Monday, June 06, 2005

The Green Tennis Shoes Principle

Before the Industrial Revolution, people had to create and sell things that appealed to those around them. It took a long time to find people who were interested in an obscure product, especially since the more obscure the product the more likely a person was to keep their interest in it hidden.

After the Industrial Revolution, with more efficient means of production and delivery, a factory could satisfy the market for a particular kind of item in a larger and larger geographical area. Still, only those products with a known market were produced in quantity. The advertizing industry flourished in this environment, since there was a need to attract people to a product and convince them that they needed it.

One of the first uses of the Internet was Usenet, a method of transporting and categorizing electronic discussions for anyone connected to the network. At first the topics were related to computing technology, but topic areas soon branched into every area from Art to Zoology. The people discussing those topics often could not find anyone in their locality who was interested in their particular topic.

With the explosion of the World Wide Web in the mid 1990's, this trend also exploded. Every imaginable niche of interest is, or quickly can be, filled with a web site or blog devoted to that niche.

Which brings me to the Green Tennis Shoes Principle:
Somewhere in every geographical area there is a person whose life revolves around green tennis shoes.
That's not to say merely that his life revolves around tennis shoes and he likes green ones the best, or that her hot button is the color green and she also really likes sneakers. No, these folks have green tennis shoes in their minds and on their feet all day long. Please note that while the GTP may be literally true, I'm primarily using green tennis shoes metaphorically here.

The Internet allows people who like green tennis shoes to find one another and to easily communicate about their favorite topic. That has the effect of increasing their boldness, setting aside social pressure they may feel to keep their verdant passion secret.

Groups of all kinds are coalescing independently of advertizing. While many people have interests that are traditional and well-known, there are others that have found their life's passion but have no one to supply the materials they need to pursue it.

Companies looking to exploit the Internet now need to invert their mindet from trying to convince customers that they need the company's product to finding the niches that are under-served by current production.

If your company is trying to figure out how to use the Internet to make money, you would do well to rely on the GTP.


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