Specialization Examples

I've profiled some dev shops (as well as agencies and other types of consultants) below based on their web presence. Most are specialized in some way, and I hope these examples help you better understand how to market your specialized services. A few of these are clients of mine; most are not.

This is a wiiiiiide table, and so some columns have probably been collapsed to fit on your device's screen. To see those columns, click the green plus to the left of Company Name. Feel free to download a CSV or Excel version of the table for your personal use.

If you would like me to add your business to this table, drop me a line at philip@philipmorganconsulting.com

Company Name
Website URL
Positioning Strategy (Horizontal, Vertical, Audience, Platform, Generalist)
Area of Focus
Type of Work
Positioning Strength (Do they appear to mean it? 3 = strong yes, 1 = strong no)
Positioning Consistency (How consistent is marketing message with positioning? 3 = strong consistency, 1 = weak consistency)
Proof elements?
Proof strength? (3 = strong, 1 = weak)
Visible lead generation approaches
Notes
Waybackmachine snapshot from date of assessment
Thirsthttps://thirstcraft.com/VerticalAlcoholic BeveragesBranding and design33Portfolio only3NoSeemingly squandering an opportunity to build an email list or do onsite lead gen, but otherwise great example of clear focused specialization and strong messaging consistency.https://web.archive.org/web/20171011160126/https://thirstcraft.com/
Fishhookhttps://www.fishhook.us/VerticalChurchesMarketing communications33Well-developed case studies and testimonials3YesExcellent vertically-focused web presence in almost every way. I wish they'd keep the home page message more focused on their clients needs/problems, but other than that this is a nearly perfect web presence, with some good examples of on-site lead generation there too.https://web.archive.org/web/20171002124205/https://www.fishhook.us/
West Aretehttp://westarete.com/AudienceMission-driven orgsSoftware development32Mini-case studies2Contact form onlyQuite good audience-focused web presence. I'd like to see more focus on their clients challenges and how this agency sees themselves as a uniquely valuable solution to those challenges, but aside from that it's a solid example of well-defined, consistent focus. Positioning consistency and proof strength good but not great because both feel more diffuse than an expert firm would project, but they're both headed in the right direction and I'd expect a few more years of tight focus to yield better results in these areas.https://web.archive.org/web/20171113155237/http://westarete.com/
Developer Townhttps://www.developertown.com/HorizontalAgility in enterprisesSoftware development33Case studies, testimonials, reelvant and unique content marketing2Contact form, email list opt-in for notifications of new interviewsI wanted to see more household names on the list of case studies, but knowing how difficult it can be to get proof from F500 companies, I shouldn't be surprised. This company may have more enterprise "street cred" than they are allowed to show on their site. They're doing excellent work in the content marketing area and have strong positioning and messaging consistency. Excited to see what unique IP they could develop based on their specialization. For example, they seem well-positioned to be the company that "wrote the book" (literally) on agile in the enterpirse. Finally: what a great tagline! ("Move like a startup"). Most taglines are catchy but meaningless, but this one is both meaningful, memorable, and logically linked to positioning; a rare gem.https://web.archive.org/web/20171001070149/https://www.developertown.com/
Bosch Software Innovationshttps://www.bosch-si.com/HorizontalIoTConsulting, development33Association with a household name is the strongest proof in evidence on their sie3Contact formInteresting case: combination of strong proof (association with household tech name) but little to actually back it up (customer quotes, case studies, etc.). It's possible case studies were buried somewhere in their enterprisey site's complex information design, but if not it's an odd combination of impressive and thin on the proof front, though in the final analysis they probably don't need such proof elements because of the strength of their household name proof. Aside from this, the focus on IoT is clear and consistent throughout.https://web.archive.org/web/*/https://www.bosch-si.com/corporate/home/homepage.html
BitRefine Grouphttps://bitrefine.group/HorizontalMachine Learning & computer visionSoftware development33Demonstrations of expertise2Contact formGood example of horizontal expertise articlated into a web presence. Clear, consistent focus. The main proof element is the expertise made tangible through writing, but I couldn't find any client list, case studies, or testimonials, and the absence of these weaken their proof (though this is an understandable omission in a new tech-focused horizontal where all you need to do is show up with credible "expertise for rent" to stay busy for 3 to 5 years until the space becomes commoditized).https://web.archive.org/web/20170714134810/https://bitrefine.group/
Dave Ceddiahttp://daveceddia.com/PlatformReact trainingInfo product33Testimonials, intellectual property2Email list opt-ins, sample chapter for bookGreat example of a site focused on a tech platform. The information design you see here is a common and effective one (see also http://elementalselenium.com/ for a very similar structure) for someone who sells a book. The proof is all focused around the book, not services, and as such the requirements for proof are different vs. a site that helps sell your services.https://web.archive.org/web/20171118082344/http://daveceddia.com/
