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Expertise in a niche, an industry, a trade, etc can be an incredibly valuable asset. But, too great a focus on just one thing could actually hurt you.
Don’t believe me? Ask the US Postal Service.
You can have all of the systems, all of the knowledge, control the pricing, and be the absolute most well known “expert” in your field – but, what is that worth when people stop sending mail?
Tunnel vision can happen to the best of us. We are focused. We know our competition. We know what’s coming next in our industry. Our sense of comfort (and power) grows with what we know, who we know and how much we know about how it all works.
And, when the rug is pulled out from under us – we’re stunned. How did I not see that coming?
Don’t let focus turn into tunnel vision. Here are 3 exercises to help you keep your expertise from getting the best of you:
Read a Book About Another Niche or Industry
I stumbled on this one accidently. I like to read fiction that has a lot of suspense and twists and turns and has you guessing “who done it“. John Grisham does a pretty good job of keeping my attention with his suspenseful stories of legal trials and the lives of lawyers.
I found that as I read the books and got absorbed in the stories – I learned a little something about the legal system. Not enough to start curbside lawyering… but enough to see how a lawyer sort of works like a marketer. I see how a jury is a lot like a target market and a defendant is a product being sold to that market.
Seeing these little similarities, I like to study the different approaches that are taken and the results they produce. Sure, they are fictional – but they are great little exercises to make me think about how things might apply in my world.
So, pick up a book – whether it’s a fictional thriller or a how-to manual – just be sure the subject matter is something completely different than what you focus on each day.
Talk to Someone from the Outside World
A few months ago, I had a long taxi ride from a hotel to the airport. I got in the cab and greeted the driver and asked him how long he had been driving a taxi. This turned into a long explanation of how he actually only drove a few days a week, and that he was really working on starting his own business selling women’s clothing.
Like most business people, I have a general sense of how his business might operate. But, I spent the next 40 minutes asking him questions about it. He spent the next 40 minutes telling me everything from how his supply chain operated to how he priced his clothing, what he did with unsold items, how he decides what to sell and so on.
There were things that he did that were similar to what I do. There were things that he did that I’ll never need to do. He approached processes differently. He thought about his market differently. He seemed to have a much more keen sense of his supply chain than I ever imagine needing in my business.
Identifying those similarities and differences was really helpful in looking at my own business from a different angle. Plus, it made me think a lot more about the “supply chain” I operate within and how each of the parties involved really affects one another.
It made me break some of my tunnel vision and expand my focus outside of our company and to the flow of information, money, products and services from our partners to our customers and back again.
Get out and talk to someone. Ask questions and just let the other person be your teacher.
Connect to the Media that Your Customers Hear From
Your customers are getting messages every day from all sorts of sources. Sure, you may be one of them. But, there are many more. Relying on your own news or your industry’s news is a trap for tunnel vision.
I think we’re pretty guilty of this here in the affiliate marketing space. We have this tight little niche where we “get” each other. We feel comfortable, we share information, we do business together and its easy to forget that we’re just one piece of the pie.
At FMTC, we try to think outside of who we are and what we do – and think about what other messages our customers and partners may be getting and what other needs they have outside of what we fulfill.
What are advertisers and publishers hearing from SEO experts? What about email experts? What are their credit card processors telling them? What did their webhost suggest in today’s newsletter? What commercials are they seeing on TV? What videos are they watching on YouTube?
Understanding their information intake and the messages they are receiving helps us create a conceptual map of our customers’ overall needs and the movement and change in our industry. We can “see” where we fit in and what factors affect our placement.
Imagine if the US Postal Service had done that back in the early 90’s. We could all be paying for e-stamps for each message we send today if they had stopped to study the messages that their customers were getting to understand where the mailed letter would fit into their customers’ needs and the overall movement and growth of communications.
Don’t Let Your Expertise Limit You
Take those tunnel vision glasses off and go learn something new today!