I’m sure we’ve all heard the above expression before. Of course, from a physics perspective, it’s rubbish. Time always passes at the same rate (OK, maybe not, I’m no scientist, but you get my general point). But it is true, in perhaps, from a business point of view, a more important sense, our perception of it. We’ve all been to a fantastic party or event and suddenly thought, Oh my goodness, is that the time! What we are talking about here is human psychology and how it influences our behaviour. The undisputed master in this area is Rory Sutherland, vice chairman of the advertising agency Ogilvy, and his book Alchemy on the subject (from which I stole some examples below) is a highly recommended read.

One of the examples he gives is the HS2 rail link and how he could solve the problem for a fraction of the cost by changing the perception of the problem. From the economist’s point of view, the faster the better. Every minute off the journey time is an improvement. But what if you made that journey time a positive and not a negative? Install good wifi, proper seating and tables for working at, and a great food and drink service. The journey then becomes an opportunity to get work done away from the distractions of the office, something to look forward to. So, without having to change any infrastructure, you’ve solved the problem by changing the perception of it.

There are many examples of brands that have turned negatives into positives. Think of Guinness – good things come to those who wait (it’s worth waiting for), Stella Artois – reassuringly expensive (there is a reason it costs more), KFC – finger licking good (we know it’s messy but it tastes great).

When you come to think about your own brand, consider what the customer’s perception of you is and what are some ways you can improve that perception with a bit of psychology. If you send out goods, could you include a little something extra they didn’t expect? If you did, you might stick in their mind the next time they come to order. If you have customers visiting you, what could you do to improve the environment? In restaurants, for example, if there is an unpleasant odour in the air, no amount of Michelin Star cooking will make the meal enjoyable, so think about burning some pleasant-smelling candles.

So remember when looking at ways to improve your customer’s experience a liitle of psychology can go a long way.

When you first launch your brand the temptation is to take a mass marketing approach, trying to appeal to everyone, after all you want to reach the largest possible audience with your new brand. But the danger is by trying to appeal to everyone, you actually appeal to no one. By selling to a niche you can stand out from your competitors and become an authority in your chosen area, which will ultimately attract a bigger audience.

Benefits of a niche approach
By targeting a specific sector of customers you can focus all your resources there, attracting customers who have a real need for your product, and if it solves their problem they will become loyal advocates for you in the future. All businesses started small, even the well known global brands of today. By starting with this small group you will encourage positive reviews and word of mouth which can carry you into larger and more profitable markets.

Finding your niche market
So how do you go about identifying your particular niche? Firstly identify what particular need or problem your business solves, how can you provide value to customers? Research your competition, what are others doing in the market, is a particular need being unmet or just not serviced well, that presents a gap you could fill? Try interviewing customers of competitors, what are they unhappy with, which of their needs are not met.

Is it profitable
Before going all out on your niche you need to assess if it can provide the profit you need. Some things to consider in determining this are: demographics – are customers in your niche market likely to have the income necessary to buy from you?; competition – are many other companies selling something similar – this could dilute your profits; price point – can you price your product in the market at a level to gives you the profit you need?

Test first
Before fully launching some simple testing will give you feedback to know if your onto a winner or not. Create a landing page for the new product or service and offer free trails or samples. This will let you know if interest is there before fully committing. If the results are disappointing it’s not necessarily back to square one, it maybe a case of tweaking some key areas. Do further research try to identify weak points in your offering and try again.

So when you come to market your product or service remember to know your niche.

Finding a gap in the marketplace is one of the most important things a brand can do to establish itself and standout from the competition, because you definitely won’t standout if you’re just doing the same as everyone else. This is sometimes known as the brand’s differentiation or USP. These terms however can cause confusion, as many people think they need to find some sort of revolutionary new idea that transforms the marketplace. However those kind of ideas are few and far between and are mostly found in technology driven areas, if you have one, then great. But really you only need to find some small area or approach that your competition are not doing well and become known for that. For example, say you run a coffee shop and you identified that most of your customers were busy commuters, what about if they could text their order ahead and it was waiting for them when they arrived? It doesn’t even have to be something new, just something you do better than anyone else. What could you do to make your customer’s lives easier and better. Talking to your existing customers can uncover a wealth of useful information, what are their pain points, how can you address them to make their lives better?

Try to think laterally, could you take an idea from a different market sector and be the first to apply it in your sector? Uber transformed the taxi world, in part by using technology that allows you to track where your taxi is at anytime and how long it will be, could you do this for a completely different sector, what about if you were able to track your plumber and knew when he was on his way to you?

So when you come look at your product or service, remember the gaps in the market are there, you just have to find them.