Do You Own Your Market, or Are You Just a Tourist There?
Have you ever said these words…
“I don’t have a particular industry or market I target.”
“I have a few different niches I focus on.”
“I don’t even know where to start with this whole ‘niching’ thing!”
Then you’re in the right place.
At best, many agencies and professional services businesses act like they rent their markets—paying for access and dipping in as necessary, without any permanent commitment.
Other businesses visit markets here and there like tourists traveling through for occasional day-trips. These people then head back to their cozy “homes” without acquiring any specialty or expertise.
But renters and tourists never get to the real essence of a market. They are stuck on the surface-level experiences. They’re at least better than generalists with no defined market, or dreamers who have ideas about what they want to do but no traction or first steps. But there is, in fact, a fifth level of involvement in a market: Owning it.
Owners are inseparable from their market. They set up residence. They become locals, learn the language, and acquire citizenship. Owners care.
What is Owning Your Market?
Own – verb, Admit or acknowledge that something is the case or that one feels a certain way.
In other words, “owning your market”—the way I mean—is about your mindset. You stop “dipping a toe in,” keeping the door open to other niches and opportunities. You quit traveling through a market as a tourist. Instead, you jump into the deep end and allow your market to seep into your bones.
You get comfortable shouting your market position from the rooftops and letting the world know how you feel. You’re okay with the idea that there is a particular customer you serve—and if someone isn’t that type, they aren’t a good fit.
When you own your market, you transform and simplify your business life. You’re no longer trying to be everything to everyone. Instead, you become a pillar of your community. You go from outsider to insider. And this happens:
- When people ask what you do, you clearly and comfortably state your market and who you serve.
- Your website loudly proclaims your market focus.
- You regularly publish content for, speak to, and evangelize to your market.
- You have an audience built within your market.
- You have a deep understanding of your market’s pains and problems.
Owning is when you think, “This is my market. I need to act accordingly,” instead of continuing to keep one foot out the door.
Instead of considering things on the surface, you put down roots and invest in more long-term relationships. You’re no longer concerned about short-term blips but about solving deep, valuable issues for your audience.
Can you see now why market ownership isn’t a bad thing, but actually a really, really good one?
Why You Should Own Your Market
Everything you want in your business comes from owning your market. Ownership brings respect, desirability, authority, process, systems, demand, scale, predictability, clarity, simplicity, and so much more.
Generalists thrive on the idea that anyone can be their client—and that each new client is a different set of problems to solve. The challenge, of course, is that this idea creates a lot of noise. Over the long run, that noise will leave you deaf. The generalist ends up attracting a lot of “bad fit” clients.
And the generalist has to spend a lot of time with every project and every client, learning many of things for the first time. Every new client becomes an exercise in re-inventing the wheel—an exhausting process that traps the business owner into being an operator for life.
How good will you ever be if, every month, you have to do a completely different line of work? One month, you’re a web developer; next month, you’re a web designer, then a search engine marketer, then a copywriter, public relations associate, email marketer, app developer, virtual assistant, growth hacker, and so on. If this were your approach, you’d be dead tired. Maybe even dead.
Yet agencies do this every day when it comes to the markets they serve. They’re diving into waters that are only an inch deep. So they master that inch (if they don’t break their neck first) and then go a mile wide to the next project for a client in a different market.
Their logic here is that they’ve learned the market for that one client and don’t want to “get bored” working in it again. Plus, when each new client brings in a unique set of problems, each solution feels unique. (Forget for a second how much effort and energy was invested in decrypting those problems and building a solution.)
Better, Not Bored
I’ve worked with many of businesses that have successfully owned their market. So far, I’ve yet to meet one that is bored—or that feels like they’re “solving the same problem every day.”
When you own your market, what happens is a little more nuanced. Your energy and attention to problems shift to higher-leveraged issues over time.
As a market owner, you’ll see a pattern of problems within your market. You’ll start to realize that each business coming to you has a few core issues that you can help solve. You’ll build a solution for one client, but then you can re-use that solution for the next client and the next one.
Each time, the solution is just as valuable and exciting for the client, but yes, it will become more routine for you and your agency. Here’s what will happen: Instead of boredom—after a few repetitions—you’ll realize you can start to create systems.
So, instead of investing your energy in discovering new problems or building a unique solution, you’ll create processes and methods to serve each subsequent client even better.
You’ll spend your time improving the solution you have to make it incrementally better on every new project. And once you have systems in place to serve the customers in your market, you’ll be able to identify seats in your business that can be delegated to part- or full-time team members. This will, of course, enable you to remove yourself as a full-time operator.
You’ll create process playbooks and focus your energy on marketing your solution to the audience you serve. And for the first time, you’ll start to see how you could scale your operation. In other words, you’ll finally have a business and not just a well-paying job.
This evolution will continue to unfold until the challenges and problems you face start to look a lot more like vision and leadership problems.
How big can your enterprise grow? Or how small and lean and profitable can you engineer your systems to be? Could you systemize your business to the point that it could run without you? I don’t know about you, but I feel like the problems of the market owner are anything but boring.
And if I had to guess, they are the types of things you thought you’d spend all your time working on as an entrepreneur.
Next time, I’m going to share a simple framework that will help you own your market. Until then, I invite you to check out my new book, Get Rich in the Deep End, that is due out in October 2020. In the book, you’ll discover how to create “market infrastructure” to drive new business, as well as how to overcome the unpredictability of word of mouth marketing and referrals and create a steady stream of leads who buy from you. As a special bonus, if you pre-order the book before the release date, you’ll get a few really cool gifts. My way of saying “thank you” for supporting my book launch!