Are you working your butt off but not seeing the results you’d like in your business?

If this sounds like you, then no doubt you’ve been putting in the long hours, and trying everything possible to make your business a success.

You’ve also probably done your homework, and looked into solutions, as well as asked those who’ve been there done that for tips.

What we find is that many business owners are either stumbling across information, or getting advice from other business owners along the lines of ‘get out there’, ‘network’, ‘connect and interact with others online’, ‘do social media’ etc

And then there’s the list of things to do inside your business to oil up the machine; ‘hire more people’, ‘delegate’, ‘get software to automate your process’… and so on.

I’m sure none of this sounds foreign to you.

But what’s wrong with these things?

Well, nothing is necessarily wrong with any of them.

The people recommending these things may be well intended. They may have seen for themselves the wonders a specific activity has done for their business, and want you to have the same results too.

But you tried, and maybe it didn’t work out that way for you.

So what’s going on here? Have you just been dealt a hand of bad luck?

Of course not!

Providing there’s successful examples out there already for the type of business you want to create- it can all be achieved (albeit with far less effort than you’re currently putting in now). We know this because if other successful businesses are out there, that means that there’s proven customer demand. Can’t tick this off the list at this point? Then this may very well be why what you’re doing is failing to produce results. If you cleared this first hurdle, then read on.

On to the second hurdle- your expectations.

Are they in line with reality? Have you given things enough time to work? It’s often said that you need to be exposed to several repetitions of a message before it sinks in. You only ran your ads once before deciding they don’t work? This may be why. Or maybe you went to one networking event, and didn’t get anyone wanting to buy your products then and there. Well it takes time to develop relationships and trust.

Right- back to the list…

For a start, one of the biggest problems with the advice you may be getting is not the advice itself, but ALL the items on the list. There’s just way too many things you feel like you need to be doing. So if you’ve been extra diligent, and tried to put into action everything all at once- it’s no wonder it isn’t working the way you want it to. You’d be spread thinner than the stingy serving of mayo on my dry maccas chicken burger today. What’s that saying? If you try catch 2 rabbits you’ll catch none. Plus you must be exhausted!

Now, if you want to proudly parade around your ‘busy-ness’ as a bit of a self esteem booster- then good for you. Keep doing what you’re doing and stop reading now cause I’m gonna suggest how to become a whole lot less busy (for now at least).

Okay- the big secret: Stop doing everything except for a few activities that are most likely to be the most successful. In doing this you’ll be able to do those few things well instead of a lot of things so-so.

Yeah I know. Kinda obvious. I realise I’m sounding like a bit of a dick right now.

The bit that’s trickier however is figuring out what those few things you’re to focus on are going to be.

And it certainly doesn’t help when you go online and see pages and pages of articles telling you that if you don’t do social media, or have a website- or whatever the new flavour of the month is then your business will be DEAD!

Okay, so here’s a good place to start:

Focus all your energy on serving a particular type of client- but a client no one else is serving well thus far. Start with what products and services you are delivering, and then the activities you should be doing should become obvious.

For instance, instead of making woolen jerseys for everyone, why not make woolen jerseys for those doing outdoor water sports?

Maybe you’d use the type of wool that’s most flexible for movement, using a knit pattern and texture that mimics ducks feathers to allow the water slide off. Maybe you also use the finest threads possible so to prevent scratching and chafing (and to prevent catching on anything), and treat all products with a water resistant spray.

Then for the activities to get your products out in the market?

Well, you’d then obviously try sell your products in places people who do outdoor water sports hang out at. There may be kayaking shops, online sports forums, and bloggers and news sites dedicated to these sports. And given people’s passion for these sporting activities, you may decide that being on Facebook is going to work for you given it’s the platform people use to talk about things they are passionate about, and want to show their friends they are doing. Maybe you could even sponsor a prominent outdoor water sport athlete.

You will no longer have to go to most business networking mixers- your target audience isn’t likely to be there. You can stop trying to get your products into fashion stores- that’s not your audience either.

And if you’ve got a team- decision making will become easier. Do I use the materials that looks the best or those that are the most water resistant? Well obviously the latter. Boom! That’s one less meeting and round of emails you need to have. On the process side of things, if you’re able to narrow down the products and services you’ll be delivering, then you’ll also be able to automate and template a lot of your activity- something that you aren’t able to do if you have to deliver everything custom to a wide audience.

The only things you need to be sure of before taking your business down a focused direction is whether there’s going to be sufficient demand for the product or service you’ll create, and whether the numbers and logistics will work. If you are able to produce a product highly desired by your market, but the price to do so is way out of step with what people would be willing to pay- then it’s not gonna work. Same goes if you’re unable to deliver in a timely manner, or what you want to do just isn’t physically possible.

