I’ll get right to it.
What’s the dumbest thing you’ve ever done in your life?
Not so easy to answer, is it? Because depending upon how old you are, you may need to think back over several decades to isolate that one event that stands out among the rest.
Freshman year of college alone could take you several hours to review.
In my case, however, it’s easy. The dumbest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life occurred just this past summer, at my neighbor’s annual 4th of July party.
Dumbest thing ever and aha! moments
It was a perfect day. Beautiful weather, yummy food, great neighbors. At one point, in fact, with a beer in hand as I floated on a raft in the pool, I remarked out loud to nobody in particular, “I’d love 10 days in a row doing nothing but this!”
Around 4pm, though, I went in the house for another beer. As I stepped through the screen door off the deck into the kitchen I began chatting with Ryan, a friend of my college-age son. Marie, the host, stood next to me, opening a bottle of wine. That’s when things started to go wrong.
I said to Ryan, “You know, you can open a bottle of wine without a corkscrew.” And then I told him about the YouTube videos I had seen. Here’s where the dumb part comes in: 30 seconds later I was leading four twenty-somethings out back, looking for a brick wall on which to “demonstrate” this technique.
There was no brick wall to be found – but there was a really big rock. And so I started pounding the base of the bottle against it. Once, twice … Ka-BOOM!! That thing exploded like a bottle of wine being smashed against a really big rock by a drunken idiot.
It didn’t take long for both my hands to start filling up with blood. Even worse, I realized, it was my blood. Fortunately, a trip to the emergency room and four stitches to my right thumb later, and the crisis was over (in my defense, I did succeed in opening the bottle).
And so the several days that followed I had been living virtually thumb-less. And let me tell you, it’s not easy. Of course, this isn’t really news. We all know the value of opposable thumbs, an evolutionary advantage which no doubt accounts for why most Fortune 500 CEOs and a fair number of members of Congress are primates.
But living it provides a much clearer appreciation for the extent of the thumb-free challenge.
Brushing your teeth? Difficult.
Tying your shoes? Nearly impossible.
Even typing suffers, since absent a right thumb to work the space bar, yourwordsallruntogetherlikethis.
Interestingly, if you’re running your business as a solopreneur it has a “thumb” as well, a thing that is also supremely important — without which life becomes much, much harder. It’s called a niche. A narrow (narrower the better) thing (simpler to explain the better) that you (exclusively you the better) are known for.
What are you known for?
You’ve probably heard this before, maybe even from me. But it’s only recently that I’ve come to realize how much a niche trumps everything else. The narrower, more well-defined it is, the less effective (frankly) your marketing needs to be. And vice versa.
Sure, you need to do all the other marketing-related things for your business – produce irresistable content; stay in touch with your network; position yourself as an expert; demonstrate likeability, and so on.
But you know what?!
A good well-defined niche (despite the well-meaning warnings from your MBA-wielding brother-in-law about “limiting your opportunities”) is nothing short of magical.
A narrow niche:
separates you from the competition
is easy to explain and remember
allows you to focus your efforts
suggests (and leads to) true expertise
It’s what gives you traction in the marketplace, so that all those other things you do to stand out can produce the results you want. If you want your marketing to be more effective and your clients to be more plentiful, the first place to look is the strength (or lack thereof) of your niche.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Michael Katz is the founder and Chief Penguin of Blue Penguin Development. He specializes in developing email newsletters for professional service firms. Sign up for his free newsletter, The Likeable Expert Gazette, here. Connect with @MichaelJKatz on Twitter.
© YFS Magazine. All Rights Reserved. Copying prohibited. All material is protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this material is prohibited. Sharing of this material under Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International terms, listed here, is permitted.