One day, you start a business. You have a pretty solid idea of the kind of customer who will use your products or services. You may even create customer avatars, fancy drawings, fill a book with detailed personas.

  • And then, somewhere in your first year…you add another service from customer feedback to make some extra revenue. Couldn’t hurt, right?
  • In your second year, you add several new products or services that you aren’t that familiar with to stay on top of the market.
  • In your third year, you dumb down the focused language on your site to include potential customers from emerging markets.
  • In your fourth year, you aren’t really sure anymore exactly what your company is or whom you serve.

Most of the time, change is a good thing. But when you sacrifice your specialization to gain new imaginary customers, you risk falling into “the Miss America trap.”

There’s the old joke that every Miss America contestant has the same answer to the final competition question: regardless of topic, it should all end with “achieving world peace.”

I love the Miss America pageant. There are smart, beautiful, talented women who take the stage and OWN IT. But every once in a while, you see the fear and pain that crosses a contestant’s face while she struggles to answer her on-stage question.

This SAME THING happens to businesses all the time, and it’s why they fail. When they fear they’re shutting a door to a certain audience, when they fear they’re sacrificing a stream of revenue, when they fear they don’t have ALL the answers in customer service…they fall into the Miss America trap.

During the intake meeting with my clients, I ask them, “Who are your customers?”

Their answer? They don’t know. Or they’re afraid they’ll come up with the wrong answer. I have to constantly reassure them that I’m not judging them. Together, we discover who is exactly right for their company…and who’s not.

The three ways to avoid the Miss America Trap is through segmentation, personalization and specialization.

Over the next three blog posts, I’ll explain how to ace each one of these methods and get your company back to the one you were passionate about when you started.

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