While doing all this won’t be easy, it will certainly be easier than doing everything you can and praying something works.

The math behind why having a unique business will help you beat your competition.

You have a business selling T-shirts. There are another 9 businesses selling T-shirts. And for arguments sake we’re gonna keep this simple and say that in your market the internet doesn’t exist, and only white T-shirts exist. And let’s say everything else is the same- the place you sell them from, the number of staff each of you have etc etc.

So all up there’s 10 businesses in your market selling T-shirts.

Right now you have a 1 in 10 chance of a customer choosing to buy a T-shirt from you.

One day, you discover dye and decide to start producing black T-shirts instead.

And overnight your sales increase from selling 10 T-shirts a day, to selling 50 T-shirts a day. Which means that your chances of customers buying a T-shirt from you instead of your competitors is now 1 in 2.

Why?

Because now you’ve just re-framed how customers make their decision. Instead of evaluating each T-shirt provider separately, they now select between 2 options; between black T-shirts & white T-shirts.

And assuming an equal number of people prefer black T-shirts to white- that means you’ll get half of all the business from customers wanting T-shirts.

Sounds simple right?

In theory yes. But in reality no.

IN REALITY all these businesses selling white T-shirts wouldn’t realise they’re all selling white T-shirts.

They’d all think they were unique. Extra thread count on this T-shirt! Better service on this one- they all come freshly pressed and ironed! Ours are more comfortable with no scratchy seams!

So they’d not even consider making their business unique- because they think it already is.

But to most people buying their products, they don’t think these factors are that important (if they even notice the differences at all)- they’re all just white T-shirts.

Does this sound familiar?

Haven’t we all heard businesses emphasise their superior service? Or their superior features? And either think yeah right! Or just have our eyes glaze over being given such irrelevant detail?

Or worse…could this be your business without you realising it?

IN REALITY black T-shirts exist. So we already knew in our theoretical example that there is demand for black T-shirts.

So what could you do in reality to make your business unique if you had a T-shirt business?

You’d have to find something that wasn’t already being done by others, as well as make sure that people would actually want it.

Could you even be sure that people would want it if what you’re about to do hasn’t been done in your market before?

IN REALITY markets aren’t as simple as they are in theory. There’s other alternatives available such as singlets, strapless tops, and opportunities to go shop online.

So would what you’re about to do be preferable to not only your competitors, but every other alternative out there?

IN REALITY things aren’t quite so simple and easy, but if it were easy then everyone would be doing it. And if everyone were doing it, they may have already snapped up some of the best opportunities. And in that case it would be even more difficult to hunt for opportunities than it is now.

So hop along- get hunting!

Specialised and narrow or more diversified and broad? What is the better route to go down for my business to beat the competition?

If you follow what we do at all, you may know that we specialise in helping people conceptualise and create products and services that’ll help you beat your competition- or even better make your former competition entirely irrelevant.

And what most experts would recommend hands down to achieve this goal would be the specialisation route.

Because if you were choosing between a company that dabbles in a few things- including the thing you actually want, and a company that specialises in the thing you want…well… you’d no doubt have to choose the latter all else being equal. Unless the dabblers could present you with a significant cost saving, making going with them more worthwhile.

While we don’t disagree with this logic, we also believe that there’s a time and place to be more broad and diversified, and doing so could help you to get an edge. And in some cases, if you don’t, beating your competition could be very difficult indeed.

On the flip side, when talking to business owners, we find many of them have taken their businesses down the diversified route.

Sometimes they started like this from the beginning, and other times they may have started off more narrow, but diversified by adding complimentary services over time.

Why? Because intuitively it feels like the right thing to do.

Narrowing down your services can feel scary, like you’re gonna have less potential customers out there to buy from you, and feel you may miss out on more opportunities.

So what we’d like to do is go through the reasons why you may miss out on MORE opportunities by not narrowing things down, before completely contradicting ourselves and revealing when it may actually help you NOT to do so.

HOW IS IT POSSIBLE FOR BUSINESS TO INCREASE WHILST THE SIZE OF MY MARKET DECREASES?

Because you’ll be able to charge more, win more business, and spend less time and money doing so. Here’s how:

Picture this: you’re at one of those business networking mixer event things. There’s a range of people there from all different types of businesses. Let’s go with 50 of them.

Let’s compare the different experiences you’ll have being there representing a broad diversified business vs your competitor that has a narrow specialised business.

Factor 1: marketing activities & message depth.

Specialised: You’ve assessed the guest list, and identified 5 people to speak to who you’ve identified need your services. You’re super specialised so are able to identify they have the problem you solve with a bit of quick Google scanning. You go along to the event, and spend 10mins with each of them. They understand what you do, and know you’d be able to help them. All they need to know is the in-depth specifics. You go home after that. Or heck- even go to another event after.

