Niche vs. Mass Market – The Pros & Cons of Going Niche for WordPress Plugin And Theme Shops

As the competitive landscape of WordPress is maturing and thousands of budding developers enter the WordPress economy, how does your new product stand apart from the noise? Do you focus on being “loud,” pushing your product to the WordPress masses? Or do you instead dive down into a specific audience and knock it out of the park? In this article, we’ll take a look at defining your product’s target market and deciding whether to go mass market or go niche.

As one of the most important decisions product developers must make, a decision to either go mass market or target a niche can easily make or break a product’s success.

Let’s get started.

Differences Between Niche and Mass Marketing

A niche is a subset audience of a market on which a product is wholeheartedly focused on.

Unlike mass marketing, niche marketing focuses on an audience with easily identifiable preferences, wants and needs. On the flipside, mass marketing is a strategy to market across a multitude of demographics, which at times can seem aimless.

As a real-world example in the WordPress space, JetPack is seen as a WordPress plugin that deploys a mass marketing strategy to reach new users. Their goal is to get on as many websites as possible, with relatively low concern over who’s installing the plugin. This is their branded banner image:

banner of the JetPack plugin

JetPack is a WordPress plugin that deploys a mass marketing strategy with a goal of onboarding as many websites as possible, with relatively low concern over who’s installing the plugin.

On the other hand, Advanced Custom Fields targets a subset of the WordPress market, by aiming towards professionals and developers, thus, choosing a bit more “technical” banner image for the WordPress.org repository:

banner of the more niche market 'Advanced Custom Fields plugin'

Both marketing methods have their merits, so let’s take a look at each strategy’s advantages and disadvantages.

Deploying a Mass Marketing Strategy

In mass marketing, your key objective is to reach the maximum number of folks possible. More potential customers likely lead to more sales, right? True; however, it’s likely going to require a massive investment in both time and capital.

And let’s not forget to consider the state of the market when your product launches. Back in 2010, a developer could release a mass market WordPress theme or plugin and amass thousands of sales within a few months. In today’s market, that sort of success is becoming exceedingly rare.

Much of a mass marketing play is determined by the state of the market, being first to market with a revolutionary product, and overall execution. Without a solid front on all accords, a mass marketing approach will likely fail.

Much of a mass marketing play is determined by the state of the market, being first to market with a revolutionary product, and overall execution. Without a solid front on all accords, a mass marketing approach will likely fail.

But when the stars align, you could hit a home run.

Just last year, Sucuri, a leading provider of WordPress security products and services, was acquired by GoDaddy. A mass-market approach helped garner the attention of the folks at GoDaddy, making Sucuri become a clear and actionable acquisition.

Advantages of a Niche Marketing Strategy

Product developers often fear to define a niche, as they tend to think the strategy about narrowing potential market reach is effectively cutting into sales. The truth is, discovering a niche for your product can have quite the opposite effect: the strategy may very well grow your business.

By establishing a niche, you have a chance at becoming the leading product or service in that industry. Your goal is to position your WordPress shop as the first stop when folks are looking for a product in your niche.

That’s so much harder to accomplish by going after a wide market with a standard “we do it all” business model.

Another key advantage of going niche is that your product is instantly more communicative, therefore the audience is likely more receptive. You’re able to directly reach your audience through the marketing noise, instead of being drowned out among the other products competing in your space.

I always tell folks to do what you do best and be the best while you’re at it. Find a niche that serves an audience that you already know — or one you are willing to dive into and learn, inside and out.

Competitive Advantages of Going Niche

Over the last couple of years, the WordPress product economy has begun to show signs of maturity, while also becoming highly saturated.

Setting yourself apart from the competition is challenging. Competition is very real in the WordPress economy and it’s growing at an enormous rate. Just a few years ago, there weren’t half the number of WordPress shops aiming for a piece of the market.

Your ability to identify and exploit what makes your product or service better than any alternatives will provide you with a competitive edge that sets your shop apart from the masses.

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Defining a niche, and serving that market directly, can give your team the competitive advantage it needs to establish itself in the economy.

Take a good strategic look at how your shop fits into the WordPress economy, and figure out how you can position yourself to stand out. Ask yourself:

  • Who is the competition?
  • What makes you better than them?
  • Who is your audience?
  • How can you convince your audience that you have more to offer?

