How to find a product that you can’t otherwise find? Chicago screws (also known as interscrews, binding screws, snap posts or as I like to call them ‘those things that no one sells’) are great for binding a restaurant menu, photo album or sample swatch. Just try to buy ten, and you’ll gain a new respect for these little posts that screw together. Sure you can buy them. In volume, from specialist printers who wanted to supply hundreds of publications to go with them.

If you want to embarrass a shop assistant go into Ryman’s or any large stationery shop and suddenly announce you want a screw. And no they don’t stock them. Nor do arts supply shops, specialist bookbinding services or any of a number of high street stores.

Thereby lies the conundrum. How to find a niche product? Hail, the power of the internet. Those same search engines that narrow our world view can also make it easy to sort through many products. Much like sifting through a big bag of assorted nuts, bolts and screws. And there I found a supplier, who would not be in business were it not for his focus on the niche. If he focused on selling in volume to the mass market he would have gone out of business when Brunel finished his stint on the railways. Instead he sells less of more; finding that more people more can be reached by selling online, making low volume profitable. I bought ten of the little blighters.

The lesson? Often our search is restricted by what we already know. It pays to look at the bigger picture. Or if you want an entirely practical suggestion, consider how your website is optimised. Which words or phrases (search terms) do you think potential customers would type into a search engine if they were seeking a business that could provide your services/products? You may be surprised. I was Googling ‘chicago screw’. Therefore the suppliers of ‘interscrews’, ‘snap posts’ and ‘binding screws’ lost out on my custom. Would you benefit by getting inside your customers’ brains? Do you know what search terms bring traffic to your website?