Focus and flourish: Why being everything for everybody is a bad idea

February 11, 2010 by Dave Haynes


I have had three conversations this week talking about the industry and about various companies, mostly software companies. They all came down to one comment: “Boy, those guys seem to be doing a lot of business …”

The people I was yakking with couldn’t figure out why, but it was pretty clear to me. The companies chose their thing. Their vertical. And then they went after it hard.

In a little more than a week the North American part of the industry will gather in Las Vegas for DSE, and prospective buyers will walk into the exhibit hall and be greeted by a sea of exhibits from companies that are all pitching pretty much the same thing. They will see countless booths and hear countless pitches about the nuances of why a particular company’s way of doing things is the cat’s pyjamas (always wanted to use that phrase …) but not a lot that distinguishes them.

Not that many companies at the show will set themselves up in a way that clearly tells prospects, “If you are looking for a solution that is laser-focused on doing this, or serving that, we’re your guys.” Almost all the pitches and positioning will be a riff on the right message, right time thing.

It’s all very general, and leaves the vendors engaged in an endless scrap over features, personalities and, what they really don’t want, price.

Then there are the other guys who are just quietly going about their business servicing a particular vertical category … and not a broad vertical like retail. I mean narrowed down to a sub-category of retail. Or maybe they just do campus. Or museums.

They got focused. They developed sector expertise and tailored their message and their product and service officer to a particular area. Instead of 300 software companies, maybe they’re competing with three on jobs. Or none.

There are companies in this industry who don’t show up at the trade shows. They don’t make a lot of noise. They just do their thing with their own narrowed list of targets. When they do trade shows, it is THE trade show in their vertical. Sometimes, they’re the only digital signage company there.

The people who run those companies figured out getting focused made more sense than trying to get noticed in the crowd. 

If I am a guy looking for a solution, I am going to be a lot more engaged by someone who understands my business, and its dynamics and challenges,  than I am by someone else who may have more brand recognition and flashier material, but only a fleeting grasp of what I do and need.

People are going to walk up to booths at DSE in a few days and just flat ask salespeople, “What do you guys do?”

If all they’ve got to answer back with is some canned blah-blah-blah stuff with scale and reliable and cost-efficient lobbed in the patter, that’s a problem.

There are some big guys with big budgets coming into this sector now and they probably aren’t going away. But they’re just getting started and their offers are really undefined.

Pick what you’re really good at. Look at where the market opportunities are and what kinds of businesses are either recession-proofed and hopefully expanding. And look for those categories in which digital signage is a need to have, not a nice to have.

Get some focus, and you could flourish. 


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