37signals made a very gutsy move earlier this year. After 15 years in business, and with a growing portfolio of products, they decided to become a one-product company – selling only Basecamp (their popular project management tool). They even changed their name from 37signals to Basecamp. Why would they do that? What about all the untapped potential and future revenue from all their other products?
What Basecamp tapped into is a very powerful, yet counterintuitive, principle for sales messaging: the way to sell more stuff is to offer less. Here’s why.
No one really believes you can be the best at everything.
The more areas you claim to be great in, the less credible you become. This is especially true for smaller and mid-sized businesses. Companies like GE, IBM, and Google can get away with being generalists. But SMBs get killed when they try to do the same. The good news is that by narrowing your focus and your message you can actually compete with the bigger players in your industry and win. It’s like judo for business.
Six things happen when you become known for one thing.
When you build your sales message around one product or service or vertical or problem that you’re solving, you’ll start to see these six things happening:
- You become much more referable. People start to automatically associate you with that one specialty area. When it comes up in conversation, so do you.
- You have an easier time telling your story. You’re no longer trying to remember 52 different messages for 87 different audiences.
- You become an automatic authority. As a specialist, you become an expert on your subject (in perception, as well as reality) simply because it’s all you do.
- Your sales process becomes more efficient. You’re no longer looking to sell everything to everyone, but simply looking for prospects that have that one specific need.
- You shrink the competitive landscape. The narrower your message, the fewer your competitors.
- You expand your geographic reach. If someone needs brain surgery, they’ll go just about anywhere to get to the right specialist. No one travels to see a general practitioner.
Why doesn’t everyone do it? It’s terrifying.
Everybody’s afraid that if they specialize, they’ll miss out on an opportunity. And the truth is, they will. But it’s worth it. The huge cost of diluting your sales message doesn’t even compare to the marginal payoff from chasing every opportunity. Smaller companies that say they do everything end up being known for nothing. And that’s what keeps them from becoming bigger companies.
How do I know it works?
We did it ourselves. Before launching PitchMaps, we had a generalist creative agency – doing anything and everything for clients across a wide spectrum of advertising and marketing disciplines. But then we discovered that what we were really best at (and what our clients valued the most) was helping companies find their message. So we decided to specialize. This meant turning down some great projects and opportunities. But it was worth it. With PitchMaps, our value proposition is much easier to communicate – and more believable – simply because it’s so specialized. Narrowing our focus has actually broadened our reach.