AppZUIhttp://www.appzui.comHorizontalDigital transoformationRapid digital product prototyping33Branded IP2Contact informationInteresting example of a horizontal specialization that feels not-yet-fully mature. If it was fully mature I'd expect more visible proof, but the web presence portrays a dev shop that latched onto the idea of digital transformation and may well be on their way to delivering those kind of services but is currently more dev shop than digital transformation consultancy. I don't say this in a negative way. WE ALL GO THROUGH THIS PHASE on our way to true experts with a desirable market position! This is a good example of a 1-page site where it's almost just enough to get the job done. That said I'd like to see more proof elements and a better "contact us" CTA.https://web.archive.org/web/20170913005130/http://www.appzui.com/
ABSYZhttp://www.absyz.com/PlatformSalesforceConsulting, development33Case studies, demonstrated expertise on blog2newsletter opt-in, contact formGood example of a platform-focused dev shop. The proof elements are present but leave me feeling iffy (they could be be better written by a native English speaker and more robust and more focused on Salesforce). The site overall feels like it's trying to be an "enterprise" site but really should be simplified quite a bit.https://web.archive.org/web/20170927095159/http://www.absyz.com/
Brad Irbyhttp://bradirby.com/PlatformMonolith to Modular .NET, Code modernizationSoftware development33Case studies, demonstration of expertise3Free consult offerWow, what a refreshingly good site for a seemingly well-positioned developer! The focus is well defined, and seems like it would target about the right market size. Proof is quite solid, expertise is being demonstrated via blog posts and well-done case studies. With the client focus seeming to be larger enterprises, I'd suspect the biz-dev approach needs to include some networking/referrals/IRL stuff, but that doesn't diminish the site's strength as a great example of a well-specialized dev shop. Also don't fail to notice how the home page of the site puts much of the focus on the client's needs and problems, which is exactly where the focus _should_ be!https://web.archive.org/web/20170919003949/http://bradirby.com/
The Quinn Advisory Grouphttps://www.quinnadvisory.com/PlatformReducing AWS spendConsulting33Demonstration of expertise2Contact formGreat example of a clearly focused web presence done with a nice balance between strength and minimalism. It doesn't require a lot of words to make a bold, relevant claim about value and ask readers to take action if they need the kind of help being offered. Brain surgeons don't need a big persuasive web presence despite doing important, life-saving work. I would like to see more proof on this site, but I'm also aware that the type of client this company is focused on does not often want to be a part of a case study or other form of proof, so there may be client names or case studies the company here can't publish. If that's the case, too bad. It does come with the F500 territory (I call it the "proof tax" of working with F500's or other types of risk-averse businesses) but often the referrals these clients can faciliate can compensate for the proof tax just fine.https://web.archive.org/web/20171118160239/https://www.quinnadvisory.com/
Knapsack Creativehttp://knapsackcreative.com/Blue OceanFast-turnaround websitesWeb design32Testimonials, portfolio2Contact formWhen a business offers a commodity service but packages it in a differentiated or compelling way, I refer to it as "Blue Ocean specialization", as a nod to the kind of thinking explained in the book Blue Ocean Strategy. Knapsack Creative is a good example. Tons of companies build websites, but Knapsack has developed a process for delivering a "good enough" website in 1 day. From a customer experience perspective, this will be a wildly compelling, exciting differentiator for some people, and a terrible idea for others. Will enough find it compelling? I'd bet money there are plenty who would find this service delivery appraoch a great idea. Normally I'd want to see a specialist firm have a blog that articulates their expertise through writing, screencasts, or some other channel. Knapsack isn't doing that, perhaps for good reason. They do have a blog, it's just focused on "lifestyle" content that I suspect they believe their target audience finds interesting. Other than that minor concern that probably isn't an actual problem, this is a great example of a website that articulates a well-differentiated value proposition.https://web.archive.org/web/20170921095718/http://knapsackcreative.com/
Wellfire Interactivehttps://wellfire.co/PlatformLegacy Django codeSoftware development33Demonstration of expertise2Email list, contact links(Clients of mine) As of December 19, 2017 this is a great example of what I call a 1-page website (one where most of the action is on the home page, though the blog articles increase the actual page count beyond one). I happen to know the company principle and can tell you that the site is evolving quickly, so you will see something more complex in the future. The site needs more social proof (case studies or testimonials) but the demonstration of expertise through the blog posts is strong. The horizontal focus on legacy Django code is clearly described and well-supported with a "ladder" of relevant services. A seemingly simple 1-page website like this one with a dozen or so relevant demonstrations of expertise via blog articles would be a vast improvement over most dev shop websites. The Wayback Machine does not have the most current snapshot of this stie, so I'm skipping the Wayback Machine link for this one.
