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Carving Out a Niche in Product Development

By John Broadbent


Thanks for tuning in to another episode of Make your Mark Monday. Today we’re talking about product development and specifically what you can do if you’d like to really carve out a niche for yourself.

A couple of years back I was approached by a musician who said, “Look, right now I’m just playing covers, and I just don’t feel like I’ve created a decent name for myself, and I’d like to break out of that mold and create a name for myself. Something that’s just unique and that’s different.” And so I said, “OK, great. There’s a tool that I’d like to show you that’ll help identify where a good niche might be for you.”

I drew this on the board, it was just a graph, and I said, “So what we need to do is identify the two major things that distinguish people within your industry. You’ve got people on the high end, or on the low end of whatever this is, or on different ends.”

We thought about it a little bit and we talked about it and we came up with tempo and with lyrics. Those were the two things that we said, as we looked at this, were his axes. So we had lyrics on the one, and tempo on the other.

He said, “So down here we’ve got slow tempo. And over here we’ve got fast. So within his genre, there was both fast and slow. And lyrics he had, he identified there were a lot of bands that had deep meaning behind their lyrics. So we had “deep” and “shallow.”

Now the other thing that we did, after we went through this, was we kind of when through and said, “Great, this is good. What we really need to do is list out all of your competitors within your industry.”

We proceeded to create a list of all of the bands or all of the musicians within the industry that he would be competing against if he wanted to make it, you know, big. So we had this really exhausted list, and we came in, and we said, “OK, now what we need to do is we need to graph each of these individual musicians on our graph right here.”

So we went through, and we took a look at the first one, and he said, “You know, this one, it’s kind of medium tempo, it’s just right in the middle, but they’ve got deep lyrics, and that’s the reason people love them is their just, really, really deep lyrics.” So we came in here and we said they probably occupy about this space. they’re pretty focused within that area.

So we took these musicians right here, and we just proceeded to check them off our list, and we went down through and started creating a few more. We said OK, “This group right here, they’ve got lyrics that are extremely shallow, so they’re on this end, but they span a decent span, they’ve got slow and fast music. And so he said, “You know, these guys probably take up this entire space right here.” Said, “OK.”

So we took a look at that. We had a few of them that came in, and he said, “You know, they’re a lot of them within here, and within here, and within here, or here. A few more of them that, that kind of span that area.” And we started creating basically this graph of people in the industry that kind of were like “this,” and these were all competitors, and we’ve got a very saturated market right “here,” and we would call this kind of a “red ocean strategy” and we’re going to just try and compete against these types of people.

But the other thing that this helps us do is, once we’ve kind of completed an exhaustive list of all of the competitors, we’re able to see on this graph the empty spots. And with him we were able to look at it, and, again, at this point I can’t remember exactly whether they were deep lyrics with slow tempo, or whether it was a different area, but the real point here is that he was able to see that, “Wow, there are a couple of areas that nobody is really tapping into here. We’ve got deep, slow, that could be potentially something that we could really, really do. Let’s make our lyrics really, really deep and the tempo really, really slow, and stay within this genre, and we may have an area that people want.

“Now, it’s quite possible that people really, really want something in the more fast range, but they’re all shallow lyrics. But if we’re going to carve something out for ourselves, maybe we want to go into kind of a slightly red ocean, not as red as this ocean, but at least it helps us identify the area that we
might be willing to go into.

“We say, ‘You know, I really think I could sell a lot if I was on the fast side of the tempo because in this genre you don’t have a lot of people on the slow side of the tempo. A lot of people are on the fast side, and that’s really what helps make this genre.’

“So let’s try and stay over here, but let’s get really deep lyrics, and let’s try and occupy this space as much as we can, right there. Then we’re only competing with two, maybe three different bands in terms of really, really deep lyrics, but we’ve also go that fast tempo that it looks like we’ve got a few things.

Now this model right here actually allows us to see a couple of different things that I highlighted, and that was that you can see that if there are a lot of people in the industry that are leaning toward this fast side, that most likely you’ve got a decent group of customers who are willing to pay for fast music within this genre, but on the fast side of the tempo, if that’s really the thing that makes this genre, the tempo, is the primary axis here, then we can kind of take a look at the secondary axis and identify a few other things. And then we can go beyond that and say, “You know what? Let’s get past the lyrics, and let’s get something else. Let’s switch lyrics to melody, or something else that we can gauge from high to low on here, and change up this graph a little bit so we can see where we can really carve out a name for ourselves.

And, again, we’ll see if this musician really can put something like this into place for himself, but again, that comes into the execution side. this model right here will at least help you identify those things that you can do to move into a niche that nobody’s really in, or that is less bloody than these red waters right here.

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