To a business strategist like me, it’s infuriating—and puzzling—that so many service companies try to be everything to everyone. If only they knew what we know: specializing is the most powerful branding play. By far.
When you narrow your focal point, you are suddenly seen as an expert in a focused area.
(Now I'm trusting you with this valuable info! Because narrowing will elevate your brand and your perceived expertise, regardless of whether or not you are actually an expert. So please use these powers for good.)
What else can narrowing do for you? Make your company instantaneously memorable, increase the likelihood of referrals—and even help you command premium pricing.
Sounds pretty Badass, huh? But how do you figure out what to focus on?
Well... don't just pick something out of a hat! #worstideaever
Specializing for specializing’s sake is weak—we’re looking for what gets you jazzed to get out of bed in the morning. What keeps you going, with or without a caffeine fix? It has to be a skill you love, for clients you enjoy being around, or else... seriously what’s the point?.
Once you nab it, and commit to it, it's like pouring jet fuel on the engine.
Start Here: Focus on the Winners
To find your niche, look back at your favorite projects, clients, and experiences. Who have been the best clients to work with? Why did you enjoy those projects and people? Once you understand what makes a client ideal, you’ll have a clear direction for your specialization.
Usually, I use these benchmarks to evaluate and identify “ideal” past clients:
They had problems your background, expertise and experience made you ideally qualified to fix
The project scope, budget, and timeframe allowed you to fulfill on your promises to the best of your abilities
You’re proud of the value you delivered, and they were impressed and excited about the final result
They understood your value and were willing to pay your premium price without blinking, bargaining, or bartering (Also, they paid you on-time!)
If you've had clients like this, start there. If you’ve never had such a magical experience, choose the project that runs closest—then figure out how to make it magical.
Be Master of Your Domain
If you feel like you need $5,000 to deliver your best value, then you need to charge $5,000 for your services. And if you don’t think anyone out there will pay $5,000 for your services, you’re either hanging around the wrong crowd, or need to revamp your offering and messaging.
Present and polish your brand so that the price tag makes sense. With a crisp, clear, sophisticated brand and message you will be attractive to the clients you actually want to work with.
Case in Point: The Wedding Industrial Complex
I recently spoke with a woman who creates custom paintings of weddings as beautiful mementos for the happy couple. Charging about $1,500 per painting, she worried about the future of her business because people were haggling.
But she’s in the wedding business—an industry where price sensitivity goes out the window.
What an opportunity!
If you’re running into consistent bartering like her, you’re talking to the wrong people. Once you acknowledge and accept that, you can adjust your strategy and course. For our wedding artist, the money and market most certainly exist, she just has to own that positioning in the market. Be a higher end service, stick to what she wants from the deal (i.e. her price), and then only put effort into marketing to the people who have the right budget.
If she identifies potential referral partners that cater to $250,000+ weddings, and then only puts energy into connecting with them, she will build a reputation with a higher-end market. She may have to polish up her website and process. She may need to invest in nicer boxes in which to deliver the paintings (presentation goes a long way with premium priced services.) She probably needs to dress the part (can't show up to a million dollar wedding in discount clothing.) Plus, with $1,500 prices on her site, she’ll never sell a painting for $5,000 or $10,000. But with the right messaging and targeting, she can reinvent her brand and position herself specifically in that $5-10,000 price range (or much higher.)
Cause you might as well...
You don't need to be in the wedding industry to charge a premium. There is a premium version of any service in every industry. Why shouldn't it be you?
Specializing bestows enormous power in your space. To pick your focus effectively, identify your ideal process, clients, and price point, and build your brand's positioning around that. It’s difficult enough to build and manage a successful business, in general, so you may as well center it around something you truly love (and that's profitable!)
In fact, if you enjoy it, you’ll have a better shot at success, and the benefits will extend much further than your company’s bank account--inspiring you to commit fully to each project and deliver the highest value possible.
To truly find your powerful niche takes digging deeper than you might otherwise go. It’s a process I put all my clients through in my Brandshrink and you can download some of my best questions in my Minishrink here.