It can be challenging being a small business owner. Sometimes you feel like an expert in one really niche area of the world, and wonder how the hell the person who needs your services will ever find you. Or else, you feel like a jack of all trades but a master of none – and it tends to swing from one extreme to the other.
Generally speaking, those of us running our own businesses ARE experts in what we do. Whether that thing is or should be niche is what is really up for question. It’s important that your small business diversifies its product or service offering, particularly in uncertain or evolving economic times, as this can be the key to weathering the storm.
When we speak about diversification, we could be talking about any number of things. It might be that you diversify the ways in which people can work with you – consultations, online workshops, ebooks, in person, via skype. It could also mean you diversify the kind of work you do – hairdresser and beautician and mobile salon and makeup artist. Or it could be you diversify in the kind of clients you deal with – small business, government bodies, short contracts, ongoing contracts. The challenge is in diversifying in just one area – you can’t be everything to everyone, and its key that you designate what you will do, who you will work with, and who you won’t.
If you are an expert in one very specific thing, like sustainable backyard food production, for instance, deliver that in a variety of ways – produce eBooks for download, run workshops, do private consultations and group training, all on that one (preferably in-demand) topic.
If you want to deliver your service in a more narrow set of ways, you need to make sure that it’s more than just one thing you offer – an easy example here is an accountant who mainly delivers one to one consultations and advice documents, but can also advise on financial planning, business advice, superannuation advice, and structuring wills.
If you want to deliver just one particular kind of service – say, auditing – then make sure you target anyone and everyone who can use this service – from small business owners to government bodies, sole traders to international corporations.
Take EM Design + Marketing as an example. We deliver a broad range of marketing services specifically to small and medium business owners. There’s a limit on the work we do – we don’t for instance print anything ourselves, even though that’s adjacent to our business, nor do we run events, although we often work with event organisers. We don’t work with government bodies or multinationals, but we do specialise in small and medium businesses, providing them with a one-stop-shop for most of the marketing support they will generally need. We don’t see ourselves as having a niche, instead, we have our fingers in many of the same shaped pie.
This diversification might move shift and change throughout the life of your business. Some seasons you might find yourself having lots of the same kind of client, but providing them with all sorts of different services. Other times, you might be offering plenty of the same service, but to lots of different kinds of clients.
What we are seeing a lot of at the moment is narrow field businesses that are struggling because they simply haven’t diversified in any way. They do one thing, and they sell to one group of people and that’s it. That’s a recipe for disaster, no matter how much you make from that one, really niche product or service. By diversifying in different areas of your business, you’re able to move and flow with the market a bit more, giving your business both resilience and flexibility to work as the market dictates.
There’s power in being an expert in one thing. What you want to avoid is pigeonholing yourself into such a niche area that you can’t best utilise your skills and service no one. Look at your business and work out where you’re diversifying, what you do and how you can use that diversification to create growth. That’s where you should be heading.