You (and Your Business) Should be Expert at Just a Couple of Things

Are you an expert at marketing?

Be Great at a Couple of Things in Business, and you can be Great Online.

Are you an expert at marketing?Being relevant, being found on Google has been very important for ten or more years. A big part of having a healthy Google Pagerank is being “Expert,” and I have preached to my clients about the need to act expert in real life.And in my humble opinion, being expert at just a few things in business is how you separate yourself, grow your business, and win online.

We are in a transitional business period with technology, mobile, outsourcing, a poor economy since 2008, and the y-generation coming into the workforce.  This convergence has started to show some interesting traits among those businesses who succeed. One of the things I have noticed, and talk to my clients about, is the actual practice of being expert, or being the best at just a couple of core business competencies.

I often run into young webmasters or designers who have no idea what it takes to be found on Google. Many SEM professionals or webmasters still think that pre-panda black hat tactics can work.  On the other side of the coin, I talk to seasoned business owners weekly who have no idea what to do with search.

So, after more than couple of years of refining my company’s SEO and SEM tactics, I figure it is time to shout out the plan.  

1. be expert in one or two things.

2. act like you are expert in these traits and show the world.

3. by being expert (acting and showing the world) you become the accepted authority.

That’s it, not too hard on the face of it. The funny thing about my simple three steps is that it has nothing to do with Google. It is really about your business. Do these 3 things in your business while coding a reputable website and Google and Bing will make sure you win online.

While the steps are easy, there is something extremely hard about executing this 3 step plan. First, it takes years (10,000 hours) to be the expert in your niche, and for your business’ brand to reflect being an expert. Second, most businesses fail in the time period it takes to become an expert.

50% of business do not survive to 5 years, and only 30% make it 10 years, and the 2011 Small Business Administration (SBA) shows us the market turn-over:

How many businesses open and close each year?

About 10-12 percent of firms with employees open each year and about 10-12 percent close.  http://www.sba.gov/sites/default/files/FAQ_Sept_2012.pdf

Your business can be average at a number of things, but very expert in just one or two things, and your business can still thrive against competition if the market is large enough. And over the past 15 years of consulting with hundreds of businesses, one thing has become very apparent.  Businesses want to win, and when you look at internal segments of business (accounting, management, sales, marketing, production, people, service, etc.) and compare them to competitors, it is surprising to some that only a couple of winning traits that pull your business ahead in the competition.  These traits fly in the face of management, team building and CEO Coaches, who are always pushing a holistic mantra of total business improvement.  The fact is, you can’t be good at everything, and due to competition you need to be great at just one or two things.

Another great fact is “The 10,000 Hour Rule,” explained by Malcom Gladwell in his book, “Outliers.” The book does a great job of showing how all great figures in our society didn’t get there just by luck, but by hard work.  And if you work hard for 10,000 hours, at some point you become an expert in that practice.  From music to sports to business, you find leaders who are experts in their field, and that experts are made from hard work.  Good businesses and good search results follow the same rules of hard work.

Steve Jobs was an expert at marketingA technology startup company, while flashy and innovative, is NOT expert, because they don’t have the experience.  I often hear things like “look outside of the box,” as Steve Jobs did, and your business will grow.  I say, Steve Jobs didn’t look outside the box; he looked at the box and made it better.  Steve was an expert in building and marketing products that make consumers happy. It started as a geeky Apple computer for geeks, and later, it was geeky phones for geeks that he then made so cool, the masses had to have them. I think Steve chuckles at the fact he made millions of people into mobile geeks. So, don’t look outside the box, but be an expert like Steve Jobs on the part of business that will grow your business.

The Donut Niche

Krispy Kreme NicheIt is 6:00 a.m. as I write this. I’m thinking about donuts right now. Donuts are all the same are mostly produced by small business owners.  Donut stores win on being hyperlocal or having good service.  They don’t win on price or selection really, and they probably don’t lose on how bad the business manages its employees.  But once in a while, someone shakes up the donut market. We all remember the rise of Krispy Kreme who brought a simple glazed donut to market that was produced right in front of your eyes. Watching your donut being made was new. It felt overly fresh, and people flocked to the nearest Krispy Kreme store to buy one. They were expert a production and, to some extent, the promotion of the “freshest” donut.  But as we saw them expand, build stores and get placed into supermarkets, we found out they were pretty bad in other areas, which didn’t balance out with the areas they were expert in.

Most people point out that Krispy Kreme was bad at financing this new growth; but I would counter that what caused their market retraction, was bad marketing.  They simply didn’t understand that their market niche wanted “fresh” donuts right off the donut production line and they ignorantly pushed into supermarkets.  This push was into a new market niche, and too often businesses that are winning in a niche, want to expand beyond the limits of this niche into a niche that they are NOT expert in. Niche-extensions can be the death of companies, and it is usually the most pivotal decision CEO’s make in the life of the business, because businesses are almost never expert in two niches.  I remember buying a box of Krispy Kreme donuts from the grocery store, and thinking this was great because we didn’t have a Krispy Kreme store in town.  But it was also the last time, because I quickly realized that the cold, day old donuts were not better than my local donut store.  The rest of the market noticed, and the downfall of Krispy Kreme was quick.

Winning Offline

The biggest key to winning online is winning offline. Google and social media are making it increasingly hard for you to suck in business and somehow win online. Just like it is hard to win online and run a bad business, they don’t go together and they are not natural.  EBay, Yelp, third party recommendations, and word of mouth now flow to consumers at light speed, and if you are not a good and honest business, you are out of business.

Winning in Google is easy, as long as you are winning in business. Clients are sometimes shocked when I say, but it is the truth. SEO is NOT how you win. SEO should be a dead business tactic today. It should be Business Optimization (BO).  Some of the basics of SEO, like coding your page correctly are fine, but that is no different than you writing a paper for your 11th grade English teacher.  You teacher expects you to be clear, spell correctly and write in complete sentences.  11th grade English is not a tactic, but an expectation, so why continue to think SEO is tactic, but think of it as an expectation for online content distribution?

SEO has been pushed down to the level of a part of good business processes, not a business focus that some try and make you believe. Even SEO industry leaders acknowledge this. Moz.com just dropped SEO from their name, sighting that “SEO” was less relevant for today’s search engine marketing game.

What is relevant is that you run a business.  Find a niche. Be an expert in that niche. And then show the world what you are great at that niche.  You’ll see great results in business and in Google.