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Andy Brice
Successful Software

Doug Nebeker ("Doug")

Jonathan Matthews
Creator of DeepTrawl, CloudTrawl, and LeapDoc

Nicholas Hebb
BreezeTree Software

Bob Walsh
host, Startup Success Podcast author of The Web Startup Success Guide and Micro-ISV: From Vision To Reality

Patrick McKenzie
Bingo Card Creator

Looking for a narrower niche

I just finished reading Bob Walsh's Micro-ISV: From Vision to Reality and it made me think that maybe my niche could stand to be narrower than it currently is. I'm having trouble thinking of how to make my niche narrower and I was curious to see if anybody had any ideas.

My product is software for hair salons. (The website, which I know needs work, is http://sniphq.com.) It does scheduling and its main two benefits are 1) you can see and schedule appointment from anywhere and 2) you can set up automatic email appointment reminders for your clients.

A few ideas that have come to mind so far are making Snip be software for:

- Pet salons
- Nail salons
- Tanning salons
- Spanish-speaking hair salons

For some reason I don't like the idea of switching from hair salons to e.g. tanning salons. I'd prefer, if I'm going to narrow the niche, to do it within hair salons.

Any thoughts anyone has are much appreciated.
Jason Swett Send private email
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
After your previous post I was thinking you should widen your customer base, to include many other appointment-based service businesses.

Making it narrow would only make sense if you can move up the value chain to make it a truly premium product.

Not sure what your long-term vision is, but if it was me I'd be walking up main street looking for new verticals I could sell into.
Scorpio Send private email
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
I don't think your problem is a large niche. Some software just isn't sold online alone. For example, I don't think a company owner searches for "good erp" on Google, lands on a SAP landing page and orders a 2 million product.

For some products you need a sales force, and IMO your is among them. You told us that had sales by visiting salons, you must continue to do that, and have a site looking for representatives in other places.

The product must provide a decent level of income (for example a $100 monthly subscription) that allows you to pay large commissions to bring in new customers.
Mauricio Macedo Send private email
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Or at the very least make sure you're getting testimonials and photos from those sold to directly, to put on your site - which I can't see because it's giving an error at present.

Reluctantlyregistered Send private email
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Hi Jason,

I think you are already targeting a vertical and well defined market. I agree that there are many other services that depend on scheduling (as Scorpio says), but scheduling policy is quite different. In Europe, for example, we have primary care medicine (paid by government) that assigns a doctor to a pool of people and consultation scheduling is mostly manual. But, in my opinion, talking to different persona requires the same effort to launch different products.

I would instead concentrate in my market (if competition is low) and, if competition is strong, I would consider localizing to other markets. 

Take Brazil, for example: lot of beauty saloons targeting class A consumers (that thanks to socialism is in extinction in EU/US) . If you find a local rep that will translate the application and go selling it door to door, competition will be minimal.
Franco Graziosi Send private email
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Yes I have to agree with one of the comments above. A salon software cannot be sold only through online. You need to personally visit some establishments and show them demos and more importantly how this can increase their returns etc.
Web Developers Send private email
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
I went to the Business Of Software conference last year and one of the standout talks was by Gail Goodman of Constant Contact - vid here


(Oh - this was a successful SaaS business before the word was invented and while Clouds were still meteorological so she has the bona fides to back that talk up)

Long story short : they found that some people don't - shocking as it seems - live their life on the interwebs and may not just happen to go searching for your thing.

They used a very low tech combination of chamber of commerce 'educational talks' and radio ads to go out and find their customers - all on the back of $30 p/m subscriptions.

I am not saying that is the right way for your particular business - but experimenting with some offline approaches has to be worth trying?
Ryan Wheeler Send private email
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Hair Salon seems narrow enough.

Who do Hair Salons buy all their shampoo, conditioner, scissors, gel, hair colouring etc off? Maybe you can cut some sort of deal where these distributors push your product for you? What can you do to make it worth the distributors while? It won't be easy, but its probably worth a try.
Andy Brice Send private email
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
There are huge trade shows for the hair salon industry; you could try to get a booth at one, but it might be expensive floor space.  You could also take out ads in trade magazines or online spaces like web pages and blogs.  This takes money.

I don't think you should worry about making the niche any narrower (there's not much more room to cut; you could just do women's hair salons or one's the primarily work on black women's hair, or old school barbershops, but what would be the point?).  You seem to me to be guilty of premature optimization.  The first issue is your web page is terrible and you have almost no customer base.  Forget "niche" and work on getting a great product and great web presence or else all else is just idle fantasy.
Racky Send private email
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
I thought this was a joke!
Bring back anon Send private email
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Some very good comments on this thread. 

I'd just like to add that by diversifying into other fields such as nail salons you will likely face the same obstacles that are stopping you from making sales from hair salons. 

There is always that temptation to find an "easier" niche but truth be told there are no easy niches. 

Trade shows, symbiotic relationships with non-competing suppliers to hair salons, adverts in trade press, and old-fashioned knocking on doors all sound like the way forward. 

Once you've successfully saturated the hair salon market that's the time to adapt the formula to other niche's IMHO. 

A long time ago a dentist asked me to write software for him because the governing body were introducing a raft of additional administration they had to cope with.  I suggested that we develop the software with a view to selling to other dentists. 

As it turned out, despite his domain knowledge, we couldn't interest other dentists in the software at all.  He was earning about 3x the average so his requirements were very different to what the typical dentist wanted. 

Obviously a lot of software companies realised that dentists were having to deal with this extra admin and were creating their own "solutions". 

What I found therefore was that the people who didn't have systems were a tough nut to crack - if all these salesmen ringing them up every day hadn't made them "go hi tech" what chance did I have when I wasn't even a salesman? 

The most useful calls were the dentists who alread had a system - because I was able to ask them how it was working for them, and inevitably most had complaints - which I was able to turn around to "would you be interested in a system that didn't have these problems?" and many were. 

Ok, a long way of saying find your competitors weakenesses (if they have any) and try targetting their customers.
John W King Send private email
Friday, April 05, 2013

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