Narrow Your Focus

Too many small companies try to be all things to all people. Well, we can do this, and that, and the other thing too! Why not offer all of our things to all of our people?

The problem is this: if you do all kinds of things, no one will think of you when they need something specific.

If I’m hungry for dinner, I may have a long list of places to choose from. But if I’m hungry for Indian food, I have only one–my favorite. I will never go there for any other kind of food, because they only serve Indian.

If I want a new suit, I will most likely go to Jones New York, because they specialize in women’s career clothing. I don’t need to walk through dozens of departments with clothes that I don’t want just to reach a small selection of outfits I might want. All of the variety just makes me tired. I like a brand that has complete clarity about its promise to customers.

Likewise, when my company needs a product or service, I like to go to a specialist. I typically use, which is a great source for independent contractors, to find a service provider. When I needed a new website and wanted to build it in WordPress, I found a website company that uses lots of platforms but claimed to be proficient in WordPress. I assumed they would have multiple developers and plenty of experience. Unfortunately, they proved to be very limited in their knowledge of this platform. So I tried again and this time selected an individual, with his own practice, who specializes in customizing WordPress. He is light years better than the previous company and in fact is no more expensive. I have many professional friends who use WordPress for their website and/or their blog, so I will refer him to many new clients. The narrowness of the work he prefers to do makes it easy to refer him; likewise, his narrow focus on WordPress enables him to know practically everything about it and to keep learning with each new client.

Of course there are degrees of “narrowness.” A great example is the chain of stores that are known today as FedEx Office. Formerly Kinko’s, they specialized in photocopying and printing. FedEx, of course, specializes in shipping. They purchased Kinko’s in 2004 to create what has become the retail side of their business. Their major competitors are also office supplies stores that have printing and shipping capabilities. They remain narrow in that they provide services aimed directly at small businesses and home-based businesses. The stores that used to be known as Kinko’s have printing capabilities far superior to Staples, and the convenience of shipping is at least as good if not better. There is nothing confusing about what they do, now that they have completed their re-branding. But such a big change DID require a major effort to re-educate customers of both Kinko’s and FedEx.

As you search for the best ways to position your brand, consider whether you could reduce confusion by focusing on a clear specialty–a service specialty or a market specialty, or both. Some of the best brands are narrow, and many of the best brands outperform all of their competitive brands in sales revenue.