Finding a Niche – Narrowing Markets instead of Widening Them

I’m writing this post on my Kindle Fire. As a tech junkie I’ve gone through three tablets so far. When the Tegra2 platform was released I bought a 10″ tablet but returned it because it was missing several online video features I wanted. About 9 months later I bought a 7″ tablet. The experience was improved but still lacking.

Just recently, I took the plunge and bought a Kindle Fire. If you’re familiar with it, you’ll know that it doesn’t much appeal to tech junkies. It runs an old version of the Andrid operating system with an ugly skin overlay. It isn’t a so-called “Google experience device” so its lacking a lot of the programs I really wanted in a tablet. That being said, I’m not returning it. And, more importantly, I’m not returning it for a good reason.

The Kindle Fire is a tablet computer in hardware only, by any other measure its a media machine. It has great ebook support (as you’d expect) and supports all of the major online video streaming services. With Amazon’s new cloud music service it also makes a great casual jukebox.

Why is the Kindle successful?  In fact, why is it the most successful Android tablet to date? Why am I keeping it while I wait for the next generation of productivity-oriented tablets to be released? And why is it all of these things in spite of running an old operating system and missing tons of core functionality? Because Amazon did what every other tablet manufacturer was afraid to do in a developing market.

They specialized.

They built their platform for a niche, not for everyone. As a result they appealed strongly to some instead of appealing weakly to all. They targeted a section of the market that they knew existed and never cut corners in that area. True, they’ve added other features, but none of them compromise the intended use of the device.

Google is on version 4.0 of their operating system, but the Kindle Fire has never risked migrating past version 2.2 or 2.3. They looked at each new release and decided that there was nothing to be gained. Its a calculated risk but they’ve negotiated it well. For some products future upgrades is a selling point, for Amazon stability is a selling point.

This is a great story of how narrowing your target market can be the quickest path to success. Start with an audience you know exists and build interest in other markets later, let your reputation grow from the inside out. Pick a section of your target market, and then pick a subgroup. “Firefighters with iPhones.” “Retired Corolla drivers.” “Teenagers that like snowboarding.”

If you start small and build a successful product you’ll have, what Seth Godin calls, a tribe. I’ll never own a Harley Davidson motorcycle, it doesn’t appeal to me and I’m pretty sure they’ll never make a product that I’m interested in. That being said, no one would ever accuse Harley Davidson of not being a successful company. In fact, in a lot of areas their customers beg to buy their product and they offer to pay more than list price to have one right now.

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