This is my first Herald column for 2013 and I trust the year is off to a great start for you so far.
In this message I'd like to talk about the 'F' word in marketing. And this comes from a delightful interview I did with Al Ries for my 'Unfair Business Advantage Report.'
Al is a legendary marketing strategist and a bestselling author (or co-author) of 11 books on marketing including Positioning, Marketing Warfare, Focus, The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding, The Fall of Advertising & the Rise of PR and War in the Boardroom.
In my interview with Al I asked him 'What's one marketing strategy would you recommend to business people today?
Al told me that the biggest single thing a company can do is 'Focus.' (Or narrow your focus.)
You don't necessarily get to be successful just because you are focused but that's the first step you have to take.
Al told me a big problem is that most businesses concentrate on expanding their business by trying to be all things to all people.
So they continually ask questions like these:
How do we expand our business? How do we get into more markets? How do we get into more price levels? How do we get into more distribution? How do we put our brand on the internet?
Al recommends that instead of doing this they concentrate on how they can differentiate their business, product or service with a very narrow focus.
Al gave me a great example of a firm that does this in the field of market research.
The firm is called JD Powers and they have focussed on market research solely in the automobile industry. They are incredibly successful as a result of this very narrow focus.
I saw a great example of the power of focus many years ago when I met a super successful insurance sales professional.
This person was a multi-millionaire who had been in the insurance business for 30 years.
I asked him 'when did you start to do really well?'
He said 'Graham, when I started to focus on one thing.'
He decided he was only going to sell insurance policies and investments to people who were aged in their 40's. So between the ages of 40 and 49, that was his target market and his sole focus.
His reasoning was that those people first of all had enough money to pay for some of his insurance services and investment products. Secondly at their age, they were also concerned about retirement in maybe 20 years or so. And they also knew other people in their 40's, so could give him great referrals as well.
So he focused strictly on that age group and within a short period of time he was number one in the country and he went on to become a multi-millionaire.
I asked Al what about companies that sell multiple products and services. How do they focus?
Al told me that they should have a narrow focus for each separate product or service.
He said 'look at the success of Apple for instance. Everybody says Apple is a terrific brand. Apple is not a brand. Nobody ever says I bought an Apple unless they went to the grocery store.'
'The thing that makes Apple successful is being narrow focused for each of their brands. The iPod was the first high capacity MP3 player, the iPhone was the first touch screen smart phone and the iPad was the first tablet computer.'
I think the idea of having a narrow focus in business is an excellent one and I recommend you read my full interview with Al on how to do this.
"You are more likely to acquire power by narrowing your focus and applying your energies, like the sun's rays, to a limited range of activities in a small number of domains." Jeffrey Pfeffer
Invest some time this week and ask yourself 'How can I apply the strategy of focus in my business? And do read the excellent book by Al Ries called 'Focus.' (It's very good.)