Armchair quarterbacking

Q&A

A good question from my post opt-in survey:

We are just starting and its a new industry for us, so my question would be how deep should we specialise and how do we know when we’ve reached it?

Here’s the short answer. I’ll elaborate a bit on it below:

  • In your description of how you’ve specialized, be clear about what single industry you’ve specialized in, and be clear about what specific service or form of expertise or result you can create. So at first, specialize as deeply as you can, and let your discomfort or lack of clarity with deeper specialization serve as a restraint. Don’t fight it, just find the natural level of specialization where your clarity about how you could specialize balances out your discomfort with specializing more narrowly than that.
  • As you further specialize every 18 months or so, there are two metrics to track to know if you’ve specialized narrowly enough:
    1. Rate of acceptance for talk or article submissions.
    2. Level of “I’m so excited we found someone who does _________!” enthusiasm in your prospects voice when you first speak to them.

That’s the short version. There is, of course, a longer version. 🙂

Data is often profoundly useful. Vital, in fact. And in other contexts, data is a song we sing ourselves to create a certain mood. In those contexts, data is a high school football team fight song, or the heavy metal song we sing ourselves to get pumped up for decisive, bold action.

“how deep should we specialise and how do we know when we’ve reached it?” You’ll know when you feel it.

Two things stymie attempts to measure how narrow a specialization should be:

  1. So much of the value of a specialization is based on insight into the market’s needs, and when you start out on your specialization journey, you only see the surface level of these needs. So you have to implement a specialization in order to gain the information needed to decide if further specialization would be valuable.

Armchair quarterbacking gets you nowhere with specialization because it’s an iterative process based on feedback loops that don’t feed back information unless you actually take action.

  1. So much of your success with specialization is based on how it makes you feel. It’s like data that way. A little bit of wrong data that emboldens you to take action might be far more useful than a lot of correct data that lulls you into inaction.

A somewhat broad specialization that helps you feel confident and unlocks ideas about how to communicate effectively with your market might be far more useful than a hyper-narrow specialization that looks cool on your website but makes you feel like a fraud and therefore causes you to hold back from pursuing opportunity.

You can’t know in advance how narrow you should go with your specialization because you can’t measure this stuff outside of some fundamental guidelines, and for that I refer you here: https://www.davidcbaker.com/how-man-competitors-and-prospects-should-you-have

So instead, you use an iterative, experiential process. At first, specialize as deeply as you can, and let your discomfort or lack of clarity with deeper specialization serve as a restraint. Then, experiment with more narrow specializations and see whether the results of those experiments increase your confidence.

If they do, dive right into that deeper form of specialization.

Keep building; keep taking risks y’all,
-P