What You Don’t Know About Pie Might Just Kill Your Business

I know why you’re frustrated with your online business.market-creation-2

You sometimes feel that every day your chances of making it erode away bit by bit.

You see other people succeeding and every time another one does, you die inside just a little bit.

Not because you’re one of those ogres who hates when other people succeed – but because you believe that each new success in your market takes another little piece of the available pie.

The pressure to reach out and grab your piece of the pie right now while there’s still some left is immense. Whether real or perceived… the clock is ticking and you find yourself pushing to make things happen now. Not later. Right now.

On the other hand – you’re not quite ready to break out yet. You still have things to do and learn before you can make a run for your ambitious goals.

As you prepare and learn, there goes another piece of the pie. And another… and another.

It’s a feeling of desperation and hopelessness. You begin to wonder if you stand a chance at all.

Your Current View of “The Pie” Will Kill Your Business

Ever since the Industrial Age, we’ve been taught to think of our market as a pie. You know, a pie is only so big… and every time someone takes a piece, there’s less left for the rest of us.

In past decades, it was true in a lot of industries. In a handful of commodity-type businesses, it may still be true today.

We’ve been conditioned to think of “market share” as a fixed-sized object. Something that just exists… and our lot is to fight it out in a bloody battle against our competitors within its inflexible boundaries.

And when you’re the new kid fighting it out nose to nose with larger, more established competitors on their battlefield by their rules – it’s a losing proposition.

So that’s the view of business and competition that we’ve all grown up in. It’s pretty intimidating, isn’t it?

But you don’t have to play that game anymore.

This is no longer your grandfather’s marketplace. It’s yours.
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Why Opportunities Are Abundant – Not Scarce

The old way of looking at The Pie is wrong… or at least out of date.

The pie is not finite. Today’s pies are nearly infinite and multi-layered. Let’s talk about why.Market Creation

Years ago, if you owned a small business, you were limited to a certain number of people who lived in a specific geographic area. As an example, let’s pretend that you owned a computer store.

A town of 25,000 people might support four computer stores. If a fifth store came to town, the pieces of the existing pie got sliced so small that at least one of those businesses could no longer make it.

So one of them would slowly starve and go out of business. In a situation like that, businesses were limited by geography and by population.

But today, thanks to the internet, you’re no longer limited by either of those things.

Depending upon your product or service, you now have the ability to market to billions of people from all over the planet.

And because you can easily market to such ridiculously large numbers of people, you have the ability to do something else that’s pretty damn powerful: Niche down and specialize.

Why You Need to Define Your Own Battlefield

Gone are the days when you have to fight bigger, more established companies in their territory according to their rules. Now that you have the whole world at your fingertips, you can niche down and create your own market space.

Defining a very specific niche allows you to attract a small portion of a very large number of people – which is still a big number. No matter what your general market is, you can carve out your own specialized portion of it and create a business around it. Here are just a few examples…

General Market: Baby ProductsMarket_creation-3
Specific Niche: Just Diapers (Diapers.com)

General Market: Pet Supplies
Specific Niche: Organic Pet Food (The Honest Kitchen)

General Market: Toiletries
Specific Niche: Replacement Razor Blades (Dollar Shave Club)

General Market: Florist
Specific Niche: Dead Flowers For Spite (Dirty Rotten Flowers)

Ask yourself: Which of those businesses would stand a chance of surviving as a small brick-and-mortar business?

Would you make a special trip to the diapers only store? What about the place that only sells organic pet food?

Can you imagine saying, “Honey, don’t forget to stop by the razor blade shop after you buy groceries!” with a straight face?

And on your way home from work, make sure to stop by the dead flower shop to grab a little something special for the ex.

What does all this mean to you?

It means that you don’t have to fight that bloody battle with the big boys on their turf anymore. You can carve out your own little corner of the market and do something no one else is doing in quite the same way.

According to Forbes, Dollar Shave Club was pulling in over $200,000 per month in 2012 and attracted over $10 million in venture capital in that same year.

Do you think niching down & creating your own specific little piece of pie works? Well, Dollar Shave Club attracted 25,000 subscribers in just one week.

And if that type of opportunity doesn’t excite you… well, then… I’m at a loss.

But if that does excite you… keep reading.

Two Surgical Tools to Carve Out Your Niche

If you haven’t started defining what’s unique about you and your business – and you haven’t defined your segment of uncontested market space yet, you need to. Now. Today.

