As I sat the other day lecturing some undergraduates on corporate strategy, I started to think about Michael Porter, the guru whose business model I was explaining.
Probably 80% of the people reading this have just gone "Michael who?" And that's fine, because the chances are that if you've never heard to Michael Porter it's because you didn't need to. For the other 20%, though, he is likely to be a major figure in many professional conversations, or at least in their daily thinking at work.
Now, does that make him any less powerful a personal brand than, say, Oprah, Bill Gates or Richard Branson?
Not at all, just a more focused one. Any branding, personal or
corporate, takes resources – time, money, attention and energy – to
build. So if we can focus our brand building activities down to purely
those people who need to know about us – in Porter's case anyone
involved in devising business strategies – and ignore the rest of the
world, we can save ourselves a lot of hard work.
The problem is deciding who is in the 'need to know' category, and who isn't, and that comes down to knowing your niche.
There's a lot of fear around the word niche. It should convey specialisation, focus and expertise. Unfortunately, clients often have negative associations for the word instead, and a lot of fear about "missing out" on potential work. And so the analogy I often use is of those entertainers whose act consists of spinning plates on top of long poles. The more plates they have to spin, the harder it is to keep them balanced, because their attention has to be on every plate. If, instead, they were able to cut down to 2 or 3 plates it would be a lot less stressful and far more likely to success.
So think of each potential target customer or group of target customers for your business as one of those plates. How many plates are you spinning? How much running around do you have to do to give them a gentle nudge just to keep them from toppling over?
Also, have you ever watched one of those performances? There is always a plate or two on the edges that is wobbling more than the others, and seems more likely to fall, causing the performer to leave everything else and dash to keep that one spinning. Which of your 'plates' is wobbling the most? Which of your prospects are the least liekly to come through? What would happen if you let that plate fall away? How much time and energy would it free up to give attention to the others?