Last week I linked y’all to this Slideshare presentation on a dev shop’s specialization experiment: https://philipmorganconsulting.com/pmc-vuejs-specialization/
Specifically, they pursued a platform specialization, which is a subset of horizontal specialization.
Several of you wrote back with really insightful, thoughtful responses. Thank you!
The first one I’d like to share comes from Scott Woods, founder of https://westarete.com/ Scott is not only one hell of a nice guy, he also runs a specialized dev shop that’s worth checking out if you’re looking for examples of specialization done well.
Here’s what Scott had to say:
Great subject for consideration! As an ongoing student of this field, I love the opportunity to try to understand how other people are approaching their positioning and marketing, so that I can better understand our own approach. Huge kudos and thanks to Monterail for having the courage and generosity to open up the details of their own approach — it’s to everyone’s benefit. Here is my humble take on it:
I think the number one missed opportunity with their approach is that they haven’t identified who they’re talking to. Yes, technically it’s “people who need Vue.js development”, but that’s not specific enough to speak to their needs. Who is it that needs Vue.js development, and why are they requiring it?
In my experience, the vast majority of businesses who hire a creative services firm are looking at the team first, and the tools and technology are an afterthought at best. They want people who have proven expertise in their particular field, and they care less about the particular technology. Ordinarily the specific tools simply aren’t tied to their business success. They could succeed with a great React site just as well as they could succeed with a great Vue site. The key is a team that can make the “great” part happen.
Monterail has obviously done an absolutely outstanding campaign to establish their authority on Vue.js. Those are really fantastic credentials. But establishing authority is merely a prerequisite for an effective marketing campaign. You also have to connect with the client’s specific needs.
And that’s the rub here. From the outside, it looks like they’re effectively targeting “everyone who’s using Vue”. They’re hitting the conferences. They’re targeting “Vue.js” in SEO. But that’s not really their market. Take that middle campaign where they got zero results. Ugh, that’s crushing. I feel their pain. I’ve been there. But the reality is that the vast majority of people who are going to be attending Vue conferences and are looking for Vue expertise are probably other developers. Other developers who have solid jobs and solid projects writing Vue code. And they have neither the money nor the need to hire a top-notch firm like Monterail. They’re just trying to figure out how to do the same thing themselves. Hence all the positive kudos on their campaign, but zero results.
So then who out there is dying for their expertise? Where only Vue.js will do? And where only top-notch Vue knowledge will do?
If I were in their position, I’d target two specific audiences:
- Startups and businesses that have gotten themselves in deep trouble on a Vue.js project
- Other agencies that have stumbled upon a big client that already has a Vue.js app
In the first case, you’re talking to people that are coming from a place of deep, deep fear. They’ve taken money, or they’ve invested money, and things are not going well at all. Their developer promised them the world with this new Vue.js thing, and now they’re way behind budget and timeline. Monterail will be the guide who can still let those business leaders snatch victory from the jaws of almost certain defeat (be careful not to position yourself as the hero — the client is the hero; it’s their story after all). You can speak directly to what they’re feeling, and provide a path out of it.
In the second case, you’re talking to a fellow agency that is on the cusp of a big opportunity that they might otherwise lose. They want to do the creative/ad/brand/marketing work for this huge new client. But here’s the rub — the app is written in this oddball Vue.js framework that they’ve never heard of. And they can’t close the deal unless they figure out how to apply their creative work to this beast. Once again, Monterail can provide the missing piece that allows their prospective client to ride to victory.
So you orient the majority of your content not around establishing more Vue.js authority (you don’t need much, since honestly how many other Vue.js experts are you competing against), but around the pain that your startup or business is feeling around managing a failing Vue.js project. How to mitigate those risks. How to know when you’re in trouble. How often this sort of thing happens to developers who are new to Vue. And you start adjusting your channels appropriately too.
And then in the background, you pursue partnerships with creative firms who are large enough and compatible enough that they’re pursing $1M deals with cutting-edge clients that might have a $100k Vue tag-along component. You establish a relationship with all those firms so that they have you in their back pocket for when that inevitable Vue sales blocker shows up one day. Because you can bet that they don’t do Vue in house, and they probably don’t have a reliable Vue partner. They’re going to want someone ultra-reliable, because they don’t want to sweat the $100k outsourced part of a $1M project.
While Monterail’s presentation is really great at Vue specificity, their home page is still really generic. Here’s their pitch:
We design and develop Web & mobile apps to support startups and businesses on their missions
If you want to reap the benefits of establishing specific expertise, you gotta put it front and center on the home page. You can’t straddle the fence and essentially sell to “all businesses”.
Monterail obviously has all the raw material that they need. Other firms would love to have those credentials. But that doesn’t make it easy. It’s real hard. It takes a ton of courage to position tightly. And it’s risky if you’re wrong. So you have a to figure out a way to safely make that leap at some point. It’s a really good and great challenge. But that’s part of what makes it so valuable — if it were easy, everyone would position tightly. Right? 😉
Thanks again to Monterail for having the courage to put themselves out there so that we can all learn together. Hats off to them.
Scott, thank you again for such a thoughtful response!
Overall, I think Scott is 100% right.
There are a few edge cases where you can build up authority in a platform and that’s enough to build a market position, but that has everything to do with timing, and this…
I should talk about that more soon.
I’ve got a few more responses to the vue.js specialization email I hope to share with y’all, but I need to get permission first before I do, so stay tuned for those.
In the meantime, remember that the deepest discount I offer on my books is available from now until the end of the year.
I call it my “tax write-off” sale, because you most likely can claim the book(s) as a business expense.
Just use the code TAXWRITEOFF when you check out to get the discount. Do it before the stroke of midnight Pacific time on December 31, cause that’s when this offer expires.