Niche Markets, Trader Joe's and Law Firms - Which of these things is not like the others?

Posted by Douglas Sorocco at September 23, 2005 10:40 PM

Several years ago my wife spent a year on an internship at the Palo Alto Veterans Administration.  While it was tough to be 1500 miles apart, it was a great way to get to know the Bay Area and explore Northern California - including many kayak trips in the Santa Cruz/Monterey watershed. (Yes, I was an executive platinum frequent flyer that year) 
Prior to starting off on each of our adventures, we had to make the obligatory stop at Trader Joe's for provisions.  Since we don't have any in Oklahoma (hint: great opportunity here guys), we still seek them out when we travel on either of the coasts. It is still part of our adventures - it became engrained in our travel plans.  A trip just isn't the same without a stop at Trader Joe's.
By now, some of you are probably asking what this has to do with anything.... well, 800-CEO-READ Excerpts Blog has an interesting series of posts on Trader Joe's and their marketing efforts. The 800-CEO-READ Excerpts Blog is part of the 800-CEO-READ blog and bookstore, both of which are tremendous resources and full of insightful business and marketing information
I especially like the 3rd post in the series which deals with Trader Joe's niche marketing efforts.
How does Trader Joe's define itself? A former vice president of operations for the chain put it this way: "It's a mix of supermarket, grocery store, and international gourmet shop with wholesale club pricing." Industry analysts and various other retail experts generally classify Trader Joe's as a specialty retailer or niche marketer. But which niche? Basically, the chain's simple but brilliant marketing strategy is to take a little from each concept and offer great products at fantastic prices. There really are no complex marketing strategies--just good solid execution based on giving consumers something different.
In my prior post, I asked law students to ask a couple of simple questions relating to the "perfect client" - now, I have another series of questions you may want to ask:
What do you do differently?  How do you make a difference to your clients? What about your firm's story - what makes it different from every other?
I bet you will get answers like: "We go the extra mile," or "We deliver practical and pragmatic advice," or, my personal favorite, "Different?  We are the XYZ firm, everyone does it like us.  We are leaders in the profession."  Pretty helpful answers aren't they?
So, you may want to ask yourself -- do you want to work for a firm (or Judge, or pro bono office, or organization....) that is no different than anyone else, or do you want to work for an organization that is different? 
As Trader Joe's puts it -- they are a "store of stories" -- what will your story say about you?
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Brian Says:

September 27, 2005 04:35 PM

Don't buy the Trader Joe's cheese. It's usually nasty, and it gave my wife food poisoning once. The beer is often stale as well. But you can't beat it for butter.

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