October 19, 2018

Scissors Operator

Imagine a barber (I’ll call him Ernie) hanging a sign outside his shop that read:

“Scissors Operator: We cut stuff”

What kind of clients might a sign like that attract?

Maybe someone who needs a haircut. Or a beard trim.

Or... maybe someone who needs the tags cut off a blouse.

Or... someone who needs to wrap a birthday present.

Or... someone who needs a potted tomato plant pruned.

Or... someone who wants the packaging removed from a toy firetruck.

Or... someone who wants some paper snowflakes made for a school dance.

Scissors are a very useful and flexible tool. Ernie is great with scissors. So... he would be perfectly capable of doing any of these things.

That being the case, why would Ernie limit himself to just people who happen to need a haircut? The bigger the addressable market, the more customers he’ll have, right?


By trying to appeal to everybody, you will appeal to nobody.

Think about it...

When was the last time you were walking down the street and thought, “I need a scissors operator!”

Never, right?

I think it’s safe to say that it would be unlikely for anyone walking by Ernie’s sign to connect “scissors operator” with a problem that currently had. And even if they did, the pricing dynamic would be very unfavorable to Ernie.

What would a better sign be for Ernie? Maybe something like...

“Executive Hair: Lead with confidence.”


“Executive Hair: Want to look razor sharp at your next board meeting?”


“Executive Hair: When you absolutely positively have to make a great first impression.”

So the difference?

These “Executive Hair” signs target a specific (and presumably, well-heeled) client. They connect the dots between Ernie’s skill set (i.e., cutting hair) and desirable outcomes for the buyer (e.g., confidence, prestige, admiration)

Furthermore, who do you think would be willing to pay more for Ernie’s expertise with scissors... a Fortune 50 board chairman prepping for a live appearance on CNN, or someone who needs help getting their vape juice opened?