Marketing Challenges? Not With Starving Crowds

Last year I went to the San Diego Padres baseball team’s home opening game. In the seventh inning I got in line at one of the food stands. The man at the front of the line ordered two hot dogs. The lady behind the counter, held up a box of uncooked hot dogs and said, “Sorry, we’re all out. Didn’t cook enough.”

Undaunted, the guy said, “That’s OK, I’ll take two anyway.”

So did the next person and the next. Can you believe it? These people were willing to wait in line to buy cold, expensive, uncooked hot dogs. Wow!  Talk about being at the right place at the right time. I wonder what ever happened to the quality product theory?

Take Advantage of Your Size

Uncovering a starving crowd is one area where small business has its advantages. That’s because just about any size market has value to a small business whereas large companies simply cannot afford to go after small markets that don’t hold enough promise to cover their large overhead expenses. In fact, it is in the small business’ best interest to avoid the larger opportunity markets.

For example, I worked with a tiny engineering company that was in the business of manufacturing electronic sign panels for the traffic safety industry. Their major competitors, all large companies, paid little attention to the electronic controller component of their sign panels. Meanwhile, customers were complaining that the controllers were poorly designed and unreliable.

The larger manufacturers were unwilling to do much about this because the controller portion of the market was only worth a few hundred dollars whereas the sign was worth over a thousand.

As a result, the small engineering company decided to specialize in the controller segment of the business and quickly became the market leader in the U.S.

The ingredients for success here were (1) uncover a market need that is not being satisfied, (2) avoid major competition, and (3) respond quickly with a focused, narrow set of products that solve the problem better than anyone else.