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How Having A Single-Minded Focus Helps You And Your Customers

1982 was a big year. The Falklands War began (and ended). The IRA blew up bombs in Hyde Park in London, and Henry VIII’s flagship, Mary Rose, was raised after 437 years on the sea bed.

And I was a greasy 14-year-old who was too busy playing football to pay attention to any of it.

But I did have a decision to make.

It was time to choose which school subjects I was going to study to O-level.

Without boring you with my life story, the way my school framed the subject options meant I only had one slot where I could pick pretty much anything.

And, being the young pragmatist, I picked something I was good at (rather than something that could have earned me a lot of money). I chose graphics, or as it was called then, ‘technical drawing’.

And so began a 35-year career in the graphics and communication industry.

There are times in life when it pays to cut your options down to one and focus.

Being Single-Minded

Like holding a compass in a storm, being single-minded is about setting your sights on one true north and navigating towards it. This approach doesn’t just simplify decision-making – it magnifies your efforts, ensuring that every action taken is a step closer to your goal.

For small business owners, adopting this single-mindedness can be transformative. It allows you to channel your resources, creativity and passion into what truly matters.

By picking one vision, one product, or one core message, you become a beacon for your customers, cutting through the clutter with clarity and purpose.

In essence, being single-minded in business isn’t about limiting your possibilities – it’s about enhancing the power of your punch, ensuring that when you do hit, you hit hard and leave a mark.

I realised this when I started business networking. At my first few meetings I didn’t have a clue how to pitch my services. I would stand nervously, shifting my weight from one foot to the other, while I read out a bullet-point list of things I could do.

Unsurprisingly, this approach resulted in no offers of work, or even any interest.

It wasn’t until I narrowed down the topic of my pitch to one specific thing that I started gaining traction. I began to talk about the printed marketing used in a networking environment, such as roller banners and business cards.

This created a talking point with my fellow networkers and led to conversations about other services I could provide.

By selecting one thing, print for networking, I was able to attract people’s attention and make inroads.

This simple example shows how talking about just one thing helps your customers to engage with you and makes it easier for you to market your services. Hitting people with a shopping list of options overwhelms them with too much choice.

There are many different areas in business and marketing where picking one thing will help you move forward. Here are three examples.

Content Writing: Stick to the Point

I’ve written articles for many years. In my days in higher education, I studied art history and English literature, and I think deep down within me, I was a frustrated writer.

But I never really had a chance to use my writing skills until we set up a family garden design business some fifteen years later.

One of the first things I did was to create a blog on our website. I wasn’t directly involved in designing gardens, so I had plenty of time to write articles. After a couple of years, the blog started to gain a pretty good following, and we decided to expand our horizons and write for local magazines as well.

So, for four years, I was the ghostwriter of gardening-related articles for three magazines.

But it wasn’t until I took an article writing course a few years later that I realised my approach had been rather unstructured.

I took two things away from this course: (1) the importance of creating an outline and (2) picking one thing as your topic at the start and sticking to it – without being tempted to wander off into other subjects.

Once I started to use these two pieces of advice, my article writing improved dramatically.

Picking one topic helps your readers because they know what they’re going to get – because you tell them at the start.

There is a piece of writing advice (sadly, I don’t remember who said this, and I am paraphrasing): “Tell them what you’re going to tell them; then tell them; and then tell them what you’ve just told them”. In effect, you are telling your reader about your one thing three times over.

Picking one topic also helps you as a writer because it gives you a laser-like focus, allowing you to go into more depth, which gives your reader more value.

And from an SEO perspective, picking one topic also helps you to choose relevant keywords much more easily.

One objection I often hear when I talk about picking one topic is that people think they won’t have the chance to explain everything they want to say. The answer to that is quite simple. You don’t have to say everything in one article.

If your topic is complex, divide it into three or four articles and make a series. It will make the subject easier for your audience to understand, and who knows, one day, you may write enough to turn your articles into a book.

