It is very hard to compete in an already established industry but it is also very difficult to create a whole new industry yourself. So in this episode, Sam Priestley talks about a fundamental concept behind how he positions his businesses: find a new angle to compete in already saturated marketplaces. An angle where you are the market leader.
02:34 – How Wii competed at a different angle in 2006
04:11 – Starting up the coffee shop
07:24 – Questions Sam asked himself before starting the gin brand
13:34 – The many ways the gin business competes at a different angle
14:52 – The problem with targeting niches and why to play in big markets
16:08 – Blogging at a different angle
19:03 – How Sam benefits from writing about a diverse range of niche topics and documenting personal processes
20:33 – Don’t be afraid to enter a saturated market place
Sam: Hello and welcome back to another episode of the lazy entrepreneur, I’m your host and I’m here my co-host Emma Priestly
S: We’ve both got back from holiday quite recently and we’re both a bit cold so if it sounds a bit sniffily then I apologize.
E: speak for yourself Sam I feel fine at the moment.
S: Good I don’t. Today will probably be a slightly shorter episode and Emma doesn’t actually know what we’re talking about today. It’s something I don’t think I’ve really spoken to with her about before so hopefully she’ll find it just as interesting as you do.
E: Dropping me in the deep end here are you?
S: What I’m talking about today is competing that’s a different angle trying to think of a better name for this what I can’t really because it’s kind of a concept I’ve made up and developed for a bit of trial and error. I think it’s quite important to the way I think about business now and the way I think about competing especially in markets that everyone says are too saturated. The problem is it’s very difficult to compete in any industry. If the industry’s already established then you’ve got people who’ve made it work they’ve got a lot of money and they’ve got a lot of experience but if it’s an industry that you’re creating for yourself then you’re gonna really struggle to get any customers because you’ve got to educate the customers as to why they want your product or whatever it is you’re selling. It is true for pretty much everything I think about saying our artisan coffee. The person who first started a artisan coffee shop had to convince people that they wanted to pay extra for coffee versus just going to your Italian Roasters or to your Starbucks or whatever but now if you start an outside coffee shop there’s already an audience who wants your product but you’ve got to compete with all those other coffee shops. You’ve done really well, you’ve got the expertise. There’s coffee shops everywhere now that got a lot of big money behind them. So my solution is to go to an already established field where there’s already a large market already built and then compete at a slightly different angle to everyone else at an angle that I’m the best at or where there’s very little other competition, basically being the best in your field which isn’t easy when you’re entering a field that you kind of know not that much about I think my favorite example of this is the release of the Wii in 2006. The Wii is a game console released by Nintendo and at the time there was no real sort of arms race in the technology behind games console releases. The period before we saw the release of the Gamecube, he Xbox and the PlayStation 2 in which the Gamecube was quite significantly worse in terms of technology and graphics and performance than the other two and as a result it didn’t sell as well as the other two. That was in 2001 and by 2006 that technology gap had really widened and and the new consoles were going to be released the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 by Sony and Microsoft were there was no way really Nintendo could could compete and produce something that had good performance and has high graphics so Nintendo decided to compete at a slightly different angle. They instead of targeting the hardcore gamers they targeted a more casual market where the graphics and performance wasn’t perhaps so important and they added more motion picture stuff, made it a bit more family-friendly as opposed to it’s what gamers sitting with their mates were alone in their bedroom and as a result they ended up outselling the other 2 by a long way and became one of these sort of best-selling consoles of all time. Even though on paper the Wii was a lot worse than the others. I first came across this concept by making a few mistakes and I was when I started my coffee shop. The idea was to start an artisan coffee shop in the City of London and originally we just wanted to do just another arts and coffee shop but we quickly after launching worked out that we’re gonna really struggle to compete with the other shops out there there’s places like Taylor Street Brewsters who were just gonna blast us out the water every on every sort traditional point. They had a lot more money to invest they had already a developed reputation and they were just more skilled at us they’re having the experience. They have a six-month training program that they put every barista through before they’re allowed to serve any coffee to a customer.
