Does your website list a half dozen or more capabilities: logo design, website design, print, SEO, photography, video, PR?
Are you afraid of losing out on any opportunities that a client or prospect might bring you?
Perhaps you figure if you cast a wide net you’ll haul in more fish. Well, what anyone with a degree in sales or marketing can tell you is that this tactic not only fails to catch very much, it may actually be hurting your business.
1. Lowered credibility
The days of “full service” advertising agencies are over.
(This claim was dubious even before marketing channels began to segment into a million platforms.)
Today the idea that even a massive advertising agency can deliver true “full service” is absurd. So if they can’t do it, how could a staff of twelve or fewer – much less a solo freelancer – ever make such a claim?
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And even if you’re not claiming “full service,” when you list more than just a few capabilities, you’re not making an impression of broad competency. Rather, your first impression often produces incredulity and doubt.
Not a great starting point.
2. Obscured expertise
For the sake of argument, let’s assume you actually have delivered on each of the items on your long list of capabilities at one time or another.
Though you may be able to deliver on all of them, certainly there are a few items on your list where you really excel.
These items are your sweet spot. You enjoy them the most, you’re good at them, your clients appreciate your work the most, they have the biggest impact, and make you the most money.
But by listing everything you can potentially do for a client, you obscure the best things. Why make a prospect guess at which items on your long list are your real areas of expertise?
[Tweet “By listing everything you could potentially do for a client, you hide your specialty. #freelancing”]
3. Minimized experience
Not only does your true expertise get hidden when you cast a wide net, it also minimizes your experience.
If your business regularly delivers on six distinct areas of service, then your experience in each area is divided by six. Your actual experience in doing any of them is growing at one sixth the pace compared to a firm who does just one thing all day, everyday.
If a prospect really needs that one thing, which company do you think they would pick in a head-to-head competition?
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[Tweet “Generalists get paid. Specialists get paid better. #freelancing”]
4. Reduced efficiency
Efficiency is built by repeat performances.
Each time you build a website or produce a brochure, you learn a bit about the process and further refine your approach. You learn from mistakes and improve how you approach the next project. You learn the right questions to ask, and what pitfalls to avoid.
Since profit margins for most design firms can be quite slim (though they shouldn’t be), improving efficiency is one of the best ways to improve your margins.
But by changing gears after each job, alternating between web, print, logo, photography, video; you never do enough of the same kind of work to learn from mistakes and craft efficient processes to improve your bottom line.
Example: After the dot.com bubble burst and 9/11, my web development agency saw whatever work we could find carried budgets of about half as much as we were previously averaging. So we focused rigorously on process and building tools to improve efficiency. After lots of effort, we could eke out a profit margin even on those halved-budget projects.
When the market rebounded and budgets went back up, the differential was all profit!
5. Less effective marketing
If you offer everything under the sun to just about anyone under the sun, where do you even begin with proactive marketing?
- What companies do you research on LinkedIn?
- What trade shows do you attend (or seek to speak at)?
- What publications should you get mentioned in, or write for?
- What kind of content do you post on your blog?
When every business in the whole world is a potential prospect, where do you start?
Under these conditions, all your marketing efforts or expenses are like chaff in the wind. And so you give up on them, and stick with passive marketing.
But when you take the passive approach, waiting for referrals or repeat business, you want to snatch any and all work that comes your way – which is probably why you set your net so wide in the first place.
If you focus your capabilities, and even focus in on who you perform those services for, you can begin to take control of your marketing and actively find the best clients, who value your expertise. And it will be much easier to persuade them that you are the best fit for their needs.
[Tweet “If you offer everything under the sun, where do you even begin with marketing? #creativebusiness”]
But all this begins by ditching your wide net and choosing just a few (or better yet, one) areas of service to focus on.
The truth about specialization
Casting a wide net may make you feel like you’re going to haul in a large catch, but in fact it’s more like death by a thousand cuts.
Instead, become a skilled fisherman – one who knows exactly what spot, which lure, what time of day, and how deep to set the bait to catch the kind of fish he wants. He’s successful because he’s done it a thousand times.
Narrow your service offerings and you’ll find you actually get more bites, and much bigger fish.
Got a success story on how becoming a skill fisherman sparked your business? Share it in the comments!
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