Whether we like it or not, we can't be all things to all people. So many of us try to please everyone, believing that if we do so, we'll be accepted, validated, liked or loved. That drives us to try and please others, often while sacrificing our own boundaries or desires.

As human beings running companies, we have a tendency to do this in business. Too many entrepreneurs want to chase every opportunity and appeal to as broad a market as possible. Businesses, and their leaders, feel pressure to launch a product or service that appeals to audiences sitting outside their strategic goals and core competencies. Mapping out a clear understanding of who your customers are and what you offer them is key to thriving. 

I experienced this first hand at my company, SkyBell. In our early days, potential investors told us that we needed to have an entire smart home solutions platform. They told us to own the entire home. We ignored this recommendation and focused on providing a single point solution that was very effective at one thing: showing users who was at their front door. Our focus paid off, and the crowdfunding campaign I created raised over $600,000.

In our case, it was a great decision to forego appealing to everyone and focus solely on a single and important user experience. Consider these three reasons why your business should focus on one specialty instead of generalizing across multiple products, services, solutions or customers.

1. Customers know authenticity versus insincerity

When you focus on one customer base, and you are aligned closely with that customer, you can truly resonate with them and build trust. Customers can feel your authenticity and the focus results in a bond.

Oppositely, trying to appeal to several types of customers can create disconnect. If you aren't truly aligned with a customer, or truly know their experiences or interests, then they will detect your insincerity. Also, claiming to be an expert in many things can dilute your message. It's not possible to be an expert in multiple things, and this creates doubt.

One example of how authenticity can help connect with customers is Purple Carrot, a meal-kit delivery service. While other services focused on cooking or grocery subscriptions, Purple Carrot was able to carve out a niche by focusing exclusively on vegan meal options. Had the company touted the benefits of a vegan lifestyle while also offering a wide selection of foods containing meat or dairy, customers would have seen this as inauthentic. By sticking to their purpose and niche, they can build trust with customers and grab a larger market share of the vegan community.

2. Customers trust the expertise of a specialized provider

In my experiences as a business development officer focusing on B2B (business-to-business) sales, I learned that potential customers are hiring your product or service to do a certain job. Before closing a deal, they must reach a high level of trust in you and your solution. Specialty providers are more likely to inspire confidence than their generalist counterparts because they focus on one product or service, and that focus better meets the needs of a customer. 

One such example is CARR, a real estate business that focuses specifically on healthcare tenants and buyers. Instead of being an average broker that occassionally sells medical-specific properties, CARR can offer a better value proposition because they know that niche better than the average broker. 

In the case of my business, we focused solely on the video doorbell, and did not chase other opportunities with smart locks or smart lights. Our customers could trust that we were pouring all our focus and resources on the doorbell - and we were the experts.

If you want a non-business example, consider Michael Jordan. Despite being arguably the greatest basketball player of all time, Jordan was unable to go beyond the minor leagues when attempting to play professional baseball. It's extremely difficult to be great at everything, and many of the people we consider great simply focused on one thing.

3. Broad marketing efforts are less effective

In the years before I was an entrepreneur (ten years ago), I helped clients establish a presence online with SEO (search engine optimization) and grow revenue through online marketing. By far the biggest mistake I enountered was spreading a marketing budget across too many customer segments, ad campaigns or marketing channels.

Online marketing campaigns with broad audience settings, or too many campaigns, did not perform as well as campaigns that were highly-focused. When your marketing is focused enough to account for a specific customer on a specific platform, your ad will resonate more strongly with the customer and you'll see better ROI versus just placing generic ads in as many places as possible.

Similarly, traditional marketing tactics like television commercials, radio spots and print campaigns are also not as effective as targeted online marketing campaigns. A great example of this is a Super Bowl commercial versus YouTube advertising. Brands spend over $5 Million for 30-second spots to advertise to over 100 Million viewers watching the game. Over on YouTube, there are over 1 Billion mobile-views every single day. That means there are ten Super Bowl equivalents happening every day on YouTube, just on mobile alone.

Last year, Jeep was able to rack up 106 Million views online in lieu of a Super Bowl ad. This shows how you can reach a larger target audience online than you could broadcasting via the traditional advertising solutions.

Final Word

Specializing in a core competency and value proposition allows you to better position your solutions and establish brand identity within your field. Rather than chasing every opportunity, focus your efforts on identifying who your core customers are and prioritize their needs and desires. Allow that focus to drive your business decisions, and you'll stand apart from the crowd.

Published on: Apr 3, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.