Q&A: How do I win in a packed category?

Today I got an email from a fellow who asked:

I’ve been trying to think about my next B2B play but everytime I think of an idea I stop myself due to how saturated the markets are. How do you still win in a packed category? I feel like it’s a lot harder to win now than it was 10 years ago.


Starting something new can definitely be intimidating. Especially when there are already lots of other people/companies with a huge head start. I feel you.

But I’m going to ignore all that and focus on what I think is the bigger concern with the mindset represented in the email: This person asks “How do you still win in a packed category?”

Winning what? Winning who? Winning it all? Taking everything? That’s an insurmountable mountain of intimidation right there. Don’t do that to yourself.

How about just making something that can sustain itself? Why do you need to win it all? Why would you ever want to make it that hard on yourself?

Build something good, keep your costs low, keep your growth in check, hold back your expectations, find some customers, charge them money for your good/services, make more than you spend, and you’ll buy yourself another day, or week, or month, or year in business. Just aim to stay open, don’t aim to win anything from anyone. Staying afloat is a win for yourself.

Just start there. The odds are still against you, but they’re a whole lot better than trying to win it all.

7 thoughts on “Q&A: How do I win in a packed category?

  1. Great post! I can certainly relate, and I have bowed out of many endeavors over the years for similar reasons.

    I think the comparison trap can play a big part in this, especially when we see people (or companies) with more ‘likes’, followers/subscribers, money, etc., as so many of those metrics are publicly available these days.

    We think that if we’re not as successful/popular/whatever as those to whom we are comparing ourselves, then we’re doing it wrong (i.e. not ‘winning’).

    I think, too, we don’t allow ourselves enough time to get where we want to go. It’s nice and humbling to hear the origin stories of companies or celebrities that we admire and how long it took those people to get where they are today.

    Just like you mentioned, I think the idea is to ground ourselves a bit by figuring out what it is we really need to keep doing whatever it is we want to do and to remember that there’s room for us, too.

    If we ever want to get somewhere, we just have to stop starting over.

  2. I agree completely, but it’s possible the author’s definition of “win” is the same as my definition of “win.” Not the common winner take all mentality at all, some zero-sum game, but merely “be successful” and make enough money even to survive, and hopefully make a profit.

    The points you (Jason) make are valid, absolutely. But it’s very hard even to break even, very modestly, in so many cases. I wonder if that’s the original author’s struggle. Think of an idea, not wanting a bazillion dollars, just want to build something enough people will pay for and that will pay the bills, but everything’s crowded.

    I guess if it was easy, anybody could do it. So the appropriate saying goes.

    Definitely agree that the mentality of staying within your means, controlling costs, focusing on quality and service, etc., are the bedrock. Not an automatic “win” (survival), but your best shot, and the best way to play the crowded “game.”

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