Are You Trying to Be Everything to Everyone?

by Stacy Karacostas

I've long had a special place in my heart for small businesses
that sell random collections of things. It started years ago
when, as a whitewater raft guide in Colorado, I stumbled across
this lonely little store deep in an Arkansas River canyon that
sold "Fishing licenses, live bait and fine art".

That just tickled me. Driving by I'd always wonder how many
people came in for live bait and ended up buying a painting.

One day, I was curious enough to stop in and ask a few
questions. Turns out the fine art belonged to the proprietor's
daughter. As a good dad he'd decided to try and sell her work in
his little convenience store. I didn't get the impression he
sold very many pieces (no surprise there), but I admired his
dedication to his daughters dream.

Thus began a life-long fascination with these mismatched
offerings. Generally I've run across really crazy combos in
small towns where few stores serve many different people's
needs...Sort of an evolution of the old general store.

This can work out well in middle of nowhere places where options
for buying what you want or need are few. However, thanks to the
Internet, even in small towns it's gotten harder to sustain a
generalist business or one that sells a few random products or
services.

Nevertheless, even in big cities I've run across quite a lot of
people trying to promote multiple, unrelated products or
services at networking meetings (IE: corporate creativity coach
/ massage therapist / personal assistant).

I wouldn't hire this person for any of those services. Because I
assume they're a "jack of all trades, master of none" and not
very committed to their business.

The other day, I noticed the following sign advertising a local
business (name changed to protect the innocent, of course) in my
Seattle neighborhood:

STELLAR FRAMING
Custom picture frames
Home staging
Interior design

Now, I'll be the first to admit these aren't as random as live
bait and fine art together, but it's still causes the same
problem. They're trying to be too many things to too many
people.

With a name like Stellar Framing I'd bet they don't get a whole
lot of people dropping in for either home staging or interior
design. I'd also bet they have a hard time doing effective
marketing for all three services.

Here's why...

#1) We live in the age of the specialist. People want an expert.
Why hire a picture framer to do your interior design when you
can hire an experienced, dedicated Interior Designer who eats,
sleeps, breathes and lives what they do?

#2) Each of these services would likely be bought by a different
type of client. Think about it...While there's a small chance
someone who comes in to get a picture framed might need their
other services, that's probably not usually the case. So they'd
need to market and advertise in different places to reach each
different target market.

#3) Each of the potential target markets has different wants,
needs, goals and problems. So they'd need to communicate
differently to each one. That can get expensive, but if they
don't do it their marketing messages are likely to be too
general to hit home.

Here's another example of why you're better off specializing...

A few months ago I was teaching a Website planning workshop at
the Master Builders Association. One of the participants was
just starting a Website for his relatively new remodeling firm.

At first, he claimed to be your typical remodeler/handyman who
could and would do it all (additions, repairs, kitchen remodels,
basic plumbing, etc.). As we dug deeper, I discovered his true
passion and expertise lay in renovating and repairing historic
homes. He liked the puzzle of making sure his work blended
seamlessly with the home's original character.

Give the amount of competition in the general remodeler/handyman
arena, it made way more sense for him to focus on marketing his
specialty. That way he'd stand out from the crowd, know exactly
who to market to (owners of historic homes), and attract more
ideal clients. Plus, once clients saw the caliber of his work,
projects expanded on their own. So he didn't need to sell all
his general contractor services up front anyway.

What about you? Are you trying to be everything to
everybody...Or at least a lot of things to a lot of people? Are
you trying to cram all you can do into every piece of marketing?

If so, I highly recommend you pick one product or service to
focus on at a time in your marketing and advertising. Then
figure out who is most likely, able and willing to buy it and
why, and market directly to that ideal target market.

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1 comment

Becky said...

I love reading your posts. You always offer such great advice. Becoming successful is something that I have been focusing on a lot lately. I had all but given up, but got inspired by Jack Hatfield's latest book, "Natural Success Principles: You Have Everything You Need To Succeed Inside You BEFORE You Were Born." I feel I can use it's concepts in both my personal life as well as in my business ventures. I have been trying to put together a business that focuses on my passion- selling my artwork. Thanks to your advice I will probably just focus on what I do best and not worry about creating a lot of different products.

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