The other day I heard a comedian talking about a sign he saw in front of a
house on a country road. The sign said:
“Lawn Mower Repair and Income Taxes”
This led to a very funny bit about how this unique business got started. He
talked about how a customer might look at such a business.
Not only was it funny, but it was relevant.
Sometimes it’s okay to do several different things. Sometimes your customers
will believe you can be good at repairing lawn mowers and at preparing tax
But not usually.
More likely a customer will look at such an odd combination of services and
wonder how can someone do both well. Maybe they do. Maybe they are world-class
in both skills. But, unless the customer has a reason to believe that, they
won’t. They’ll assume the opposite.
This reminds me of a conversation I had recently.
A colleague and I were discussing focus. We have both seen many professionals
who lack focus. They offer every service under the sun. Someone asks them what
they do and their response is “what do you need done?” They try to do too much
because they want to have a big, broad market for their services.
If I were going to have brain surgery, I’m pretty sure I’d look for a
surgeon who is highly specialized, experienced and expert in that field. I’d
want the best.
I know not every service or product we buy is as important as brain surgery.
But the principles are the same. If you can show your customers you offer them
what they want, better than anyone else, they’ll pick you.
This is because people know what they want to accomplish with the products or
services they buy. They know how they want to buy and consume these services. If
you can offer them a buying experience that is better than anyone else in your
market, you win.
When we try to be all things to all people, we end up being average (or
worse) at most of them. That strategy has been tried by countless companies
large and small and it rarely works well.
It fails because it’s not focused on the customer. It’s designed to make life
better for the provider. Push more product through the same customer channels.
Increase revenue per customer and marketing costs go down relative to sales.
Profits go up. All is well and good.
So the logic goes. But it fails because it disregards what customers want.
If I’m buying groceries, then it makes sense. I’m thrilled that I can buy
produce, meat, bread and frozen food all in the same place.
But for most services (and many products) it doesn’t work that way. Customers
want what they want, not what the provider happens to be selling. We want what
helps us accomplish our goals, not what happens to be convenient for you to sell
You want more customers? You want them coming back more often?
It’s simple. Be the best at what you do. Show your customers you’ll help them
achieve their goals AND you’ll do it better than anyone else. Give them a reason
to believe you.
They will choose you over your competitors. And they’ll thank you for the