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Think Small

“Very narrow areas of expertise can be very productive. Develop your own profile. Develop your own niche.” – Leigh Steinberg

Over the years, I’ve met dozens of people who want to become speakers, consultants, coaches, TV show hosts, or best-selling book authors. Nine out of 10 have told me that they want to speak, write, or coach people in “leadership” … “success” … “motivation” … or some similarly broad topic.

These wannabes are thinking big – pursuing broad areas in which millions of potential readers, clients, and customers are seeking advice. And I can virtually guarantee you that most of them are going to fail miserably.

The problem is that they are thinking big – when they should be thinking small.

What do I mean by “thinking small”?


My friend, speaker Wally Bock, defines a micro-niche as “the intersection of a skill or discipline with an industry.”

So “customer service” is not a micro-niche.

“Banking” is not a micro-niche.

But “customer service skills for bank tellers” IS.

Why should you narrow the focus of your business – and target a small micro-niche – rather than offer a big idea, service, or product that everyone wants?

There are two reasons why micro-niching is a smart business strategy.

The first is competition.

If you want to position yourself as a “customer service guru,” there’s a lot of competition. Everybody and his brother are trying to cash in on the need for customer service training. And the barriers to entry in this field are low.

On the other hand, if you want to become known as the “customer service guru” in the banking industry, there’s a lot less competition – because it’s a narrow niche.

The second reason why micro-niching is a good strategy is credibility.

Let’s say you have worked as a bank teller for the last 11 years. If you proclaim yourself to be an expert in customer service, I’m going to be skeptical. And, more than likely, you’ll have a difficult time proving your claim to me, your skeptical prospect.

But if you proclaim yourself to be an expert in customer service for the banking industry … AND you tell me that you have over a decade of experience in retail banking … well, you’re instantly credible and believable.

As Michael Masterson said in an earlier post, generalists are going the way of the dodo and the dinosaur. Customers want to deal with vendors who are perceived as experts in their field.

A few years ago, I opened the newspaper to the “Dear Abby” column and saw that a reader had written to express his disapproval of the way Abby had answered a particular question. His letter began with the most wonderfully sarcastic line: “Dear Abby – How nice it must be to know everything about everything!”

Your customers are smart. They realize that no one can possibly know everything about everything, or even about most things. The broader the area of expertise you claim for yourself, the less believable you are.

By micro-niching, you become the “credible expert.” People believe you more readily … and want to do business with you because you’re a specialist in exactly the service they need.

It’s a win-win situation.

They get more accurate advice, better service, and confidence in you, their expert advisor.

You get more business, at higher fees, with clients who respect you and listen to what you tell them.

By the way, the narrower and more specialized your micro-niche, the higher the fees you will command – and the easier it will be to get leads and close sales.

For instance, offering your services as a “marketing consultant” is a tough field to break into, because so many people peddle marketing advice. Positioning yourself as a “software marketing consultant” has been a great micro-niche … except more and more people are doing it, so the field is getting crowded.

But my friend Fred Gleeck positions himself as a marketing consultant for the self-storage industry. There is little or no competition – and Fred owns most of that market. After all, how many marketing advisors are interested in self-storage – or even know anything about marketing self-storage services?

Precious few, of course.

So the demand for self-storage marketing advice greatly outweighs the supply – and Fred can pretty much name his own price.

Now, maybe micro-niching won’t bring you the fame of a Dr. Phil or a Dr. Ruth. But other than that, what’s not to like?

So take my advice – and find yourself a micro-niche today.

It will do your business good.

[Ed. Note: Bob Bly is a popular Early to Rise columnist, self-made multi-millionaire, and the author of 70 books. He is also the editor of ETR’s Direct Marketing Masters Edition – a program to help you start your own successful direct-mail business.

Check out Bob’s website to sign up for his free e-letter.]