If you persist in trying to be all things to all people, you will fail. The only alternative, then, is to be something important to a few people. — Seth Godin, We Are All Weird
Godin speaks to the need for businesses to move away from the mass, the center and toward the edges, outliers, the weird. There are four forces that are causing this migration: the ease of creation, richness of choice, ability to self-organize into tribes, and efficiently reaching/marketing the periphery.
Translation: we have the means and ability to want and buy stuff that is uniquely us
What does this mean? Commerical printers, those who act as a jack-of-all-trades and cater to the mass, will have a hard go of it. Both Jason Pinto and Bryan Yeager reminded me of this point after mentioning a few targeted print businesses that are narrowly focused on Instragram. (Go read Bryan’s write-up here. It is, as usual, smart.) Instagram is a photo app only found on the iOS platform (iPhones, iPods, and iPads). These startups, like CanvasPop, are only targeting a narrow segment of the entire smartphone market. Specifically, their customers are iPhone users with the Instagram app who want to print their photos taken with the application. A niche of a niche.
Each one of these businesses are still able to attract enough users to sustain their businesses. The key difference here is these businesses know their customers (tribes) and target them exclusively. As Seth Godin puts it, “Are any of these little micro-segments big enough to make a living on? Possibly not. As the market gets increasingly addressable and non-anonymous, though, the efficiency gained more than makes up for the small size of the market. Instead of reaching 5 percent of the geeks in your segment, the combination of permission marketing and the connections of tribes might permit you to reach 20 percent. The market might be far more specialized (and thus smaller), but your share is bigger.”
The struggle, of course, is that these businesses don’t look like your business so you may not view them as a threat. So while you may be content to carry on business-as-usual, just remember there are more print related startups popping up wanting to take those “weird” customers away from you.