Specialist vs generalist is a stanky red herring

Specialist vs generalist is a stanky red herring
There’s a whole lotta talk around specialist vs generalist.

People getting heated about, wait for it, niching.

Who knew this could cause hot debate.

(Christ, I can’t talk, I’ll literally argue about anything.)

Those hostile to niching often describe themselves as generalists. Yeah, as you’d expect that sounds indistinct.

The reality is, we’re all niching

Let’s say you’re a virtual assistant offering general admin services within the education sector. I would describe that work as generalist but the industry, specialist. 

What about a technical SEO agency that works in many different sectors? The work is specialist but the industry is generalist.  

See what I mean?

People are niching without knowing they are. 

Yes, even those dyed-in-the-wool generalists who ‘work with everyone’.

They might well be offering an array of products to a multitude of rackets but there will be a commonality that links the clients they work with. 

And that thing is unwittingly their niche. 

Because, friends, they are absolutely not selling to everyone.

When I make an effort to get dolled up of an evening, coiffure my hair just so, It makes me feel good to know some humans appreciate my efforts.

Some tell me how nice I look, maybe they even chuckle at my jokes.

But not everyone.

For some people, I’m irritating. Perhaps my laugh is too loud (and weird) or maybe they just don’t like me.

That’s the exact same thing as your brand/business.

It doesn’t matter how universal you think it is, it isn’t.

So, what can become a niche? 

Anything, really.

Your business non-negotiables might be what repels some and attracts others.

Service terms, your process, your brand voice is beguiling a someone. But I’m sorry Liz, you’re not appealing to the entire world.

If you’ve done diddly-squat when it comes to cultivating a writing tone, you’re still giving off a vibe. If you’re a fluffy unicorn sort you will likely attract fluffy unicorn sorts. 

“But that’s just how I am with my clients, Sarah.”

Sure, and that’s cool but it still isn’t being all things to all people, Liz. 

And who the hell is Liz? No matter, I’m going with it. 

When Liz started her business, she never heard the term, niching. 

She got work from word of mouth.

Some clients turned out to be pretty decent but others she’d have gladly set fire to.

But now the market is fierce and Liz struggles to be for everyone. She’s not sure if she’s on foot or horseback and she does spend an awful lot of time dealing with dickheads.

My question for Liz would be what connects the clients you enjoy working with? 

I reckon those people all have something in common.

That’s a niche that is. 

Wanting to work with people who pay you upfront is a niche – I know, madness and who wouldn’t want that, right?

(Plenty… apparently.)

That doesn’t stop you from being flexible with the kind of work you offer nor does it restrict you to one sector.

We get bogged down with jargon, and marketing is like any other industry – full of (sh)it.

But without knowing who’s buying, selling what you do will be a ball-ache.

Building a business strategy with no clear idea on market is a f*cking nightmare. 

You can’t tailor content to a faceless, nondescript audience. 

So, yeah, specialist vs generalist is a nonsense.

But if you truly claim to work with anyone and everyone, that also includes shysters. 

“Of course I wouldn’t work with those people, Sarah!”

Then you have a niche, Liz. So stop being so bloody silly. 

The impact on SEO

I couldn’t begin to create content without a target market.

And not focusing on the work I like to do would be mental. This stuff is key to SEO and indeed, running a ruddy business. 

If I did insist on being a generalist (in every sense) then the only keywords I could realistically target would be ‘SEO content writer’ and ‘copywriter’.

There are two issues with that: 

  1. The chances of a prospect finding me are slim.
  2. If they do find me, I’m probably not what they’re looking for.

Let me explain.

Getting organic traffic for competitive keywords is hard.

The clue is in the name – there’s loads of competition for those words.

You won’t find me by googling ‘SEO content writer’.

And that’s cool because people searching that term don’t want what I offer.

(It usually means they want conventional and dull.)

I offer a service (business writing) to business misfits (brands that want non-conformist copy).

That’s it, simple as.

I didn’t come out in hives when I decided that. I simply chose the kind of work I enjoyed marginally more than other work. 

Another thing to consider: users searching on competitive keywords aren’t looking to hire or buy.

Why?

People get specific when they want to part with cash that’s why long-tail keywords are your friend. So, if you continue to be snooty about niching you’ll bugger up your SEO, actually your entire marketing strategy.

Don’t muddy the waters.

SEO content writing isn’t the only thing I offer but it is the thing I’m known for.

It’s confusing for people if you keep changing your offering. How else will they remember what it is you do?

So before you shout loud and proud “I’m a generalist!” have a good think, then ask yourself, are you?

No seriously, are you really?

Is your business a bit of a maverick? Need some hilarious rebellious copy? Hit that button.

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