By Isaac Christiansen
Whether you are beginning your career or starting a new business, many people will ask themselves if their road to success should be paved on specializing in a certain field, product, or service or would they do better to create a skill or business strategy on that is based more on generalization? Some may say that to be a jack of all trades but to not have mastery in one special area may not attract a steady clientele. As a business strategy, being too specialized might turn some potential customers away. However, generalization can have the same effect for a small business if customers are not quite sure what you are best at or what you are known for offering a specific product or service.
But the question is will a company burn themselves on focusing on what is interesting for the moment as opposed to a specialization in one area, product, or service that consumers can rely on and go back to again and again? Let’s take a look at both generalization and specialization individually for the answer.
Variety for the Consumer
Certainly, it can be said that to have more products and services for consumers to choose from has the potential for expanding your customer base. But, if what you offer to your customer is not specific enough for their needs, then they may look elsewhere to find a product or service that is more customizable to what they are looking for. So, practicing generalization as a strategy for what a company offers can be good in terms of keeping variety and diversity in mind. Many consumers love to have choices in a product or service because oftentimes they begin a search to buy without really knowing what the market has to offer. The bigger the variety in what a business has to offer a consumer, the more likely that person will be a return customer.
Economic Security for the Company
Many companies feel that they run the risk of putting themselves in financial straits if they put all their efforts into one or two products or services. Depending on the industry, the consumer tide could turn very quickly to other products. Generalization as a business strategy may alleviate this issue. Even if several products or services become less popular or even obsolete, having others to bring to the forefront in these times could keep a company afloat economically instead of forcing them to make cuts to keep a healthy bottom line.
With specialization as a business strategy, a company will determine which specific product or service their customer demographic wants overall, and they will focus on offering the best version of the product or service. This means knowing the industry that you are in very well and doing your research when it comes to the latest innovations. A company that does this will usually have a product that is far more superior in quality to a product that is made by a company that practices generalization. Specializing can offer specific features in products and services to make up for not having as much of a variety of products for their customers to choose from. According to Forbes writer, Larry Alton, specialized business are pushing generalized business out of their market and modern businesses are turning to specialization.
“Look at the Fortune 1000 over the last 40 years, starting from 1973 you see that major changes have taken place… By 1983, one-third of these companies have fallen off the list.” –Rufus Franack
If you market your company as having a specific product or service to your target consumer, then they begin to see you as a specialist within the field. You may have a multitude of competition that offers a similar product or service, but because you have focused on developing one or two products or services to their level of highest quality, you can confidently market to your potential customers that you can offer them the best that the industry has to offer. That means your company, as a specialization strategy, has something to offer that cannot be found anywhere else.
Generalization vs Specialization- A Case Study
These two companies are both orthopedic therapy clinics, but if you look at what they offer, you can get a better picture of specialization and generalization as business strategies.
Arthritis Care of Texas –Specialization
Arthritis Care of Texas is a medical care facility specializes in knee treatment. They have doctors who are specialists in the field of knee treatment of a non-surgical variety. They also offer each patient a customized plan to treat their knees based on their specific issues. Everything that is offered in each treatment plan is on site which means that not one patient has to go anywhere else to complete any part of their specialized treatment plan, so they deal with only their medical specialist at Arthritis Care of Texas and nowhere else.
Mackenzie SDI is a medical facility that treats a multitude of afflictions and will offer their patients many non-surgical alternatives to treating their medical issues that may include the latest technological advancements in treatment procedures like laser therapy as well as chiropractic care as opposed to a customized treatment plan. They also have experienced and skilled diagnostic technicians to service their patients, but they also offer a variety of doctors on site who specialize in a variety of areas to service each patient’s needs depending on the treatment that they choose.
Each of these companies has much to offer the consumer as either a specialization or generalization company. Oftentimes, it is up to the consumer to make the decision on what their personal preference is their search for a product or service. That means that a company has the responsibility of making sure the consumer understands who they are as a company and what they have to offer so that the customer can make as informed a decision as possible.
The important thing is that having a business strategy at all is the first step and the most important one whether it is one of generalization or specialization in your industry.
After graduating from the University of Michigan, Isaac Christiansen moved to Riverton Utah and has been their ever since. He is a private practice PT and enjoys spending time with his family and wood working when he’s not at the office.