Worstofall Designhttps://worstofalldesign.com/Audience + Blue OceanProductized branding & website packagesBranding33Testimonials, demonstrations of expertise, case studies3contact form, email listI know from speaking with company principle Pia that the positioning here is real and it works, but it's not expressed on the site in a way that feels unambiguous to me. This is because I am not in Worstofall's target market, and so I don't "feel it" when I interact with their site. Their ideal client is a small services business with a defined number of employees (IIRC it's 2 to 3 employees) who resonates with the idea of "badass branding". Clients who are a great fit will resonate with this idea and get excited about the fixed scope-fixed price branding engagements Worstofall offers. In other words, the target audience here is anyone who resonates with a specific idea. This would be a difficult focus to turn into outbound an effective outbound marketing campaign (one of the litmus tests of focus) because there are few demographic factors on which to do good prospect qualification, but that's not a problem because Worstofall provides a virallly-deligtful customer experience that leads to strong referrals and makes excellent use of inbound marketing via weekly articles published on forbes.com and other sites.https://web.archive.org/web/20171002024047/https://worstofalldesign.com
Speedshophttps://www.speedshop.co/PlatformRails performancePerformance optimization for Rails apps33Demonstration of expertise3Email list, contact linksGreat example of a business with a specialized platform focus. If the value proposition was "Rails developer" it would suck because that's a 100% commodotized, totally undifferentiated value prop. But... the value prop is focused on what for some clients is an "expensive problem": speed for web-scale Rails apps. Thta's a clear focus, and in this case it's combined with strong proof: a book on the subject. I haven't read the book and so can't speak to that but the presence of the book is strong proof and makes it possible for Nate to claim to have "written the book on Rails performance". That, along with the high-quality blog posts, is a strong demonstration of expertise. The site has a helpful simplicity, which further reinforces the focus on a singular issue. Very well done.https://web.archive.org/web/20171208032826/https://www.speedshop.co/
ForegroundWebhttps://www.foregroundweb.com/VerticalProfessional photographersWeb design, SEO, consulting33Logos, testimonials, demonstration of expertise2contact form, lead magnet, rapid-onboarding formThis is a really wonderful example of a vertically-focused business with a well-done web presence. I was leaning towards scoring the site a perfect 3 on the "proof strength" score but held back because I didn't see any household name testimonials (household name logos don't count because they're a weaker form of proof than testimonials or case studies), but this site is nearly perfect in so many other ways. Good use of onsite lead generation without resorting to annoying popups, and wonderful clarity of messaging throughout. Even on the about page--where most of us really screw things up by focusing on the wrong things--Alex keeps the focus on his clients business needs and why he is a great fit for those needs. He even "makes the skeleton dance" in a few places by speaking directly to potential objections ("Hey, you're just one guy, not a team!") and flipping them into benefits ("Yep! You'll get better service that way!"). This is really advanced stuff that Alex does a great job with!
