Posted by: kevinliebl | August 23, 2010

You Don’t Need a Bigger Piece of the Pie. You Need More Pies.

Slices of PieAs I grabbed my coffee and was running out of the door this past Tuesday morning, my 9-year old daughter asked me if I had any duct tape.  I told her “Sure, it’s in the garage.  Ask mom to help you get it from my work-bench”.  I got in the car and drove off.  All day, I was wondering what she needed duct-tape for.  When I got home, I found out.

Not only had they used my roll of silver duct tape, they purchased several additional rolls of various colors.  They had used the duct tape to complete a number of crafts, including two wallets, several bookmarks, and a full-sized purse.  I quickly found out that you could make anything from a shower curtain to a mini-skirt with duct tape.

It reminded me of the famous marketing quote, “We don’t need a bigger piece of the pie, we just need to make more pies.”  I am always impressed with marketing teams who saturate their target market segment, but then find new markets to conquer.  Most of us don’t have this problem.  We have plenty of room to grow in our own specific target market.  However, what if you honestly have saturated your market?  Originally developed during World War II as a water resistant sealing tape for ammunition cases, duct tape has pretty much matured over the past 70 years.  How much more can you honestly sell?

Well, if you are creative, you invent a whole new market.  You build a new segment (or pie) around duct tape crafts.  Duct tape is a perfect building material for crafts.  It is simple to use, safe for children, cost-effective, and well distributed.  Duct tape is unique in that it enjoys a cult following of people who make a hobby of finding new unique uses for duct tape.  In 1994, The Duct Tape Guys (Jim Berg and Tim Nyberg) coined the phrase, “It Ain’t Broke, It Just Lacks Duct Tape”.  In 1995, they added to that phrase with, “Two rules get you through life: If it’s stuck and it’s not supposed to be, WD-40 it. If it’s not stuck and it’s supposed to be, duct tape it”.

Another great example is baking soda.  Some years ago, baking soda sales were slipping and the marketing teams launched a campaign explaining that people should put baking soda in their trashcans to keep them from smelling badly.  In other words, “buy our product and then throw it away – then go buy some more”.  Sales jumped due to this innovative marketing campaign.  Again, brilliant marketing because they didn’t focus on cooking recipes that used baking soda, and fight for a greater share of the existing market.  They entered a new market – garbage container deodorizers.  Today, baking soda is used for everything from toothpaste to a way to repel rain on your windshield.

It is important to realize that sometimes you have maximized the opportunity in your existing market segment and you are reaching a point of diminishing returns.  The harder you work, the less return you are receiving.  This is when you should look at other markets that can be complimentary to your existing market.  Find new markets to conquer.  There are additional, untapped revenue sources available to you.  Trust me, I have purchased more duct tape this past week than I have in the past five years.

What new markets have you been able to create for your business?


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  1. Kevin, great insights as usual. One company that has really captured the essence of this is WD-40, which has resulted in a campaign called, “2000 Uses.”

    Here is the website:

  2. Very interesting thoughts when you apply this thinking to technology products. We are so quick to add new functionality and capabilities, new widgets, etc. as technology evolves. Of course, technology continues to cannibalize it’s previous versions. However, it is just as important to think about the different “positioning” that can take place with various customer segments as it is to build the next version of capabilities.

    Thank you for the reminder.
    Marina Lemas
    Cisco Systems
    Corporate Positioning

  3. Great article, brother! Great article.

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