Branding: Stop Trying to Be All Things to All People

Did you know that the most successful businesses in the world aren’t necessarily the largest or “the best” ones? They’re the ones that a large enough population number of the public associates with a specific idea when they hear the brand. That idea is taken from the recognition of their product, service, or area of competence. Ever wonder how they managed to do that? It is simply through concentrating on one thing.

It’s All about Standing Out

It is an indispensable fact that no matter the size or scope of your business, you will always likely have competitors. What you need to do is to find a way to stand out in a sea of competition, which would help you have a better chance of growing your business, enjoying success and perhaps even acquire a leading industry.

For you to accomplish this, ask yourself: Do you think it would be better to offer your customers a greater range of products or services or to narrow down what you offer? Though this will probably be in negation with the opinion of the majority, the latter is the approach that works.

In a book written by Al and Laura Reis, entitled 22 Immutable Laws of Branding, they wrote “Good things happen when you narrow the focus” and gave further numerous illustrations of how great success stories were created by business owners who narrowed their offering. One example would be Toys ‘R Us. This world’s leading toy retailer started life as a single store called Children’s Supermart, which basically sold children’s furniture and toys. What you would probably think as a better solution is that to expand such a business, you would add to it other items such as: bicycles, baby items, kid’s clothing. But in reality, what owner Charles Lazarus did was just the opposite: He dumped the furniture and filled the empty space with more toys. They became Toys ‘R Us and that was all they did for decades.

The Strength of Simplicity

In today’s world where we are bombarded with hundreds of marketing messages daily, the faster and more effectively you can get your point across, the better: Simplicity. Deducing from the above example, how much more simple can you get than a giant store that specializes in toys? That’s absolutely simpler to grasp and remember than “a store that specializes in toys, children’s furniture and clothes, etc.”

Another example, courtesy of Reis and Reis: Two of the nation’s most successful pizza chains both started out with much more varied menus: Papa John’s (pizza, cheesesteaks, sub sandwiches, salads, onion rings and fried zucchini) and Little Caesar’s (pizza, friend shrimp, fish ‘n chips and roasted chicken for the latter) didn’t really hit the big time. It was only until they narrowed down their offerings that they got discovered. It’s in their respective message messages: “Better ingredients. Better Pizza.” and “Pizza, pizza.”

Now, you might want to ask yourself: Does your business have an offering and message that is as focused?

Go Narrow to Get Fat

For a long time, the trend in business was to become “full-service” in an effort to reach a larger audience. Now, it might seem that narrowing down your offer would also narrow down your income but what you do not know is that the opposite is true: When your  target public  can associate you or your company with a specific idea, it strengthens your identity in their minds. For example, people come to know you as “the _____ guy” or “the _____ company” and eventually, the traffic for that product or service will come your way. That’s what you can consider as real power. Picture this in contrast with a company whose offering is all over the map. The target public will now have a hard time grasping a firm idea of what they do. The broadness causes a mental dispersal. This is now the opposite of power.

Specialists vs. Generalists

If given the opportunity, most people would choose a specialist over a generalist:

  • When your sink is malfunctioning, you call a plumber, not a handyman.
  • When you have transmission troubles, you take it to Aamco instead of a general auto repair shop.
  • When you want awesome barbecue, you go to a barbecue joint, and definitely not a coffee shop.

Here is the benefit of being a specialist: you can command a higher fee. See, the specialists have specialized knowledge that their target audience can’t easily acquire on their own. That’s what makes a specialist worth a higher price—one that people generally expect to pay and are often glad to.

Furthermore, if it’s not already clear, narrowing down your offering can eventually put you in a position of authority—like an expert and/or a valued consultant, who is truly trusted by your public.

(Keep in mind though that this is only possible if you’ve chosen a niche that you’re truly competent [or gifted] in.)

How to Start Narrowing

You’ve probably heard the saying that it’s much better to do one thing well than to do many things poorly. Narrowing is the process of identifying the one thing—in short, one product or product line; one service or group of services; etc.—you do well and then communicate that to your target audience.

For some of you who have a website, company brochure, or other collateral that tells your company’s story or gives a mission statement, it is advisable that you start there. Does your statement accurately communicate your niche—your key area of competence, skill, authority or experience? Just focus on the area in which you or your company are expert and strengthen that. It will be that product or service that you ,become associated with: “Oh yeah. they’re the _______ people” or “She’s the _______ expert.”

In some cases, it’s possible that you already have a fairly narrow offer but where you fail is that your marketing doesn’t communicate it effectively enough. In that case, you would want to review your website and other materials and tweak your message (or if necessary completely revamp it) to be able to more effectively communicate your niche.

Final Thought

No matter if you’ve been around for a while or are just getting started, this action is something you can do no matter what business you’re in, . In fact, if you think it through, this might be even more crucial for new businesses than for existing ones. Why? Because you would figure out that even if their offerings are overly broad, existing businesses, and if they’re still around, they probably are doing something right. What a new business needs is every advantage just to get off the ground. Therefore, establishing a narrow niche at the start gives new businesses a much better chance of surviving and staying in business.

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1 Comment

  • Being the Authentic You is the best form of branding, for your personal brand.
    Being something other than what or who you are will become very transparent, very quickly, as well as being hard to maintain, if that is not who or what you truly represent and any credibility you may have created will soon disappear. Being the authority in the business sense will provide more followers exponentially.

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