You’ve heard the saying right? ‘By being all things to all people you’re in danger of being nothing to nobody’?

What’s this really all about though and what’s it got to do with being narrow minded?

Let’s consider two rivers – The Colorado River in the United States and The Murray River in Australia.

The Colorado River is what carved out the Grand Canyon. Over many thousands of years water has been forced between giant walls of hard rock, creating a fast flowing, deep cutting river. The water is unable to spread out any wider than the solid walls that contain it so the only way the river can wear its way through is down.  This has resulted in a water depth of between 2 and 10 metres with some sections as deep as 30 metres. Even more significant are the ‘bank’ or canyon wall heights of many hundreds of metres.

Contrast that situation with the Murray River. The ‘Mighty Murray’ is really nothing more than a shallow soak, spreading some 100 metres in width along much of its length and averaging only 3-5 metres in depth. River bank heights of just 3 to 5 metres pale in comparison with the Colorado River.

Fascinating stuff if you’re into geography [I loved geography at school…can you tell?!]

When it comes to marketing, there is a point to this – the narrower your niche, the deeper your reach.

So instead of being like the Murray, you want your marketing to be more like the Colorado – confined to a narrower set of parameters but with much deeper cutting power, reaching way down into the depths of your customer base.

Here’s an example to help. Let’s say you have a mechanical workshop. Conventional wisdom would have you marketing to ‘anyone who owns a car’. That way you maximise the potential number of people whose care you could service. Right?


You’ve just joined the throngs of mechanics all offering to service ‘all makes and models’. It’s a little bit like the ‘no job too big or small’ tagline for many tradespeople around the world. What differentiates you from the competition?


The alternative is to get more narrow in your focus. Perhaps you specialise in European vehicle servicing. Maybe you only service cars still under a new car warranty. Even narrower would be confining your mechanical work to people who drive a particular brand or even style of car, such as convertibles or sports cars.

The fear for many people faced with this advice is that they’re now forced to say no to potential business, and revenue. Crazy talk!

In fact, the reverse is often true. Rather than attract less customers by narrowing your focus and potentially excluding many from your booking sheet, businesses who adopt this approach find they end up with more business than they can handle and it’s work they’re better suited to complete, at a better margin and with better outcomes for their customers. This in turn generates more referrals and a growing, profitable business that can afford to be even more targeted in who they service.

Sounds too good to be true doesn’t it? Well, it isn’t always this clear cut but most of the fears of turning customers away because they’re ‘not in our target niche’ are unfounded and don’t eventuate.

What almost always happens is when you niche your offering, and your marketing, in this way, your ideal customers (or your sweet spot) are more easily able to find you, more likely to choose you [because you obviously understand their needs better because you now specialise in their type of car for example] and more likely to pay what the product or service you’re offering is really worth.

Still not convinced?

Try this exercise – make a list of a few of your favourite, dream clients. People you’ve actually dealt with in the past that paid on time, were happy with your service and maybe even referred someone else to you. Now see if they have any similarities between them. Perhaps, in the mechanic example, they all drive prestige cars, or classic cars, or a particular brand or type of car. Now, could you offer only that type of service across your entire business? Would it be profitable for you? If so, test some changes to your marketing and start saying things like ‘specialising in ____ vehicle servicing’ The narrower you can define your market the deeper your cutting power, just like the Colorado River. You’ll end up with more market share, more loyalty, more referrals and more fun!

A classic example of this is Zappos. They only sell shoes. Online. No shops, no hats, no books and no kitchenware. Just shoes. In 10 years from being founded with no customers, they sold to for $1.2billion.

  Indentical twins Alan Keery (left) and Gary Keery are setting up the UK's first cereal cafe in Shoreditch
Indentical twins Alan Keery (left) and Gary Keery are setting up the UK’s first cereal cafe

Not bad huh?


How about this for another example of getting narrow…two brothers in the United Kingdom are opening a cereal cafe. All they sell is cereal. You know, the stuff in boxes full of sugar and preservatives?  Even the name is clever and catchy with a niche this narrow – Cereal Killers. I reckon it’ll be huge. Keep an eye out in New York, Sydney, Singapore and Los Angeles for these cafes!  Check out the full story on London24…



So think about it. By narrowing your focus and saying ‘no’ to some potential customers, you could be making it easier for your best customers to find you, buy from you and refer you to their friends.

Go on, give it a try. I’d love to hear your story…perhaps we’ll see you on the internet news channels too…

Keep paddling!



P.S. For another example of a business that has found success in a narrow niche, check out Lorna Jane and the story of it’s founder here