online one-stop shopping store with a line of enclosed natural environment kits for different types of species.
Okay, you’ve lost your niche market for high-quality kits for bird aviaries. But then you discover that there’s a sub-niche market for a specific type of bird aviary that’s worth pursuing. Maybe it’s in a specialized sub-niche of aviaries for parrots or finches lovers. Now you’re still offering the same type of product, but it goes one step deeper into niche market territory.
Make An Informed Decision
Being informed on the subtle difference between vertical and niche is important if (and unfortunately most likely when) you should find yourself in a similar competitive situation. Don’t shoot from the hip. You need to make a critical next move decision that will have different implications. For instance, whether you decide to go vertical niche or sub-niche, each one requires different strategies. If it comes down to option 3, don’t forget the fun and excitement of your niche market success. Not only that, but now you know the ropes of what it takes to succeed. Remember those things and they will fuel your enthusiasm to look for another niche market to call your own.