The power of niche: How a fledgling company became a sustainable business

Focus, focus, focus. Why keeping the main thing the main thing was key for Broadbandchoices.co.uk’s Michael Phillips

Back in 2005 a variety of comparison sites were ‘claiming territory’ and strongly identifying themselves with particular products such as car insurance or energy. The home communications sector – broadband, home phone and digital TV – was still a maze of complex information and confusing for customers, with no-one else attempting to bring any clarity to it. We recognised an opportunity to carve our own niche and Broadbandchoices.co.uk was born.

We had decided on our concept but to provide revenue resilience, we ran multiple sites covering finance and energy comparison as well as our core home communications offering. Three years in it was clear that this approach wasn’t sustainable.

With limited resources we recognised the need to focus our attention on a single sector. The result was a streamlined, telecoms focused offering, which has ultimately provided the foundation to our success and allowed us to grow to an £11m business today.

It was time to get organised. By outsourcing finance and energy and concentrating on being the best in our chosen niche, we were able to develop the innovative technology and processes that have underpinned the company’s growth to date:

  • Technology. Our comparison calculator, availability checker and our reporting services are market leading and underpin the entire business.
  • Syndication. Our white label platform has been a way of driving multiple traffic sources to our site. Having built and run our own comparison technology, we were able to offer partners bespoke tools and content that could be completely customised for their needs and allow high revenue shares. As a result, many of the biggest names in the consumer comparison market use our technology, including Confused.com, which we have partnered with since 2006.
  • Low cost marketing. Focusing on our telecoms niche provided a clearer approach for our PR and natural SEO strategy. We are a data rich business and we quickly established a good profile in the national press by mining that data for original story ideas. As an added benefit, we were also able to use this content to drive editorial stories and ‘how to…’ guides on our website. Together, this has driven SEO and enabled us to build a large database of customers that we communicate with regularly.

Many businesses fail because they try to cover all bases. In the early stages we made a concerted effort to avoid spreading ourselves too thinly. We streamlined our focus to the telecoms market which allowed us to grow more efficiently and introduce performance based marketing techniques. By concentrating on one area, we were able to drive value and quality of product which improved our financial performance and growth. Ultimately this is what all businesses strive for, whether large or small.

Michael Phillips is managing director at Broadbandchoices.co.uk  and in 2010 was named the haysmacintyre Top Gun , meaning he was chosen as the outstanding member of the that year’s Young Guns group. Follow his tweets here: @gustavlemmy

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