October 15, 2016

Debunking The Top Three Fears Of Specialization

In yesterday’s message, I suggested that you market yourself as a specialist in order to increase the likelihood of prospects hiring you.

But what exactly do I mean by the word specialist?

Here’s the definition that I use in my coaching program:

Someone who markets themselves as having a sharply focused area of expertise. The area of expertise is typically defined by the overlap of the specialist’s Discipline and the needs of the specialist’s Target Market. See also: Vertical Specialization, Horizontal Specialization, Platform Specialization, Demographic Specialization.

Please note that specialization is a marketing tactic. Moving from a generalist position to a specialist position is a change in how you talk about what you do, not a change in what you actually do in your day to day work.

The Fear™

I know from speaking with hundreds of people that the idea of specializing (aka “pigeonholing yourself” or “niching down”) scares the daylights out of most folks.

Positioning guru Philip Morgan calls this reaction “The Positioning Fear Reflex” or simply “The Fear”. The Fear can manifest itself in many ways, but here are the three I see most commonly:

I’ll debunk each in turn:

1. I won’t be able to find enough clients

Yes, you almost certainly will be able to find enough clients. Almost nobody over specializes on their first try. To allay your fears, simply do some research.

Pick a random niche like orthodontists, or Vice Presidents at Fortune 500 companies, or startups hosting their SaaS application on Heroku. I’ll bet that you’ll find at least 100 of each (which would probably be ten times more clients than you could handle in a year).

PRO TIP: If there’s at least one successful conference for your ideal buyers, then there’s a good chance that there’s plenty of work to keep you busy for a long time.

2. I’ll get bored doing the same thing all the time

This is your mind messing with you. It doesn’t even pass the sniff test. “Generalist vs specialist” is not “big vs small”, it’s “wide vs deep”. The surface area is the same, just a different angle of approach.

Consider this: virtually everyone who’s ever given a TED talk is a specialist. World leaders, Nobel prize winners, cutting edge scientists, world famous entertainers, and so on. Do they seem bored?

3. I’ll might pick the wrong thing

This is the least irrational of the three fears that I mention because it is technically possible. However, you can validate your niche before committing to it.

Also, you can (and probably should) refocus or shift gears every 18-24 months anyway.

Also also, if it turns out you genuinely did pick the wrong niche, you can pick a new one.

BOTTOM LINE: Picking the wrong niche is better than not picking one at all.