Office Supplies Get Niched!

Stack of file folders

Image by John and Keturah via Flickr

I need manila file folders. My box of 100, purchased in the caveman era, has run out at last. I may be sixty before another box of 100 runs out, but I have to get my bulk discount. So I hop on to www. bigol’officesuperstore .com, and it’s easy as pie—”File Folders” is one of the categories on the home page.

*click on “File Folders”*

Manila, or Colored?

Oooh, I hadn’t thought of that. Colored might be neat. I peek, see that the prices are quite a bit higher, which negates my all-important bulk-discount, so I back up to plain old Manila, where my choices are:

  • Heavyweight
  • Reinforced
  • Papercut-reducing
  • Anti-microbial
  • Moisture-resistant
  • Pink-ribbon breast-cancer-research styled

I look at the category again, then at the pictures of the products. Yes, we are talking about file folders. This should be a piece of cardstock, folded in half. I’m overwhelmed, and underwhelmed, at the same time.

And notice, there is no “regular” weight. For those of us whose file folders already last forever, and don’t need them to last any longer than that.

Now I love a good differentiator, a little something so your brand will be top-of-the-mind and the obvious, the only, the Ideal Solution when I have a problem with my office supplies. Really. I adore innovation.

Papercut-reducing? Anti-microbial? Moisture-resistant?

Pink-ribbon breast-cancer-research styled?


Folks, don’t try this at home. Innovation for its own sake is NOT GOOD.

Have you talked to your customers lately?

“I need manila file folders. But my real concern is, will I get a papercut? It holds me back from purchasing every other brand.”

“I’m longing to reach into my filing cabinets and know that the folders are no longer so darned… microbe-y. It’s a real pain point in our office.”

When you’re Pinpointing the unique features that will make you stand out from the crowd…

… make sure someone cares. A lot.

Niches are nice, and sometimes, yes, you can have one all to yourself and really clean up. Look for the pain your customers are feeling, and solve that pain. They’ll beat a path to your door, and yours alone.

Don’t design a Solution and try to shove a customer into wanting it.

When they market a file folder that can protect me from whale attacks, I’m there. Because that pain is top-of-the-mind when I’m digging in the file drawers.

What pain are your customers feeling? Do you solve that pain, or are you waiting for them to want what you’d rather sell them?


Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson