I’ve been speaking to women a lot lately about the idea of “focus” in business in terms of understanding their target audience. Then I came across a great interview that spoke about “focus” in product and service offerings. The interview is led by public relations expert Marsha Friedman and she chats with Al Ries – author of “The 22-Immutable Laws of Branding“. Here is an excerpt that I’d like to share with you:
Marsha Friedman: Every business person obviously wants to have success. Their long term goals are to be very profitable and growing. However, when the doors need to stay open now, it’s hard to worry about 2 to 5 years from now. What are some of the things one needs to be aware of so that good decisions are made that will support all of their goals?
Al Ries: Short term needs and long term goals can sometimes conflict, and the most important advice I can give in this situation is don’t forget your focus. When it comes to focus, one needs to narrow it, not widen it. My company, Ries & Ries, works with clients all the time looking for ways to narrow their focus and get them out of offering too much stuff. However, many businesses aren’t keen on the idea, because when one narrows their focus they have to drop some product. So what happens in the short term? When you drop a product or service, you’re going to lose some business initially. Who wants to do that? To the average business owner, the thought is “Wait a second, we can’t do that!”
I’ll give you an example. My company was doing some consulting for Burger King. Now, Burger King has twelve hamburgers on their menu. We said to them, “That’s too confusing. Let’s reduce it.” Their reply was, “Oh! We can’t do that.” You see, they know the percentage of sales each one of those 12 products brings in, right? So they think, “If we make it five products, it means we’re going to lose 3.7% of the business.” They look at the numbers and what will happen in the short term, but they don’t look at the long term implication. The implication is when you simplify your product line, you make it easier for consumers to know what you’re selling and you’ll sell more, but not necessarily in the short term.
So “focus” is a long-term concept that can eliminate the short term issues, but you need to start for it to work. The result of focus is the more you focus the stronger your brand becomes, because you can stand for something. For example, what’s a Chevrolet? I know what a Chevrolet is: it’s a large or small, cheap or expensive, car or truck. If somebody says to you, “I bought a Chevrolet,” not much was said. Did he or she buy a ZR1 for $105,000 or a sub-compact for $13,000? There’s a big difference there. So to say, “I bought a Chevrolet” is saying nothing, because the brand doesn’t stand for anything!
Many, many, many brands today do not stand for anything, because they’re into everything. If you’re into everything, the brand can’t possibly stand for a single thing. Yet what’s the trend in business today? Expand the brand. Why? Because it makes sense! “Well, we want to grow,” they say. “So if you expand the product lineup, you’re going to grow.” That’s logical. But it doesn’t work and that’s the most important thing about marketing. Every single principle of marketing is not necessarily logical and it makes it a very difficult discipline to learn, because almost everything you should be doing doesn’t necessarily make sense, if you look at it from the obvious point of view.
You can read the rest of the interview here:
The added bonus, from where I stand, in getting focused is that also makes things manageable – something especially important to solopreneurs. I know it’s important to me, as a woman entrepreneur, who carries out multiple roles in life. Any strategy that keeps things lean and simplifies tasks like sourcing advertising avenues, writing copy and just staying on top of it all is always most welcome!