The Small Pond | Software Branding

A fishing analogy detailing why a focused user base is a good idea.

Fishing in a small pond with no other boats around where the fish practically leap into your boat is better than fishing in the ocean.

Let’s expand that analogy. Why would it be better? A couple reasons off the top of my head:

- Accurate bait/lure rigs
- Less competition from other fishermen
- Higher chance of contact
- No sharks or other things you don’t want to catch
- Plenty of fish to keep you busy

In short, picking a small pond positions a fisherman to be successful.

The same is true of software brands and there is a marketing term for it known as positioning.

Positioning is a framework that was laid out by Al Ries and Jack Trout in their book bearing the same title. Without getting too far into the weeds, the premise is that the top three companies in a market category are the big players and that everything else is fighting over scraps. You are either known for something or you are struggling to make ends meet.

Back to the fishing analogy, because it alludes to the foundational piece of building a strong position within a market: choosing a small pond.

The pond in this case becomes the market category, choose one that is too big and your chances of success diminish. For example, accounting software is too big, unless you plan on competing with multi-billion dollar companies like QuickBooks. However, a scaled-down, specified pond could help here. Something like Accounting software for designers, a messaging app for lawyers, or a security app for watching your dog (thank you Furbo). By choosing a smaller niche, you can gain an advantage over the big brands trying to serve everyone.

Here’s why:

Accurate bait/lure rigs:
This would be the same as good marketing and offerings. If you know your fish, you don’t have to guess what they might want, you know. Designers want the ability to brand things like invoices and change the typefaces. A lawyer doesn’t care about that as much, but it means the world to a designer. Conversely, a designer doesn’t need a robust amount of security in communicating with their clients, but a lawyer does. And a typical homeowner doesn’t have a dog that would love to be rewarded a treat for being a good pet, but a dog owner would be thrilled!

Point being, you can provide things that make you irreplaceable if you know what the customer wants.

Less competition from other fishermen:
If you create something that is adored by a specific group of people, its hard for them to choose anything else. It’s like getting a shirt made specifically to your sizing compared to something off the shelf. The same principle would apply to software, there is no substitute for something that feels like it was made for you.

Higher chance of contact:
If you stick in the pond long enough it’s guaranteed something will happen eventually. Can’t say the same about the ocean.

No sharks or other things you don’t want to catch:
Bass fishermen don’t want catfish. Tuna fishermen don’t want reef sharks. Crab fishermen don’t want anything other than crab. Why? Because they’re aren’t built for managing them. Knowing your pond allows you to have customers that will give you good reviews and use your product the way it was intended. It lays a good foundation for them to refer others to you and grow your user base.

Plenty of fish to keep you busy:
A common objection to positioning narrowly is that one might get bored or doesn’t want to limit their user base. Mainly because they believe the market isn’t big enough. The truth, you can be highly profitable and grow a large group of folks who can’t get enough of your product. If you can get 5,000 people on this planet filled with 8 billion to buy what you offer, you can generate a solid amount of revenue for a $20 per month subscription (that’s $100,000 MRR).

Furthermore, you will always find new needs this group wants, ways to help them out, and you can always scale up (far harder to go the opposite way).

Pick a small pond.

Originally published at https://www.zstvns.design.

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Zach Stevens

Zach Stevens

San Diego | Designer | I help software startups and digital pioneers build awesome brand identities. zstvns.design