Climbing the Hill Too High
Niche marketing was born the day a clear-eyed realist chose to dominate a subcategory when the master category seemed too high a hill to climb. “Instead of trying to become a major retailer of home furniture, I'll become the king of affordable dinettes. Instead of making a run at used cars, I'll dominate used Corvettes instead.”
Focused specialization makes sense, and in some circumstances it's exactly the right thing to do. But beware the temptation to think too small. Climbing molehills is easy. And when the time comes to plant your flag on top, you'll find there's already a convenient hole in it for you. Long live the king.
But then what have you really got?
Early in my consulting career most of my advice centered around the idea of focusing on a niche, a subcategory, a genre. My first client was a jeweler who deeply loved rubies, emeralds, sapphires, tourmalines, kunzites, garnets and all manner of colored gemstones. Even better, he was a nationally recognized expert on them. So what better strategy could I recommend than suggest that his store specialize in colored gems? Thank God he didn't agree to it. If Woody Justice had taken my advice that day, he would have quickly become King of a Molehill instead of spending a delightful two decades becoming something much bigger than either of us dared dream.
Sad it is to live your whole life without ever having a dream, a hope, a goal. Sadder still is to have a goal, but never achieve it. But saddest of all is to have a goal, achieve it, and then have nothing to do.
I'm not being poetic or playing with double meanings. I mean exactly what I said. But I'm not the first, John Steinbeck said it this way: “In the dark the other night I wrote in my head a whole dialogue between St. George and the Dragon. Very close relatives those two. They are eternally tied together – actually two parts of one whole… So St. George must always kill the dragon and it must be repeated because if the dragon were finally killed, there would be no St. George – only a lonely man looking for something to do.”
In the year 410, the man in North Africa who would be remembered as St. Augustine of Hippo wrote, “Why does it say in the holy Psalm, 'The hearts of them shall rejoice that seek the Lord, that seek His face forever?' Why does it not say, 'The hearts of them shall rejoice that find the Lord?'” Augustine ponders this awhile, then offers us his conclusion: “Things incomprehensible must be so investigated.” In other words, Augustine believed we are magnetically drawn and thrilled by what is too big for us. It makes our hearts rejoice.
I think I agree. And that's why next week I'm going to share with you a dream too big for me alone. Heck, maybe it's too big for all of us together. But it makes my heart rejoice and it may do the same for you.
Roy H. Williams
P.S. You'll find the Augustine passage in his On The Trinity, book 15, chapter 2.