In business, as in life, we tend to want to emulate what everyone else is doing.
It feels safe.
We take the beaten path instead of venturing out on our own into new frontiers.
Even as game store owners we do it. And we’re a pretty unorthodox bunch to begin with.
Not only are we entrepreneurs, rare enough as is, but we have picked a niche so deep that we often refer the mainstream consumer as a “muggle” or a “mundane” as my friend and cohost John Coviello, the owner of Little Shop of Magic, says.
But comparing apples to apples, game stores around the country are a lot alike. It can be difficult as a retailer, selling someone else’s products, to really stand out in a way that matters. Sure, product mix is a part of that. But the best game stores in the business do more than just carry a particular arrangement of games and miniatures. Anyone can do that.
The best stand out because they’ve niched down even further.
The Law of Category
In the book the 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, a book I highly recommend, there is a chapter dedicated to the Law of the Category.
Essentially, you want to own a particular piece of mental real estate in your customer’s and potential customer’s minds. You should want for your business to be first in something.
If your shop is the only game store in town, you’re already first in their mind. In the category of local game stores, you’re number one. That’s a great place to be.
But what if they are six other game stores in your area, what then?
You all carry similar products, offer similar services, and similar prices. How do you stand out of the crowd and differentiate yourself?
You invent another category to be first in.
Instead of being just another game store in a sea of game stores, your store can be the shop customers flock to for obscure Vintage Magic: the Gathering cards. You can be the place to go if you want to play Pokemon or Yugioh. Your store could be the best place to play in hyper-competitive tournaments, or alternatively, be a haven for the super casual players that just want to get together and play with their friends.
The possibilities and combinations are endless, being first in the head space of your community is just a matter of picking the one thing you want your store to mean when your customer thinks of you. Pick that thing and own it. Dominate it.
Be different and reap the rewards.