Search Focus: Niche Marketers Experiment

Learning to deploy laser-like targeting is key to profitability

My great-uncle ran a typesetting company for 20-plus years. It thrived because most businesses relied heavily on typesetters to create their advertisements. Print marketing was the foundation of how businesses reached out to their audiences for years. Although there were a myriad of ways to refine the audience, the type of magazine or newspaper, targeted direct-mail lists or catalogs - the expenses associated with those channels were considerable relative to the ROI for most marketers, especially when the goal was aggressive growth.

Today the typesetting industry has all but disappeared. In addition to the evolution of print technology, the takeaway here is how fundamentally the landscape for marketers has changed, both in terms of the channels people are using, as well as the improved targeting capabilities available through Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Outside of the larger retailers who have made significant strides in using the Web as a profitable sales channel, a lot of successes have occurred with smaller companies who now have an unprecedented opportunity to reach their target audience. Whereas sales once came from people who saw an ad or walked into a store, now an exponentially greater group of prospects is just a few clicks away.

Below are two stories about small companies that in all likelihood wouldn't have been able to flourish without the Internet. is an online retailer of wedding rings. The site launched in 2003 in the competitive jewelry industry. For the first year, they did very little SEO or SEM, as they devoted their resources to refining the site and the inventory. Most sales were word-of-mouth. Through a combination of SEO and SEM, along with a blog, they increased revenues by 66 percent from 2004 to 2005 and another 25 percent from 2005 to 2006.

Although Eternity's revenue would be a blip on the screen for a large jeweler, they are very profitable and on an impressive growth track. Company president Claire Simon notes that one of the key drivers to the company's success is the narrowness of its product offering. "By focusing on a particular segment of the jewelry industry, we have been able to fly under the radar of the larger competitors and concentrate our limited marketing expenditures on a handful of highly relevant keywords." This philosophy has enabled Simon to bridge the gap between the keyword being searched and her product offerings - a task many larger retailers often struggle with.

Another success story is that of Chronicles Software Company (, which created journal software to replace the hardbound diaries people have used for years. Their audience is narrow and calendar-driven. Software creator Ruth Folit notes, "We're a very seasonal product. People buy a journal when they're in a New Year's resolution mode."

The program sells for $40, which impacts the click-price ranges supported. So the company has made a successful push to SEO. They now hold the top organic position under several of their most important keywords, including "journal software." Although they participate in some SEM, they sold over four times as many programs from their natural positions as from their paid efforts during the last quarter of 2006.

For niche marketers, there is no template that will guarantee success. Through experimentation and hard work, these two businesses now have an effective and profitable online presence. In their own ways, they both keep it simple and focused - a winning formula for niche retailers.

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