As you begin to look to at your marketing plan for the coming year, I’d like to suggest you adopt a theme of “narrow and deep” for your marketing and even your business model.   In other words, narrow your focus.

What do I mean by that? For some reason, business owners and leaders struggle with the idea of specializing. We get the concept in our own lives—if you had a heart problem would you go see a cardiac specialist or your general practice doctor? If you wanted to update your bathroom, would you choose a company with years of experience in updating bathrooms or a general plumber? If you were flying, would you prefer your pilot have logged most of his hours in your specific kind of plane or be a generalist?

When we are choosing professionals to work with, we tend to gravitate to specialists and we justify that choice by saying:

  • They have experience in exactly what I need.
  • They can better anticipate and solve problems along the way.
  • They’ve built up resources and partnerships to help them be successful.
  • They will be faster and more efficient because of their depth of experience.
  • They are more likely to get it exactly how I need it to be.

And we acknowledge that they may appear to be more expensive but because of all of the reasons we just listed, in the end, they will probably save us time and money and if not, it’s because something went wrong and then we will be glad we invested the extra money.

I get why it’s harder to narrow your focus and choose to specialize rather than be a generalist. There’s money on the table and someone wants to hire you. You have a payroll to meet, financial goals to hit and you’re hoping for a little bonus at the end of the year. So why would you turn down anyone who is ready to hire you?

It’s a challenge to say no when someone is offering to hire you or buy something from you. But let’s be honest: your company is not equally good at everything. When you make a sale and it’s tied to delivering something that is outside your sweet spot, it’s difficult to get it done on time and on budget.

It’s often the project that requires you to do more legwork for the same price because you aren’t as familiar with the specifics. Even if you’ve done it a few times, it doesn’t come as naturally, so you slow down to make sure you do it well.

I’m betting that if you took the time to identify the deliverables that you have the most expertise in and have done the most and compared the profitability to the one-offs you do, the difference will be striking.

Let’s add to all that: when you are a specialist, you can charge more for your expertise. Why? For the same reason, bathroom makeover specialists can charge more than the handyman. Look at your own buying choices. People will pay more for the reassurance that you’re very good at what you do and if something goes wrong, you will know how to quickly fix it.

The advantages to specializing are pretty dramatic:

  • It’s easier to market yourself and help people understand what you offer.
  • Because you’re very good at it, you deliver a superior customer experience that leads to more word of mouth and repeat business.
  • You can charge more per deliverable.
  • You differentiate yourself from all the companies who are generalists and also do what you do best.

As you think about what’s next for your marketing and your business, rather than adding to all the ways you communicate and all the things you talk about, why not narrow your focus and consider pruning down to what you do best?

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Drew McLellan
Drew McLellan has owned an advertising agency for almost 20 years, serving local, regional and national businesses. He also coaches hundreds of agencies on business best practices through peer to peer networks, workshops and consulting.  Drew is often interviewed/quoted in Entrepreneur Magazine, New York Times, CNN, BusinessWeek, and many others. The Wall Street Journal calls him “one of 10 bloggers every entrepreneur should read.” He blogs at both www.DrewsMarketingMinute.com and www.BuildABetterAgency.com.

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