Going Niche in the WordPress Theme Economy

Let’s take a look at the current state of the saturated WordPress theme market. A few years ago, multipurpose WordPress themes started their rise to fame. As a WordPress theme developer myself, I had a choice to dive into the foray and start building alike monstrosities or to go niche and focus my efforts on the creative professional.

So what did I do? I went niche.

I didn’t want to play ball with the teams of tens and twenties. I wanted to build beautifully simple and well-executed themes specifically for creative professionals looking to kick up a personal blog or portfolio within a couple of minutes. That meant I needed to focus on that audience, deliver what they needed, and hone in on serving just creative professionals.

Now, my WordPress shop is doing quite well, and my particular audience knows that if they want the best WordPress theme made specifically for creative folk — they’ll get it at ThemeBeans.

Niche Case Study: AudioTheme

The folks at AudioTheme have built a successful WordPress shop selling themes and plugins built specifically for “people who make music”. By narrowing their offering, AudioTheme has absolutely positioned themselves as the leading WordPress theme and plugin shop for bands, musicians, and record labels.

If they were offering a single a multipurpose theme, AudioTheme would have nowhere near the success they have today. And much of that success is directly attributed to their content marketing strategy.

So let’s compare Google AdWords keywords for a niche market, such as AudioTheme, versus a mass-market approach:

Google AdWords keywords for a mass-market approach

Google AdWords keywords for a mass-market approach

There are much more searches for generic WordPress related keywords, but the field is much more competitive. Comparatively, in the screenshot below, you’ll see that a more specific niche keyword have much less competition. Those folks also have more potential to complete a purchase, as they’re searching exactly for what AudioTheme is offering.

Google AdWords keywords for a niche market, such as AudioTheme

Google AdWords keywords for a niche market, such as AudioTheme

A large part of AudioTheme’s keyword strategy is that they’re consistently publishing content tailored specifically for musicians. By hyper-focusing on marketing to their specific audience, they’re able to jump ahead of any competition that is marketing to a much wider field.

Going niche has provided them a competitive advantage to become the best in their industry — and they’re crushing it.

The Future of WordPress Products

I personally see a future of most WordPress products leaning towards serving niche markets. As WordPress now powers 30% of the web, there are so many subsets of folks to identify with and serve on a whole different level that mass marketed products simply cannot compete with.

As WordPress now powers 30% of the web, there are so many subsets of folks to identify with and serve on a whole different level that mass-marketed products simply cannot compete with.

People want quality WordPress goods that feel and perform like they are built specifically for their needs, and that’s where the future lies.

7 comments

  1. Nice post. I believe in “Aim big, miss big” as I wrote about recently: http://scottbolinger.com/aim-big-miss-big/

    It’s important to focus on a niche in the beginning, but the key is to be able to grow past that niche eventually.

    Sucuri started as security for WordPress, which is a niche of a larger market. They eventually expanded beyond that to be security for any website. Most companies start in a niche, even Facebook started on one college campus and Walmart with one store in a small town.

     
  2. That’s exactly what I did with a theme I recently launched. My initial question was if I should go with a neutral multi-purpose theme or cater to a specific market. I went with the latter and decided to cater to small businesses that need to create events and classes.

    I have yet to see the fruits of my labor as the theme was launched only a week ago, but I’m sure I made the right decision by going with niche-oriented rather than mass marketing. The article is right on point. Good read 🙂

     
    1. Thanks Daniel! And as Scott mentioned in another comment, developing a clear plan to grow outside of that niche (when the time comes) is the way to go. Essentially, the niche becomes your MVP.

       
  3. Good article. I think as “hyper-informed” developers (etc) we sometimes tend to be out of touch with typical website users, or WordPress users as it were. Highly skilled developers who have been following the WordPress market for a decade tend to panic at all the competition. Meanwhile, there are still millions of typical users who are simply looking for a solution, and they use a variety of research tools to find those solutions: Google, Facebook, Envato, forums, their web host, Meetups, etc.

    Most of us can’t compete against Godaddy’s Super Bowl commercials when it comes to exposure, but at the end of the day if your product or service is high quality, perhaps a small “niche” of loyal customers is just as valuable as a “niche” product or service.

    Look at all the “flashlight” apps for Android whenever you feel depressed 🙂

     
  4. Defining your niche in the WordPress community will gain you loyal followers. And your community will come back to you because they know you’re reliable in a certain field. The specification of WordPress means we’re growing.

     

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