Are You Offering Too Many Services?

As a business owner it's natural to want to give your customers everything they need. You might feel that failing to offer a complete package could result in competitors stealing your prospects, or you may fear being thought an amateur for leaving out what others deem to be an essential product.

When I started ACS in 2010 my primary focus was grant writing. Then, as I became more involved in writing the website, I asked myself why I should limit myself to one specialty. I offered speech writing, strategic planning, and in a burst of brilliance I thought, "why not cater to college undergrads?" Resumes, cover letters and even academic papers became fair game. Even now I fear my menu might be more expansive than it needs to be, but it is a lot less overwhelming to maintain than when I first started.

Consider this:

  • If you have questions about an iPhone, do you drop by an Apple store or stop by a RadioShack?
  • If you want good ice cream, do you order from a McDonald's dessert menu or visit a Marble Slab?
  • If you're passionate about technology, do you subscribe to PC World or the New York Times?

These questions point to the value of specialization. I purchased my iPhone from a RadioShack, but I only went there because I already knew what I wanted. If I had been on the fence and had technical questions about the smartphone, I would have traveled farther to an Apple store.
Similarly, a McFlurry could satisfy your craving for ice cream, but wouldn't you prefer the wider range of a dedicated creamery? I'm a fan of the New York Times' technology coverage, but I expect more thorough analysis of the kind delivered by a dedicated tech magazine.

Can you offer a one-stop-shop experience? Sears and other department stores would certainly make a good case for it, but before you decide you have the capacity to accommodate a wide range of products, ask yourself if you have the:

  • time to develop a product line to its full potential;
  • resources to accommodate the unavoidable rush jobs across multiple product lines;
  • expertise to speak confidently about everything you offer;
  • staff to pick up the slack in your absence; and
  • sufficient funds to uniquely market each product line.

Is it imperative that you possess each of these assets to succeed? That depends on you, but remember the customer only cares about whether you are prepared to meet her consumer needs. If the product or service is advertised, the customer has the right to expect excellent customer support.

I hired a guy the other day to install a pair of garage door openers.
As he was wrapping up I asked if he knew of anyone who could tackle some miscellaneous home maintenance tasks. He said he could do it.
He'd done a great job with the garage, so I took him around the house and explained the various projects I needed completed. He's a real nice guy, but he's been really delayed with coming up with estimates and shopping around for the best price on supplies. I'm still likely to use him, albeit with higher supervision, but I wonder if he is stretching himself thin by venturing outside his primary focus area.

What about you? Has your range of services expanded since you launched your venture, and if so, what factors prompted the growth?

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