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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Finding a Niche Market - Apple, Nike, and Grantwood Have Done It!

I love gadgets. I am an athlete, well at least right now I consider myself an athlete because I am working out 5 to 6 times per week. My work outs include running, biking, weights, and yoga. Once the weather gets colder and I pickup more projects I will go into hibernation for months and will not be an athlete anymore. I have been known to run in races and even complete in a triathlon or two. I travel too much to commit to team sports anymore and the travel often gets in the way of regular work outs. I am analytical and track all my workouts as well as other data (heart rate, weight, etc) in Excel. So, how do I stay motivated to stay an athlete and not go into hibernation this winter? Or more importantly, how would one identify me in the market and target me for products?

Lets take the second question first and assume my description is the niche that someone wants to exploit by developing a product. We will call this market niche the gadget runner. The gadget runner market niche can best be described as sports or athletics; however this is very broad and one would want to drill down to a more specific niche. The characteristics of the gadget runner market niche are:
1. Competitive individual sports including running, biking, weights, and yoga. To drill down further one would select only one of these sports.
2. A gadget that would apply to someone falling under the description in characteristic 1.
3. Feeds on my competitive nature.
4. Ability to track my progress.
5. Portable for the road warrior.

What products fit into the gadget runner niche? Fortunately Nike has already done the work. They developed the Nike + iPod Sport Kit. A runner puts a sensor on their shoe, or if they have certain Nike shoes the sensor fits in a special pocket under the insole, and plugs a receiver into their iPod Nano and they have a smart pedometer. The system tracks a runners pace, distance and time and allows the results to be uploaded through iTunes to the Nike + website (http://nikeplus.nike.com). This product as is covers characteristics 1, 2, 4, and 5 of the gadget runner. The web site features include an area to set and track goals as well as an error for challenges that allow one to compete against other runners around the world Features like these cover characteristic 3 of the gadget runner.

So Nike lures the runner into buying the Nike + iPod Sport Kit and then uses the touch point with the customer to sell other products to the runner. Or, is Nike using their extensive line of running clothing and shoes to market the kit and other related products like sport head phones and iPod cases to existing customers. Either way they have exploited a niche occupied by my fellow gadget runners. And Nike continues to exploit the touch point with the gadget runner by using the Nike + web site to market these products to us every time we upload a run or review results to the site.

Another opportunity is an extension of another company’s product, after all the Nike + iPod Sport Kit is an extension of Apple's iPod Nano. Another company, Grantwood Technologies has created an extension to the Nike kit by making the Shoe Pouch for Nike+iPod that holds the Nike + Sensor for those that use non-Nike running shoes. By doing this they have unraveled some of the exclusivity of the Nike+ kit to Nike running shoes, but at the same time they have increased the portion of the gadget runner market likely to buy the Nike kit and related products.

Whether you already have a product that you are looking to market or a market you are looking to exploit, put pen to paper and list out the characteristics of the product/market. Look at how similar products are sold or how products that you like are marketed. In this post, I have chosen to use a product I like and would recommend as an example. Are there products that you love that you can learn something from? Are there products you love that you can make better with an extension? Finally, will the addition of the Nike+ iPod Sport Kit to my workouts keep me motivated through the winter?

See all iPod Nano products on Amazon.com

Sunday, October 07, 2007

How a Rocketfish USB Hard Drive Enclosure Saved My Neck

I am a consultant that spends more than 75% of my time on the road. I rely heavily on my laptop to complete these projects and backup my laptop before every business trip. I have never thought about bringing my backup with me until now.

I was at a client site for a week about 6 hours from my office. The second day into the trip my two year old laptop died. It just would not turned on and after going through a group of steps recommended on the manufacturers web site, I realized it was a lost cause. I did not want to loose a day plus eat the expense of traveling back and forth to and from the office so I picked up a Rocketfish 2.5" Hard Drive Enclosure.

I pulled the hard drive from my laptop and put it in the Rocketfish and used the USB cable to plug it into a PC. The Rocketfish is USB 2.0 compatible and draws power from USB, so no AC adapter is necessary. This makes for less wires to carry around. Windows XP and Vista both detect the drive without using any software, so I was able to work for the week.

I have since found out that the motherboard is fried in my laptop, so I have left the drive in the Rocketfish. I have the backup software that came with the Rocketfish on my new laptop and now I carry my backup with me. The Rocketfish drive comes with a padded carrying case that holds the drive and USB cable. You can also get a Rocketfish 3.5" Hard Drive Enclosure Kit for that old PC hard drive lying around. Amazon.com has a bunch of new Rocketfish Products but for some reason only has used Rocketfish enclosures, so if you want a new on you will have to do some searching.

See All 2.5" Hard Drives at Amazon.com

See All Internal Hard Drives at Amazon.com

Netgear SC101 Storage Central Makes Home and Small Office Storage Easy

Are you looking to share or backup files at home? Do you work in a small office and would like to easily share files with co-workers? Do you want to share files with out the cost and maintenance of adding a server to the network?

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions then you are looking for a NAS appliance. NAS stands for Network Attached Storage and with the drop in hard drive prices the price of these devices drops. Also, each generation has more features and is easier to use.

We have been using the Netgear SC101 Storage Central for over a year for sharing files in a small office environment. The SC101 will hold two standard ATA drives (also known as IDE drive). The SC101 comes with a fast Ethernet port and software that makes it very easy to setup. It even comes with backup software that allows for fast effortless backups. The SC101 does not come with drives, you have to provide them, but if you have some old PC's collecting dust you can pilfer the drives and will have the SC101 running in minutes.

The Windows Vista drivers are not available yet, and according to Netgear will not be available until later in the year. This is not a problem on a network with multiple PC's. We have the SC101 drives shared on one of our Windows XP PC's and can access the SC101 from any Vista PC.

You can pick up a new SC101 at Amazon.com for as little as $79.99 and there are usually refurbished and used also available. You can also pick up one or two 500Gb hard drives for under $150 each.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Re-Launching the Business Plan Help Blog

We are re-launching the Business Plan Help Blog as part of a project to create a better strategy and technology portal for small businesses. The blog will now include articles and information to aid small business with strategy and technology.

To give readers easy access the Business Plan Help Blog, in addition to reading the blog on this site, one can subscribe to the RSS Feed. Also, many of the topics covered in this blog will also be covered in our podcast – SMB Strategy Cast. The podcast is available on our site at www.bizplanhelp.com/podcast/, as well as on iTunes.

Some upcoming technology topics include storage, collaboration, and office productivity. For those interested in strategy, we will review some new entrepreneurial ideas presented by Timothy Ferriss in his book The 4-Hour Work Week.