When I started out, I specialized as soon as I could.
I didn’t know any better. And I saw other people do it successfully.
But I was also interested enough in the industry (SaaS).
Even better, I was an avid user myself.
But would I recommend niching down or specializing to everyone?
Let’s use a quick story to illustrate…
In an episode of Seinfeld, Jerry enters a restaurant and orders food. The owner is Pakistani, but apparently they specialize in, well, nothing really.
Their top choices are tacos, moussaka and franks and beans.
Anything but Pakistani food.
So, Jerry puts on his marketer’s hat:
“Jerry: Babu, you’re Pakistani?
Babu: Yes, Pakistani, yes.
Jerry: Babu, may I say something?
Babu: Of course, you’re a very smart man, I’ll listen.
Jerry: I’m not a restaurateur by any means, but it occurred to me that perhaps you might serve some dishes from your native Pakistan? As opposed to franks and beans for example.
Babu: But there are no Pakistani people here.
Jerry: Doesn’t matter. You would have the only authentic Pakistani restaurant in the whole neighborhood.“
Was Jerry right?
Later in the episode he goes back to the restaurant.
Everything’s changed. The vibe, the decorations, the furniture, everything screams “Pakistani”. And the menu follows suit.
But Babu looks pissed – and the restaurant is still empty.
At some point Jerry starts moaning about the food… it’s the last drop for Babu:
“Babu: Quiet!! You shut up! You make me change restaurant, but nobody comes! You say make Pakistani, Babu Bhatt have only Pakistani restaurant. But where are people? You see people? Show me people. There are no people!“
It’s a great episode, and explains when it’s right to niche down and when it’s not.
You should niche down when you know your audience.
it doesn’t matter what competitors are doing or what you think you should be doing.
And most importantly, even when you get feedback from your audience, beware of the outliers or of the statistically insignificant feedback.
Jerry’s feedback was statistically insignificant.
Babu shouldn’t have listened to him.
Instead, he should have made a mental note of that, and kept collecting feedback.
He was onto something when he said “But there are no Pakistani people here“, because the only 100% sure sign for not niching down at the time was that the audience wasn’t a good fit.
He didn’t have all the data, but at least he had some data to guide him.
Keep in mind..knowing your audience might also mean that, if you’re scratching your own itch and you’re the audience, then you might have a little advantage.
Which might make specializing a viable path.
But I would still validate the hypothesis.
In my case I had that going for me, I was a SaaS buyer.
But I didn’t get stuck with it. Reason why now I also work with a lot of ecommerce companies.
I observed my market, got feedback and saw the opportunity to serve both industries.
When in doubt, think of this before you start shouting “But where are people? You see people? Show me people. There are no people!”
Need help figuring out what direction you should take your business? Maybe it’s your pricing strategy or your product roadmap… Get in touch.
Quote and reflection of the day:
“It is impossible to put the pieces together if you do not have in your head the idea of the whole… The bowman must first know what he is aiming at: then he has to prepare hand, bow, bowstring, arrow and his drill to that end. Our projects go astray because they are not addressed to a target. No wind is right for a seaman who has no predetermined harbour.”
– Michel de Montaigne, The Complete Essays
Goals are directional tools. Unless you set yours, other people will set them for you and dictate where you’re headed. You might not achieve all of them, but what you achieve in the end, is a state of control and fulfilment. Isn’t that the ultimate goal?