E: That’s amazing
S: It’s amazing and it is the reason why you want to go to there and when there’s a walking distance between the Ren and Taylor Street which one are you going to choose if you’re just going for the coffee? And there’s a new coffee shop we couldn’t afford to be spending six month to train our new staff didn’t we have anyone qualified enough to train him up but what we did have all we did realize was that we had this huge space we were in an old church a thousand year old building that had been redesigned by Christopher Wrens or Britain’s greatest architect there was kind of a tourist attraction in its own respect all had this huge seating area with really high ceilings and a lot of space something that the city doesn’t have much of so we worked out is there by competing on some way you can go and sit for your coffee and ice and ice basically a little outdoor seating area as long as our coffee was good enough it was in the art design category wasn’t quite on Bristol level but it was much better than Starbucks or prayer or anything else it ticked all the arts and coffee check boxes then we could still attract customers by focusing on the other stuff the stuff that we were the best at and the stuff that other people would really struggle to compete with that was a little bit of an eye opener and something I’ve tried to kind of implement with everything which brings me on to one more recent businesses that I’ve been doing with Emma here. The Gin and I’m not sure this would be interesting to talk to Emma about because I’m not sure she here entirely understood my reasonings behind doing the gin to begin with
E: Yeah I want to wait and see
S: And why I thought it was a good idea in terms of from a business point of view as well as just something that be fun to do. I think you always understood that making Gin would be great fun
E: Yeah we love drinking it.
S: I mean like exactly it’s a good idea stuff for what to do and but I don’t think many people thought that it had legs to be a legitimately good business I think we were told by a lot of people and you thought it yourself that there’s a lot a lot of Gins in the market, how are we gonna compete with them, are we too late is the gin craze kind of at its peak already. What do we know about gin what can we do differently like I hope you talk about our unique selling point and we did a have a unique selling point, we had our flavored component flavored about the sweetness but that is not the angle that I thought we compete at, flavored without the sweetness is something I thought was a unique selling point and was good and we had another one we had a local aspect so when we were sell markets and to local places we could say that we were local to them we were the most local gin there was she kind of got through the door well.
E: Before I thought the reasoning behind the business in terms of coming out from a different angle was that we were gonna create a Gin brand that really stood out online. I thought that was the USP and a flavor the flavor concept came second to that
S: Yeah that’s correct good memory yeah basically what it is is that I have a lot of experience with online sales and so does my business partner Ben and we have owned together we had some successful Amazon businesses but Amazon is quite a saturated market and so one thing I was doing is it’s quite difficult to compete on Amazon and the whole thing I think with these different angle is you’re looking for something that other people can’t compete with you at
E: Yes and this is something where I thought Gin could come in really well because the hard thing about Gin it’s all the legal requirements around selling alcohol online and in general yeah I mean general I getting the duty or even just working out how all how all the legislation works together yeah makes it a million times more difficult than selling like a soft toy or something like a table tennis bat, even a table tennis bar we had a bit of trouble because it needs to be approved by the International Table Tennis Federation which then makes it a bit harder for some random person who doesn’t know anything about table tennis kit come in and do it and so the problem that a lot of people have with Amazon is that as soon as kind of a niche appears to be slightly profitable you’ll get lots of these big boys with lots of money and go and create a product in that and they’ll have products ranging from fans to beauty products to bamboo sticks to toys just encompassing like the whole range
E: Yeah the have a lot of money to throw at it don’t they the have the marketing the designing the branding
S: Yeah yeah yeah thats where it’s hard for them to compete in alcohol it will be quite difficult because there’s a whole bunch of other like stuff they need to do and know about you know and likewise for us to compete we’re having this formal appointment getting into distributors yeah so we’re also with the ginn trying traditional routes and we’re finding them quite difficult for those reasons there’s a lot of other gins out there you know we don’t have a background in industry it’s quite like a meaty meaty industry where everyone knows everyone yeah and that’s kind of how stuff works and as Outsiders we’re finding quite difficult to compete when up but all those people it’s an old-school business it’s one of the works on relationships you’re on the works on going round meeting people getting drunk with people
