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 love backpacking. Nothing makes me feel more alive or at peace than sitting on top of a mountain with no one around me for miles. Backpacking requires a substantial amount of gear for surviving out where there are no grocery stores or hospitals nearby. It's safe to say that the needs of a backpacker are vast. Backpackers need food, they need water, and they need shelter. Those are basics. If you don't have those, you're screwed.
So why did I bring a tactical axe with me on my last trip and why did my friend Joey bring a huge buck knife? Sure, we could use them to cut fishing line, chop up firewood, and my axe even doubled as a hammer, but the truth is, we really didn't need either of those things. We wanted them to feel manly and adventurous. Our wants justified the need of bringing along these items for the tasks they could accomplish.
We conjured logical needs to suit an emotional desire.
You could argue that this doesn't apply to everything, but I'd beg to differ. Even the essential needs we had like food, water, and shelter were all emotional decisions. If we were logical, we probably wouldn't have even gone backpacking because we would have saved money and subjected ourselves to less risk. But we decided to forego those essentials in the search of greater adventure. That's why we bought a $110 water filter and why I bought a bunch of compact, lightweight food for a premium price. Essential needs, but definitely an emotional decision.
The needs were simple, food, water, shelter, but the want was freedom, adventure, and camaraderie.
Ask yourself, what is the want behind the need people are looking to our startup to fulfill? Build your brand around it.
50 years ago, having a car that didn't breakdown as much as the next guy gave a manufacturer an edge.
Would you expect anything less today? No. Products need to work, they need to be easy to understand, and they need to be reliable. You need to be reliable. 24/7.
This doesn't change when entering the realm of software design. Meeting these requirements is not optional, it is expected. I'd say rise up to meet them, but it's almost like telling a runner they need to move their legs in order to participate. They are self-evident.
With me so far? Good. You've got your product working and you are prepared to help users 24/7, now what?
Focus on being irresistible. Craft a story for users to engage with, be fun, be authentic, courageous, and create as much opportunity as possible for your users to be head-over-heels for you. Specifically, head-over-heels for YOU and subsequently, your product.
If you want your software to exceed expectations, build an awesome brand.