Nothing wrong with being a big fish in a small pond

If you want to be a bad product manager, always try to compete in the biggest market available. Even if you’re a small player in that market, if you can take just a tiny percentage of market share (which has to be really easy, right?) you’ll be wildly successful. It’s much better to grab a small piece of a big market than waste your time trying to get a substantial portion of a small market. After all, once you’ve done that, where do you go next?

If you want to be a good product manager, realize that bigger is not always better. One of the most common misconceptions is that it is easy to take just a small piece of a huge market. Though the percentage may be small, the competition can be very tough, much more so than a smaller uncontested space in the market. Usually when you have a big market, you have major players who are fighting tooth and nail for every piece of market share they can get.

Another misconception is that a product which is the biggest fish in a small pond has nowhere to go. ZIGZAG Marketing offers this tip:

Many successful technology companies have grown by continuously redefining the size of their pond so they’re always one of the biggest fish in it. It’s a brilliant approach because it keeps the organization focused and continuously playing to its strengths. If you haven’t done it yet, transform your organization into a big fish. You’ll find that feedings are more generous and occur more frequently.

Starting off with a “big fish, small pond” strategy allows a product or organization to really focus on becoming the leader in their market, rather than just aiming to be another player vying for notice in a much larger space. Amazon focused on being the best online bookseller, slowly expanded the types of products they sold, and now also offers online storage and processing services for other retailers. Apple concentrated on personal computers and associated software, gradually adding peripherals and eventually extending into iPod and now the iPhone. Vanguard started out as the first company to offer index funds — a new market space John Bogle created — and has expanded over the years to offer a full line of financial solutions.

Don’t automatically assume that bigger is better. Look at where market problems exist and focus intently on meeting those, while at the same time keeping your eyes open for opportunities in related areas where you can leverage your key strengths.