Niche marketing & target personas – Be the big fish in a small pond

Niche marketing & target personas – Be the big fish in a small pond

Written by: Gerard Doyle, Fractal – The Startup Marketing Agency

About Fractal: To help startups realise their potential and create a more efficient world.


Your Target Persona.

Because we’re human, it is easier to think about a person than a stat when we build our business.

A ‘buyer persona’ is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing (or expected) customers.

Not to say everyone ‘has to fit’ in a persona, but it is a great place to start. Buyer personas help you understand your customers (and prospective customers) better. This makes it easier for you to tailor your content, messaging and product development.

Often people object to the idea of ‘buyer personas’, “we’re marketing to a group of people, not one person right”?
However, think of your favourite love song.
It was mostly likely written for one person, yet thousands (maybe millions) of listeners can find personal meaning in that same song. This is because the song is personal and was written for one person.

Defining your target market in the media landscape

A career across both high-profile media agencies and startups has enabled me to borrow ideas, concepts and strategies from one world and apply them in the other from a fresh perspective. Where a media agency might look at the media landscape to find an addressable market, a startup will focus on a gap in the product market, to ensure your product doesn’t get lost amongst competing noise.
For example, I was recently advising a startup business that had developed a property surveying app. Their solution allowed an app user to do much of the property surveying work themselves. Researching the media landscape unearthed a problem for this company. The best definition of their target market overlapped almost perfectly with the target market of, real estate agents, mortgage brokers, utility and insurance companies. While each of these other companies sold vastly different products, they were targeting the same person, and placed a much larger bounty on that same customer’s attention. What this means is that in an increasingly noisy advertising market, banks and insurance companies would be willing to pay far more for the target persona’s attention, making marketing impossible for the Startup.

30 happy customers

One of the best meetings I have had with a venture capitalist while raising money for was at Blackbird Ventures in Sydney. I didn’t fully appreciate it at the time, but the challenge/advice I was given was golden. I’d delivered my pitch and was batting back every question I was asked with considered and well-researched arguments. Then I was told: “We could debate the theory in your business model for days, but all I need you to do is go and find me 30 happy customers where you’ve changed their business, then we’ll have a real chat.”

By getting 30 happy customers over the line I would also find my market. Don’t get me wrong, I ‘knew’ my market, I just hadn’t proven it. As such your marketing efforts early on should not be focused on creating profitable marketing channels, it should be about discovering the channel that can provide 30 happy customers. Channels and markets can be exploited to profitability with budget, tactics, research and creative at a later date. For my business I had become fixated on creating a scalable marketing solution before I knew that I was looking in the right place.

This ‘30 happy customers’ was all about moving from Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to Minimum Lovable Product (MLP). As a founder, one of the biggest traps you can fall into is building too many feature that aren’t core to your offering. This is where the idea of MVP comes from and is essential so you don’t become trapped in feature development for feature’s sake. However, if you want to reach that first 30 happy customers then you need a MLP. It is from these customers that your true product definition will be derived. A tin of cat food is technically a MVP for someone’s dinner, but you’d struggle to find your first 30 customers who’d love it 😉 So pick one thing, and do it well, really well.


One size fits all

We now live in an era where marketers attempt to achieve one-to-one messaging through advanced targeting and personalisation. Startups with lower budgets need to achieve a proxy for personalisation by targeting smaller markets. In doing so, the startup can dominate a niche market and more easily gain market share from a larger scale incumbent’s alternative solution.

In his book ‘Zero To One’ Peter Thiel declares that having a Monopoly “is the condition of every successful business”.

This begs the question: are you starting with a big share of a small market?

If not, can you niche down tighter still so that you become the monopoly of your small market?

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Fractal – The startup marketing agency