Uniqueness: The Key to Standing Out

The concept of uniqueness scares many business people because, often, there is very little to choose between one business and another, especially if you’re dealing in common services or products.

But discovering your uniqueness is a way to ensure your business stands out. Finding one thing you do that your competitors don’t or can’t gives you a unique point of difference.

If your customers value it, that point of difference gives you a unique selling proposition (USP) – the key to a competitive advantage.

Finding your business’s uniqueness is hard enough, but finding the USP for each of your products or services is even more complicated. (No one said being in business was easy!)

You can differentiate your product or service in dozens of different ways. Here are a few examples.

  • You could offer customised solutions, tailoring your services or products to meet a specific customer need.
  • Maybe you offer exemplary customer service with unparalleled support and after-care.
  • Or you could be the most sustainable, with eco-friendly packaging or greener business operations.
  • You could be the fastest, the most convenient, or even the most expensive. Provided you can tie that to a customer benefit, you have a point of uniqueness.

The most important thing to remember is that you must only pick one.

Yes, your product or service will have many features and benefits, but for that single-minded focus I mentioned earlier, you need to choose one unique benefit and lead with it. You can talk about the other benefits later.

Storytelling and Brand Identity: Crafting Your Unique Tale

How do you make sure your voice is heard in a crowded marketplace where everyone is shouting at once? The secret may lie in a powerful yet often overlooked tool: storytelling.

Just as picking one thing can provide your USP, honing in on a single, compelling story can revolutionise your brand identity.

Think about the brands that have made a mark on you. Chances are, they’ve told you a story that resonates deeply. Whether it’s the journey of a plucky, bootstrapped entrepreneur working from their spare room to create something world-changing or a family-run business keeping cherished traditions alive, these stories stick with us.

I once worked for a company whose brand story, about an explorer who roamed the world wearing their brand of motorcycle boots, was totally fictional. That didn’t matter.

Because stories don’t just sell a product or service; they convey an experience, an ethos.

And ultimately, they work because people can’t resist a good story.

When you concentrate on crafting one core narrative about your business, you’re not just telling people what you do; you’re sharing why you do it and why it matters. This singular story becomes the heart of your brand identity, making your business not just seen but felt.

For small business owners, this means digging deep to find that narrative thread that ties your offerings to a larger purpose. Are you a local cafe using family recipes to bring the community together? Or a tech startup aiming to simplify life with your innovative solutions?

Whatever your story, it’s more than a marketing tool – it’s the essence of your brand, and you need to make it connect with your buyers on an emotional level.

By focusing on this narrative, you can create a unique brand identity. It helps you stand out, not just for the quality of your products or services, but for the values and visions that drive your business.

This emotional connection is what transforms first-time buyers into loyal advocates.

Back in 1982, when I chose Technical Drawing over Art or French or whatever else was on the table, I made that decision with no pressure because I was 14, and I had no idea where any of it was going to lead.

But as business owners (and adults), the pressure to make the choice to pick one can seem overwhelming.

This pressure isn’t just about making a choice; it’s about the fear of missing out on the paths not taken. But here’s the thing: overcoming this pressure isn’t about dismissing it but understanding that in focus, there’s freedom.

The key lies in embracing the clarity that comes with decision-making. Start by evaluating your options not just on their immediate appeal but on how they align with your long-term vision and values.

Seek advice, but trust your gut. Remember, every choice is a step forward, and the path to success is paved with learned experiences, not missed opportunities.

By anchoring your decisions in your business’s core purpose, you transform what feels like a leap into the unknown into a confident stride towards your goals.

So, pick one.

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author avatar
Keith Barker Designer & Marketing Consultant
I'm Keith, the driving force behind Keefomatic Marketing & Design. With a career spanning over 35 years in marketing, design and advertising, I offer a comprehensive, results-driven service tailored to the needs of small business owners.