If you are not the go-to person or firm, you are no one in marketing terms.
Don’t believe me? Think of your own buying approach last time you had to find a tradesperson or professional in an area where you have little or no expertise. How did you start the search? Who did you go with?
I was looking on a local search site for someone to trim a hedge recently. I found a range of people in my search who said they could do hedge trimming, gardening, carpentry, building repairs, handyman services, painting, flooring, paving, landscaping, the list could go on…
Did the fact my potential hedge trimmers claimed they could do a seemingly endless series of other jobs fill me with confidence? Absolutely not. In the end, I went for a firm that seemed to at least specialise in gardening-related services.
The same issues apply to any search. If you found out you had a serious illness, would you let yourself be treated by a GP? No way. Generalists are scary; specialists feel safer.
The marketing conundrum
Advisers want to reach as many people as possible in their marketing. But the way to do that is not to cast a wide net. It is to go narrower.
A recent blog by author Seth Godin said it brilliantly:
“Of course, everyone wants to reach the maximum audience. To be seen by millions, to maximize return on investment, to have a huge impact. And so we fall all over ourselves to dumb it down, average it out, pleasing everyone and anyone. You can see the problem.
“When you seek to engage with everyone, you rarely delight anyone. And if you’re not the irreplaceable, essential, one-of-a-kind changemaker, you never get a chance to engage with the market.”
His advice? Find the minimum viable audience: the smallest possible market that can sustain you. Become great at serving those clients you really love.
“When you have your eyes firmly focused on the minimum viable audience, you will double down on all the changes you seek to make. Your quality, your story and your impact will all get better. And then, ironically enough, the word will spread.”
The problem with averages
Of course, it makes sense to listen to your clients, doesn’t it? Well, sometimes.
As Steve Jobs said: “It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
In other words, be very careful about the types of client research you do. Yes, we should always be listening to our clients and identifying problems or challenges that cause them some degree of pain. Removing these pain points can lead to service innovation, be it small or large.
However, asking clients what they want often leads to poor quality responses because clients have no idea what you might be capable of building or developing.
Even worse, if you try to create services that appeal to a broader audience in a misguided attempt to attract more clients, you can find yourself with something no one seems to respond to.
Go and look at almost any adviser’s website and you will see similar claims to my hedge trimmers; advisers who claim to do:
I know it might be true, but these sort of bland claims just make you look like everyone else.
If you have been in business for quite a while, then sitting down and refocusing on what you are as a business can be hugely beneficial.
Try this exercise:
Imagine you have just purchased your current business from another retiring adviser. Ask yourself:
- What assets does the business have?
- What are the business’ strengths?
- How could you double down on those strengths?
- What is not so good about the business?
- What could you let go of, sell or jettison from the current business, so you can focus on the strengths?
- How would you tweak or reposition this business to speak to your true target audience?
- What pain points can you identify in your target audience?
- How could those pain points be reduced or removed?
- Are there new services you could provide?
- Are there partners you could align with who could provide complementary or adjacent services to your clients?
The formula for great
If you can run the 100-metre sprint in 9.9 seconds you are very quick. However, you will have to live on a Government grant and probably earn about £80,000 a year.
If you can run the 100 metres in 9.58 seconds, you will be world famous and earn £30m a year.
Both athletes train just as hard. But a small difference in performance creates a massive difference in financial outcomes and enjoyment.
Generating your small difference in performance is all about where you spend your limited time, money and energy. How narrow can you go, focusing on the people you love to serve?
This is where the game-changing market insights and innovations occur.
Remember – if you are not the go-to firm or person, you are no one in marketing terms. Going narrow is how you become the go-to in your market. It is time to revisit who you work with and take your business to a whole new level of performance.
Brett Davidson is founder of FP Advance