Strategic Design | marketing & branding thoughts by Nick Rice

Dynamic marketing, branding & design strategies that span the gap between business & creative.

What are you the best at?

There's a big push towards niche marketing. Here, Here, Here. As more and more markets commoditize, brand becomes a critical factor. And in most large cash cow commodity markets, there are only two or three major players. Everybody else is left picking at single digit marketshare with little to no growth opportunities.

So you have basically two options for growth. One, you can launch a break-through product or service in your category. Think bagless vacuum cleaners. When there were only bagged vacuums, everybody was pretty much equal. Then the bagless came out in Japan and revolutionized the market - and put most of the aftermarket bag suppliers out of business. It was a game changer. Before that product came out people just assumed you needed a bag to catch the dust.

The second method is to be seen as "head and shoulders" better than anything else in the market. Think Dyson. Until that brand was launched there was little growth or movement in vacuum cleaners. Now Dyson is stealing share from everyone. They really didn't invent anything new or revolutionary. They've done a great job of promoting the things people really care about - weak vacuums that lose suction and pass a lot of dust through back to the carpet. And they've done it with stylish advertising and marketing. They look high tech, expensive, and worth it. The funny thing with Dyson is that he was not trained as an engineer, but as an industrial designer. He's turned a stale market on its end and is raking in the profits.

More and more firms are moving to a niche marketing strategy. They want to be seen as the best provider of a very specific offering. The Long Tail theory tells us that a lot of small providers with very passionate customers can be as powerful as one or two large providers - that they control more of the marketplace than previously realized. The hard part is getting them organized and focused towards a common goal.

Very few firms in the world can be a Wal*Mart (in fact no one can). The average retailer cannot compete with Wal*Mart. So my advice is to not compete at all. You can make a lot of money offering the high-end products that they cannot. You can make a lot of money providing products that are above Target. So why should it surprise or anger people when Wal*Mart puts small Mom & Pop's out of business. They simply need to adapt with unique offerings. They'll be more profitable and sustain future growth. In theory, Mom & Pop shops have the advantage of convenience. They should be closer to their customers and they definitely have potential for much better customer service.

So, you will be relegated to commodity status if you cannot easily answer and defend what you are the best at. Start planning now how your products and services can change the game or stand out from the competition. Once you can easily answer the question, your audience will begin to find you. People are always looking for specialists to solve their problems. Being recognized as an expert makes your marketing efforts a lot easier. Jeffrey Gitomer said it best, "No one wants to be sold, but everyone likes to buy." Being seen as a specialist creates a buying environment, not a sales situation. Even after you are seen as a specialist, you still need to market. Marketing gives you the ability to even further refine your customer set and profitability criteria. It's about creating more demand than capacity. It's about creating choices.

What do you do better than anyone?

technorati tags > marketing, strategy, niche, small, big, long tail

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