How defining your niche positioning helps you grow to new niches – The had-sod-u-sos-has rule

Defining a niche is critical to building a business. You absolutely positively cannot market your business without defining your avatar.

Fundamentally you sell transformation; transformation requires identifying whom you are selling to, and people identify as someone, not everyone. This is why as you narrow your niche, you broaden your market. If you have to water down your story to appeal to everybody, you appeal to nobody. When you get specific, you appeal to somebody. Somebody is always greater than nobody.

But there is something else: getting specific with one niche will help you attract new niches.

The Baby Einstein marketing to a niche position example

When baby Einsteins first came out, they sold their product to a particular market: moms who wanted their kids to be Einsteins. They were willing to try anything and do anything to make their kids fit their ideal of smarter and better. They were willing to pay a premium price for instructional videos for babies.

If the company had instead gone out to the world and said: we have expensive DVDs for babies, they wouldn’t have sold any. But focusing on the narrow group created a market.

They also created content that the moms loved, and here is the magic. These moms raved about the content to other moms who bought the DVDs because their friends said how great they were. These moms told more moms, and those moms told other moms, and when I had small kids, we had Baby Einstein DVDs.

I think educating babies is ridiculous. Many studies show that sitting your kid in front of a video is a terrible way for them to get smarter. It doesn’t work. I firmly believe this is the wrong way to educate children.

But the videos were engaging, the kids liked them, I didn’t feel like they were harming them, and maybe somehow they would learn a thing or two along the way. I’d rather they have educational videos than watch the crap on YouTube or play Grand Theft Auto with their teenage cousins, so… Baby Einsteins it is.

This dynamic played out so well that Baby Einsteins sold itself to Disney for $25 million (in 2002). Disney turned it into one of the world’s most significant kids entertainment brands worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

So: target narrowly and create a company worth hundreds of millions of target broadly and languish in the world of trying hard but never getting anywhere.

(Or something like that).

Here is the best part of this whole story: you can do the same thing that Baby Einstein did, and I will show you how.

Introducing Had-sod-u-sos-has

This is a rule that I learned from Scott Miller at the Core Strategy Group as a fundamental rule in politics, but it turns out it is an excellent rule for influence and for convincing masses of people to think your solution is the best.

Here is how it works. If you are putting yourself, your product, or your idea out into the market, you can divide the people who encounter that idea into five categories:

Category 1: Hard detractors (or opposition)

These are the people who hate your idea or product. They will wake up at 3:30 in the morning, traipse into freezing rain, and picket against your idea with signs printed with their last dime.

(Or, you know, the digital equivalent).

Think of this as 5% of the market.

Category 2: Soft detractors (or opposition)

These people don’t like you, they think your idea or product isn’t great, but they can’t be bothered enough to do much about it. They may say something at a party or over a drink with friends, but that is about it.

This is where I would have been, had I thought about it, in the Baby Einstein debate. I couldn’t be bothered, but I thought the concept was stupid.

Think of this as 20% of the market

Category 3: The undecided

These people don’t know what they think about you, your idea, or your product. They could be swayed either way but are not going to put much energy into it.

They are at least 50% of the market.

Category 4: Soft Support

These people like you think your idea or product is excellent, but they can’t be bothered enough to do much about it. They may say something at a party or over a drink with friends, but that is about it.

Think of this as 20% of the market

Category 5: Hard Support

These are the people who love your idea or product. They will wake up at 3:30 in the morning, traipse into freezing rain, and picket supporting your idea with signs printed with their last dime.

(Or, you know, the digital equivalent).

Think of this as 5% of the market.

How Had-sod-u-sos-has helps you define and expand your niche position

The mistake that most politicians and marketers make is to counter the hard opposition.

If they picket in front of your office at 3:30 am in the rain, they must be important, right?

Wrong. They are a very small, albeit passionate, part of the market. Ignore them.

There will be people who do not like your product, who are not passionate about it, and who will tell others how much they don’t like you.

For example: our unhappy customer

We had someone like that at Thrivers, and we fell into the trap of appeasing him. On a scale of 0-10 our members almost always rate us an 8, 9, or 10. We get the occasional 7, and we take all feedback very seriously because we strive to do better.

But there was one guy who didn’t like us. He told other people how unhappy he was, tried to steal customers, took our product, and called it his (ironically, since he was so negative). So we talked to him one-on-one, gave him support, and gave him a free membership.

When our survey went out, he rated us a 0. Twice. In one evening.

That is an unhappy customer.

And it feels terrible, we take this insanely personally, and we want everybody to be happy. But that is stupid because there will always be detractors. His behavior is the equivalent of 3 am picketing in the rain, and we realized that we would never change his mind. No matter how much time, money, or effort we invested, he would never be happy doing business with us.

The right move is to ignore your hard detractors

Rather than take it personally, let it go: no amount of effort will ever convince them to see you in a positive light. It won’t happen.

So, we escorted this member out of our community. And we mentally kicked ourselves for giving him a free membership: if someone doesn’t get value from what you do, they should go somewhere else.

Stop trying to influence your detractors; the opportunity is in the undecided.

Opportunity is in the undecided. Here is why:

  1. They are typically the largest segment, about 50% or more of the market. In politics, this may be lower, but in marketing, this is often much higher, in the 90s even, since most people don’t know about you. So when they come across you, they don’t have much of an opinion.
  2. They get their information from the soft support and soft detractors. They know that crazy people are crazy, so the best advocate is someone who says nice things about you but isn’t championing your cause at 3:30 am in the freezing rain.

The best way to influence the undecided is to engage your support

Since the undecided learn from their friends, the best place to influence them is to motivate your support.

Your hard support will motivate your soft support, and your soft support will influence the undecided.

And the only hope you ever have of motivating your soft detractors is if they see the undecided move in your direction. Forget about your hard detractors. They will be out there picketing forever.

Bringing this back to niche positions

Your niche, the people who love you are your hard support, the people they sell you to who like your product are your soft support.

These people will always be your ideal customer avatar. If you sell to IP lawyers who wear plaid on Tuesdays, these are all IP lawyers who wear plaid on Tuesdays.

In the case of Baby Einstein, these are the agro-moms who must have genius kids even if it bankrupts them, no matter what.

The magic happens when they tell their friends. The friends are all undecided because they haven’t heard of you before, but because they trust the source, they become customers and soft support.

They then mention you at a dinner party over wine, and more undecided become interested. They buy, they influence more people.

Eventually, some soft opposition picks up your product. They’ve heard about it a few times and, well, they weren’t super impressed, but the price is right, and this looks like it will solve a problem they have, so they buy.

That I how, I ended up with Baby Einstein DVDs. It was out there because of the buzz. And yeah, I read the hard opposition from Harvard and the Mayo Clinic, but all of my friends loved it, so… I bought it.

When the accountant asks you if you can solve his problem as well

If you focus on your niche, say IP lawyers, serve them well and make them very happy, they will tell their friends. It won’t be long before their friends and colleagues. And it won’t be long before their accountant contact calls you to ask you if you could solve his problem as well.

If you had started out selling to everybody, nobody would have bought. But since you sold to IP lawyers and made them ecstatic, they brought others to buy from you, which is how you expand. So if you want to work with accountants and you can serve them well, you take that customer on. You deliver a great product, they get great results, and now you add a new ideal customer avatar, and on it goes.

So the key to marketing, influencing, and politics is the same: work with your supporters, let them convince the undecided and perhaps even the soft opposition. The narrower you focus, the better off you will be.

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