America has more square feet of retail space per capita than any other country. And I’m not just talking about Bhutan, Bolivia, or Burkina Faso.
Canada has 13. Australia has six. Sweden, which has the most in Europe, has only three (and most of that must be in Ikea). But the US has a whopping 20 square feet of retail for each human being. That’s too many stores chasing too few customers. And just one more way to say that even in today’s economy, we already have too much stuff.
If that makes you want to become an ascetic and embrace simple living, I don’t blame you.
On the other hand, much of what’s out there is junk that people don’t really need, such as electric nose-hair clippers. If you’re selling something that really improves life, then by all means, Go ye forth to market and sell!
Just be smart about cutting through the clutter, about standing out from the glut. One way to do that is to target a very specific market. Niche marketing. Narrowcasting. Think the STAR Cricket Channel, solar dog coats, or Twitter-addiction counseling.
It can be very profitable to go niche. Just make sure that your market is a well and not a puddle — make sure if you’re targeting narrowly, that your market is deep and not shallow.
Using the example of dachshund race he helped set up in Texas, Roy Williams, the Wizard of Ads, explains how to tell a well from a puddle:
Narrow, shallow interest is a puddle. Few people are fooled by puddles.
Narrow, deep interest is a well. You can make money with “well” products because their customers are highly motivated and easily targeted. Cult brands are built on wells.
Widespread, shallow interest is a bayou. Entrepreneurs and advertisers see a bayou and think it’s an ocean because they really want it to be an ocean. They lie to themselves about the depth of the public’s interest.
Widespread, deep interest is an ocean. That’s why each year’s Wiener Dog Races in my little town of 2,404 people has been bigger than the year before. This year we raced more than 600 wiener dogs and raised $120,000 for the Buda Lions Club. Next year’s profits will likely be $150,000.
Learn to tell a puddle from a well and you could reach just the right people with just the right thing. That might even help you discover the next ocean, or at least the next wiener dog race.