E: Yeah pretty much
S: All that doesn’t translate very well to online so a lot of these established gin businesses are very bad at online marketing and at the online market, so there is a gap in the market on Amazon considering any sort of scale of sales that are going on on Amazon which you know compared to the rest of the industry isn’t very big but for people like us is huge
E: Yeah I mean you had a look at some of the user tool to have a look at some of the gin brands that are already on Amazon and there were a few big plays that were doing well but actually looking at the craft gin there were a huge amount of craft gins on there
S: but the ones that were on there were doing quite well I mean quite well by not doing very much
S; yeah so we could before we could compete with them quite easily yeah and I don’t say there was no competition in theory there was but we’ve eliminated the competition in this business we’re approaching two different very competitive industries and taking a slight angle at both that means they combine and we’re not being one of the only people in that in that sort of combined area so we got gin which is competitive we’ve got Amazon FBA which is competitive but combine the two end up in this kind of niche –
E: isn’t that it
S: yeah and yes we are doing bunch of other things we are selling locally we’re using slight angle of that we’re the only local gin we’re also competing with our flavouring you know flavored gin without the sweetness but even stuff like that is kind of because we’re pushing towards this online market and we’re thinking to ourselves what is it that someone buying gin online what would make him buy something without trying it
E: yes and a lot of other gins they rely on you tasting it to know when you like it and because they’ll be cooled by that brand name there’s not anything really descriptive about the flavor in the name and often their London Dry which a lot people think of as just juniper led with hints of other things going on there’s quite like subtle differences so we went a slight different angle we designed it to the bottle to really stand out when looking at it and a thumbnail on line and we put the name of the flavorings in the title and they’re quite interesting unusual things our first one is earl gray and cucumber which you know instantly we all kind of know what that tastes like and it’s sort of thing where you can see online and you can you can buy you can look at somebody’s review see what people are saying about it and then buy it off that whereas other gin you don’t really know it’s also good for people who don’t really like gin and want to buy gin as a gift for other people
S: because they can be like oh there’s something unusual that my gin loving friend would like as opposed to trying something they don’t like anyway or just buying around a model
E: yeah that’s the good thing about having a gin business that even if you get customers who don’t like the taste of gin actually they probably have someone in their life they could buy it as a gift for so it’s got quite broad appeal
S: indeed yeah which is one of the reasons it try and tell people don’t be too afraid about entering really busy market places because the advice people often give is to really niche down and find something really small from something they know because often the market is so small you can’t create a sustainable business, yeah in the table tennis business we are like the biggest table tennis people you know we have the best selling bats in the UK we’re quite big in the USA and all around Europe and Canada and places like that and yeah the business yeah it makes us good money but it’s not gonna be, it doesn’t have the potential for this gin business to be like number 50 in gin would make us more money than being number one in table tennis and the other problem with targeting a niche or trying to create a new market doesn’t exist is that you got to convince your customers do you want it whereas for us it’s quite an easy sell once we tell something we’ve got gin for them to end up buying it interestingly I’ve been speaking to someone else he started a volka brand recently who’s got kind of the opposite problems that we have so our problem is differentiating from other gins but once we talk to a customer it’s a very easy self and buyer this person sort of hook a brand where he is um he’s creating a vodka that you can just mix with tap water or any type of water and drink it’s like a healthy alternative but there’s a market that doesn’t really exist so he’s finding quite difficult to sell to bars or to get customers to buy online whenever he’s gotta educate his customer base that that’s what they want but he is finding quite easy to get into distributors like that because it’s new it’s unusual it’s unique. enough of gin let me move quickly on to another area where I’ve tried to use his thinking and that is blogging so blogging in general is quite a saturated market place there’s a lot people blogging and the other thing to think about with blogging is that not everyone can blog successfully you need – each blogger needs thousands of readers in order to make it a profitable business so the size in a market isn’t that big
E: And also not many bloggers know how to make their blog profitable
