The niche of things and other stuff

This is a guest post from Mitch Joel — President, Twist Image and author of “Six Pixels of Separation.” His new book “CTRL ALT Delete” was released in May 2013. See the original post this is adapted from and more like it on his blog.

When was the last time you went to a conference and took twelve pages of detailed notes?

Here’s a truism: I am spoiled. As part of my role at Twist Image, I go out and speak to about sixty groups every year. In short, I get to see it all (and I feel very fortunate because of it). Personally, I also attend two events a year that allow me to sit in the audience, soak it in, and be the student (those events are TED and Google Zeitgeist). I have also spent two days locked in the financial district of New York City at the Mirren New Business Conference. This was my second time attending the conference (I went the year before last), and it was one of the best professional development things I have ever done for myself. So, make it three must-attend events now.

Have you ever heard of it?

You probably have not heard of Mirren or their conference. The conference is geared towards those who work on business development in marketing, advertising, and communications agencies. That’s it. BD folks in agencies. The conference sells out every year, and even with multiple tracks, it supplies ample access and information to the point that my Moleskine runneth over.

As I sat there, with my head spinning over all of the better ways I could help connect Twist Image with new clients and optimize the organic growth of the agency, it gave me pause. What exactly was Mirren doing so well that was keeping this room of Type A, hustle and bustle sales folks so captivated?

It wasn’t the food. It wasn’t the venue (both of those were typical conference fare). It was the depth of the niche. The deep and intense focus on this one tiny sliver of agency life (which is still the lifeblood of how the work gets a chance to be created).

We’re all in this together.

What you quickly realize is that Mirren is doing what every brand should do, but doesn’t. They don’t focus on the whole industry. They don’t focus on everybody. They stay laser-focused on business development for agency professionals. Everything from the materials you get, to the speakers and the topics that all have one sole focus: how do you make these agency business development people smarter, better, and more effective?

Every moment wasn’t brimming with epiphanies, but even the stuff we all know (which does get repeated) acted as a strong reminder. This depth of content — which spilled over into breaks, hotel lobby meet-ups, and dinner conversations — kept everybody there with their proverbial heads in the game.

So, where’s the news here?

Most conferences are generalists. They try to placate to everyone. They try to give a smidgen of everything. And, what you feel after you really deep dive at a conference like Mirren, is that a smidgen of everything gives you knowledge of nothing. The same is true about brands. The same is true about blogging. The same is true about Twitter and on and on.

What will make you, your business, your event, and your content production powerful, profound, and impactful is how deep you dive into that niche. How well you advance the topics that lie within it and how well you connect to those who really care. This creates true attention. The kind of attention that the heavy consumers (or your best customers) want and demand. The kind of attention that will force those on the periphery to pay attention.

So, the next time you’re looking at attending an industry event, try to find the one that best mimics what Mirren is doing for business development professionals in agencies. And, if one doesn’t exist, you may want to pull your team together and start one of your own.

Because those who own the niche can truly own the industry that it serves.

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About Mitch Joel

Mitch Joel is President of Mirum — an award-winning Digital Marketing and Communications agency. He is also a blogger, podcaster, journalist, speaker, and the author of "Six Pixels of Separation" and "CTRL ALT Delete." Mitch is frequently called upon to be a subject matter expert for BusinessWeek, Fast Company, Marketing Magazine, Profit, Strategy, Money, The Globe & Mail, and many other media outlets.

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