Finding your niche market

Finding your niche market

Young, Paula

Whether you sell supplies or equipment, you could be missing special niche markets if you’re not keeping tabs on the types of companes that conduct business in your neck of the woods.

When was the last time you took a long, hard look at the community your business products dealership serves? Whether you sell supplies or equipment, you could be missing special niche markets if you’re not keeping tabs on the types of companies that conduct business in your neck of the woods. You could learn, like other dealers have, that fulfilling a special niche market can be very lucrative.

The first order of business is to take a survey: Are there clusters of certain types of businesses that you could be serving more effectively? Perhaps you are situated near a healthcare center (hospitals, nursing homes, doctor’s offices). Is there an academic institution? You might find that there are a few different niche areas worth exploring. In urban areas, you might find a plethora of advertising and design agencies, legal offices, or architectural firms. Whatever your results, you need to evaluate the viability of being able to meet their specific, and unique, office supplies or equipment needs.

Once you’ve identified a niche, consider becoming an expert in that particular field-position yourself as a consultant to that marketplace– and then set out to become just that. You’ll find many valuable resources on the Internet that can help you find the sources of products and information that you’ll need. The Internet can serve a dual purpose for you: You can establish or add to your website in a way that reinforces your newfound area of expertise.

BREADTH OF PRODUCTS

You might be surprised to discover the variety of products that lend themselves for use in offices of particular industries. You might also be surprised to learn of the success of those that supply the office needs to these industries.

An example is Briggs Corp., a privately held company headquartered in Des Moines, IA. Briggs is a leading supplier of professional documentation systems and forms, medical supplies, charting products, education and training materials, pressure-sensitive tapes and labels, and other more specialized products to the healthcare industry. The company currently serves more than 40,000 healthcare customers, offering more than 9,000 different products.

Briggs serves numerous healthcare markets on a national basis, with an emphasis on long-term care and assisted living facilities, home health agencies, hospitals, acute care facilities, and integrated health care delivery systems. Briggs employs more than 350 professionals, ready to serve the needs of any facility in the country. With the aid of an online computer system, orders can be electronically transmitted to any one of five national distribution centers and shipped the same day. Most customers receive orders within 48 hours of processing. Manufacturing and distribution centers totaling over 200,000 total square feet are located in Des Moines, IA; Scranton, PA; Atlanta, GA; Dallas, TX; and Sparks, NV.

Briggs’ goal is to provide complete healthcare solutions by becoming knowledgeable enough about each customer’s individual facility to meet their needs for information as well as products. Through the talents of a product development team with substantial regulatory knowledge, Briggs is able to quickly develop innovative products and provide information that helps meet customers’ changing needs.

While a goal like that may be out of the scope of your dealership, it can be modified. In order to serve a particular niche, you need to establish your team as the knowledgeable solutions provider. Find out how to meet your customer’s need for industry-specific information in addition to products.

OTHER SUCCESS STORIES

Here are some profiles of other specific sources of specialty product lines as portrayed on their websites.

www.campusoffice.com

Campus Office Products, L.L.C. was formed to be the full line source of office products to the College Store market and to provide the tools necessary to sell these products to the departments, faculty, staff, and students on their respective campus at competitive prices.

The company can be characterized as a wholesale distributor selling exclusively to the College Store market. However, they consider themselves more than a marketing consultant for the stores in that they provide both the tools and the product knowledge to help the store grow their business both at the, retail and commercial level.

While the College Store’s main function is to sell books, it also represents a tremendous outlet for office products to the entire campus community. The majority of College Stores currently carry a limited selection of office products geared primarily at the students’ needs. If an item is not stocked, often the customer is referred elsewhere. Campus Office Products wants to put an end to that. They currently feature a 25,000-item online catalog.

www.go-office.com

Go-Office.com is a company dedicated to developing and offering products to mobile professionals for the purpose of creating effective work environments in non-traditional places.

Charles E. Lippert launched the company in 1993 in Grand Rapids, MI, under the name Mobile Office Vehicle, Inc. Its first product was a patented desk system that fit into the back of a minivan. During the first 18 months, over 100 MO-V vehicles were sold throughout the United States.

Two years later, an inventor presented the company with a unique product opportunity. It was the forerunner of today’s AutoExec, a portable auto desk. This product has been very successful with tens of thousands of AutoExecs sold to sales people, insurance adjusters, and other mobile professionals.

www.lewispaper.com

Lewis Paper Place has been a leading printing paper distributor and graphic art supplier servicing the paper needs of quick printers, schools, businesses, and organizations for over 18 years in IL, IN, MI, and CO.

As a printing paper distributor their stocked inventory includes the following printing papers and graphic art supplies:

Copy, Bond, and Writing Papers

Offset, Text, and Coated Papers

Index, Bristols, and Carbonless Papers

Imaging, Laser, and Ink Jet Papers

Fax and Computer Papers

Business and Designer Stationery

Cover, Board, and Double Thick Papers

Envelopes and Labels

Announcements

www.mobilegear.com

The Mobile Office Outfitter offers a full line of specialty automotive office products, which include mobile desks and workstations, laptop stands and accessories, vehicle power supplies, cellular accessories, mobile organizers, filing supplies, and educational resources for the mobile professional. The Mobile Office Outfitter is considered by industry sources to be the best resource for mobile office products and services on the market.

They report to have outfitted and organized thousands of mobile professionals worldwide. They have adopted a hands-on approach to organizing and outfitting mobile offices, and claim to be mobile office organizational experts!

www.stardesk.com

Star Desk Pad Co., is a manufacturer of fine desk accessories, photo albums, social books, boardroom accessories, and bank accessories. With affiliate companies A&M Leatherlines, Giftcraft Leather, and Metcor Manufacturing, they supply a full range of products.

These profiles are just a small sample of many fine firms that you’ll find if you take the time to search the Internet for ideas. If you’re looking for that special niche, it’s a primary resource, not only for information but also for product sources. Take a look here, as well as in your community. You just might be inspired.

EDITOR’S NOTES: Paula Young has been a contributing writer for Office World News since 1996. Young can be reached at ownews@att.net.

Copyright B U S Publishing Group, Inc. Apr 2001

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