Garret St. Johnhttps://garrettstjohn.com/Vertical + HorizontalDev shops & digital agenciesDevelopment process, leadership, culture33Testimonials, demonstration of expertise, press/interviews2email course, contact form(Garret's a client) This web presence demonstrates what I often call a multidimensional focus: vertical focus on dev shops and digital agencies combined with a horizontal focus on a very expensive problem: software delivery (this includes culture, leadership, communication, and actual development workflow). Garret is in the early days of a transition from tech leadership work to pure advisory work, and his site is a strong example of what that transition looks like. The proof and onsite lead generation is good, and you can imagine how another year or two of steady work will evolve it into a more impressive part of his marketing which also includes giving talks and interviews. From a visual branding perspective you might wonder if a business like this should portray more of an "army of one" (think Tony Robbins or Ramit Sethi who both have pretty large teams but focus their branding directly on the founder), but I don't think a splashy, "business rock star" image is suitable at all for what Garret is doing. His clients are technical people who are more likely to find that kind of splashy imagery suspicioius or offputting than they are to find it appealing and trust-building, so I think the simple, text-focused approach Garret is using here is perfect for his prospective clients. As his business grows and matures his web presence will contain more relevant and impressive content, but it's likely to remain simple and text-focused.https://web.archive.org/web/20171017010440/https://garrettstjohn.com/
LegacyXhttp://legacyx.ca/HorizontalLegacy softwareSoftware development33Case studies3contact formThis site is a wonderful example of a clear horizontal focus that's expressed vey consistently and clearly on the site combined with what I consider one of the best examples of what NOT to do in a blog. 🙂 I don't love criticizing an otherwise very well done web presence, so I hope you keep my criticism of the blog in context. I did not review every blog article, but the first 2 pages of the index come across like a Star Trek "captain's log" except the events recorded in the log are all about the internal details of running the company, not about the company's expertise, insight, or ability to solve relevant problems for their clients. In other words, the blog presents trivia, not insight or demonstrations of expertise. I think that's a missed opportunity. Caveat: maybe some of what I think is missing is buried in the blog past the first 2 index pages. If not, I honestly think this site would be better off without any blog at all. That said, the site does so many other things right. It focuses on an "expensive problem", it keeps the focus on the clients needs, and there are legitimately household names listed in the client list! Aside from the blog, when details are provided about the company's process or team they are generally linked to the client's needs or some benefit to clients, which is exactly what we all should be doing.https://web.archive.org/web/20170606094407/http://www.legacyx.ca/index.htm
Kula Partnershttps://kulapartners.com/VerticalManufacturingDigital Agency33Case studies, demonstration of expertise, testimonials3registerwall for white paper, contact formI could do without the annoying animations, but otherwise this is an excellent example of a vertically-focused web presence. Furthermore, this is a great example of how a business can a retain a semi-generalist service offerig lineup while still having a clear, compelling focus that creates strong differentiation. It's important for a busines that sells online marketing consulting and services to demonstrate their expertise on their own site, and I think this business does that quite well.None available that matches the actual site at time of review
CorgiByteshttp://corgibytes.com/HorizontalLegacy softwareCustom software development33demonstrations of expertise, testimonials3contact formMy only criticism of this web presence is a blog that feels every so slightly unfocused with a bit too much variety in the topics, but other than that this is a great example of a horizontally focused web presence. The proof is both social (testimonials) and expertise made evident in talks, written content, and a clear focus on the problem/solution/benefit triad of this company's focus on legacy software. Notice how firmly and repeatedly the focus is placed on client problems and the benefits of addressing those problems. Notice how unwavering the focus on a singular meta-problem (legacy software) is throughout the site. Really great work. In addition, the authority site http://legacycode.rocks/ is also a Corgibytes project (I'm 90% sure about this, but not 100% sure since it's branded differently and not cross-linked).https://web.archive.org/web/20171030095650/http://corgibytes.com/
