“Look at that stack of books by the bed and tell me that you’re the kind of person who can be happy focusing on just one niche?,” said my wife as we were talking about my career when I told her I need to narrow my focus when it comes to marketing.
I’ve never been a niche guy with anything. My music taste is eclectic as hell. Take last Friday evening for example. We started listening to 40’s music (one of my favorite genres), then moved to the ’80s, then the band America, then the band ELO. It ended with Isaac Hayes and the theme song from *Shaft*. Yesterday, I listened to Wu-Tang Clan, followed by ‘90s alternative and grunge. You tell me how I could be happy focusing on one thing, man.
That’s practically a microcosm of my life and my career. I don’t think it’s in my DNA.
I just see the world differently. I know there are “riches in the niches.” I know what the formula for being successful and sought out as an “expert” is, yet I’m terrified by the thought of commitment. Terrified to only focus on one thing.
Being a Generalist Often Feels Like You’re a Giraffe on Ice Skates
When I started my digital marketing consulting business back in 2009, I focused on a little bit of everything. Didn’t really go very deep in anything, mostly since it was a side gig for the first five years.
Even when I made the leap and focused on the business full-time, I still did a little bit of everything. That was unsustainable. It felt like I could never get my feet solidly underneath me.
I began to realize that then. So, I decided to focus on the area I enjoyed the most – paid search – and outsourced the rest.
Focusing on too many things is a common trap for most people, especially solopreneurs who need all the business they can get. That’s precisely why it’s a trap.
It opens the door too wide and lets too many people in. It creates big expectations for a shallow depth of expertise. It also creates inefficiencies. There’s no way I could possibly stay on top of the rapid changes that occur at every level of digital marketing (or whatever broad field you plan to tackle).
You’ll drown. You’ll also become the bottleneck. Your business won’t grow because you’re not getting better and faster at doing the work. You’re always playing catch up.
It’s Also Confusing for Other People
Word of mouth is the best way to grow a business – if you can pull it off. You can’t pull it off if no one really knows what you do. If all they know is you’re the “marketing guy/gal,” then the people they’re mentioning you to won’t really know if you can solve the problem they have.
Suppose you’re able to focus on a niche and go really deep. When people talk about you, they’ll be able to easily say you’re a “paid search guy/gal,” or you’re the “inbound content marketing guy/gal,” or you’re the “SEO guy/gal.”
See how much easier that is for others to talk about you? See how consistent and on target the leads coming across your email will be?
How the problems to solve will be very similar? This means you begin to build repeatable processes and frameworks that save time and work.
For those of us with commitment issues, is it time to check them at the door? To stop worrying about the future that no one can predict and start solving a specific problem for people?
I don’t know. I still have a commitment problem, but I’m trying to figure it out.
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