My new laptop and I have been aggressively navigating an eye opening experience! It started with a trip to tax free Salem, New Hampshire. After being dismissed by my previous employer I was feeling like a naked Social Media guy. No laptop means little ability to communicate. So it was off to Salem to get my new communication vehicle and still nameless friend.
I eventually purchased my computer at Best Buy – despite the obscene price cuts at Circuit City. But that is not really the point of this blog! During my laptop due diligence I realized that niche oriented business are still thriving despite a poor economy. I would not classify Best Buy as being niche by any stretch.
Nestled in the Rockingham Mall resides two companies that are hustling and bustling: GameStop and The Apple Store. Both organizations provide products that the Best Buys & Circuit City’s of the world currently sell, but not nearly as effectively. Both stores were packed! GameStop’s shelves were loaded with games and had a line weaving out the door. Meanwhile, The Apple Store’s staff was conducting demo after demo and having a great deal of success selling their products as a result. Recession? Where?
My bean began to buzz – what was the message that my new laptop had led me to? It was simple really- companies that establish a niche and dominate-win! It falls in line with what is going on in all facets of business today, too much expansion and not enough focus. Do what you do- and do it well! Don’t be tempted to expand despite the good times because everything is cyclical. Dark financial clouds always come back to rear their ugly head. These electronic heavy weights became too expansive to survive in a poor economy, while the companies with a smaller focus chug along because they are flexible enough to adapt quickly and don’t have too much overhead.
For example, my Gamestop Edge card provides me with consistent discounts, the ability to trade in games and a free subscription to a magazine (Game Informer) which allows me to rate and review games. They also conduct fun events around Guitar Hero and Madden Football. Why would I go to Best Buy, pay full price for a game and not partake in those added benefits? GameStop’s focus allows them to provide a better customer experience, complete with a chance to be heard.
What does my realization mean to the Social Media world? For now…not much! Many companies I speak with still find Social Media to be daunting. It is new and still very much in its infant stages as an industry. But you are seeing some Social Media companies focusing on one niche and doing very well with it. A couple companies I mentioned in a previous blog posts, have stuck their flag in the sand and claimed that business as theirs. See Radian6 & Techrigy for Social Media monitoring. Also, Crowdvine is focusing on providing a cost effective solution for conference creators.
Right now the major Enterprise Social Media platform providers are jockeying for position. The heavy hitters have already emerged (see Jeremiah Owyang’s recent report) but currently do not focus on a particular business to service. Today, they will provide a solution for any business objective in any industry. My bet is that will not be the case in the coming years. If I were them, I would start planning for the future. It may be blue-ocean sailing right now, but the day will come where the waters will become choppy. It might be best to find an island named niche and start calling it home. As the Social Media market matures so too will the need for focus…it is the way new business avenues always seem to shake out.
I have put a reminder in my Outlook for 1000 days from now to see how my hypothesis looks. I’d be interested in your predictions and if you would like to take a crack at naming my thought provoking laptop…have at it. Thanks for reading!