Blog Post By: Ian J. Jennings, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Baer Performance Marketing
Providing more products and services does not always lead to more success. In fact, it usually hinders growth. To truly occupy a valuable place in consumer psyche, a company must identify what it does well, how it provides the most value to the customer, and focus solely on building a brand from that foundation.
Human beings associate brand or company identity with what the company does well, not breadth of services or even product quality versus competitors. Nobody judges Amazon by the quality of the products they sell. They judge them by price and speed of shipping. Amazon does logistics better than anyone. Their brand is convenience, and they make sure to build it into everything they do. If Amazon focused on branding itself as the host with the most versus the host with the best prices plus speed of shipping, we’d yawn. I can buy an Apple computer anywhere. What I can’t do is get a great price and 2-day shipping from anywhere. I’m buying convenience. They know that. Simple.
In “The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding,” Al and Laura Ries argue good things happen when you keep a brand focused or contract when your brand becomes unfocused. The reasons for this are clear:
- Immense power comes from dominating a market or category. Narrow focus creates expertise, and expertise demands significant compensation. Focusing your brand narrowly on what you do best creates positive synergies between your product or service and the messaging your prospective customers see. When the brand matches value, growth is soon to follow. Do not allow your business to creep into industries and sectors of which you know very little. If customers demand it, study it and launch a new product or service with a narrow and strictly-defined focus. Always ask, “Is this necessary?”
- Mimicking large companies will bankrupt your small company. Large companies around the globe naturally diversify into several products and sectors. Most of the time this is a bad idea, even for these gigantic companies, and they lose money because of it. If they’re lucky, they’ll hit it big with one of their gambles and lead the market for another 30 years. If not, they’ll revert to core competencies and hope they can ride it out until they do, in fact, hit their next big thing. Small and medium-sized companies can’t or shouldn’t do this. All gigantic companies started with core strengths and only diversified later. This diversification has often led directly to their downfall. Think Sears. What do they even do well anymore? Look at Microsoft. Their mobile phone bet (buying Nokia) was a huge failure. They’re still losing money in that industry. Their Surface Pro line of tablets has only seen middling results. Microsoft made its money in operating systems and still does to this day. Microsoft Windows is still the standard by which all operating systems are measured and still what Microsoft does best.
- Successful companies find their niche. Facebook began as a platform to connect with friends. It’s become much more than that since but still fulfills that core mission in spades. Apple started when two nerds decided to tinker with some circuit boards. They soon realized it would be more lucrative to build an entire computer. They decided to specialize in building personal computers when few others were. They even built these computers in such a narrowly-focused way so as to make them very difficult to modify by hobbyists. This was by design. Steve Jobs knew a brand with a narrow focus on making amazing, user-friendly personal computers would be preferable to other computer manufacturers of the day. Apple could build a brand by creating a differentiated but hyper-focused product. By creating too many options, other computer makers diluted their brand, or failed to build one at all. When something tries to be everything, it accomplishes nothing.
Only much later did Apple take a gamble on the iPad and iPod. Only after decades of focus on personal computers did Apple begin to branch out and only into very related industries. The same logic applies to successful small and medium-sized companies in your town. Each one started small, did one or a few things well, and grew. Apple and Microsoft were and are no different.
Are you having trouble growing? Does your company’s mission, products, or services seem unwieldy, confusing even to you, and unprofitable? Refocus. Shed products and services you don’t believe in, and drop anything that isn’t directly related to your core competencies. Double down on yourself and your product. Focus solely on providing the most amount of value, and a strong brand will soon follow.