Find Your Bread and Butter

Bread & Butter
Most companies can reach $500,000 in annual revenue by working hard and long hours, but going from half a million dollars to $10MM+ requires a laser-focused strategy. In their first two or three years in business, most companies try a lot of different things: they go after multiple target markets, they offer a lot of products and they market them in a lot of different ways. But after throwing many things at the wall you need to pay attention to what sticks and what doesn’t.
These are some questions that will help you narrow your focus.
Target Market

  • Who are your top 10 clients who get the most value from your services, pay on time and you like working with?

Product Offering

  • What are your top 10 bestsellers? What are your top 3?

Team Strengths

  • Out of all the things you do, what can you do better than anyone else?


  • Look at your top 10 clients: what marketing efforts helped you land them?

You might be thinking “this doesn’t make sense. If I want more clients why would I narrow down my focus? Wouldn’t that close a lot of doors?” The answer is that there’s a fundamental difference between how companies and consumers think. Companies want to do everything for everyone because they think that’s the best way to maximize profit. But consumers look for specialists, not generalists. For example, if you break your knee and need surgery, would you rather go to a knee specialist or a general surgeon? If you want great pizza, would you go to a pizza joint or a restaurant that serves all kinds of food?
Marketers need to always put themselves in their customers’ shoes. By the way, if you want ideas on how to grow your profit by narrowing down your focus, I highly recommend the book The Pumpkin Plan.

Join an Accountability Group

Two years ago I joined Entrepreneurs Organization (EO). They have two programs: the main EO program is for companies over $1M in annual revenue and Accelerator is for companies between $250,000 and $1M. Joining this organization is one of the best things I’ve ever done for my business. My favorite part of EO is that you’re part of an accountability group that meets every month. Every time we meet we define goals for the following 30 days and we discuss whether we accomplished our previous goals. This is fantastic because when you know that you’ll have to give an update to a group of very successful entrepreneurs, you take things more seriously.
If you’re not yet ready for EO or Accelerator you can still create an accountability group on your own. Find five or six local business owners you look up to and invite them to join every month. Accountability is very important, and it’s always great to be able to share your ideas and concerns with people who are in the same situation as you.

Find a Mentor

Last month I spoke at a conference for young entrepreneurs. During the Q&A session one of the attendees asked me “what’s the most important advice you can give to a new entrepreneur?” My answer was “find someone who has already done what you want to do and ask him/her to mentor you.” Most entrepreneurs like the idea of having a mentor but they never do anything to make it happen. I think this is because they feel uncomfortable approaching successful people. But successful people are still people, and most of them like helping others as much as you do. Think about it: if someone less experienced than you asked you for feedback, would you provide it? Chances are you would, because helping others isn’t a completely altruistic act; when you help someone you feel good. This is a universal principle and it doesn’t matter how successful someone is; everyone likes leaving a legacy and sharing their stories with others.
For more information, read How to Find a Mentor.

Talk to Your Customers

I believe it’s crucial to talk to your top customers at least once a year to understand how they think, what they like and what they don’t. These are some of the questions I like to ask.

  • What do you like about working with us?
  • We’re constantly looking for ways we can do things better. What can we improve? (After they answer, ask “What else?” to keep the ideas coming.)
  • On a scale from 1 to 10, how likely are you to recommend us to your friends?

Be TRULY Unique

I’m convinced that whereas 95% of companies think they’re unique, 95% of their customers think they aren’t. This is because there are things that we see as differentiators that most customers just assume are a given. You might claim that you have the best customer service in your industry, but so do 10 of your competitors. Maybe you have the highest quality products, but the difference in quality that is so clear to you as an expert in your product is completely overlooked by the average consumer.
Every consumer expects a superior product at a fair price and great customer service. Neither of these things are differentiators. Here are some examples of companies that are TRULY unique:

  • In an industry where software developers sell copies of their software, Google disrupted the status quo by offering free software supported by ads.
  • For every pair of shoes you buy from Tom’s, the company donates a pair of shoes to a child in need.
  • Jones Soda allows you to upload your own pictures to their website and they print them in their soda bottle labels so all the beverages you buy from them are personalized.
  • If you like theater, Sleep No More is a play in New York where the audience is part of the experience. It’s unlike any other play I’ve ever seen.
  • In Portland, where I live, there’s a doughnut shop called Voodoo Doughnuts that creates the weirdest doughnuts you can imagine (such as Bacon Maple and Ain’t That A Peach Fritter). Two weeks ago I walked by their door at 1am and there were over 40 people in line.
  • In Las Vegas there’s a restaurant called Dick’s Last Resort, where waiters treat patrons poorly; they make fun of them and make them feel uncomfortable. It’s packed every single night.

These companies are successful because people talk about them. Is your business so radically different that people can’t wait to tell their friends about it? One of my favorite business books is Blue Ocean Strategy and it’s all about creating your own market (blue ocean) instead of competing in a pre-existing market.


Most entrepreneurs suffer from ADLAS, which stands for “Attention Deficit… Look, A Squirrel!” We’re always looking for the next shiny thing to do and this causes two main problems:

  1. We don’t always finish the things we start
  2. We spread ourselves so thin that we struggle doing remarkable work

For the past two years, every person in my company has had between one and three goals every quarter. That’s it. It doesn’t mean that we don’t work on other stuff, but at the end of each quarter we talk about our previous three goals and we define the three goals that we’ll work on for the following three months.
We start this process by defining where we want to be in ten years. Our 10-year vision is “We have 200 clients with digital marketing budgets over $5,000. They love us and rave about us. We still love our jobs as much as always.” Then we ask ourselves, “what can we do in the next 90 days to move closer to that goal?”
All the goals we set are action-oriented. In other words, these are things you can do, not an outcome you expect. For example, let’s say you want to get $100,000 in additional revenue. You can’t just “do” that. But there are things you can do to make that happen; here are a few examples:

  • Call three out of our top 10 clients and offer them one additional product they can benefit from.
  • Schedule 10 appointments a week with local restaurant owners.

Focus on your actions, not the outcome. You control the former, not the latter.

Involve Everyone in Your Company’s Marketing

Having a marketing department is absolutely essential, but everyone in your company has the potential to bring you business. These are some of the things we’ve done at our agency to make sure everyone in our team is a great ambassador of our brand:

  • Everyone is prepared to talk about what we do at any event, whether is a business conference or a casual conversation at a BBQ with friends. Everyone knows our elevator pitch, what makes us unique and we all know our call to action (to invite people to our office to meet our team and see if we’d be a good fit).
  • Everyone has business cards and marketing literature.
  • Everyone comes up with one company a week we would like to work with.

Don’t just leave marketing up to your marketing people; turn every one of your employees into a great representative of your brand. And treat your employees like royalty, because they tell everyone whether your company rocks or sucks.

Offer New Things to Your Existing Clients

I believe that a big majority of companies spend way too much time finding new clients and too little time helping their existing clients and looking for ways they can provide more value (and increase their revenues). Your clients already trust you, like you and are willing to give you money. What else can you do for them?