GradientSpacehttp://www.gradientspace.com/consulting/Horizontal3D/VR/ARCustom software development33demonstrations of expertise, namedropping2open source projects, contact formGreat example of strong focus and credibility. This business is somewhere between a pure horizontal focus (the 3D/VR/AR expertise) and a platform focus (the Autodesk Meshmixer expertise) but at a certain point the difference between the two is more semantics than anything else. I flat out dislike how "me-focused" the About page is and believe the job of that page could be accomlished better by framing the content in terms of the client's needs and issues, but aside from that this is a pretty great site. It's littered with proof elements that range from name-dropping to very robust proof like open source projects and tutorials that demonstrate real expertise.https://web.archive.org/web/20170626082650/http://www.gradientspace.com/consulting/
Food Tech Strategicshttp://www.foodtechstrategics.com/Vertical+HorizontalRestaurants & HospitalityIT advisory work33demonstration of expertise1Contact formAt the time I reviewed this site there were a few simple tech issues like CTA buttons jumping to the wrong part of the site. I don't want to over-focus on those because the site is a good example of clear focus and framing much of the content in terms of the problem this consultant is focused on helping his client address. Of course I'd like to see more on this site in terms of impressive, relevant content, proof elements, and online lead generation, but I don't know whether this business actually needs that stuff at all. They might be doing just fine with offline lead generation like giving talks, networking, or referrals. Or they could be using a platform like LInkedIn to disseminate great content and connect & build trust with prospects. Who knows... so look to this site as a good example of how you can frame things in terms of your clients needs.https://web.archive.org/web/20171013224015/http://www.foodtechstrategics.com/
Maritzhttp://www.maritz.com/HorizontalEmployee motivationEvents production and related services33Logos, mechanism, demonstration of expertise3contact form, register to download white papers, calculatorInteresting, pretty well-executed example of a web presence for a horizontally-focused business. The maritz.com site is a sort of umbrella for 4 or more sub-sites. Not sub-domains; sub-sites. That causes things to feel a little dizzying as I'm navigating around, and I wonder if a more cohesive information architecture might offer benefit. That small criticism aside, you can see good examples here of a customer problem-focused web presence (it's sullied a little bit by an occasional "me, me, me" framing to the web copy which shows up in boasting about how long the company has been around, for example), online lead generation through content assets like white papers and a calculator tools, strong proof in the form of household names and demonstrations of expertise, and a clear focus on a horizontally-defined expensive problem.https://web.archive.org/web/20170930125825/http://www.maritz.com/
ATIV Softwarehttps://ativsoftware.com/VerticalMedical and Scientific eventsApp product33App reviews3Contact formFirst note: this is a product company, not a services business. That said, it's a nice example of a vertically focused product company. You'll notice that the proof elements chosen are different than you'd want for an expert firm. Demonstrations of expertise and expert insight aren't needed, but proof that the app works well and delights users are. In general, this company seems to really mean it when they express a focus on the medical+scientific verticals, and their messaging is consistent with this focus. Also notice the focus is on two verticals that pair well together.https://web.archive.org/web/20170919111421/https://ativsoftware.com/
Little Stream Softwarehttps://www.littlestreamsoftware.com/PlatformShopfiyProducts and custom software development33App reviews, demonstrations of expertise2Email list, application form for consultation, email course(s)Eric is a friend and colleague, but even if he was a rando to me he'd be getting a very strong two thumbs up on this specialized web presence. It's well-focused and rich with content that reinforces Eric's expertise. There's no waffling on the positioning or messaging. It's not totally apparent from the site, but Eric does a great job with email marketing as well.https://web.archive.org/web/20171026040642/https://www.littlestreamsoftware.com/
Aislesidehttp://www.aisleside.com/VerticalRetailDigital marketing33Third-party proof1Lead magnetI'm including a review of this site because--at the time of my review in Jan 2018--it is a great example of an in-progress specialized web presence. I believe that a lot of us prioritize perfection over progress, and that is a mistake. You can build a great web presence in an incremental fashion, starting with the kind of clear, focused home page you see here and adding more impressive proof incrementally over time. Notice how this business, which may be very new and therefore lacking relevant client testimonials or other forms of proof, doesn't give up on offering proof. They make use of third-party proof (the quote from Matthew Shay towards the top of the home page that reinforces the need for the kind of help that Aisleside provides). Despite how bare-bones this web presence currently is, it's a great example of how to build a clear, focused foundation. It's likely by the time you see this review things will have changed, but if you're catching this review close to its time of publication you'll hopefully be inspired to delete all the irrelevant shit off your generalist website and start building something more focused and effective.N/A at time of review

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