Going wide or narrow market

I know this has been beaten to death… but given that marketing and sales is the biggest hurdle in SAAS type solutions… would it not make it easier if your software offering has a broad appeal…?

To give you a little context… I know the mobile work dispatch arena very well… I do this for a living now, mostly in utilities… I know the domain very well… Now, there is literally one million such SAAS offerings on the market now… some tailored to more HVAC/plumbing businesses… others appliance… etc…

Now, if I had an offering in that space… I could literally take my car and visit enough customers locally to make a living at it… Any company with a service person on the road is a potential customer… I just need a better mousetrap…

Now going narrow also has some advantages… however, customers are few and far between…

I am a developer so I am not concerned with complexity or breath of application… Marketing it is my main concern… that’s where it will cost serious money…

My goal is just to make a good independent living… not making it rich…

In my experience, no. The narrower you aim your marketing (within reason), both in terms of the problem you are trying to solve and who you are marketing it to, the easier it gets. You can always expand your focus later (if you become successful) or change your focus (if you aren’t successful). But trying to be all things to all people is a sure recipe for failure, especially if you are a 1-man-band. The trick of course it to pick the optimal features to market and the optimal people to market them to.


I hear you Andy… however I know this domain very well… hmmm… so maybe a vertical in this domain is best… I was talking to a friend who has a construction company… they have a lot of problems getting money for the extras their employes do while on existing jobs…

I guess I just have to resist the techy urge to get to a solution and find the problem later…

So build target your solution to construction (or maybe even a segment within construction) to start with. Try to find 5 people in this vertical who have a desparate need for your product before you start to build it. What are their pain points? What don’t they like about existing solutions?

The alternative approach of building something based on cool tech and hope the world beats a path to your door, is much less likely to succeed.

Of course, it isn’t always as clear cut as that. I am currently prototyping a new product. I haven’t done much of the ‘customer development’ phase up front as it isn’t like anything else out there and I need something to show people first. Also I have the luxury of steady income from an existing product.


You got me thinking Andy… Thanks

I second @Andy - even if your tool has broad potential use, it’s much easier to sell when it’s tailored to a narrow segment. Build it so it’s 90% general-purpose tool if you want, and have those other markets in the long-term plan, but start somewhere narrow and really focus there.

“Mobile scheduling solution for construction companies” just sounds better if you’re a construction company looking for a solution to your pain point.

I need to keep reminding myself of this on my own project – Jiffy Decider is a tool for conferences. It has a call-for-entries feature that’s really just a form builder. It could really be used for film festivals, juried art shows, and all sorts of other events but I’m not targeting those. It’s a tool for conferences.

I have a small list of tasks our development list that will support expansion in those other markets, and some are really easy. Sometimes I want to just add them because they’re easy, but my primary market doesn’t need them. So whenever that comes up I stop, take a breath, and put them way down in the backlog.


I’ve learned this the hard way…twice.

In general for bootrappers, since resources are tight, I would go narrow. A narrow target makes your positioning and messaging easier. You also know where your market gathers. You can tailor your language to speak like them. This gives you a lot more focus, so you aren’t spread thin.

I struggled with this as well. I thought why not go broad and capture a bigger market without doing additional work? All it got me was a hard time explaining what my product was. Every time, I had to figure out new use cases for the particular business I was talking to. And my marketing had to be vague, in fear of losing potential customers in the broad market.

Now I would always go narrow as a bootstrapper.

I wrote something about this before:

Skip to the part where Joanna Wiebe from Copyhackers weighs in :slight_smile:


BTW I only ever recall hearing of one person who thought he failed because the niche he picked was too small (software for chimney sweeps). See #3 here:

There are billions of people with Internet access. Even a narrow niche can be big enough to make a nice living for a small company.

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Well… hold on here… I hear you guys, I have one failed software under my belt… and a complicated one on top of this (we used it internally for data capture… I had 5 developpers working on it full time for almost 10 years… ) And it sold 3 copies… lol

However, it was more than justified as we used it internally to gain an advantage on our competitors that had to rely on 3rd party tools to do the data capture (GIS in the electrical field)… We had our own and won many contracts because of it… However, we could never sell it outside… although I understand why, I still don’t get it completely…

Now from reading all that you guys have answered, and especially your 13 failed post Andy, what I get from this is that if you can’t sell, what ever the size of your market… you are screwed…

So, let’s say I have a broader market and can sell into it… then it is not that bad…

The biggest problem you can solve in sales is knowing who to talk to… you need to get to them… Naturally narrow niches are easier, especially if sales is not your forté…

A lot to think about… one thing for sure is I am not developing another one in the dark… lol I will sell it before I start, whatever the width of the market…

Now if I could just figure out what to go into… lol

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