There's a fundamental rule in marketing that takes some discipline and some getting used to, but it's undeniably true: You can't be everything for everybody.
It's impossible to build a business and market a brand in a way that serves everyone. First of all, you can't possibly please everyone all the time and, secondly, you can't possibly offer everything that everyone would want all the time either. It's simply impossible.
But, when running a business, we can't help but want to maximize our opportunities, so we avoid saying no to anything. We want to please everyone and we want to give people everything that they want, so we say yes all the time.
We want to give everything to everybody.
As a result, we try to go for the broadest range of product features and services in an attempt to get as close as we can to offering everything for everybody. We feel better doing that because it feels like we are reducing risk and keeping our options open.
It's actually quite the opposite.
When we try to be everything for everybody, we run the risk of being nothing for nobody. We end up watering down our business proposition and our brand promise in an attempt to be as broad as possible. We become so vague that no one knows what we are offering and our potential customers turn to other, more specific options.
We end up accomplishing far less than we had hoped, which is exhausting.
As entrepreneurs, we end up running ragged trying to get it all done with limited resources. It makes us feel busy and productive, but again it's actually quite the opposite. We are doing busy work that isn't generating the kind of results we were ultimately aiming for.
So, what's a small business owner or entrepreneur to do?
Get specific about your business assets. Really hone in on the skills that you are best suited to offer your customers. Don't try to do everything; do what you are best at. Concentrate on offerings where you truly are better than your competitors. Focus on your competitive advantages and make those the core of your business. When you get specific about clearly defined offerings, you'll find you can make them even better and more innovative as you become an expert in your chosen field. Your goal is to be the best available at one or two things, rather than just average on a bunch.
Pick your customer targets to match your skills. Once you know what you are best at, pick the customers who are most likely to appreciate them. Your goal should be to tightly define your customer target so that you can capture a large percentage of their business. While it might feel better going for a larger audience, your business may very well end up being smaller, since only a small percentage will be interested in your skills.
Strive for loyalty. Once you've identified your ideal customer base, build a loyalty program that keeps them engaged and satisfied over and over again. It's much easier to get more business from a current customer than it is to obtain a brand new one, so leverage their positive experiences to create more interactions.
Also, ask them to share their experiences within their networks. Your goal should be to form a strong base of advocates who have fallen in love with your brand and can't live without your business services.
Develop an innovation pipeline. Now that you've established a specific expertise for a specific customer base, make sure you are continuing to evolve and improve your offering. Innovation will keep them interested and buying more, with each new iteration of your offering.
Take a look at Apple. The company's pipeline keeps its loyalists standing in line and upgrading on a constant basis. Your goal should be to offer your loyalists continuous improvements in your business benefits, and you just might pick up some new customers with your innovations as well.
Take a stand. This might be the hardest part yet, but it's becoming more and more important to keep loyal customers on your side. Get to know what's important in your customers' lives and take a stand with them. More and more, we are seeing brands take a stand on social, political and economic issues to show their customers that they are living alongside them as they go through their lives.
While it may seem risky to alienate some, you'll actually be developing stronger loyalty among your customer base and that's much more important to your business. Your goal should be to understand what matters most to your customers so you can speak up and see how your business and brand can add value. By the way, your customers are increasing expecting you to take a stand and might very well walk away if you don't.
In the end, trying to be everything to everybody is a quick ticket to a brand that has no true meaning, a disengaged customer base and a business without a strong future.
On the contrary, focus, expertise and innovation will create exactly what you were striving for, which is a fulfilling brand experience, highly loyal customers and a future driven by your own thoughtful innovation.
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This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com. Minor edits have been done by the Entrepreneur.com.ph editors