Specialist or Generalist?

Yesterday I had to have a few pre-cancerous actinic keratosis buggers removed from my arms and it reminded me, up close and personal, of some very important lessons: #1 – Wear sunscreen (I had way too much fun in the sun growing up in Florida before we even heard of sunscreen. No kidding. Remember the days of using baby oil for maximum sun? What were we thinking?!) and #2 – Be a “specialist” or “expert” instead of a “generalist.”

As professionals, you face many daily challenges – always juggling and wearing different hats. The marketing hat, while critical to the growth and revenue of any venture, is often a hat that business owners and professionals struggle with. There are many common marketing mistakes, but one of the most common and critical is the lack of market focus or specialization.

Most business owners struggle with determining who the best market for their products or services is. They often are happy to sell to anyone that will buy; in other words, they’re going after the classic “low hanging fruit.”  There is often a palpable fear that if you narrow your focus, you will miss opportunities. Ironically, when you narrow your focus, you will actually create and attract more opportunities.

PCP vs. Dermatologist

The concept is easy to understand when you think about doctors – enter my experience yesterday. Finally deciding to take care of these little skin blemishes, I contacted a dermatologist in my health insurance network and was abruptly told that they wouldn’t even consider allowing me to schedule an appointment without a referral from a primary care physician (PCP). So after a few choice words to myself for having to take my time to go see my PCP for what I know are pre-cancers (hey, I have the “internet” and a couple of physicians in the family too), I scheduled an appointment with him. At my appointment yesterday, it took me a full hour to get taken care of and get my precious hall pass (aka referral), and my PCP was also already one hour behind schedule (at 10:15 in the morning mind you). Now I have my dermatologist appointment … in six months! So what did I learn from this?

There are doctors who are generalists like your PCP. Your PCP will see all types of people for all types of ailments and illnesses. There are also doctors who are specialists – like the dermatologist. There are a few key differences between generalists and specialists. Generalists make less money (an average of $160,000 a year), see more patients (an average of 50 a day) and work longer hours (an average of 53 a week). Specialists, on the other hand, make more money (dermatologists make an average of $250,000 a year – the highest earning specialists, spine surgeons, make an average of $600,000 a year), see fewer patients (maybe 20 a day), work fewer hours (45 hours a week on average), and actually get most of their business by referrals.

Which is the Model for You?

Now, equate that to your business. Would you rather have the generalist model or the specialist model? Would you rather go after anything that you can do or specialize in what you do best?

The goal is to not only become a specialist (and trusted advisor) for your clients, but to be sought out as the expert. You’ll eliminate the competition, make more money and streamline your marketing activities when you’re able to accomplish this.

Attorneys are more highly compensated when they specialize in one area of law like real estate, bankruptcy, tax or employment law. Accountants are more highly compensated when they deal with a particular industry like construction or banking. Psychiatrists make the big bucks when they concentrate on particular illnesses such as depression or schizophrenia.

People want to do business with the best, and they are willing to pay the price to obtain the best. Think about it. If you need heart surgery, do you look up someone in the Yellow Pages? Of course not. You seek referrals from people you know and trust. You do some additional research, if necessary, to find the best. Price is not even in the equation.

Special thanks to Laura Posey and Dancing Elephants for teaching me this philosophy where she calls this approach Bull’s Eye Marketing. It will work beautifully for you if you take the time to analyze how you are different and better than your competition. Then, you must communicate your benefits in a powerful positioning statement and brand.

Enhance your career, tailor your career to your interest areas, zero in on your strengths, and be a sought after specialist. Believe me, it’s much better than running an hour behind before you even get to lunch!

About Mark Deutsch

Small Business Sales & Marketing Expert | Best Selling Author | Speaker | Trainer | Disruptive Idea Creator
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