There was a great article in the New Yorker the other week about what the retail industry has called the “great middle” – companies that strive to be everything to everyone. Guess what – they didn’t do very well in the recession with that approach. High end companies and also the companies (think IKEA) who, as the author describes it, are selling things that “aren’t bad and cost a lot less” all did relatively well compared to those companies who try to be all things to all people.
What can professional services learn from all this? One lesson, for those who have positioned themselves as providing high-end, highly-specialized advice, is to stay the course. And consciously and deliberately (is there any other way?) focus on targeting those buyers who will always seek high-end value. Of course, there are temptations along the way to take on work that pays the bills but isn’t really what you want to be known for doing. When you come to that fork in the road, proceed with caution. If cash flow forces a decision, so be it. But, if you are considering a permanent path down the “middle of the road”, consider this quote from the article that offers an interesting analogy for professional services marketers: ” The products made by midrange companies are neither exceptional enough to justify premium prices nor cheap enough to win over value-conscious consumers. Furthermore, the squeeze is getting tighter every day.” So, in terms of a sustainable marketing strategy, we’d rather emulate Apple than Sony or Dell.