Recently I was at a conference (Small Business Marketing Unleashed) that got me to thinking about the importance of having a distinctive specialty or niche for your business.
Think about this: have you ever had the frustrating experience of visiting a website or talking with someone for a half hour only to end up afterwards with no idea whether their company would be a good fit as a vendor or provider. You come away knowing they are software developers. But you have no idea what kind of software or whether it’s in your price range. Or you discover that they are marketers. But you can’t tell whether they serve Fortune 500 companies or a 2-person business.
So I’m always pleased to run into businesses that have the guts and smarts to say they focus on a niche or specific industry or a clear target market. It makes it so much easier to understand what they do.
To see what I mean when I say specializing, let me offer examples. Here are five of the people I met at that conference and their businesses’ specialties:
- Alex Krohn, CEO of Gossamer Threads — Gossamer Threads is a hosting company and software development shop. Their flagship product is software for listing directories — such as for jobs, press releases and company directories.
- Chad Everett of Everitz Consulting — Everitz is a business that specializes in development and customization of sites using Movable Type content management software. Chad also has developed plugins for MovableType.
- Ryan Freeman, the President of Strider Inc. — Strider is an SEO and Internet marketing company serving small businesses. But they also happen to have some florist clients and now offer an online storefront package for florists, called Florist 2.0.
- Wayne Small, of SBSfaq.com was another person I met. Wayne is a Microsoft MVP professional — that cadre of consultants and professionals who are certified experts in Microsoft’s products. Wayne’s site answers questions and provides information about Microsoft’s Small Business Server product.
- William Scott is the President of Search Influence, a company that provides “economical SEO and website promotion.” Search Influence guarantees they can double the traffic within a year for small biz websites with fewer than 1000 page views a month (meaning, that they work with very small websites).
All these firms do more than the one specialty I highlighted. But I’m reminded of something that Laura Allen of 15SecondPitch.com once said in a conference session I was moderating. She pointed out how we small businesses are much better off defining our businesses narrowly … by carving out a niche or specialty.
I’ll paraphrase her remarks: “Be extremely specific in describing what you do. Don’t worry about limiting your appeal or excluding potential customers. If you are specific, people will instantly understand. Then on their own they will make the mental jump to think about your business for related services or other markets. They will ask ‘can you do this other thing for me’ or ‘hey, do you ever serve businesses like mine’? The worst thing you can do is present your business vaguely or as all things to all people. Most businesses err on the side of being so general that potential prospects can’t tell what they do or how to relate it to their own situation.”
UPDATE: Mike Stevens also has some thoughts on the need to be specific.
So my question to you is: do you specialize or have a narrow niche focus in your business? If so, has it helped you get business, or do you think it has cost you business by being so specific?