Academy

Sweet & Sour Fish & Chips

Sweet & Sour Fish & Chips

When we start out as Financial Planners, most of us are generalists – not by choice, but by necessity.  After all, when you start any business or career, you need to pay the bills.  But being a specialist doesn’t help you stand out, and it certainly doesn’t allow you to become truly great at anything.  It’s a bit like sweet and sour fish and chips…

Sweet & Sour Fish & Chips

When we start out as Financial Planners, most of us are generalists – not by choice, but by necessity.  After all, when you start any business or career, you need to pay the bills.  But being a specialist doesn’t help you stand out, and it certainly doesn’t allow you to become truly great at anything.  It’s a bit like sweet and sour fish and chips…

We all start out as generalists

Initially, we might take on all sorts of different bits of work.  Someone asks, “can you do this…?” and we say, “Yes!”  We agree, even if (at first) we’re not quite sure how to do it – we know we can figure it out later.  The fact is, we’re just happy to get the work.  It pays the bills and feeds the family.

And some businesses never move on.  They will always be known as generalists – and that’s fine.  People will say, “go and see Bob or Sharon, they do a bit of everything…..”

But when we shop for certain things, we subconsciously look for a specialist.

The problem with being a generalist

Imagine you’re looking for a gas engineer and you see an advert:

Gas Engineer

But then you see another one, next to it:

Gas Engineer – also does gardening

The fact that someone is offering both jobs might sound efficient, but it’s just not what you’re looking for.  And if I’m honest, I think I’d be questioning how good the engineer is if they’re also cutting grass to make ends meet!

So what do you do?  You go with the one that’s just advertising themselves as a Gas Engineer.  It’s a much safer bet.

Let’s take another example.  Imagine you needed your wisdom tooth extracted and you saw this advert:

Dentist – removes wisdom teeth and also does haircuts and eyebrows whilst you wait

It would definitely ring alarm bells – you just wouldn’t go there!  The fact is, if you’re a generalist, are you actually doing anything really well?

Being a generalist makes it hard to do anything really well

Near where I live, there’s a takeaway with two shop frontages.  One says “Chip Shop” and the other says “Chinese Takeaway”.  It sounds brilliant, doesn’t it?  What a genius idea – a single kitchen that feeds two shop frontages!  But if you’ve ever eaten there, you’d soon realise that it’s not such a great idea.

You choose fish and chips and it tastes a bit like Chinese.  You choose Chinese and it tastes a bit like fish and chips.

It’s just not good.

Decide what you’re going to be fantastic at

The thing is, being a generalist is okay – up to a point.  But then you need to make a decision. What are you going to be really fantastic at?  What do you want to be known for?  Because when it comes to some things,  we want specialists.

But it’s not about providing a specific ‘product’

But when I talk about specialisms, I’m not talking about product types.  I’m talking about the next level of ‘specialist’.

Yes, a dentist might specialise in wisdom teeth removal.  But what if, as a customer, you’re scared of needles?  You’ve probably put off getting your wisdom teeth removed for years because you’re petrified.

But imagine you then come across an advert saying “Dentist – wisdom tooth specialist.  Also specialises in working with nervous patients who have a needle phobia.”  And then you read their blurb, listing all the tricks and reassuring methods they use to make sure your wisdom tooth removal is as pain free as possible.

Now, that sounds good.  If I was a needle phobic, I’d definitely want that.

A specialist should understand their client and how they feel

So what makes that particular dentist such an appealing option? It’s because they clearly specialise in me and how I feel.  Their advert tells me that they are going to take my feelings seriously.  They understand me.  They are going to help me over the hurdles by giving me a pain free experience.   And that’s why we like to do business with a specialist.

We will gladly pay more for a specialist

But just as importantly, we’re often prepared to pay more money for specialist services. Why?  Because if someone truly knows how I feel, (if the dentist truly understands how scared I am of pain) it means they will go out of their way to make the whole experience as pain free as possible.

So when you think about specialising, yes it’s okay to think about which product area you might want to specialise in.  But most importantly, think about how your client feels.  Really understand them. Think about how you can specialise in a specific emotional aspect that you know your clients experience.  Get that right and you will mop up every single one of those clients.

Being a specialist increases your market

And you can ignore people who say “don’t specialise or you’ll limit your market….”  It’s just not true.  When you specialise, you open yourself up to 100% of that particular market – way more than you could ever hope to service in your lifetime.

Specialise in something.  Be fantastic at it.  And let people know that you understand how they feel.

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