17 March 2007

Be a specialist not a generalist

Another common mistake with many small businesses is that they try too hard to offer too many services and products. Over the years they end up doing so many different things that they get confused and they lose focus. I hate to think how their customers must feel.

I spend a lot of time trying to get our clients to simplify their businesses to make it easier to market. Put less information in your advertisements, simplify your promotional material, unclutter the shop and constantly look at your business from the customers perspective.
Whenever our company takes on a new client we have a brief meeting to get to know each other. The first question asked is “what does your business do – exactly?”. After half an hour we have a list of all of the services and products available. At first the list is impressive but how do you tell people about it in a simple way?

One of our most complicated customers is a telecommunications firm that sell phone cards, cheap long distance calls, internet access and so on. I often laugh with the owner because his business changes ten times every day. The telecommunications industry is so volatile that prices are never the same two days in a row and new products flood the market daily.

All we can do is pick one aspect of the business and develop a marketing plan for that product or service. Over the next few years we will have them all addressed but it is a long slow haul that is incredibly frustrating to all involved. Even the staff are not aware of all of the products that the company offers so once again, what chance do their customers have?

I have made the same mistake in my business where I have tried to do too many things, to offer to many services and I rarely made money. As soon as I focused and began to specialise my business became profitable.

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