Why Small Businesses Should Specialize
Seth Godin wrote a recent blog post about hunters and farmers.
One of ideas he raises is that it doesn’t make a lot of sense to medicate kids that are excellent hunters so that they can sit in a classroom that teaches farming. The same skills that make them great hunters (ex. being easily distracted) can make it very difficult to do the same thing over and over (homework problems). But doing the same thing over and over with a very careful attention to detail is exactly what it takes to be a great farmer. Of course Seth relates this back to marketing and how it’s important that your message/product matches your target and your approach should be different depending on whether you’re targeting hunters or farmers.
The whole concept that some people are wired to be hunters while others were born to be farmers raises another interesting question: How much time should you spend “fixing” your deficiencies versus nurturing your strengths?
Although I don’t profess to know the answer to this question, I’ll go out on a limb and say that all business owners should work to develop a basic competence in key areas like: accounting, customer service, finance, marketing, sales, etc. Without a grasp of the basics, you’re going to have a very difficult time sticking around long enough to have a business to own!
At the same time, you should realize that you don’t need to become an expert in everything (inside joke/shout out to Bob Perini, CEO of DrinkMore Water). For most people, this strategy results in one thing: Becoming a jack of all trades and master of none! Don’t do it!
In trying to learn the basics of the aforementioned business skills, most people generally find that they gravitate toward one or two – things they enjoy and where they are supremely competent. By doing the minimum in the other skill areas and focusing most of your time on the one thing at which you’re best suited, you’re more likely to grow your business to a point where you can hire others to fill your gaps.
If you’re wired to be a hunter, get out there and hunt. Stop worrying about your branding, brochure and logo! Despite what the ad agency or brand consultancy tells you, these things don’t matter (yet)! When you’re just starting out, you usually don’t have room for a lot of mistakes. Don’t make this one.
Not only should you focus on doing what matters most and what you were born to do, you should also focus your company’s services to the point where you do just one or two things unbelievably well.
How narrow should you go? Seth and other business gurus suggest picking something that is narrow enough for you to become known as the best in the world. For example – if you own roofing company, ask yourself – “can I be the best roofing company in the country?” If the answer is “no,” repeat the question, but be more specific. If you can’t be the best roofing company in the country, focus on a region. If you can’t be the best roofing company in a region, pick a state. If you can’t be the best roofing company in the state, pick a county. Can’t dominate the county, pick a type of roof – metal roofs for $1MM plus homes.
Avoid the ‘jack of all trades; master of none’ syndrome.
If you’re worried that you won’t find enough customers – stop! In his book, “Good to Great,” Jim Collins tells us that companies that specialize in one thing are more likely to die from indigestion than from lack of business.
Now, more than ever, it’s important for small (and not so small) businesses to specialize. Why? Because with the ever-increasing amounts of information being thrust in front of people – from Bing, Facebook, Google, Radio, TV, etc. – it’s becoming exceedingly difficult to gain attention from your prospective customers. It’s like almost everyone has some degree of A.D.D. today
You’re much less likely to get heard if you’re shouting several (sometimes unrelated) messages at a level “5” volume with a sea of companies around you doing the same thing.
You know who get’s heard?
Two types of companies:
- Those screaming one message at a higher volume level and/or
- Those siting quietly doing one thing better than anyone else with a sea of customers around them preaching their greatness to others
You don’t need the best or perfect message as long as it’s focused and direct. If you want 2010 to be better than 2009, focus. Focus on raising your business skills to a minimum level and then spend most of your time doing what you were born to do. Narrow your company’s services to the point that you’re doing just a few things, but you’re doing them better than anyone else.
Do this and you’ll win.
About The Author: Ben Landers is the President and CEO of Blue Corona, a data-driven, inbound internet marketing company. Submit an inquiry to book Ben to speak at your next conference or event.
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