In 2006 Brad Garlinghouse, a SVP at Yahoo, infamously penned an internal memo to all Yahoo employees, called the “Peanut Butter Manifesto.” The thesis of the memo was that Yahoo was spreading itself too thing, like peanut butter on a slice of bread. This lack of focus lead to Yahoo’s inability to dominate one vertical, causing it to fall behind with everything they touched. I encourage everyone starting a business to read this and take the message to heart.
Prepare.io is my second company. My first, Demeter Interactive, was a digital marketing agency. I’ve learned a great deal during my entrepreneurial years, but one lesson that resonates in my mind on a near daily basis is Mr. Garlinghouse’s Peanut Butter Manifesto. That’s because as entrepreneurs, we’re programmed to think big. We think that whatever we’re doing, can be applied to anything. Our focus starts to widen horizontally rather than narrow vertically. This is exactly what Yahoo suffered from, as to many young businesses.
When you’re first starting your company, you need to be laser focused. Instead of building a product that any industry can use, build a product that only one industry can use. Then, focus on dominating that one industry. Just that one. Once you’ve found success in that one industry, you can expand horizontally. But the worst thing you can do is start off in a much too general direction.
A great example of this is Amazon. Today, we think of Amazon as the juggernaut that it is, absolutely killing it in every single industry. But don’t forget that Amazon started strictly as a book e-retailer. Amazon, purveyor of every type of good/service imaginable, was once only a book vendor. But they got really good at selling books before they started their expansion into everything imaginable.
Think about your company and how you can tighten its focus. Let’s say you’re offering social media marketing services. Social media marketing can be applied to any industry, and as marketers we often try to apply our skills to any industry. But wouldn’t it be better to solely focus on one industry? How much more business do you think you could get if you built a reputation as being a kick-ass marketer for the food industry? You will have repeated case studies with success in the food industry, instilling confidence in your skills. Sounds better than trying to market yourself as someone who can market shoes, food, technology, and retail? Narrowing your focus will make your business much stronger.
Not an entrepreneur? Well, let’s apply this philosophy to your marketing plan. There are tons of different marketing channels out there and there seems to be pressure to use all of them. What’s the opportunity cost of not using Instagram or email marketing for your business? All of a sudden, you’re stretched too thin and none of your marketing works. Different companies have different growth channels. It’s all about finding your optimal channel and then going all in on that channel. Don’t spread yourself too thin!
The reason why I’m passing this information as a reminder to myself, as well as a lesson to you. The first version of Prepare.io has been very horizontal. It’s confusing and its value is not easily identified by users. This is why I’ve been thinking about the product, who its for, and where its going for a while. In the next few weeks/months, you’re going to see a lot of changes with Prepare.io. I’m currently adding some really useful features, while deleting some equally useful features. All in an effort to streamline Prepare.io’s value and make this a product that you’ll have to use on a daily basis.
Like always, feel free to email me your feedback. jesse at prepare dot io. I am the in the process of completely rebuilding the product and I can’t wait to show you the new Prepare.io. If you have a feature you’re interested in seeing Prepare.io add, I would love to hear it.