The positioning beast with two backs

It is easier and better to focus your marketing on a single market vertical than to try to focus on two.

I often get asked about this. Can you have a split focus anyway?

Here’s the quick answer: yes, but it’s usually more difficult and risky than focusing on a single market vertical.

Here’s the more detailed answer…

Anytime the word “and” appears in a positioning statement it’s a red flag that there might not be enough discipline being applied to the focus. For example: “We help engineers and salespeople get better at public speaking.” That’s a positioning statement with a dangerous “and” in there.

What do those two market verticals have in common? Why would focusing on both of them allow you to deliver any additional value to either of them?

Sometimes though, you find two market verticals that are distinctly different but have a lot in common. For example, The Linus Group provides marketing services to the science and healthcare verticals. Those two market verticals have so much in common that it makes sense to focus on both. They have a significant “Venn diagram overlap”.

That’s the least risky and most sensible way to focus on two market verticals.

Any other form of focusing on two or more market verticals is going to be difficult to execute. You could do it by having two websites and two marketing efforts, but who the frickasee wants to maintain two websites and two marketing efforts? One of those is enough for most of us!

If you’re narrowing down your marketing focus and trying to decide on a single best market vertical and you just can’t decide on one, that’s a sign that you don’t trust that the result of choosing one and one only will be in your best interest.

You may need to do more research (talking to potential clients to learn about their needs), more validation (objectively thinking through the results of choosing just one of your top picks and getting feedback in a structured way), or you may need just a bit more time to do the internal mental and emotional “negotiation” needed to reach an uncompromised decision that will stick.

Deciding to narrow down your business focus to a single market vertical (or a single problem you specialize in solving) is a sort of negotiation between different parts of your mind. One part wants to keep you safe and is advocating for not changing things because the devil you know is better than the one you don’t. Another part of your mind is negotiating in favor of change and saying “nothing could be worse than 6 more months of this“.

Getting these two parts of your mind to arrive at a deal that will stick–one that both agree too and neither will walk out on later–takes time.

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