by Marc Emmer, CEO of Optimize, Inc. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
It's my own personal Groundhog Day. Within my business strategy practice, I have a daily conversation with clients about poor targeting. Poor targeting has less to do with aptitude and more to do with attitude.
Consider the dynamic on almost every episode of Shark Tank. If an entrepreneur is seeking investment in a fashion product, I've observed that they often gravitate to Daymond John. If they want to sell on QVC, they lean toward Lori Greiner. For technology, they tap into the expertise of Robert Herjavec. And everyone knows Kevin O'Leary, known as Mr. Wonderful (an apt nickname if I ever heard one), will offer a licensing deal.
You might not like Shark Tank or its judges, but no one can dispute the sharks' rock star status. How did they get there? By adhering to the most basic of business principals: specializing. Specialists are perceived to deliver more value than generalists. Heart surgeons get paid more than general practitioners.
I have worked with hundreds of executives and salespeople who fight tooth and nail against specialization. There is a belief that picking a lane precludes one from selling outside their specialty.
As with many things, the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated trends that were evident before the crisis began. Digital transformation is occurring so fast that providers who don’t embrace it will likely be left behind. As social media and other channels become more crowded, having a clearly defined target is more important than ever.
These are the keys to being distinct as a specialist:
Make your market smaller.
It's usually better to be a big fish in a small pond. Especially when making a market, focusing on a small niche can create a first-mover advantage against larger competition. For example, when 5-Hour Energy focused on checkout stands in the convenience store channel, it dominated a segment that large competitors ignored.
Create more targeted messaging.
Niche specialists can create more meaningful content and digital assets because they are experts in their field. For example, by creating landing pages for specific markets you serve, you are more likely to boost search engine optimization and conversion. In my experience, the longer the search term, the higher the probability that you hit the bullseye on a search result.
Have a clear promise.
Every brand should have three to four promise statements. When operating in a narrow niche, you can set clearer expectations of what your customers can anticipate from you.
Strive to achieve 'celebrity' status.
Like the sharks in Shark Tank, you're more likely to be known for expertise in a narrow topic. Once you become recognized, you're more likely to be reinforced by regular coverage. Achieving celebrity is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Be aware of your price positioning.
Pricing is a proxy for perceived value. The higher your prices, the better your positioning as an expert. You might offer multiple price points, but make sure you have at least one super-premium offer that serves as an anchor for what you’re worth.
Stay in your lane.
If you have the discipline to stay in a narrow niche, other providers are likely to honor your market position. Attorneys who specialize are more likely to refer alternate attorneys who specialize in other areas. By focusing on a narrow core competency, you'll repel work or products that are not within your specialty. Staying in your lane promotes quality and integrity.
Malcolm Gladwell and others have professed the need to work for 10,000 hours to gain expertise in a field. It could take two or three years of focus to achieve status as a specialist. Now is the time to stake your claim as the best at something you believe in. The deeper you invest in a specialty, the greater the impact you can make on the world.