Niche or Get Smoked (Issue 780)

In which we are reminded: Find a niche and specialize… or get smoked.

End of a  l o n g  day. Perched at LaGuardia gate C41. My flight to Boston was running a little late – “and we’ll get you boarded and off to Boston just as soon as we can.”  So (needing a LOT of comfort to offset my cell-screaming fury with delayed flights and seeking to stay away from the cookies available a few steps down the corridor) I pulled out my phone and checked out the LA Times on line.  OK, yes, it was pretty random.  I’m in New York, why not the New York Times, but never mind.

The headline, “Why Sporting Goods Retailers are Fumbling,” caught my eye. (LA Times, April 21, 2016) iStock_000008534865Small

OK, it was a nice (if overdone) metaphor. But,  I’ve bought stuff in sporting goods stores. I witnessed the aisle-littering frenzy at the Sports Authority stores in Cambridge and Boston after they filed for bankruptcy.  So, I read:

” In sports, it’s an asset if you can play multiple positions. [However] if you’re a sporting goods retailer, trying to do it all often ends in defeat.

Sport Chalet learned that the hard way, abruptly announcing Saturday that it was closing all of its 47 stores…. [Sport Chalet] couldn’t withstand pressures now coming from all sides: larger sporting goods rivals, big-box discounters, online retailers, and specialty high-end brands all ate into the company’s market share. 

The sporting goods industry has grown steadily but also become increasingly specialized…. …Although Sport Chalet once marketed itself as being staffed by “the experts,” [their] customer help for specific activities has been matched by several of its rivals… (a)nd outdoor blogs and online reviews have also made in-store specialists less of a selling point.

‘The big problem was that they weren’t focused on anything enough to carve a niche in the market,” said Rory Masterson, industry analyst at IBISWorld.”

It almost doesn’t matter where we look, sports fans and sales enthusiasts, regardless of what we’re selling:   Banking, training, consulting, convenience stores, medical products, pharma, news distribution, airlines, hospitals and health care, undergraduate and graduate college educations. “Big” is crushing “small.” “On line” is crushing “physical”. “Real, live sales people” are becoming less of a selling point.

If we aren’t able to carve out niches  in our markets, the competition from all sides – bigger competitors, on-line providers, discounters, and specialty high-end brands – will smoke us.   SMOKE us.

Lie awake at night, we should and must, we individual sales warriors or executive sales leaders, asking the question – what’s our niche? What niche can we defend?  If we’re not selling “the big national brand that sells itself,” what do we offer, as companies or personally, as sales professionals, that is so compelling that our customers or clients will talk to us and stick with us?  What would prompt them to say, “I would have paid for that conversation?”

 

 

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