It’s Good To Be King

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According to the Data Storytelling daily newsletter published by Chartr (hey, they’re statisticians, not good spellers), my first name – Michael – was the most popular boy’s name in the U.S. in 44 out of 45 straight years.

That’s correct. Beginning in 1954 and running through the next four-plus decades with just one exception (David, in 1960), Michael took first place more than any other name over the past century.

Not that I find this surprising.

Throughout my entire K-12 education, I was rarely the only Michael in any of my classes, a truth borne out by the fact that all my school projects and artwork from that era say “Michael K.” on them.

And yet, despite this Serena Williams-esque level of dominance at the top spot, Michael is only the fourth most popular name cumulatively over the past 100 years, coming in behind (in order) James, Robert, and John.

In other words, while there have been more babies named James, Robert, or John overall, in any given year, the Michaels have come in first most often.

So, which is better? To rule, like a king, for 44 years at #1? Or to be among the best for a century?

When it comes to names, I don’t have the slightest idea. When it comes to your business, the answer is the former.

Nobody Has Problems “In General”

Back in the days when I had a job (eww), becoming a “well rounded generalist” was synonymous with career development.

The more aspects of business you could claim experience in – the more boxes checked on your resume – the more likely you were to be tapped for the next step. There were even management development programs in which the presumed future stars were rotated from discipline to discipline for precisely that reason.

Working as an independent or small professional service firm is the exact opposite.

Clients have very specific problems and circumstances – whether that’s finding a financial planner that specializes in single womenhelping adult children choose the best senior living option for ageing parents, or supporting midsize companies that want to outsource their cybersecurity.

There’s nothing wrong with being smart and well rounded (and, in my particular case, disarmingly good-looking) … it’s just a long walk from, “Who do we know that specializes in fixing problem X for people like us?”

Narrow Wins

When it comes to positioning yourself as a professional service provider, there’s no benefit to being “among the best for a century.”

Getting hired is winner take all – coming in second is no different than coming in 800th.

So how do you get to the top? Not by expanding your scope, but by narrowing

… the things you claim you can do;

… the people you claim you can do it for;

… the situations you claim to excel in.

Here’s the bottom line.

Marketing for people like us has never been about improving our chances of getting hired. It’s not a lottery and it’s not random; it doesn’t matter how many tickets you’re holding.

Rather, when somebody has a problem that they can’t or don’t want to fix by themselves – and by the way, until one of those is true, they’re not hiring anybody – your goal is to be the one and only solution that comes to mind.

That means getting narrow, specific, and focused in the way you position yourself and your company.

Take it from me and the other Michaels, it’s good to be king. 

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Summarize today’s newsletter in exactly seven words.

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29 thoughts on “It’s Good To Be King

  1. Jess Fosnough

    1. Narrow your focus to come in first.
    2. Scale down the scope, win the race.
    3. Warm your own eggs, says Mama duck.

      1. Kaj Kandler

        Funny, yet on a serious note, you should care about what comes up when people Google your name.

        Have a look at Google’s trend tool. It lists the most trending searches of the day. Most days 90% are brand names (including celebrities).

        For solopreneurs their name is synonymous with their brand. And people searching your name are at the bottom of the funnel. They are ready to buy.


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