This question came to me from an entrepreneur in Africa. I believe it describes a common scenario that goes something like this:

“I created my product to fulfill very specific needs in a market that seemed to be leaving some key niche consumers unsatisfied. When I launched, my product was laser-targeted at these consumers – there were no superfluous features or add-ons. As a consequence, we did extremely well and built a zealous following.
Our success was a mixed blessing. As we attracted consumers from the mainstream, we needed to add features. Our brand went from niche to mainstream as well. We were no longer the pirates, but the Navy.
Today, our product is being assailed by upstarts that remind us of our younger selves. Hyper-focused challengers that draw our niche customers away from us. What do we do?”

There is no single answer, and no quick fix. However, there are a few directions that can help bring back that youthful upstart glow.

Skunkworks

When I was involved in resuscitating the Mr. Clean brand, we set up a skunkworks to develop new, highly niche products. We isolated ourselves from the “mother ship,” becoming in essence a startup. The products we launched—like Mr. Clean Auto-dry and Magic Eraser—bore all the hallmarks of challenger brands.

Innovate like you mean it

Clorox Greenworks succeeded where other mainstream brands failed: they became a respected player in the green cleaner market. And let’s not forget, they did it with a name that was synonymous with bleach!

Discover who your core audience is, what exactly they value about your product or brand, and cut away everything else. Tweet This Quote

How?

First, they created a damn good product which cleaned extremely well. Second, they were transparent (and unapologetic) about their “big cleaner” roots—in fact, they used their reputation as an established brand to reassure mainstream consumers. And third, they invited one of the world’s most respected NGO’s—the Sierra Club—to vet the product.

Was it a bold move? Yes. Did it make Clorox uncomfortable? Yes. Did they scoop the lion’s share of the green cleaner market virtually overnight? Yes.

Trim away the fat

If you’re all things to all people, chances are you really mean nothing to anyone.

Better to re-establish your roots with your loyal fans than compromise yourself into oblivion. Tweet This Quote

The solution to this conundrum is to discover who your (hard) core audience is, what exactly they value about your product or brand, and cut away everything else.

You will lose followers, there’s no doubt. But if you’re hemorrhaging consumers to niche brands, better to re-establish your roots with your loyal fans than compromise yourself into oblivion.


Editor’s note: This originally appeared on Marc’s blog. If you have questions about building a futureproof brand, ask Marc in the comments section below. His answer will either run here or in his monthly newsletter.

Marc Stoiber

Author Marc Stoiber

As a brand strategy expert, successful entrepreneur, and award-winning author, Marc Stoiber uses simplicity and creativity to help people discover what’s awesome about their business…and then helps them tell the world. For more on creating your company’s value proposition, connect with Marc on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and sign up for his monthly newsletter. Want to try building your own powerful brand to create unfair business advantage? Try out Marc’s DIY Brand Build Guide.

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