Do You Need 1 Billion Customers?

Is there any company in history that has continued to focus on growth through adding more and more customers and hasn’t ultimately crashed and burned?

Ok, so sure there are.  But, on the surface, the track record isn’t pretty in a lot of cases.  We’ve seen countless examples of companies that have grown themselves into huge debt and bankruptcy.  Is bigger always better?  Does bigger always mean more profitable?  More customer centric?  Not if bigger means indiscriminantly accepting any and all customers that come your way.

The problem is that there is an ever-present conflict between satisfying multiple stakeholders – those that want revenue growth versus those that want profitability, and, further still, those that look to create customer value.  So, what drives this need to continue to get big?

This thought whacked me in the side of the head this morning while I was listening to this story on NPR.  Niche manufacturing is having a revival in the United States as companies focus on producing products for ever-narrowing customer segments.  Consumer preferences are changing.  And the population of consumers that want specialty products targeted to their unique interests, and are willing to pay a premium, continues to grow.

In the digital world, access to niche consumers is made easier on a broad, even global scale.  But clearly as exemplified by some of the companies highlighted in this story, this opportunity is now viable for physical businesses as well.  The other opportunity?   Create unique, rich targeted customer experiences that resonate with your small market and build exeptional affinity and loyalty.

So, if running a highly profitable business with raving, loyal customers is your goal, maybe there’s a better way than big.


  1. Nice article. I've seen the power of niche target markets working for a professional woman-focused company. I do think there can be a profitability cap when dealing with a niche market, but I believe that pressure may stem from web-based businesses that have become giant overnight successes. Many people have billion-dollar pipedreams because they think it possible, rather than being satisfied with a moderately (read: million dollar) profitable business. You bring up an interesting topic that I think is relevant as businesses keep trying to make more and more money using generic, mass-produced tactics. I like the return of the niche.

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