The key to survival in the new employment marketplace is to develop a digital infrastructure that’s focused on multiple income streams and cash flow instead of an annual salary from one company. Now that it’s easier, faster and cheaper to launch a web business than ever before, developing your own personal business brand has to be more than just great design or service.

In his book, Pour Your Heart into It¸ Howard Schultz, the founder and CEO of Starbucks wrote that he founded Starbucks because of a cup of watered-down, bland instant coffee that he was served on a flight to Canada. Prior to the arrival of Starbucks, many Americans had never tasted cappuccinos, lattes, and espresso. Despite the high cost to maintain a coffee shop, Schultz figured out a way to charge $3.00 for a cup of premium coffee while gas stations charged $.75 a cup. He was convinced that if he could introduce a “coffee culture”, his new company would become one of the most recognized brands in the world.

Schultz opened up Starbuck’s coffee houses that were furnished to look like a combination of a living room and a reading room. Then he introduced new names to describe the coffee options .The baristas (Starbucks employees) educated their customers about coffee in a brand new and passionate light. Rather than purchasing a Styrofoam cup of bland coffee from a gas station, coffee purchases became social experiences.

Ultimately, the higher price of the coffee was dwarfed by the intimate and extraordinary experience provided by Starbucks. Howard Schultz achieved product differentiation by just focusing on the simple process of buying a cup of coffee. He chose to layer his product in a package of multiple benefits that made customers feel connected AND loyal to Starbucks.  Here’s how you can “own your own niche” as “talent” not just someone looking for work.

Differentiate What You Can Offer

·         Analyze what products or services already exist and see what your potential competition has in common with what you might offer. Don’t try to be different just to stand out. Think through what you can eliminate, what you can add and how you can create a truly creative offer that helps people get what they want.

Focus on a Customer Niche

·         Give yourself a competitive edge by focusing on making yourself the go-to person for a target group of customers i.e. ex-military clients, people over 50 or possibly high school students.

Become a Niche Expert

·         To stand out from your competition, you need to become the expert in your market – identify a level of expertise beyond your competition.

Work Your Brand

·         Consumers are paying less attention to comparisons between companies that do the same thing. If you can connect with your audience on more levels than your competitors, you’ll ultimately get new customers who are attracted to your brand, not just your niche.

Rebrand Your Customers

·         To maintain your niche, think of new ways to build another niche market from an existing one. Consider re-branding your customers like the airlines did. They created status levels and frequent flier miles to give loyal customers another reason to stay with that airline instead of just switching airlines to get a better fare.

Starbucks used niche marketing to attract customers who expected more than just coffee. Customers come to be a part of the coffee shop experience as a neighborhood gathering place. Through deliberate product differentiation, Starbucks has become synonymous with coffee. Start now to own your own “niche” as “talent” not just someone searching the job boards looking for work. If Howard Schultz did it by selling a simple cup of coffee, you can do it too.