It’s never easy to carve out your own niche successfully, but that’s exactly what Dhiren Bhatia and the team at Cloudscape have done.
Its restaurant and retail productized service is the first of its kind, and is a popular choice among their clients. A key milestone has been to reach over $1 million in revenue. What do they do? The company helps businesses put the right cloud-based solutions in place, those that will bring the most benefits.
We spoke with Dhiren recently on our podcast and asked a few follow-up questions about what it takes to establish yourself as a viable business when you’re the first of your kind. Here’s what we found out:
Building a new kind of business
In the U.S. alone, around 400,000 new small businesses are started each year. Most of these are not established as an entirely new sort of business though. Business owners tend to look to minimize risk. They look to established markets with social proof, which can be found if there are already competitors in it.
It’s a much harder road starting a business as the trailblazer. When you’re the first of your kind, you don’t have the same data available to help with your decision-making that a new business in an established niche has.
We asked Dhiren how they went about building a business without the data that is otherwise available where competitors already exist:
“Domain experience and having clarity on the need or pain of your customer, I believe are the two keys to success,” Dhiren says.
“In my case, I’ve had the opportunity to have been involved in my family retail business as well as launch and operate a subsequent retail brand for 4 years,” he says. “Having been in ‘those shoes’ has allowed me to personally experience the pain and need. I was able to use those combined experiences to build Cloudscape’s product offerings.”
The keys to success in a new market
So having key experience of the problem you’re looking to solve and an intimate understanding of the challenges is a great trigger for starting a new kind of business, but what’s next?
We asked Dhiren what he feels are the keys to success when establishing a brand new product-type and market:
“I’d say the top three things (and these are also the ones that have helped Cloudscape) are:
- Figure out the area of expertise and the sandbox you want to operate in. The narrower the niche, the deeper you can get with the product offering.
- Knowing your core customer and their pain and need. You can then tailor the product or service to that very need which automatically makes for a great product-market fit. In addition, another key thing that I’ve learned is that asking your customers to share their needs is the best thing you can do to help in establishing the product.
- Lastly, the ability of the product or service to be scalable and repeatable; that is, to have the ability to deliver each version of that product in a consistent manner and quality.”
Dhiran didn’t have competitors to study or compare with, but he did gather data from his own experiences and through interviewing people within his target market. As with any other kind of new business, thorough research from the beginning is essential, you just have to find other ways when you’re breaking into a new niche.
Establishing yourself in a new niche
When your business type is completely new, you have a bit of work to do to establish yourself. People aren’t necessarily searching for you because they don’t know your type of business exists yet, so you have to find reliable ways to connect with customers. How will you let them know you exist and that you’re what they’re looking for?
For Dhiran, content marketing formed an early part of his strategy. “It makes sense to put out great content and have it attract people to us,” he says.
A key goal of Cloudscape’s content was to establish itself as thought leaders in the space, as a way to help drive a positive impression with leads. “Being a thought leader is important,” Dhiran says. “It allows you to separate yourself from the noise online and establish your own identity.”
What should founders aim for? “I believe creating niche content designed for that ‘one’ ideal customer rather than a generic “someone”, or your entire customer base will yield more profitable results,” says Dhiran.
“I’ve also learned (from personal experience), that creating content for all your customer base can be very tempting, especially when I was starting with content, in an attempt to spread the net wide. It seldom generates profitable results. Know your niche and think about content to help establish yourself,” he says.
Ultimately, content marketing was a task that Dhiran decided to outsource in the name of consistency. “I realized I would be the bottleneck for my business because I’m doing so many other things,” he says.
Can you still establish thought leadership through outsourced content? “Absolutely. The key is to communicate very clearly with your writer so that they understand your goals and can give your voice to the content.”
Evolving the business model
When Cloudscape began, it worked on a one-on-one basis with all new clients to establish its needs and prepare custom quotes. This was a time-consuming process and can be a bottleneck when it comes to growing the business. You either work faster, hire more people to produce quotes or figure out another way of running this part of the business.
For Dhiren, that third option was the best, especially after spending time listening to Brian’s Productize Podcast. On the podcast, Brian talks a lot about productized services and how to package them for customers to purchase. The idea is that you’re not doing custom quotes for each client, they’re selecting the package that best suits their needs themselves.
“It’s great now that people can choose from packages, rather than us preparing a quote every time,” Dhiren says. This move has helped Cloudscape to continue to grow without having to compromise on how their time is spent.
As a completely new business doing something that has never been done before, Dhiren and the team had the opportunity to learn from their early customers, figuring out what was most commonly needed and what worked best for their customers. This put them in a good position to move to a productized service model, knowing how they could build packages from their services.
Carving out a new niche is never easy, but it helps to ensure you learn and evolve along the way, and to build scalable solutions. Right now, Cloudscape continues to enjoy growth and to impress its clients. The brand established itself and its niche while having actively acquiring customers.
Entering an entirely new niche takes courage and commitment. In every sense, you’re blazing a trail where no other business has gone before.
Dhiren and the team at Cloudscape have been successful by finding the market need and playing to their own strengths. They’ve established a platform of thought leadership online and a productized service that is repeatable and scalable.
What’s next for Cloudscape? Watch this space…