Because if you don’t know who you are, you can’t very well make a compelling argument about why people should choose you over your competition.

I’d like to share two resources with you that I highly recommend for starting to understand this concept in greater detail…

Blue Ocean Strategy
The book Blue Ocean Strategy is one of the best marketing books I’ve ever read. It’s about how to create your own market space and make your competition irrelevant. Fair warning: This isn’t a motivational, fluffy marketing book.

It’s more of a scientific, statistical study of how smart companies market themselves. It’s not a “fun” page turner, but I promise you the information inside is brilliant and will change the way you look at competition forever.

It’s available in print and on Kindle here.

My Market Creation Worksheet
Offered as a free bonus with my eBook, How to Influence All the Right People, this worksheet guides you through 40 questions that I ask of all my clients before I start working with them. It will help you define who you are now, what your unique points of differentiation are, and help you begin to carve out your own niche.

If you’re not a current subscriber, you can get the eBook and worksheet here.

If you are a subscriber, the link to the worksheet was in the email you received about this post.

And if at any time, you have questions or need help with either of them, feel free to contact me.

It’s Time to Put it All Together and Claim Your Piece of the Pie

Step one is understanding that the old idea of the fixed-size pie is obsolete. Step two is finding your individual slice of the new, expandable multi-layered pie.

I know you hear this a lot – but there really is something about you and your business that it totally unique.

It’s up to you to do the work and determine exactly what that thing is. As is true for all good things – it takes time and effort. And it may change over time.

But when you figure out your own unique place in this new business world, that’s when everything begins to happen.

As Napoleon Hill wrote in his classic book, Think and Grow Rich…

“When riches begin to come they come so quickly, in such great abundance, that one wonders where they have been hiding during all those lean years.”

That was written in 1937… and it’s as true now over 70 years later as it was the day he wrote it. The only difference is that the playing field has changed… and it’s changed in your favor.

You don’t have to squeeze yourself into someone else’s market. You have the power to create your own.

Now go grab your own infinite slice of the pie!

Talk to me…
Have you carved out your own market yet? Share your tips and stories in the comments!


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About Gary Korisko

Gary is a battle-tested sales and marketing pro, copywriter, coach, and business strategist who teaches how to create worthwhile work on Reboot Authentic. Connect with Gary on Google+ and Twitter.

18 Replies

  1. evanhadkins

    My unique take on my niche (self development) is that it is only authenticity that brings lasting satisfaction.

    One problem I have with the (general) advice to niche is that no one has ever been able to tell me how big or small is the right size. I don’t think this is because marketers don’t know their stuff – just the reverse: it is the problem of expertise. Expertise is a series of routinised perceptions and skills – experts in marketing recognise the right size for a niche but this is routinised and so out of awareness, which means they don’t consciously communicate it.

    1. Hi Evan:

      Could you clarify your phrase, “how big or small is the right size” for me? Are you looking for a way to measure actual niche size – or a method of testing the viability of a niche?

      1. evanhadkins

        Hi Gary, more the latter.

        My frustration is the answer: “you need to test”. Which as far as I can tell means no one really knows what size a viable niche is.

        1. Evan:

          Your comment about determining niche size is something that frustrates a lot of online business people. And for the most part you’re right. Most of the “big authorities” don’t get specific about it.

          However, my friend Mary Jaksch (the lady in the sidebar of the blog here) has developed a free tool that does just that for you. It’s very thorough.

          I don’t paste links into comments, but if you’d like to hear more please email me and I’ll send you there. I think you’ll find it useful. (The same goes for anyone else reading this!)

  2. Jarom Adair

    Great post Gary. “Niche-ing down” is probably the #1 strategy to standing out in the crowd, and talking about pie in the title this close to Thanksgiving got my attention! 🙂

    1. Sorry for giving you the munchies, Jarom. 🙂

      I know you preach a similar message. Good to see you here!

  3. Gary, fantastic topic. I was JUST thinking about breaking free of the “fixed pie” mental trap as one of the top 3 most significant mind-shifts needed to become an entrepreneur, when I saw your post. You are saying what needs to be said. And thank you for the book recommend. You’re recommendations are always rock solid.

