Think Small to Grow Big in Your Small Business

imagesOften the most positive thing you can do for your business is to be negative:

“We tend to focus much more. People think focus means saying ‘yes’ to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying ‘no’ to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully.”

That’s Steve Jobs talking about how he piloted Apple. Consider how narrowly focused Apple Computer is. For many years, its climb to the top was built on a small handful of elite computers. When Apple finally said “yes” to the iPhone, it had a product that met or exceeded every customer expectation and integrated with the Apple computing experience.

Think different? Maybe not.

In fact, what made the iPhone and later the iPads successful was not that they were different Apple products. What made them successful is that Apple users already knew how to use them because they were built around the same core suite of Apple software: iTunes, iPhoto, Calendar, Contacts, and more.

However, strategically adding those products to the Apple catalog did diversify its offerings. It expanded within its niche, i.e. Apple pulled more users into its niche.
By the way, some years earlier, Apple tried to expand outside of its niche by licensing its operating system and allowing other manufacturers to build “Apple” computers. It was a strategy based on how the PC market grew. However, that road to diversification was a dead end for Apple.

We might define the Apple niche as user-friendly, reliable, high-quality, integrated, branded computing devices. Steve Jobs always wanted Apple products to be seen as simple appliances that just worked for people and made their lives easier.

Sum it up
What is your niche? Can you define it in a sentence? If you have to keep adding commas, phrases and if-then clauses to your definition, maybe you don’t have a niche. And, if you don’t have a niche, how can you possibly focus and refine your efforts?

Expanding your customer base is a good idea, except when it causes you to lose focus on the attributes of your business that attracted your original customer base. The well known saying, “You can’t satisfy everyone” leads to an important truth: When you try to satisfy everyone, you end up satisfying no one.

We’re well into spring now and summer is just around the corner. Folks with green thumbs keep the garden shears busy during both of those seasons. In early spring, they trim back much of last year’s growth to re-focus the shapes of shrubs. They prune dead wood to make way for new growth. In the summer, they deadhead flowering annuals to keep them looking fresh and promote more blooms.

Don’t ‘jump the shark’

Be similarly aggressive in your approach to pruning your business back to expose its core. Don’t add products or services willy-nilly; understand how they work within your niche. In show business, they call desperate attempts to do something new and unusual to attract an audience “jumping the shark” after an infamous episode of “Happy Days.”
Maintain focus on your niche; it will keep your small business a safe distance from those ever-hungry sharks.

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