Fishing in a small pond with no other boats around where the fish practically leap into your boat is better than fishing in the ocean.
Let's expand that analogy. Why would it be better? A couple reasons off the top of my head:
- Accurate bait/lure rigs
- Less competition from other fishermen
- Higher chance of contact
- No sharks or other things you don't want to catch
- Plenty of fish to keep you busy
In short, picking a small pond positions a fisherman to be successful.
The same is true of software brands and there is a marketing term for it known as positioning.
Positioning is a framework that was laid out by Al Ries and Jack Trout in their book bearing the same title. Without getting too far into the weeds, the premise is that the top three companies in a market category are the big players and that everything else is fighting over scraps. You are either known for something or you are struggling to make ends meet.
Back to the fishing analogy, because it alludes to the foundational piece of building a strong position within a market: choosing a small pond.
The pond in this case becomes the market category, choose one that is too big and your chances of success diminish. For example, accounting software is too big, unless you plan on competing with multi-billion dollar companies like QuickBooks. However, a scaled-down, specified pond could help here. Something like Accounting software for designers, a messaging app for lawyers, or a security app for watching your dog (thank you Furbo). By choosing a smaller niche, you can gain an advantage over the big brands trying to serve everyone.
Accurate bait/lure rigs:
This would be the same as good marketing and offerings. If you know your fish, you don't have to guess what they might want, you know. Designers want the ability to brand things like invoices and change the typefaces. A lawyer doesn't care about that as much, but it means the world to a designer. Conversely a designer doesn't need a robust amount of security in communicating with their clients, but a lawyer does. And a typical homeowner doesn't have a dog that would love to be rewarded a treat for being a good pet, but a dog owner would be thrilled!
Point being, you can provide things that make you irreplaceable if you know what the customer wants.
Less competition from other fishermen:
If you create something that is adored by a specific group of people, its hard for them to choose anything else. It's like getting a shirt made specifically to your sizing compared to something off the shelf. The same principle would apply to software, there is no substitute for something that feels like it was made for you.
Higher chance of contact:
If you stick in the pond long enough it's guaranteed something will happen eventually. Can't say the same about the ocean.
No sharks or other things you don't want to catch:
Bass fishermen don't want catfish. Tuna fishermen don't want reef sharks. Crab fishermen don't want anything other than crab. Why? Because they're aren't built for managing them. Knowing your pond allows you to have customers that will give you good reviews and use your product the way it was intended. It lays a good foundation for them to refer others to you and grow your user base.
Plenty of fish to keep you busy:
A common objection to positioning narrowly is that one might get bored or doesn't want to limit their user base. Mainly because they believe the market isn't big enough. The truth, if you can be highly profitable and grow a large group of folks who can't get enough of your product. Chances are, if there is 5,000 people on this planet filled with 8 billion, you can generate a solid amount of revenue for a $20 per month subscription (that's $100,000 MRR).
Furthermore, you will always find new needs this group wants, ways to help them out, and you can always scale up (far harder to go the opposite way).
Pick a small pond.
I was the best man in my cousin's wedding yesterday. I'd spent weeks trying to write a speech for this occasion, but found myself tearing up when I would start writing introductions. The memories I share with my cousin are that powerful.
Needless to say, the attendees of the wedding felt something when I was speaking with plenty of "awws," laughs, and, of course, tears responding to the speech.
Whatever the audience was feeling, the strange thing was that I felt it too. I was reminded of this quote from Robert Frost, "no tears in the writer, no tears in the reader."
Here's the thing:
When coming up with the personality of your brand, its values, mission, and purpose, YOU need to feel something. If you don't, how do you expect anyone else to?
No heart in the founder, no heart in the buyer.
In a cluttered market where people buy on emotion, it's the safest bet you have against becoming a commodity.
I admire the confidence of startup founders. Everyday, they get up and get after it in the hopes of doing something to change the world. It's inspiring. However, it's sad that most of them fail to see the obviously awesome things about themselves and their companies that would make them unforgettable. Instead, they try to focus on what they think people want them to be. It's an inauthentic approach to building a brand and it usually results in being labeled something they are not proud of. In time, they become something they fail to recognize.
I call it, "pickle syndrome."
Since they spend their lives in a jar, pickles have no idea what they look like from the outside. They also don't recognize the unique qualities that make them special either. They float in the jar hoping someone will recognize them and see their worth.
It's in moments like this that is pays to have an external voice chime in and tell you all of the things that make you and your startup significant. To give you a new label based on the obvious truths you take for granted.
You are still a pickle and you're freaking awesome at it. Don't be afraid to tell everyone.