SC&RA members are specialist companies working within a specialized industry. As a result, standing out within an already stand-out crowd can sometimes cause a company to drift away from what they already do really well.

Joel dandrea

Joel Dandrea, chief executive officer

Everyone is searching for a “competitive sweet spot” – where your brand is relevant to the target audience and differentiated from the competition.

But the difference between one company signing a contract and another company moving on to other hopeful opportunities can come down to specific capabilities and/or service offerings. And sometimes that involves companies staying true to who they are and what they do best.

For niche players, like many SC&RA members, it pays to know who you are and what you do best. Industries the world over are littered with the debris of companies trying to be something they’re not – trying to do something beyond their range of expertise.

And so, we’re experts. But does that mean that we can’t learn from the market, the competition or even pivot to evolve our range of expertise? No. In fact, some of the most common mistakes that experts tend to make center around complacency and/or underdeveloped expansion.

But sometimes, it just pays to “do you.” Do what you do best, and do it in the specific way that brings you success. That doesn’t mean you can’t expand and evolve, but it does mean that perhaps your wheelhouse is a really great situation, and you might be best served by continuing to focus on how and why you’re so good right here, right now. Even as temptations to expand loom, perhaps it’s best to keep your eye on the prize.

Firmly positioned

Niche companies come in all shapes and sizes; nonetheless, the rules to success are often very similar. Certainly, within our industry, specialist companies solve specific types of problems by doing specific types of work for customers with specific needs.   

Success, in this capacity, depends on a specific type of focus. First and foremost, you can’t specialize if you don’t boast a specialty – knowledge or service offerings that are difficult for others to copy. This also includes how you develop and maintain relationships – through each step of a project. Many an SC&RA success story has been cultivated on the back of a successful “relationship” story.

Next, you need to walk the walk. If you call yourself a specialist, then your customers are going to expect you to deliver like one. And there are additional ways to deliver – through updated content on your website, through speaking at industry-related events, through participating in webinars and even writing white papers. And submit for awards. Being recognized by your peers can be a massive boost to marketability as well as legitimacy.   

However, your customer base also plays a distinct role in your ability to specialize. You have to go after the right work – the right people … people who actually need the expert products and service(s) you offer. “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should,” is something else to consider. My eye doctor might be able to pull my tooth, but why would he?

That said, it’s for this reason that finding the right customer to work with is often determined by value more than price. If you lead with price – it’s usually the first tell that you’re not really a specialist.

Relationships being what they are, specialists also recognize the value in strategic collaboration – i.e., partnerships. Most SC&RA members work within an ecosystem – comprised of suppliers, distributors, competitors and more. Successful companies understand the value of mutually beneficial relationships in this regard: specialization doesn’t always equal isolation.

Ultimately, understanding the true nature of what it means to specialize is often just one part of the expertise puzzle. Recognizing what pieces of that puzzle best apply to you – and thus your position as a specialist – will keep you firmly positioned on the path to long-term success.   

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