Generalised: You look over the guest list, and are only able to rule out 10 people who most likely won’t need your services. The rest are all possibles, with each possibly needing a few of your services. You go to the event and spend a few minutes with each, discussing a range of services. Your message depth with each is shallow, and they are left still wondering whether or not you’d actually be able to help them.

Factor 2: time to decision

Specialised: You set up meetings with each of the 5 potentials, and discuss the specifics & whether or not you’re gonna work together. You hand them a pre made proposal- which you’re able to do because you only deal with one problem, which has the same process to follow to fix no matter the business. You call them a week later to confirm the sale.

Generalised: You set up meetings with half those you spoke with (the other half didn’t see a good enough reason to). At the meetings with the others, you inquire into their situation, and attempt to find problems you could fix that correspond to services that you offer. You then go away, and craft custom proposals for each. You then follow them up, and possibly speak further to clarify things and answer any questions, before a decision is made.

Factor 3: Deals won

Specialised: In the match up between your proposals, and those of your competitors, you’ll come out on top because your services fit the clients situation to a T. Except for one because the competitor while not a perfect fit was significantly cheaper. You wouldn’t make much off it anyway.

Generalised: Lots of the proposals don’t fit exactly, or have been done off the cuff without knowing what has worked before- and don’t make it through. A few don’t match up well in a comparison with the specialised competitor, and a few make it through. They have played the ‘numbers game’ and got the same amount through as the specialised company.

So that’s just a snippet of why it works; because you’ll have to work much harder for the same sales figures if you’re more generalised in what you do.

There are a few other advantages of being specialised such as more referrals and word of mouth as your message is simpler (and easier to pass along), and you come up top of mind when someone asks who do you know who does ‘x’?
Being specialised will not work however if your niche is too small, and there’s not enough demand for your services to make a viable business out of it.

CAN I BE SPECIALISED WITHOUT HAVING TO NICHE DOWN AND MAKE MY MARKET SIZE SMALLER?

Absolutely- But only if you stick to one idea. No Frankenstein ideas like I make Tomato AND Barbeque sauce. Together!!!!!

Take for instance water. Nearly everyone drinks it right? But if you have to explain what it is (relative to other drinks) it’s still one idea of ‘the flavourless drink’.

The key to keeping your market broad while you keep your message and idea on point is to think of what one need lots of groups may share may be.

You may have the health conscious crowd drinking water for its non caloric properties that come with a flavourless drink, the foodies for its palette cleansing properties, and your everyday thirsty person just cause it’s there.

I’M WORRIED I’LL BE BORED ONLY STICKING TO ONE THING. ANYWAY AROUND THIS?

The way around this is to either blend all your interests together into one idea (if you can do so), applying your business expertise to a range of different problems or industry sectors, or finding an untouched large space with lots of varied things to do inside of it.

An untouched space is an area yet to be explored- and often is what we think of when we hear about new never before seen innovations. Specialisation is just a relative term. The first car makers would have had the option of working on a range of different vehicle types had they wanted to; such as trucks, race cars, tanks and so on, because there was nothing to compare them to, they were all just ‘cars’. Now that the industry and market has matured, the market has broken up into smaller specialised niche markets.

I’M WANTING TO HEDGE MY BETS IN CASE THE MARKET OR ECONOMY CHANGES. WHAT DO I DO HERE?

You can have different products and services, just keep each idea separate on the surface and treat as separate businesses. One idea=One business.

Also consider whether you have the time and money to do more than one properly.

As you can see, there’s many many many good reasons for you to specialise your business. But to keep the whole balanced, unbiased journalism thing going, we must point out one very good reason to generalise- to give you an understanding of your business space that you wouldn’t get from being a specialist.

Generalising gives you more exposure to different things, and in doing so you may start to see connections and patterns between different parts- or entirely unrelated things. It’s this knowledge that will help you to create a great specialism.

This goes doubly if you’re generalising in areas that aren’t typically related- like being both an artist and a physicist.

It will give you a unique point of view. And if you can apply your unique point of view commercially, then you’ll have specialist knowledge that no one else has. So you’ll from day one be the leader in your field, and instantly be the top expert.

And generalising also helps you to know yourself better by helping you figure out what your strengths and preferences are. Because when it comes time to choose a lane, I’m sure we want the certainty of knowing it suits our sweet spot between what we’re good at and what we love.

And lastly, generalising within your own industry space helps you understand your market, and how all the pieces fit together- which will help you to understand your place in it, your customers, and be able to make better recommendations to customers based on a well informed perspective.

All in all, we believe is that it’s not a matter of if you specialise-but when. Generalise until you have gained unique experiences that you can use to create a great specialty, and understand your market, customers, and who you want to be- then specialise.