Nearly every day on my drive home I pass by a house with a van parked in its driveway. And every day I think about the owner of that van and how smart he or she is. They can’t possibly know that every darn day without fail, when I see that van I say to myself “now that’s brilliant marketing!”

The van belongs to a painting contractor. Home painting contractors make their living against an army of competition. There is a particularly low barrier to entry. And in this economy, you can imagine how many more people have entered the business.

How on earth can you be a smart marketer and differentiate yourself from the pack if you’re a painter? Most small painting  contractors rely on word of mouth and out-hustling to win business. Or they emphasize the quality of their work. Or they compete on price. I would probably do a combination of those things if I were a painting contractor.

But that would not make me a smart marketer nor would it elevate my company above the competition – because I would be doing what everyother contractor was doing.

So what’s so brilliant about this particular van and its owner? The side of the van reads VACANT ONLY PAINTING.

If you had a vacant property in need of painting and were staring at a list of painting contractors, who would you call? I’d call “Vacant Only Painting.” I’d figure they must be the best because that’s what they specialize in.
Niche Marketing Lessons
Most people, including me, are reluctant to specialize too much for fear that we’ll box ourselves out of too many opportunities. It’s true, without niche marketing, we’ll have more “opportunities” but it’s also true that we will win fewer of them because we can’t differentiate ourselves enough to win them.

Which is better, to win 30% of all the opportunities or 90% of a sub-set of opportunities?

And what if the sub-set of opportunities were the most profitable kind? When a home is vacant, a painter can come in with a sprayer and complete the job in a fraction of the time. As a result, each job is more profitable. And a painter can do more jobs. So over-all revenue is higher.

There are a few lessons this painting contractor could teach B2B marketers:

  1. You don’t need to compete head-to-head on over-all product capabilities. Sometimes it’s smarter to be the clear winner in one or two key areas.
  2. Identify the most profitable type of customer and look for ways you can you set your product up to be the clear winner of that business.
  3. Your marketing should make it dead-simple for prospects to understand what makes you different. Help them know why they should call you and not someone else.