"Fool me" mailbag

Philip Morgan

Following up to yesterday's email about a magician with two web presences: one that is a sort of "personal brand" site (https://joshualozoff.com/), and the other a specialized "magician for weddings" site (https://www.weddingmagician.net/).

Thanks for all the email on this!

Here's a summary of the feedback:

  1. These are not actually two different niches because the dude is offering magician services in both.
  2. Cool example, but for an expertise-driven services business wouldn't doing this dilute the core message and confuse clients who find you in both places?
  3. This give me courage to try this for my business. Thanks!
  4. I'm considering trying this for my business. What options do I have?

I'll tackle these in order. Might take a few emails.

Not actually different niches, yo!

I basically agree, but there's some interesting nuance here.

I see generalist dev shops do a variation of what this magician is doing (count your blessings: I'm working overtime as I'm writing this to avoid bad puns and lame jokes around the theme of magic) . Marketing and other professional services providers do it too.

You'll see a generalist shop work to capture SEO traffic by setting up a bunch of "[thing we do] for [industry name]" pages on their site.

If you want to see this firsthand, Google "custom software for manufacturing" right now. Find the dev shops on the first page.

You'll see quite a few of them with some variation of the following:

Sorry to pick on Devbridge. They're probably a great business, but I wouldn't call them a specialized dev shop. Instead, they're doing a good job of capturing search traffic for "custom software for manufacturing". They have a half-dozen other pages doing the same thing but for different verticals.

That's kind of what our magician might be doing.

Specialization does two things: 1) addresses marketing inefficiencies 2) helps you cultivate exceptionally valuable expertise.

If your only reason for specializing is addressing marketing inefficiencies, then you can do a lot of stuff that isn't really deep specialization. You can temporarily specialize in a market for no reason other than to make outbound marketing, SEO, and paid advertising work better. A prospect once called this setting out multiple "lobster traps".

Now this idea, appealing as it might be, gets into #2 on the list of feedback above.

Dilutes message and confuses clients, yo!

I also agree with this concern, but I'm less concerned about this if your only reason for specialization is to address marketing inefficiencies.

When I say marketing inefficiencies, I mean any of the following:

  • "I don't know who my best clients are."
  • "My content marketing doesn't seem to resonate."
  • "I don't know how to be proactive about finding new clients."
  • "My clients seem to judge me on price alone."
  • "My clients treat me like an employee for rent, not a consultant."
  • "I don't know where to find good clients."

This list could be much longer, but those are a few of the marketing inefficiencies specialization helps address.

If you just want a kind of quick fix to those problems and aren't interested in cultivating super-valuable, evergreen expertise, then I think there's little problem with specializing in multiple ways that may not have much to do with each other.

Let's say you're a generalist web designer. Mostly a designer, but you help clients with hosting and Wordpress tech issues from time to time.

Remember a while back when all the hosting companies were offering an option to switch to PHP 7 accompanied by a bunch of warnings that this could break things? This is one of those moments in technology that combines urgency and risk in a way that helps clients buy more easily.

Because you've already done this for a few of your own sites and a few early adopter clients, you feel comfortable with the process and you've found a few tools that help you do it with reduced risk. You think: "hey, I bet I can sell this!" You figure out a process and a fixed price for the service, and you guarantee results because you're not an idiot and you understand how to back up a site before you make consequential changes.

Imagine that you then set up a quick landing page at migratetophp7.com (I have no idea what's at the end of that domain name. I just made it up for this example and because when my clients are building special-purpose landing pages they have excellent luck finding useful 3-word .com domain names that aren't already taken).

Imagine that you wrote a few articles about migrating to PHP 7 with the purpose of establishing just enough credibility that relatively unsophisticated clients feel comfortable hiring you to advise or help with this transition.

Finally, you set up a search advertising campaign to take advantage of the combination of urgency, fear, and clear intent that's going to be behind searches related to the migration to PHP 7.

Lastly, you know that in a year or two, this won't be a business anymore because the market will have moved on and that combination of urgency and fear around the PHP 7 migration will be mostly gone, but you're OK with this because it's just a way to make some extra cash anyway.

Have you created some kind of positioning problem by doing this?

I don't think so. :)

Your goal was never to become a well-known expert in PHP7 migrations. You just wanted to set up a "lobster trap" to take advantage of a short-term opportunity.

This isn't really positioning (positioning = intentionally cultivating a reputation in a market). It's taking advantage of how search engines work. It's taking advantage of a moment in the ever-shifting technology landscape.

Now, if your goal was instead to become a well-known expert at something, then you don't approach things this way or you will--exactly as the list member who raised this concern points out--dilute the effectiveness of your message.

We're over a thousand words here, so let me circle back to those other two feedback points tomorrow.

Remember, the next cohort of Specialization School Workshops 1 (deciding how to specialize) and 2 (gaining insight into your market) are coming up in October.

If you're interested, drop me a line here and we'll discuss fit.