S: there’s that too and you know there’s loads of things in it, one thing is it’s very easy to start which means it’s very easy to quit, people don’t know that much about it, but one of the other things that I want the other problems but I think some of the advice that’s given out there it’s only the expert advice is to find a niche that you’re an expert at and write about that which is kind of the opposite approach to what I took the niches are already interested in at a time with stuff like passive income and early retirement and there’s both for them have got really big players already in the marketplace yes people like Pat Flynn smart passive income and Mr. Tim Ferriss, got mister money mustache on the early retirement stuff all of which I can’t really compete with now they’re better than me at it and now they’re much more established but an angle that I did have that no one else could do was writing about me writing about the business spend time documenting my processes instead of saying I’m an expert at this trying to talk about it I spoke about whatever business or project I’m currently working on which gave me a unique selling point a lot of people didn’t have and then also let me write about loads of different niches that perhaps weren’t that linked that I wouldn’t even able to write about if I just focus on one thing to begin with and then led to me stumbling into a few niches where I was the only one competing now if he wanted to read about so I became pretty much the first person in the UK to write about Amazon FBA I’ve got a lot of traffic out of that kind of randomly not something I really targeted it’s just something I was working on for myself and so I was writing about r
E: Right place right time
S: right place right time but it’s always if you listen to one of my previous episodes on serendipity this is kind of serendipity I was positioning myself so that I could end up getting lucky about these round of things, I’ve written about hundreds of things most of it don’t really go anywhere but few of them ended up becoming little bit popular
E: this wouldn’t works if you’d just created a blog around one niche
S: exactly exactly another one was much betting I became one of the first people to write about that openly it used to be a very secretive community and now I’m starting to get a lot of traffic about alcohol brands I had a guest post about a vodka brand and I’ve written all my post about my gin brands and it isn’t really that much out there all that and people are searching for it so yeah I’ve ended up blogging but in niches where I don’t really have much competition which is good because I’m not particularly good writer the design of my website isn’t particularly good and I’m quite bad at the follow up I don’t send many emails out I don’t write many posts I don’t do too much editing and I don’t do much marketing to try and get out I kind of rely on people stumbling across it so there we go
E: well I think there’s one other thing with your blog that people really like is that it’s your personality it’s coming across I think they’re excited to get to know you and you do that by talking about things that have gone well in your businesses but also the things that haven’t gone so well and I think that’s a bit of an unusual style and people really like that
S: yeah I agree and I think that is kind of the unique that the unique thing that anyone can do when writing their own blog
S: they write about themselves no one else could write about them so that does create that that unique angle so we’re going, this is something I think about quite a lot don’t be afraid to enter a saturated market place always look for something you could add to it yourself that adds uniqueness something your competitors can’t really compete with or something you know it doesn’t need to be something they can never compete with but something that will probably take him a little time to catch up with you often hear people saying oh I want to start the uber of something you know the uber of pizza delivery well that’s kind of what they’re doing there and there saying I’m gonna take this saturated marketplace – pizza delivery – and approach it from a slightly different angle it’s kind of uber crowd sourcing gig economy type stuff
E: yeah because you know you’re gonna have a massive audience that want pizza delivered
S: you’ve really got the audience you’re just approaching it from a slightly different angle that the other pizza people won’t be able to compete with don’t think don’t go away from this thinking all what is the uber of whatever I can start that’s not the way cuz everyone’s doing that, don’t limit your thinking to that but take this kind of idea of different angles looking for unique approaches to things and not being afraid of those saturated markets to help inspire your thinking and help you compete
E: And don’t be scared to appeal to a mass market
S: yeah definitely all right well that was a slightly shorter episode just something that I think about quite a bit and hopefully you found interesting as always if there’s any feedback you want to give to the podcast I think we’ve we basically got the studio set up now and I probably some more sound dampening stuff added later hopefully make the quality of the audio a bit better but in terms of the volume and a set up with me and ever having a little discussion for these things this is probably it so please let me know what you think about it you can find me at Sampriestley.com or email me at hello @ Sampristley.com thank you very much good bye