Network up. Niche down.

I love podcasts and one of my three favorites is the Tropical MBA podcast. (In case you were wondering my other two favorites are Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders and Startups for the Rest of Us.) In one of their episodes they said something that has stuck with me for years:

Network up. Niche down.

I love that volumes worth of business advice can be simplified down to four words. If you understand that then you can stop reading this blog post now. If not then keep reading.

Here is a slightly longer explanation from the episode:

“Look at what successful people are doing. Talk to them. Learn from them. Apply those lessons to a niche. Your original niche is likely too broad. Look for a niche of a niche.”

Learn (from the people you are networking with) and teach (the people in your niche). The lessons you learn from your network will help you reach more potential customers and provide them more value.

Lean & Teach

Network Up

Networking provides opportunities to learn as well as potential help, introductions, partnerships, and investment. Be selective about who you reach out to and what professional or entrepreneurial groups you join. (This should even be extended to what websites you visit, podcasts you listen to, and books you read.)

People who are going to be able to provide those types of opportunities are people who have already been where you want to be. Those might be people higher up the corporate ladder at your, or another, company, people that have started successful businesses in your industry, or people who started a similar business in another industry.

At the end of the day:

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” – Jim Rohn

You can raise yourself up by that principle just as you can lower yourself down.

We are going to go deeper into networking in future posts but when you do reach out don’t do so blindly. Make sure they are a good fit for you and the advice or help you are looking to receive. Don’t send the same email to everyone. Learn a bit about them and show it when you first email or talk to them. Provide value before asking for value in return. Be specific with your question or ask.

Niche Down

Be the absolute best and one thing that people care about.It is easier to engage a small group of people than it is a larger one. There is a distinct difference in talking with friends and colleagues over a meal compared to speaking to a crowd in an auditorium. The extension of this is that it is easier to market to a niche (or a niche of a niche) than it is to every possible user of your product or service.

We have discussed how people respond better to messages that are personalized to them. In order to do that for a large niche you are going to end up creating many, many customer segments and will need a team of marketers to create content for them all.

As an underdog you don’t have enough hours in your day for all of that.

When your business is at an early stage try to totally own something. Be the absolute best at one thing that people care about. For a certain group of people the thing you are best at is the thing they value the most when choosing a product or service. Once you capture those people you can expand to a second group. Rinse and repeat your way to world domination.

The Underdog Action Plan

  1. Write down the names of ten people you admire in your industry. Send each of them an email.
  2. Name the one thing that you do better than anybody else. Write copy for a landing page that highlights that one thing.
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