Do you have a favorite statistic? I do, and here it is:
Of all American men between the ages of 20 and 40 who are at least 7 feet tall, 17% are currently playing in the National Basketball Association (NBA).
That’s right. If you fit this demographic, you have a better than one in six chance of being a professional basketball player, right now (and a better than one in one chance of wearing custom-made pants).
Absent that – and given that there are just 450 players in the NBA and, I don’t know, 45 million American men between the ages of 20 and 40? – your odds are roughly one in 100,000.
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One in six Vs. one in 100,000. I’m no Blaise Pascal, but statistically speaking, these scenarios would appear to be significantly different.
But why the disparity?
Is it because the taller you get, the more skilled you become as a basketball player?
Hardly. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite. Height is such a colossal advantage in basketball that the taller you are, the less skilled you need to be.
Indeed, as NBA scout Ryan Blake explains in this fascinating Sports Illustrated article regarding life as a 7-footer, he sets the skill hurdle for these giants just north of deceased: “I’ll check up on anyone over 7 feet that’s breathing.”
Chances are though, you’re not 7 feet tall and you don’t play professional basketball.
But wouldn’t it be great if there were some similar ingredient in the world of solo professional marketing – something that, if you were to possess it, would catapult you to the front of the line and make up for your otherwise, overall, middle-of-the-pack-ness? (I mean no offense.)
Lucky for you, my unbehemoth friend, there is. It’s called a niche.
Yep, a niche. The one factor that, like excessive height in basketball, makes up for nearly everything else.
Why? I can think of at least three reasons:
- A niche helps people remember you. Tell someone that you’re a freelance writer and they’ll smile politely.
Tell them instead that you specialize in writing white papers and they’ll remember you in six months when they receive one of those “Can anybody recommend someone who…?” emails.
- A niche suggests that you are an expert. If you only do one thing, or only focus on one type of client – or both – people naturally assume that you must be pretty good at it.
And chances are, you are pretty good at it. When you spend a lot of time going deep in one area, it’s easy to stay well ahead of your jack-of-all-trades competition.
- A niche helps you focus your marketing efforts. If you do a lot of different types of work for a lot of different types of companies, you’re essentially marketing to “Earthlings in my Hemisphere.”
If you narrow your focus, on the other hand – by industry, location, type of service offered, or some other truly meaningful distinction – it becomes clear where to spend your time.Now you know which conferences to attend, which blogs to guest post on, which LinkedIn groups to frequent, etc. As important, since you have a tight focus, you know which of these to ignore.
Here’s the bottom line. When it comes to marketing your solo professional business, you can spend the rest of your life tweaking, polishing and incrementally improving whatever it is you’re currently doing.
Or, you can take one, giant, 7-footer-sized step in the direction of narrowing your business focus.
I was very happy to see the full content in the email, and more than happy to come here and post a comment!
Oh, and I liked the content, too.
And I am happy for both occurrences! Thanks as always for reading and commenting.
I swear I was going to comment on this… even before I noticed the link back to my site!
This is the same advice I give to every freelancer: pick a specialty. Then people can pigeon-hole you and remember you later. If you don’t, they’ve already forgotten you.
To expand ever so slightly on Mike’s advice, I believe are 3 ways to niche your company:
* Vertically, by a certain sector, trade, or profession
* Horizontally, by a certain type of offering
* Both, by offering a certain thing to a certain sector
So perhaps you work only with retail bakeries. That’s a vertical specialty, where you develop deep knowledge of the retail baking industry.
Or perhaps you help retailers pick the best point-of-sale systems for their stores. That’s a horizontal specialty, where you develop deep knowledge that applies to any retailer.
Or maybe you help bakers pick the best point-of-sale systems for their retail bakeries. That’s a double specialty. In such a focused area, in a few years you can likely become one of the world’s leading experts… the 7-foot giant of that niche.
And virtual 7-footer you are, Gordon! I cite you frequently as an example of owning a niche.
Stay warm (I always enjoy speaking with people whose weather is worse than mine) and enjoy the holidays!
Great article Michael! But where’s my questions?
No problem, I will answer my own:
1. I create video newsletters for CPAs to send to their clients, so they can stand out in a crowd.
2. No, I never met Manute Bol on a cruise ship.
3. Yes, but only once.
4. Never trust a duck.
Excellent Charles! We may have to put you in charge of all future questions!!
Michael, great post. You are the master at taking a quirky, sometimes “where is this going” but memorable example and using it to drive home really useful business advice. I think it was the “I’ll check up on anyone over 7 feet that’s breathing,” that clinched the point for me. Now, how to best narrow my niche….
Let’s see… I help the sandwich generation capture and preserve their parents’ stories before their parents get too old or sick to tell them!
Feedback? Focused enough?
I think that’s a great niche and succinctly explained.
When you say it out loud to someone, I’d just add a little intro phrase, so they know what you’re talking about: “I’m a videographer… (and then exactly what you said).
Michael, I’m following up on something that Jeremy mentioned in passing. Did you decide to go back to displaying the full article in the email? I didn’t mind clicking on the link.
Yes, I’m back to the “everything in the email” format … even though it appears to make no objective sense for my business: When I “forced” a click I got more social media shares, more comments (by far) and more new subscribers.
But there’s no denying, fewer people read each issue. What I found was that whether a reader was against the forced click practice on principle or didn’t notice or care, only about 25% of those who opened each newsletter clicked through.
I finally decided that if my mission in life is to help and influence solo professionals, that I need as many reading the newsletter as possible. Somehow this way just feels better to me!
What do you think?