Finding Your Niche

Wee Willie Keeler knew a thing or two about baseball. The Hall of Famer still holds the National League hitting streak record, 45 games over two seasons. He summed up his approach with “Hit ‘em where they ain’t.” It turns out that’s sound advice for entering a market, too.

In the early 1970s, the airline industry embraced the then-new Boeing 747 wide-body. Lockheed and McDonnell Douglas both wanted some twin-aisle profits as well. They came up with the L-1011 and DC-10, respectively. While they had obvious design differences, from the standpoint of their customer airlines, they were virtually identical, with highly similar specifications and prices. Neither had a corner in the market – they shared the same spot, and would have to split the sales.

Lockheed only sold 250 L-1011s; its break-even point was 500 units. With a lower target, McDonnell-Douglas managed to squeak past its break-even value of 438 planes, as it sold 446 DC-10s, eventually offering engine options and added range to distinguish it from the L-1011.

But neither model was a financial triumph.

Nothing guarantees success in the market.

But mimicking the competition reduces your chances.

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