There is plenty of great marketing advice about choosing a market niche in which you can excel. But advice is sometimes hard to take without proof. I was contemplating this topic “choosing a niche market” the other day and threw the idea out to my cousin over lunch. “I’m feeling some tension about this subject of niche marketing,” I said as I shared my frustration about how to frame this blog. John, a home brew hobbyist, immediately grabbed onto the topic and shared this example of his favorite craft beer brewer, Founders Brewing Company.
Founders Brewing was established by two guys that just loved beer, especially complex, stout ales. Through great effort and massive personal risk their company grew as they brewed well-balanced beers for the masses. That was the good news. The bad news – in an effort to be something for everyone Founders was on the brink of bankruptcy. It was at this point that the Founders team decided to narrow their focus and just create the kinds of beers that they loved the most, ales with huge aromatics, bigger body, and tons of flavor. The Founders brand has now grown around the philosophy. “We don’t brew beer for the masses. Instead, our beers are crafted for a chosen few, a small cadre of renegades and rebels who enjoy a beer that pushes the limits of what is commonly accepted as taste. In short, we make beer for people like us.”
Narrowing the focus has paid off for Founders Brewing Company, since 2011, Ratebeer.com has ranked the company as the 2nd best brewery in the world and several Founders beers are listed in the top one hundred beers of the world on Beeradvocate.com.
While I am not a lover of beer, the Founders story was not lost on me. After 30 years of helping market businesses I had accumulated loads of experience and knowledge in many business segments and a correspondingly large set of marketing skills. I was a marketing generalist.
In the past few years, beginning about 2008, my appetite for information about new media, social media marketing and digital marketing was voracious. Yet, many of our larger clients were not ready to explore these marketing channels in a significant way. In the summer of 2011 I decided to sell my share of the full service marketing, media and public relations company which I had founded to become an online marketing specialist and solo entrepreneur. My goal in starting over was to narrow my focus and meet the market of established small and medium sized businesses that were hungry for new marketing solutions that would match the changing marketplace.
Shifting from generalist to specialist has its challenges. Every day I struggle with the temptation to slip back into generalist mode. The knowledge and experience that I have accumulated is useful and dangerous at the same time. It is useful because it offers wisdom and contextual understanding of so many business categories, yet dangerous because the rules of the marketing game have changed substantially and clarity of purpose lives on the specialist side of the balance sheet. I believe I can serve my customers better as an online marketing specialist. Even when I feel conflicted about what to be for my clients – I love my job!
What is your market focus?