You need to know something and know it well. And, as many have said before me, "If you know something about everything, then you know nothing about something." Building your niche expertise, while also working to maintain a general scope of knowledge, can create major resource issues.
Importance of Niche Expertise
Whether as an individual or as an entity, having a niche expertise is vital in today's marketplace. It's the only way to substantively differentiate yourself from the competition without having to defend yourself with, "No really, we're better at marketing. We just are."
If you pick the right niche — something you’re passionate about — you should also be able to devote enough time and energy to learning everything available about that topic and then build upon that available knowledge to create truly differentiated value and progress in the respective field. Thus, you'll become a go-to, credible resource that's moving that field forward.
Danger of Hyper-focusing
Niche experts with a focus often hold that focus at the center of their perspective. For example, if I know the most about digital strategy, I look at most other strategies and tactics through a lens of how they will affect digital initiatives. This can be very productive, creating new merged tactics, innovation opportunities, etc. However, if the relationship is not clear or objectivity is absent, you may ignore the bigger, long-term, more important picture:
Trends in fashion affect music (+ more); music affects entertainment (+ more); entertainment affects social norms (+ more); and social norms should affect marketing messages and mediums. Politics, inflation, trade agreements and buying power all affect commerce. Science, technology and operations determine the future of entire industries.
In one way or another, it all matters. So what do we take time to thoroughly understand?
Maintaining the Balance
Lord knows it would be hypocritical of me to say I have this figured out — I don't. I spent most of my early career understanding basic publicity strategies to create communities around ideas, and then focused on learning digital tactics. What I learned about both subjects "back in the day" is no longer socially relevant, but, based on my skill set and professional responsibilities, I need to be well-versed in these subjects, as well as a host of other things. I'm also really good at picking up tidbits on various topics, which ultimately leads me to be interested in learning more about each and every subject. While continuing education is great, it can potentially create time management issues.
So, since I'm not an "expert" on this, but know I (and others) need help, I'd like to ask you:
What strategies have you personally implemented to foster your area of expertise, while also remaining knowledgeable about relevant general topics?
Originally published Jan 11, 2012 1:00:23 AM, updated July 28 2017