In a recent discussion about brands that dominate a market, I was struck by how many examples are emerging in Web 2.0 companies similar to the David vs. Goliath story. iTunes, YouTube, MySpace, Google all dominate – yet there are emerging competitors that threaten to put a crack in the foundation of what seems like an insurmountable advantage.
I have a belief that there are a few ways that smaller players can still have a differentiated offering and thrive:
- Focus on the user experience, make it dead-easy to use – Was iTunes the first to offer music downloads or even movie/ TV downloads for that matter? Of course not! There were a multitude of legal and P2P download sites before iTunes. The brilliance of iTunes is the sheer no-brainer ease-of-use and the way that you are able to keep purchasing downloads without even feeling like you are spending money.
- Pick a niche and serve it well – You don’t need to have 80% of a viable market to have a thriving company. By choosing a focused niche within the market and going deep rather than broad – you can have an advantage over the dominant player. How will you know when you have been successful? When your brand becomes synonymous with that niche, and when you start seeing competitors imitating you.
- Let users’ needs guide the direction – Craig’s List that now dominates online classifieds has refused to take advertising revenues – why? According to Craigslist President and Chief Executive Jim Buckmaster “No users have been requesting that we run ads” The now wildly successful Craigslist.com used to run head-to-head against large newspapers and by focusing on the needs of its users it is now considered a threat to the newspaper industry.
- Make good use of your marketing $ – In order to get above-average response from your marketing investments, I have a strong belief that they need to be driven by BIG ideas. Web 2.0 companies have a clear advantage in this area where so many of the fundamentals of their business are well-suited to interesting and unique marketing initiatives that involve the user and new media. Everything from contests to recognition programs to initiatives that allow member expression – Web 2.0 companies have an opportunity to get returns and buzz with their marketing that more traditional companies envy.
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