    The internet definitely changes things, yet even without the internet the same principle applies. It is no accident that the cultures most open to trade and most resistant to war flourished throughout history, e.g. the Phoenicians. But we’re stuck in a false narrative that the name of the success game is a warlike imperialist battle, like the Roman Empire, which collapsed as a result.

    I ran into this mindset problem in a negotiations course. Participants thought of themselves as competitors, even when they were clearly not in a fixed-pie situation. If you got more than half the pie, you win, and the other person “loses.” The results were long drawn out struggles, games, and battles of wits. These struggles cost each player, so the pie would get smaller for both.

    I could not believe what I was seeing.

    I pointed out that a mutual transaction does not take place unless it is better than the alternative for BOTH parties. If either person is not better off, there is no deal.

    So the name of the game is not to “win” a higher percentage of negotiations by being the smartest and most powerful, but to engage in as many mutual trades as possible, by being the most likable, trustworthy and reputable. That was one of my great ninja secrets I learned from that course. Great negotiators are nice people, mostly women incidentally, who facilitate transactions.

    This is why “business as war” is such a stupid metaphor. Business is inherently a win-win situation and war is inherently lose-lose. So good war strategy makes bad business strategy.

    For me and you, “fixed-pie” mentality kills our businesses is because we think that asking for money or selling is taking from them, but it isn’t. It is a necessary part of a mutual exchange. People want to pay us more because we’re helping them more. If you are too worried that you don’t deserve so much money, you limit yourself to low-value work that helps people less. So do everyone a favor and do your most valuable work, and give yourself a raise accordingly.

    1. Hey Aaron!

      Thanks for sharing all that – some really great points. Your comment mostly focuses on negotiations while the post is mainly about creating a market – but for sure some of the same principles apply. (you can maneuver instead of muscle through at times)

      And it’s interesting that you bring up (in your last paragraph) feeling guilty about selling. That’s a widespread fear with a lot of entrepreneurs. I just happen to be working on a post about that now 🙂

      1. That’s great! Failure to close the deal is a persistent problem and I’m glad you are tackling it. I look forward to it.

        This post reminds me of some great advice I received, “the market is never saturated if you have something good to offer.”

  4. Very good point about the pie, Gary. (And fabulous graphics, too – well done!) i know that I can find myself thinking, “Oh, you’re just another personal improvement blogger – who’s going to notice?” But then I remember that combining my niche of bouncing back with my own unique voice creates a pretty darn cool thing!

    1. You like more graphics with the posts, do you? I’ve been toying with the idea lately. Thanks for the feedback.

      You’re exactly right, Bobbi… and personal development is a great example. It is a MASSIVE market full of all kinds of people making as much noise as possible to try and get attention. That doesn’t mean there’s no room in personal development.

      It means that somewhere out there is a segment of very specific under-served potential customers. And bouncing back after a negative/traumatic event is one of those segments. You’re an excellent example of this principle. Thanks for adding to the chat!

  5. This is an excellent post. What you’re saying is so true in regards to carving your own path. Those businesses you mentioned could have done things so similar to what everyone else was doing in those general markets but they niched out and it’s worked wonders for them.

    This is something I’m figuring out as I go an I’m realizing that I need to stop doing it that way and just figure out what my niche is and what will help me separate from the “big boys.”

    It’s time to grab my own slice of the infinite pie, thanks for this very well written post.

    1. Thanks very much, Andrew.

      And having the view you have (that you have to figure this out AND that it’s a process that takes time) is for sure the right way to look at it. Glad you found it useful!

  6. Your Writer Platform

    I love your take on this, Gary! I completely agree that technology and the idea of a ‘global’ market is changing how we do business.

    I have this same ‘pep’ talk with many writers – there is no such thing as competition when you build your business around who you are and what you believe in. Your uniqueness, your mojo, your ‘je ne sais quoi’ – that’s what sets you apart and creates infinite opportunity.

    People are drawn to those that have their purpose oozing out of them. The trick, of course, is for each of us to identify it in ourselves first, because only once you put your finger on it can you have any hope of sharing it effectively with others.

    (And, like Bobbi, I loved the images! 🙂 )

  7. Such a great point Gary. I haven’t read that Blue Ocean book yet but now I feel like I need to and also share this with my husband.
    I get that feeling as well when someone in a business remotely related to me writes about something I was going to or whatever. I get so discouraged and its silly really.
    Then I try to remind myself too that if people are responding to it then its what the people want and there is always plenty of room for more of what people want.
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