Why there is value in being a specialist – staying niche

The value in being niche

One of the most oft-recurring conversations I have with small business- and even some larger businesses – is whether they should ‘do more’. That is: sell a wider array of goods or services. Diversify.

There is a true fear of missing an opportunity by being a specialist, being niche. And I completely understand this because when I’ve worked completely as a freelancer, there’s a tendency to say yes to everything to ensure you can keep paying the bills.

Yet there is some real value in staying niche – and that’s the opportunity to be positioned and perceived as a “specialist”. A true expert, with specialised knowledge, is what many people are seeking from either a service provide or a retailer.

I was recently reminded of this when I received this (unsolicited) email. Despite the fact it’s obviously quite ugly, mass-produced and inherently ‘spammy’ looking, the actual content is worse. Why? Because can one person, or one business, possibly be expert in all of those things? Of course not. They can likely DO all of these things, but that doesn’t mean I’d trust them to be “the best choice” for any one of them.

Value of specialisation

I’m not alone in the call to consider the benefits of staying niche. I watched a recent interview with Andrew McCutchen of Time & Tide (as part of a series of Officeworks videos). Andrew’s publication is one of the most niche media offerings out there: a publication focused only on watches. Yet it seems to be thriving at a time when much larger media vehicles are dropping like flies. He talked about not being afraid to delight in the detail of what you do, and “showing your passion for it” which, in turn, “will show authority in the space”.

At a time when Department stores are hitting truly hard times, specialist retail is also gaining traction. An impressive example of a niche retail business that’s thriving is store C.W. Pencils in New York. It is a store dedicated to – you guessed it – pencils. Yes, there’s some other stationery on offer, but this store has made itself a true retail destination by being perceived as a pencil specialist. Don’t think there could be anything in that? A hint that it’s working is not only all the media they’ve garnered, but their Instagram following that tipped to over 100,000 people in a year.

So if you’re considering your business and marketing planning for the coming year, it’s a good time to consider what it is you and your business really excel at: are true experts in. Then consider if there’s value is focusing more narrowly on this speciality and really building your authority in that arena. Some short term challenges may evolve into genuine, long-term, competitive advantage: being sought out by prospective customers as an expert in your field. The ultimate, zero budget marketing dream.

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