September 18, 2017

Reader question: “But horizontal specialization has changed my life!”

Reader Alain Chautard wrote in with an alternate viewpoint on my email yesterday about the marketing limitations of a horizontal specialization (shared with permission):

Hi Jonathan,

Thanks for your emails, they are always inspiring and a great source of information.

I beg to disagree with you on that one though. Horizontal specialization has changed my life and increased my number of clients. And that’s because if you’re the go to person on a specific technology, your name gets out there, you start speaking at conferences, publishing books, getting your name nicely ranked in Google results. That’s what has done for me. I’m booked like crazy and people I don’t know actually recognize me in the street or at conferences. Not sure how this would happen with vertical specialization.

Any thoughts?


Thanks for the message, Alain! You gave me the perfect segue into what I was planning to write about today :-)

Yesterday, I compared horizontal and vertical specializations. Today, I’m going to introduce you a hybrid between the two, which I call “Platform Specialization”.

Here’s my definition:

Platform Specialization—A subset of Horizontal Specialization that targets a tool or platform that your ideal buyer was involved in choosing. Niching down on Shopify, WordPress, or Salesforce are examples of Platform Specializations because your buyer almost certainly was involved in choosing the technology in question. Niching Down on tools like Photoshop, JavaScript, or MySQL are not Platform Specializations because they buyer probably didn’t directly or consciously choose them.

It sounds to me like Alain’s ideal buyers are aware of Angular and perhaps had some involvement in choosing it for their businesses. If that’s the case, I would consider it a platform specialization.

In my opinion, platform specializations can be just as good as vertical specializations from a marketing standpoint.

There’s one downside of a platform specialization to keep in mind: if the platform falls from grace, your business will go down with it (e.g., Flash).

If you pick a platform specialization, pay close attention to it’s popularity and keep an eye out for an alternate if you have to make a fast switch.