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How picking a lane* for your business helps you grow

Posted by Simon Walker on 02/12/2017 12:00:00 AM

In Business and Marketing Strategy

*And staying in it…

You should never teach your partner to drive. This is why I’ve found myself tutoring my best friend’s girlfriend in the arts of driving a car. One of the things I’ve noticed – which most of us take for granted when we drive – is that road positioning, and staying in the lane, is a real challenge for learner drivers.

It’s a natural tendency we have to unlearn.

Drifting in focus is a natural tendency as well. We are great at seeing the next shiny thing, or great opportunity, and losing focus on what we’re good at to chase rainbows.

Just as it is with driving, in business, it’s essential to stay in your lane. Not many businesses do it, yet success is predicated on it.

Why pick a lane?

Imagine this scenario: An Insurance Adviser looks at a bank, and says “I want to offer all those services so my customers stay with me”. Then, they go out and develop services that aren’t at the core of what they do.

What happens?

The business (our Adviser) value proposition changes – from a tight focus on a specialist area, to a broad focus that’s incredibly tough to deliver at a small scale. At the bank, the mortgage manager sorts out the mortgages, the insurance specialist the insurance, and the private banker the investment. Our Adviser tries to be all three – as well as providing the service.

You might argue that the level of personalisation is low (probably) and that the service is impersonal (maybe) – but it all depends on the people they interact with. And anyway - great service is not differentiation. It’s the expectation.

The education required to keep up with more products removes the specialisation that our Adviser had beforehand, too. Not only has our Adviser become less differentiated, but he’s become worse at what he was good at before.

This isn’t a recipe for building a business that has strong, long term customer relationships, and is recognised as a leader in its’ field.

If your offering is tight, your target market needs to be tighter

Now imagine this scenario: Our Adviser is finding it tougher to find customers to talk to, so decides to start selling their services to businesses. They also find themselves talking to more and more potential customers who aren’t really the people they’ve always been good at dealing with.

It’s a natural reaction to not having enough people to talk to – but it’s the wrong one.

The thinner a salesperson spreads themselves, the harder it is to relate their proposition to their prospect. Suddenly, our Adviser has gone from having quality conversations with people that are easy to relate to, to having average conversations with people who are much tougher to get on with.

It boils down to a simple equation

This is a popular Gary Vee line – but it’s the truth. Success is about going all in on your strengths, and outsourcing your weaknesses.

It’s what our Adviser should’ve done instead of spreading out too thinly – sharpening their value proposition and refining their target market.

99 times out of 100, you win by doing what you’re good at. The other 1 time – that’s what luck is.

The next few posts in this series will focus on how you find your lane, and how you go from being good to being great in your niche. Often, by decreasing the number of people you’re talking to, you increase the number of people who want to talk to you.

Next: How to define your niche.