Neapolitan ice cream is traditionally made of vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry ice cream flavors. Each are tried-and-true primary flavors recognized by the masses. Specialty ice cream flavors such as Peach, Black Raspberry, Mint Chocolate Chip, Moose Tracks, Cherry Garcia, Dreamsicle, Salted Caramel, and even Tiger Tail (a Canadian orange and licorice specialty) feel sophisticated and premium in comparison. Ice cream makers of the specialty flavors frequently turn to one of the flavors in a Neapolitan as a base for their recipe and then add in their own twists and ingredients to bring out the essence of each flavor they strive to specialize in making. Consider Fudge Ripple, the base is vanilla with with tons of velvety-smooth chocolate fudge swirls.
Recently I asked friends to tell me their favorite flavor of ice cream. I suspected the answer would be very similar to what I see happening in the virtual assistant business world. Without knowing I would be drawing some parallels more than 40 participants shared their favorites with me. While I wasn’t as concerned about which flavor came out on top – it was a combination of mint chocolate chip and chocolate mint chip coming in at 20%, by the way, the overwhelmingly strong response was that friends preferred a specialty flavor compared to one of the traditional primary flavors of vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry found in a classic Neapolitan. They wanted more than a general flavor.
Let’s compare how tastes in ice cream parallel offerings in business
While you could offer general services such as general administrative support, the cravings (and demand) of the masses shifts to specializing or being an expert in a specific area. When you look around at how many virtual assistants and virtual professionals (some refer to themselves by their specialty name) assemble their offerings to their customers the large majority hone in on less than five core services and specialize. They may specialize in specific services as copywriting, web design, bookkeeping, newsletters, transcription, or inbound marketing to name a few or they may focus on working within a certain industry where they know the ins-and-outs of that industry – supporting attorneys, real estate agents, or coaches. (More about industry-driven compared to services-driven niches in this blog post.)
The thing to remember is this: if the masses are specializing and have been in business a number of years they must be on to something. Follow the supply-and-demand because all of those people can’t be wrong. If you look at the copywriting on these veteran websites you’ll notice the writing speaks directly to their own audience, using the words and phrases that are easily recognizable to those they serve best. People recognize their own people.
It’s not to say that generalizing won’t bring in the dollars. In the ice cream survey 1% chose vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry. People are buying. Most anyone who chose a specialty flavor given the choice of only vanilla or chocolate could probably make a choice…but would they be as happy choosing between vanilla and say, Moose Tracks? Probably not. Chances are that if you ask the virtual bookkeeper if she ever does admin work for any of her clients she will answer she does on occasion or she subcontracts out to a trusted colleague. The overwhelming bulk of her work happens in her field of specialty.
The starting point may be generalizing while you explore what it means to be a business or while you struggle to determine who you are marketing to (marketing woes can be fixed) and what your services mean to others.
The breakthrough point happens when you notice that certain services are in higher demand and realize that your specialty is shining brightly. It’s like a beacon calling more repeat work in this service and getting referrals for this service. Upon your discovery your marketing generally shifts to talk with these customers and you become their preferred provider. Psst – that specialty may be that you rock at working with Excel spreadsheets, formulas, and pivot tables. If this is the case then tailor your website’s copywriting to speak directly to those who need outstanding Excel support.
Rather than say, “My ideal client is any small business owner that needs help with administrative tasks that are draining them and taking time away from revenue-generating activities.” Be more specific. And if you are someone who favors one of those primary flavors – for example, vanilla – know that even inside being vanilla you can specialize so your people will recognize themselves in your marketing, your conversational language, and in your website copy. When I get a choice between vanilla, French vanilla, and vanilla bean I will lean towards vanilla bean. My palate distinguishes flavor nuisances between vanilla bean and plain vanilla. Your clients can also pick out the differences. (Yes, I’m talking about your UVP – unique value position).
Take a second look at your marketing, your copywriting, and your overall business presence. Does it speak to your people? Will they recognize themselves and know that you truly get them and all the things that are important to them? You know what you must do if it doesn’t.