Big Fish, Little Pond

“In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”

– Irish Proverb

I’m not going to lie to you — I’m feeling pretty disappointed right now. People Magazine just came out with its list of the “50 Most Beautiful People in the World,” and once again, my name was nowhere to be found.

Now to some of you (by which I mean, the some of you who have actually seen what I look like), this may not come as a surprise. After all, I’m sure you’d say, this list is heavily biased towards actors, musicians and professional athletes, and with a few hundred million people to choose from in this country alone, it shouldn’t be too big of a surprise to learn that I was overlooked by the “researchers” at People.

But what if they narrowed the parameters of the list?What if instead of looking for the, “50 Most Beautiful People in the World ,” they looked for the, “50 Most Beautiful People in Massachusetts?” I’d certainly do a lot better, although I admit, I still wouldn’t make the cut.

How about the, “50 Most Beautiful Middle-Aged Men in Eastern Massachusetts?” Still better.

I think you can see what I’m getting at. While I could certainly improve my chances at the World Top 50 by eating better, working out more often, getting (extensive) cosmetic surgery, becoming a professional athlete, etc., the most efficient way to become a winner is to simply narrow the scope of the contest.

The same goes for your newsletter. If you’re not having the phone-ringing, client-bringing, business-singing experience you’d like from your newsletter, it may be that you’ve defined too large a subject area to have an impact.

Consider the following example: If you’re a financial planner and your newsletter covers financial planning in general, you’re going to have a tough time standing out from the crowd. If, on the other hand, your newsletter covers, “Financial Planning for Female Small Business Owners in the Southwestern US,” you will — for this particular audience — instantly rise to the top.

Why? Two reasons. First, because you won’t have much (if any) direct competition. And second, because members of your target audience will see your newsletter as more closely suited to their particular needs.

Granted, if you over-niche your newsletter (or your business, for that matter) you’ll be in danger of having too small a target audience. In my experience however, most professionals — the attorneys writing about law; the life coaches writing about living a better life; the consultants writing about leadership; etc. —are nowhere near becoming too focused. Instead, they are way at the other end of the spectrum, bumping up against each other in the competition to be one of the 50 Most Beautiful in the World.

I recognize that this may at first seem a bit counterintuitive (many of my most interesting client discussions occur when I strongly suggest that a company narrow its newsletter subject matter). Doesn’t a broader topic area give me more potential readers? Absolutely.

The problem is that you don’t want potential readers, you want actual readers, since they tend to be the ones who become actual clients. And if you insist on staking out too broad a topic area, you’ll never break into anybody’s top 50 (which is more like the top 6 or 7 when it comes to the number of e-mail publications that a given person is going to read faithfully).

Bottom Line: In the time its taken you to read this newsletter, you and I have already received 10 e-mails into our respective inboxes — nobody is looking for one more thing to read. And so while I encourage you to make your newsletter the best it can be, don’t overlook an important piece of the puzzle — finding a pond without many fish in it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to see if I can convince the editors of People to run an issue on the, “50 Most Beautiful, Bald, Ambidextrous, Middle-Aged Men Named Michael in Eastern Massachusetts.” In that pond, I may in fact have a chance.

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