Earlier this month I posted my first “Break to Fix” blog post , in which I shared a little fictional story about how to fix a common business problem – in this case, how to stand out amongst the competition – by breaking the “rules.”
I received a request in the comments from Dennis, who along with his wife, Cindy, is launching SunnySideSpice Company. (Congrats, Dennis and Cindy!) He asked if I would “Break to Fix” his company, and you know me – I can’t resist a challenge like this, so I said, “Heck, yeah!”
In this post, we’ll focus on the same problem our fictional artist “Wolfie” had in my original post – getting noticed. But first, let me address Cindy’s answers to my questions about their target market.
Finding Your Target Market
According to Dennis and Cindy, SunnySideSpice Company’s target customers are “varied” – people who love to cook or grill food; people who want to eat and/or serve more vegetables; big chain grocery stores; restaurants, schools, hospitals and other institutional distributors; companies that process meat; barbecue grill wholesalers and retailers – and every mom on this entire planet who has uttered “Eat your vegetables! There are children starving in (fill in the blank with the latest country featured in a Sally Struthers ‘save the children’ infomercial).”
Whew! That’s a lot of different markets for a start-up to take on, and I can tell you right now, you will make yourself crazy trying to get noticed in all of those markets. It’s fantastic that you’ve zeroed in a super small niche product. Now you need to do the same with your target markets.
The Riches Are In The Niches
My message to you is simple: pick one. Focus all of your energy on one market, and then once you’ve made your mark, branch out. Typically, making your mark happens after you have achieved millions in annual revenue. Of course, every industry and every niche is its own unique situation, but this is for sure: You must dominate your niche before you branch out.
Dennis and Cindy’s "Break to Fix" Story
SunnySideSpice Company focuses on selling dried spices and herb blends for foods like yams, Swiss Chard and legumes. Dennis and Cindy are super smart – creating herb blends for vegetables when so many people are trying “meatless Mondays” and generally trying to eat less meat and more veggies.
The problem is, they’re competing with thousands of spice companies. They need to do something REALLY different to get noticed.
Since Dennis and Cindy are just getting started, they talk with their best buddies, the folks who willingly tried every spice blend this spicy couple cooked up (and Cousin Dale, the ultimate guinea pig, who will do almost anything for a six-pack) to find out what their frustrations are with cooking or grilling their five servings a day.
Turns out, a common complaint among their peeps is they have no idea how much spice to use, so they always end up under- or over-spicing their veggies. There is much debate about what constitutes a “pinch,” and even when they use measuring spoons, they still end up getting it wrong.
They’re watching Cousin Dale and Neighbor Sheila argue about rounded teaspoons when they turn to each other and say, “Pre-portioned herbs.” (Dennis and Cindy have that whole Vulcan mind-meld thing going on – it’s kind of freaky.)
Right away they get to work on creating new packaging for their herbs – REVOLUTIONARY packaging: a bottle that by a twist of the lid, automatically doles out the correct amount of herbs. (One twist = ¼ tsp.) They create a label that helps consumers figure out how many twists they will need, based on how much they’re cooking.
It gets even better: The bottle portions out the exact amount based on the quantity and type of vegetables. Set the dial to zucchini (or whatever you chose), set the other dial to five slices (or however many slices you want) and the SunnySideSuperSpicer doles out the exact amount you need.
They start marketing to “clueless” cooks – people who struggle with spice proportions – through major cooking blogs and by partnering with cooking instructors in their area. Dennis researches other cooking instructors across the country and sends out boxes of free samples every week.
Their idea is so cool, they get tons of press for it, and pretty soon online sales are keeping them pretty darn busy. Soon enough, they’ve had enough success and enough buzz to approach a local grocery store chain with their product. The demand is so great that eventually they have to expand to provide herb blends for meat and fish as well.
Fast forward five years and the SunnySideSpice Company is the go-to brand for clueless cooks, cooks on the go and, in the spirit of their original mission, cooks who want to try new and healthier foods. Good job Dennis and Cindy. Cousin Dale would be proud.
This story illustrates how, by breaking with convention – in this case packaging – any business can fix its differentiation problem. And when looking for crazy, out there, genius ideas, the best source is your target market. Don’t assume what they want; ask them. They know what pisses them off about a product, service or industry, and they know what they wish they could have.
Do You Have a "Break to Fix" Challenge?
Do you have a “Break to Fix” challenge for me? Send ‘em over or comment below. I’ll answer any and all requests – I think. Maybe not questions about the porn industry. Then again…