Go Niche Or Go Home…?

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I was reading Seth Godin’s work recently and his re-evaluation of marketing.

He argues that the discipline is no longer about – and I’m paraphrasing here – spreading the message far and wide and hoping people come to you. It’s finding your smallest viable audience and then making sure you delight them. Because if you do, they tell others.

“On the other hand,” he says. “If you aim for mass (another word for average), you’ll probably create something average. Which gets you not very far.”

As an outdoor writer I would say that the scribblings I produce are niche and are aimed at such an audience.

I’ve been mulling over why one of my books didn’t seem to sell as well as the others. The 25 Great Walkers Pubs in the Yorkshire Dales, I thought, would fit into that mass market rambler category; people love a pint and a walk don’t they?

I thought it was unique too – the pub is the glue to the walk. You’ve done your 10 miler and now you’re in a great pub. Want to know more? Course you do. It was built in etc etc etc…

Thing is … most people don’t want to know that. They want a pint at the end of a walk. And so, in my eyes, it wasn’t as well received as my others.

I’m wrong of course. Sales figures stack up against my other work … it’s just that this book was niche. It found its smallest viable audience and sold. Knowing who reads my books means I can tailor the product to them. I can make it special, not mass market, and therefore, not average as Seth suggests.

Now … I would love to sell a mass market walking book! Most writers would but I’m attempting to kick the demons away from my head here and give myself a tap on the back. Seth’s right. Quality over quantity.

The tricky bit

When I write a story or book, I’m always really wary of releasing it into the wild. The books are a personal journey; these are my special and wild places and now everyone (not everyone Mike … the smallest viable audience), now know about it. Grid references and where you park instructions lead to more people knowing about them. That brings its own particular issues and a delve through Twitter after a bank holiday weekend brings them to the fore. Look at the queues of cars trying to get into beauty spots in the Dales over Easter … and the rubbish left behind on beaches etc.

But, unless we introduce people to gems, how can they care for them or worry about them in the future. Climate change and Brexit will bring a change in this country. The latter is likely to make public money for the rural much harder to come by. We will have to sell a story to why these places are important to conserve.

Therefore, you need people to come and visit them to understand because you will need them on board when the government is deciding where to spend its diminished capital.

If they listen.

But unless we make the connection then there’s a small group of people shouting. This is where Seth’s model doesn’t work. It needs a connected effort from all – and therefore it is the job of all outdoor writers to educate.

Thankfully, this is where the Outdoor Writers and Photographers Guild can help. Its membership represents a tremendous body of experience and expertise covering almost every conceivable field of activity and all corners of the globe.

We (as I am a member), care about the environment deeply; and making it sustainable as possible by ensuring we connect people with the landscape.

And finally…

Whilst I welcome my ‘smallest viable audience’ and what they do for me – and I hope I serve them well – if you’re unable to buy a book, there are a couple of things you could do to help this blog.

The first is to check out two of my partners and consider supporting Mascarandy through them.

Splash Map is an innovative company which designs wearable, washable, all weather maps for the real outdoors. Basically, any map – Ordnance Survey etc – can be printed onto fabric that can be worn or stored in your pack.

FATMAP – I’ve been submitting walk ideas to Fatmap since they joined the scene and the link is my walk up Ingleborough. Check it out and my other walks and tell FATMAP if you like them!

And Finally (number 2)…

I really appreciate you taking time out to read this post.

The proceeds of every book, picture and postcard sold on the site goes back into writing more books, taking more pictures and creating more postcards.

If you can’t buy a book, picture or postcard, then would you buy me a brew to keep this site up and running?

Yes? Nice, I take sugar in tea or alternatively you can click on the button below.