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Be an Innovator, Not a Pioneer

In my podcast this week, Willie Crawford said “Don't be a pioneer. Be an innovator.” (If you haven't listened yet grab the audio free here: Willie Crawford Interview)

It got me to thinking a bit. Willie always does!

So, here's a little history lesson lied to a marketing lesson.

First a little online store called Netflix opened their doors. They decided to offer a service allowing people to rent movies on the internet and receive the DVDs in the mail. Their big benefits were —

  • You no longer had to drive to the video store (some of them are pretty gross) in the cold, heat, rain, snow, or traffic.
  • No more wandering around the video store looking for a movie, wishing you could think of the one that you wanted to see. (Movies can be added to the Netflix queue when you first think of them.)
  • No more covering your 4 year old's eyes every 3 minutes when the preview for “Saw” plays on the 20 TV screens around the video store. (Seriously, Blockbuster – get a CLUE!)
  • You can now avoid the nasty bathrooms in the video stores because no matter how much you tell the kids to use the restroom at home before you go you still end up having to enter them.
  • And, you can avoid paying late fees when you get busy and forget to return the movie on time.

I may have been Netflix's first customer! I jumped on that – NO need for a sales page.

Here's how it works –

  • You signup for the service.
  • You “shop” in their online store and pick all the movies that you want.
  • You'll receive an envelope in the mail with the disc in it.
  • Enjoy the  movie.
  • Then, when you're done, just slip it into the envelope that came with the movie and close it and drop it in the mail. The envelope has pre-paid shipping.

It usually works pretty smoothly.

Netflix grew like crazy and now has over 12 MILLION members. I'd say it's a pretty successful business model.

What happens when people see a successful business model? They start to duplicate it. Others have tried, but no one is doing it as well as Netflix.

The smart marketers, though, see a business model and “innovate“. Which is where we're going with this…

You can do this in a number of ways, but the two on my mind today are  –

  • Reach a different, more targeted market.
  • Offer a similar service but with a different product.

I'm about to show you examples of both. 🙂 Of course!

Some smart business people realized that Netflix may be missing the boat with the Christian folks. So, there are now at least two sites that offer DVD rentals but focus on family-friendly movies and movies of faith.

  • Puritan Picks: “Not only have we sought to compile a list of solid educational Christian videos; we have also sought to make them more accessible. These videos range from christian living to apologetics, theology, history, and various seminary grade curicullum. Oh and lets not forget the Christian movies, children's videos and cartoons.”
  • Christian Cinema: “Faith-affirming and family-friendly DVDs”

So that's one angle that I found in niching to a more targeted market. I also ran across a few sites that are attempting to target other groups of people who love movies, but none really stood out to me. They weren't doing it well enough to use them as an example.

So, then the creators of Gamefly, see the success that Netflix enjoyed and opened their doors, providing video game rental in the mail rather than movies.

I pay both Netflix and Gamefly each and every month GLADLY as it saves me a ton of money compared to what I would otherwise spend buying movies and video games. Plus, if I don't like a movie or the kids don't care for a video game, we just send it back. No big deal. It WAS a big deal when we'd buy a $40 or $50 Wii game and the kids were bored with it the same day – or my son solved the darn thing the same day. Ouch. Now, we just drop it in the mail and get a new one. 🙂 That's smart shopping!

Plus, even more important to me than the money is the time. I value my time more than anything, so anything that can make my life easier and save me the hassle of driving around town unnecessarily – and I'm sold.

ok. Back to the niche that I planned to talk about in this post.

When you see a business that's kickin' it in terms of growth, figure out a way to do it, but do it differently! That's what Gamefly did.

AND.. that's what this other company did.

Two smart  business people saw these service companies growing like crazy. And, they came up with BookSwim. They're targeting Book Addicts.

From the site: Their service is based on the “simple philosophy” of helping people to read more while spending less. Subscribers pay a monthly fee, similar to Netflix, and receive a pool of books limited only by how fast they can read them.


So, WHO is the target market for Book Swim?

Me! I looooooove books.

ok, who else?

Romance novel junkies. Tracy Roberts – you there? 🙂

Moms! My kids read like crazy. So, I can easily drop $50/week at Barnes and Nobles every visit – before buying coffee.

People who are trying to declutter. Me, again. I already have several bookshelves in my home, all full of books. So, unless I love a book, I don't need to add more clutter. This way, I get the books without the high cost and without the clutter. It's like a library, but online. (Our local library is not the best in the world.)

Green folks. I'm a bit crunchy on the green scale. Any time I can save a tree. I'm all for it.

Elderly people who can't get out to the library eaasily.

Anyone who's bedridden during a pregnancy.

Parents who have children who are in and out of the hospital frequently.

And those who love any of the people mentioned above. Gift certificates are the perfect gift.

So, this is my find. And, so far, I've already received several books and we're diving in. I'm reading a book Stumbling on Happiness – and no, it's not about StumbleUpon. 🙂 My husband is reading The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It and my son has a book that he's enjoying, as well.

Plus, I just found this banner ad way too cute. Thank GOODNESS they aren't shipping kittens. That does not sound like a good online business to open at all.

Rent bestseller books from BookSwim!
Rent bestsellers from BookSwim! FREE $50 Gift Card

Let me know what you think about this marketing lesson and if it gives you any ideas for your own business.

Have a great day!


PS. Of course, if you want to find a profitable online niche, I recommend:


I appreciate shares and I adore comments! Please share your thoughts.

  • The Mom

    Thank you, Nicole, for this interesting way of looking at and finding niches. Take what works and twist it – make it work in a new niche. Very cool.

    Re: BookSwim. Very good idea for people who find themselves trying to care for their aging parents, especially long distance. Sign up and have books sent to your parents or grandparents.

    Elderly people who can’t get to the library or bookstore won’t necessarily be able or willing to shop on “the internets.” Nor do they want to spend money on books, and they don’t want the clutter.

    But, it is a fact that keeping your mind active as you age is crucial to help prevent dementia, so reading is therapy as well as fun. Market is there. Books delivered to Granny… yup, there you go.

    Thanks again for your insight. As usual, you are spot on my darling!

  • Kimmoy

    I really enjoyed this interview Nicole and I like that Willie pointed out how difficult it is to educate the consumer when it comes to things that are entirely new. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel; leverage what they’re already buying and make it your own.

    I was going to say that many of us who make money online are all pioneers but in reality we’ve simply taken the traditional business model and are now using a different medium – online technology 😉

  • Angela Wills

    Someone needs to innovate this stuff for Canadians! I’m not sure about Gamefly or Bookswim but I’m pretty sure Netflix still isn’t available in Canada yet.

    Great post on niching your business around already great ideas.


  • Susanne Myers

    Very true and works for just about any market and product. It’s so easy to “tweak” an idea for a product for a sub-market. This works great for info products as well.

    Instead of writing yet another parenting ebook, make it one for homeschoolers, or raising twins etc.

    Instead of coming up with another ebook or report on article marketing, write it with affiliate marketers or small business owners, or anyone in the getting out of debt niche.

    The beauty of this concept is that it gives you quite some leverage to expand laterally. If you have a great product that works for one target market, just change it up a bit to customize and offer it to another market.

    For example, if you wrote “Taking your business online for restaurant owners”, you could easily change it into “Taking your business online for hairdressers / caterers / dry cleaners / flower shops etc. “.

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