To make more money, do as little as possible.

April’s story of success

Small and local business owners need to choose a very narrow market. When they do, we assure them they will make more money. Here’s a voice mail I got yesterday from one company who went narrow. It’s much more powerful than any theory.

April used to be a solo practitioner. Now she owns a company with a growing number of employees and a business that is exploding. She did it by dropping 99.9% of her potential market and focusing extremely narrowly on only one tiny facet of her market. It happens all the time when we convince companies to focus narrowly. April’s is just one of innumerable stories we hear all the time as we challenge small and local companies to go narrow, not wide.

April used to be a Virtual Assistant, just like thousands of others. And just like thousands of others, all she could say is that she is better than the other thousands, which is what they other thousands would say, too. They all sounded like Charlie Brown’s teacher. Then April decided to stop being a Virtual Assistant to the world like all the other thousands, and started focusing solely on real estate agents.

Narrow and Deep, not Broad and Shallow
But she went even narrower. She took the leap to focus not just on real estate agents, but solely on helping them manage their online services – not the standard SEO or online marketing that thousands do – she doesn’t do that; but just helping them manage their online writing, data and pictures – posting new properties, blogs, data, customer records, potential leads, etc. This is an extremely narrow niche, not just with real estate agents, and not just online, but only a very specific part of the online presence.

This was scary to do, because, as with any really good narrowing down of a business, she was leaving behind 99.9% of the potential customers available to all the other thousands of Virtual Assistants like what she used to be. But as soon as she made the switch last year, she stopped sounding like Charlie Brown’s teacher, started making more money and started bringing on real estate agents.

Results Speak Louder Than Words
Soon she had one entire office of 60 real estate agents using her company to administrate their online services, and was bringing on smaller offices as well. She started taking on employees from the thousands of Virtual Assistants out there who had not narrowed their services and were now looking for jobs, and her business has been growing ever since. I got this voice mail from her yesterday:

“I just wanted to let you know how 3to5 Club training is just continuing to change my life. I just decided to meet up with a potential major strategic partner connected to the 60-person real estate office, with much bigger real estate connections. When I explained to him what I’m doing and how I’ve narrowed my business down to only managing online real estate company services, getting that specific – he was so excited he almost did cartwheels. He said, “I don’ t know anyone else doing this. We have to package this for the other offices.

Long story short – he is introducing me to seven other company offices in the next three months. So we will go from having 60 agents to all 560 agents. It’s so great. Honestly, I would not be where I’m at without your wisdom and advice and 3to5 Club’s encouragement and belief in me all this time. It turns out that what we are doing is so specific that it is cutting edge for real estate marketing.

Just wanted to say thank you so much and I hope you have a great weekend.

Focus, Focus, Focus…
I have NEVER seen a small or local company go narrow and lose money doing it. Never. They always make more money if they stick with it. But I’ve seen more than I can count go out of business by trying to be all things to all people. They rarely make more money. At best they grow their revenue along with their expenses and end up a lot busier, more stuck on the treadmill, with higher revenue but with no more profit. But usually their revenue goes down along with their profit.

Want to make more money? Stop doing everything, and just do one thing. You can do “everything” later, after you build a successful company around one thing.

Stop taking advice from Giant Corporation, Inc.’s story. Take it from April. Do one thing, very narrowly. The more narrow your niche, the more likely you are to make money.

Market Like a Fisherman Fishes

Pick a fish, any fish.

If I go fishing and have no idea what fish I’m going after, what are my chances of success? What rod should I take, what bait or lure will work? Where will I fish? Without knowing which fish, it’s all random hope. Welcome to the most common small business marketing practices.

He who aims at nothing, hits it every time.

Small businesses have one over-riding fear – there is a customer out there that I might not get. I need them all and can’t afford to miss even one. That fear is the basis for the worst, most common marketing practices – going after every kind of fish at once in the hope that I might catch one.

As the old Russian proverb says, “A man who chases two rabbits catches none.” We fish wide, when marketing success comes from fishing in a very narrow, specific way for a narrow, specific customer.

Which Fish?
A good fisherman decides which kind of fish they are going after. It’s the FIRST thing they do. We think we do that, but we we’re really doing is deciding to go after all fish that are wet. A realtor will go after anyone who MIGHT buy a house ANYWHERE within an hour’s drive of their house. A financial planner will go after ANYBODY with two nickels to rub together. A photographer will go after businesses, families, pets, weddings, events, and landscapes.

Why? Because if we don’t go after every fish that is wet, we might miss one. And we’re hungry. We need every fish we can get. We’ll guess what? The best way to ensure you won’t go hungry is to PICK ONE fish and only one, and pursue it with relentless focus.

Once a fisherman chooses one very specific fish (not just “bass” in general, but “small-mouth pond bass”, they then study that one type of fish thoroughly – what they look like, where they live, when they eat. They study what they need, what they want, and what they like (sometimes all three are different). They know everything about that fish, and as a result, they set up their entire strategy and all their equipment to find that one fish.

Contrast that with the local business owner who aimlessly throws money at advertising, direct marketing, and public relations just to see what happens. And they advertise all over the place to everyone who is a possible client.

A successful business owner picks ONE very specific type of client, and builds their entire marketing strategy around that very narrow niche. The rest of us go hungry.

A woodworking guy. . . . . . . . . . The stair rail guy
A financial planner. . . . . . . . . . .Focus on teachers.
A realtor.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . To a specific niche.
A contractor. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .I do bathrooms; nothing else.
A photographer. . . . . . . . . . . . . .I shoot pets, period.
An insurance agent. . . . . . . . . . .For single women.
A travel agent. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Cruises – period.
A computer tech. . . . . . . . . . . . . Mac and only Mac.
A bookkeeper. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . For doctors only.

A Meaningful Specific or?…
Every one of the above are real business owners who are highly successful because they know who their fish are – a VERY narrow niche. I could also name a thousand I know who don’t focus like this. They are all violating Zig Zigler’s question – “Are you a wandering generality or a meaningful specific?” All of the generalists are struggling, and all of them are spending more money on marketing than any of the above specialists.

Probable vs. Possible
The key? Don’t go after POSSIBLE clients, people who MIGHT buy. Focus on PROBABLE clients and people who WILL buy, and do it in the smallest pond you can define. It will make the fish much easier to catch.