The conversation started out simple enough – I was talking with a client about some next steps for her business for the coming year. But by the end of it, we might have completely re-focused her entire strategy for positioning her within her target market.
It was one of those really big “holy shit” moments – the kind that you have when you’re pretty sure that you just turned a paradigm on its head. I mean, don’t get me wrong, we didn’t force a complete reconsideration of the theories that bind the universe together. But, in the scheme of a business owner looking to tap into new markets and expand her influence in her space; yeah, it was pretty big.
In a nutshell, the client is highly knowledgable in her given vertical but her primary business offering is an e-commerce store focused on selling materials related to that vertical. The focus has been on expanding the e-commerce business – which is good – while completely subjugating everything else that she could potentially bring to her market.
This is bad.
Actually, this is very bad considering that the vertical we’re talking about is pretty niche. Any level of knowledge above basic is highly valuable. And this client’s level of knowledge is way above basic. It’s basic plus everything. Like an “infinity plus one” level of knowledge. Professor Xavier minus the kickass wheelchair. And the bald head. And Patrick Stewart’s amazing voice.
I’d consider living a life of crime if it meant I could have Patrick Stewart’s voice. Wait – what were we talking about?
Oh yeah – ok, so why focus solely on the e-commerce store? Sure, it’s important. It represents a significant financial commitment and a significant portion of monthly income. But it serves a limited number of people – people who already know your inventory and people who aren’t going to buy from you unless their current projects necessitate a new purchase. Advertising will tap into a few new veins but, in the end, you’re still left with the same problem – small, niche groups looking for small, niche products. That is a tough cycle to break.
But, that knowledge swirling around in her head? That knowledge is something more valuable than any product she might have sitting on a shelf waiting for the right buyer to come along. And the number of people who want that knowledge is infinitely larger than those that are looking for a niche product in a niche space.
So that’s when I asked the question. “Why does the store matter so much? Why have you put yourself underneath the store and given it all of the authority here when it should be the exact opposite? Why aren’t you the primary authority and the store is simply a subset of what you can offer to those around you?”
Now, at this point, if you’re reading this and not scratching your head wondering “right….and why do people pay you again?” I’d actually question your mental clarity.
But think about it.
Think about how this is so obvious but so few people think about everything that they can offer the market and focus instead on a limited set of possibilities. Think about it long enough and it should drive you bananas. Like a “B A N A N A S Gwen Stefani winning a spelling bee” level of bananas.
Think about how you’ve positioned yourself relative to the businesses you’re involved in and whether that positioning leaves the door open to as much opportunity as it could. Should you be selling products related to a given market? Or should you be selling those products while simultaneously teaching, speaking, putting together online classes and lectures, selling on Skillshare, and pumping out emailed and screencasted lessons to paid subscribers like the “now you can buy the shit that’s in my head” knowledge factory that you know you are but just haven’t figured out how to be yet?
This may come back and bite me in a few months but I’m publicly stating – shouting from the rooftops even – that ‘positioning’ is going to be one of the buzzwords of 2016. Having a business isn’t enough. Marketing that business isn’t enough. 2016 is going to be all about how you position that business within your vertical, but more so, how you position yourself relative to what your business can offer.
Single purpose knowledge will be very 2015. What else can you offer? Once you clear away and get past the surface bullshit, what can you really sell?