Specialization Alone Won’t Get You To Where You Want To Be

Today, a thought exercise. I want you to imagine a small but growing agency (“Tiny Nibble”) and think through their specialization, opportunities, and challenges.

To start, let’s say that Tiny Nibble has specialized and niched down on a specific market and expensive problem. With that, they’ve:

  • Picked a specific target market to focus on
  • Specialized in solving a specific expensive problem for their clients
  • Developed processes for a done-for-you service to solve that expensive problem for their clients (“We specialize in solving X in just three weeks for a flat, one-time fee”)
  • Focused on optimizing their processes and delivery so they can delight their clients

Altogether, is that enough to differentiate them from their competitors? Command higher rates? Succeed in their market? Grow and thrive?

I’m not confident that it is.

After all, what’s to stop one of Tiny Nibble’s competitors from:

  • Picking the same market
  • Specializing on a similar expensive problem
  • Developing a similar done-for-you service offering
  • Optimizing their processes and delivery to delight their clients

Sure, it might take them a year or two to get traction and grow. Still, once it happens, Tiny Nibble faces a challenging situation: their competitor is now offering a pretty identical service offering for the same market.

To a buyer, what are the differences between these two providers? They provide the same outcome, have similar positioning, have identical service offerings, and look mostly the same.

Tiny Nibble has become β€” alas! β€” a commodity.

What’s the most likely end-state of this commodity competition? Well, if Tiny Nibble and its competitors have similar positioning, specialization, and service offerings, then what’s left as a differentiator?


If so, good luck, and enjoy that quick race to the bottom πŸ“‰.

Remember Tiny Nibble’s marketing message?

We specialize in solving X in just three weeks for a flat, one-time fee

One challenge that Tiny Nibble is experiencing is that their positioning devolves down to:

“We do X for a fee!”

If your messaging is “We do X for a fee!” you have positioned yourself as a commodity in your market.

And if that’s the case, it’s elementary for a competitor to come in, play the Amazon card (“Your margin is my opportunity” β€” Jeff Bezos), copy what you’re doing well, and steal your profits.

How can you differentiate yourself from your competitors?

To stand out in a crowded/competitive market, attract clients, and differentiate yourself from your competitors, your need to show that your expertise goes far beyond just providing a service you specialize in.

You need to consider how else you provide value to your clients.

  • Because of your deep insight into and experience providing your services over the years, you can help your clients understand why they might need to take a particular approach (or not) for their project.
  • Because you understand the benefits (and costs) of different approaches, you can communicate with your clients about the various benefits they’ll experience or how a particular process will help given the current situation.

Phrased another way, to differentiate yourself, your need to start selling strategic services.

Selling strategic services is an excellent way to decommodify your business.

Instead of being just another pair of hands to handle implementation, you’re positioning yourself as someone who can both contribute strategic insight into how to best approach a project and who can address the done-for-you implementation.

And just like that, you’re no longer an apples-to-apples commodity comparison with your competitors. Because you offer strategy-as-a-service, you’re differentiating yourself from your competitors.

But how can you get started selling strategic services?

One of the best ways to start providing strategy-as-a-service is by selling project roadmaps as a service offering.

Project roadmaps are paid discovery & strategy projects sold at a fixed fee (no proposals required). You meet with the client, discuss their situation/problem/challenge, and define a strategic approach to solve their problem. (You’re most likely already doing most of this discovery and strategy work for free when you write a proposal or meet with a lead and talk through their situation.) 

When you start selling paid project roadmaps, you:

  • Capture the value of your strategy work
  • Differentiate yourself from your competitors
  • Position yourself as a high-value consultant

Want to get started selling strategic services and project roadmaps?

Read more about how to get started selling, running, and delivering project roadmaps right here: https://kaidavis.com/products/roadmapping/



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