Seth Godin had a good post the other day on the dilemma faced by any organization that wants to grow the base that it serves:
If you want to grow the size of your customer base, you need to confront the buffet dilemma.
Any decent buffet has foods that please 85% of the population. Meats, cheeses, potatoes… the typical fare.
Once your business hits a natural plateau, it’s tempting to invest in getting more people to come. And what most buffets do is double down. Now, they have bacon, plus they have beans with bacon and turkey-wrapped bacon. Now, instead of one chocolate cake, they have three.
This is essentially useless. You haven’t done anything to grow your audience. The base might be a little more pleased, but not enough to bring in any new business. And the disenfranchised (the vegans, the weight watchers, the healthy eaters, the kosher crowd) remain unmoved and uninterested. And one person like this out of a party of six is enough to keep all six away.
What does work? Going much deeper or a bit wider:
Deeper would mean a bacon-focused buffet, a dozen bacon dishes, including chocolate-covered bacon. Deeper would mean a chocolate-obsessed dessert bar, ten cakes, fondue, everything.
Deeper gets you people willing to drive across town to visit you. It’s remarkable. It’s not like every other buffet but a little bit bigger. It’s insanely over the top. People will bully their friends in order to get them to come.
The other choice is wider. Instead of adding a handful of dishes that mildly please the people you already have, why not add brown rice and tofu and vegetarian chili? Now you’ve opened the doors to that last 15%.