Be the Best In Your Own Little Pond: How To Use the Example of Dominos Pizza to be a Better Writer

I was watching one of those panel shows a couple of weeks ago and they were discussing one of my favourite things: pizza. Specifically, they were talking about the fact that one of our pizza chains here, Eagle Boys, had gone into voluntary administration. They went on to discuss why this happened and got into the market share of all the pizza chains — things got really interesting at that point.

We have something like 6 different pizza chains here. They’re a cheap and quick dinner on a Friday night after a long week at work. They’d surely have to have all the market. You’d think that, but no. Traditional pizzerias make up something in the realm of fifty percent of the pizza sold in Australia. That’s huge. It’s huge because it’s generally two to three times the price of the pizza chains, and you wait considerably longer for it because they don’t have an army of minimum wage teenagers to drive around delivering.

The interesting part of this story, however, lies in the 50% market share of the chains. Out of these chains, Dominos has a whopping 43% market share compared to its closest competitor, Pizza Hut, who sit at a relatively abysmal 23%. How could this happen? If people want a chain pizza, surely it’s just about what’s closer and cheapest, right? Apparently not. See, Dominos used to be number 4 in market share amongst the pizza chains, but then something happened that set them on their upward trajectory:

They started giving a shit about their little pond.

Since Don Meji became their CEO, Dominos has done a blitz on marketing, on innovating their order and delivery service, and even coming up with a delivery robot that they’re going to patent. All of these are great, but that doesn’t touch on the most important thing they did: they began to make better pizza. They began to make pizza that, while it isn’t going to win any awards, will certainly stop you from saying “eh, it’s not very good, but it was only 5 bucks”. They now sit slightly higher than Pizza Hut on price, but after recently comparing the two, I wouldn’t ever go back for Pizza Hut again.

What someone very clever at Dominos realised was that you didn’t need to be the absolute best, just the best in your pond. Dominos has never said or acted as though their pizza is as good as what you’d get from a traditional pizzeria. They don’t say stuff like “our pizza is as good as mama makes” or any BS like that. Nope, they know they can’t compete with that section of the market, because people in that part of the market are willing to pay top dollar for the best available. That’s not Domino’s model.

Domino’s model is to do it better than anyone else in their pond, and they’re succeeding wildly.

Now, why the hell have I spent the past 5 paragraphs harping on about how great Dominos is? Am I a paid shill for them? Of course not. It demonstrates an excellent point about the online world, personal branding, internet marketing and all that stuff right now. Check out any advice about building an audience nowadays and you’ll find it chock full of gimmicks, but most distressingly, a lot of it tells you that you need to pivot and start a podcast, because that’s where the audience is. Start a Snapchat profile, an Instagram profile, get on Twitter, do Facebook ads. The list never stops.

Dominos didn’t expand their market share so rapidly because they did a million different things they didn’t know how to do or weren’t good at, they did it by being better than everyone else in their niche. If you’re a writer and you want an audience, how is starting a podcast going to help you? You aren’t just going to have an audience from day 1 that you can direct (or who would want to be directed) to your writing. And if your writing is piss poor, they’re going to click away pretty quickly anyway.

What if instead, you decided to get as good as you possibly can at writing, painting, podcasting, whatever. What if you gave up trying to do a million things and just got really good at what you do, in order to get noticed in your little pond? The world of the audience is very similar to a whole heap of ponds that spring up after a big rainfall. The biological life in one pond is pretty much cut off from the pond that is a few metres away, even if they seem really close. A tadpole in one pond doesn’t care and isn’t interested in a tadpole in the other pond. If we look at the creative world, the people who live in the pond of podcasting aren’t necessarily very interested in the pond of reading. The people who live in the pond of taking pictures probably aren’t all that interested in the pond of political discussion in 140 character bites.

Too many people unfortunately make the mistake of believing that they need to be in every pond to build an audience, not realising that all they’re doing is spinning their wheels, because people in those other ponds aren’t interested. Why would you do that when there is a pond full of people that are interested? Because you’re not being noticed is the likely answer. You think if you instead get on a whole heap of different platforms and promote yourself that the audience will come flooding in. I hate to break it to you, they wont.

If you aren’t being noticed, you’re likely just not good enough yet, or you’re trying too hard to be like someone else and just coming off as a cheap imitation. Like Jon Westenberg said just a few days ago, all of these marketing tricks just don’t work. Following someone on Twitter in the hope of being followed back so they can read your writing when you link to it is just stupid and pointless. If you spend all the time you normally would on your marketing strategy instead getting better at your writing (or any other skill), and trying in earnest to become the best in this pond, you’ll be far better off. Take a look at any of the many great writers on Medium with a sizeable audience — whether you like what they write or not, they are excellent technicians at the craft of writing and they speak authentically. They didn’t get their audience by being on ten different platforms, they got it by being really damn good on one platform.

So quit wasting your time on the tadpoles in all of those other ponds. They don’t care about your writing, but the tadpoles here are always looking for something great to read. Give it to them and you’ll do great.

If you need further convincing, order a pizza from Dominos the next time you write. They’re pretty damn good (and not “for the price”).

PS In case you’re wondering, I’m a pepperoni guy with extra oregano sprinkled on top.