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BrandingMarketing Strategy

What’s Your One Special Thing?

I’ll admit it – I have a tendency to eat shitty food. Try as I may to lean toward vegetarianism and watch the amount of tacos I throw down my gullet, when I have 6 minutes to grab lunch on the way to a meeting, you can bet your ass I’m hitting a drive-thru.

My most recent fast food excursion involved a trip to Burger King. While the food is passable and doesn’t incite noticeable intestinal distress, this time, the menu had me puzzled. It was loaded with hot dogs, multiple chicken sandwich options and multiple incarnations of really only one kind of burger – the famed Whopper. They also had something called a Whopperrito, which made me laugh a little bit. My takeaway was that this burger joint, in a desperate attempt to be everything to everyone, was no longer a burger joint – that they had chosen to go broad instead of dive deep.

Maybe I’m a bit clueless on whether the decisions these mammoth fast food companies make are profitable or desperate. Maybe creating a bland menu is a smart move. And while I see places like Five Guys stick to a small menu and do a kick-ass job of making both good food and good profits, my marketing expertise is elsewhere. With our clients, I see one process that works time and time again without fail that involves finding your one special thing – that thing you offer that provides a real differentiator in the marketplace and reaps the largest margins – and letting everyone and their mother know about it.

Usually, it’s what you got into business to do. Someone saw a problem that wasn’t being solved, and then went about solving it. But somehow along the way, maybe before the business could take hold or when a competitor came in to threaten them, they branched out into other offerings to stay afloat.


So how does one get back to providing that “one special thing”? Well, it requires some work on your part.

First, go back to your mission and what one thing your company went into business to do. If it’s just to make money, I’m sorry, I can’t help you. Otherwise, evaluate your offerings to see what has been added in an attempt to stay afloat and cut out the things that have crept up along the way. It’s one of the things that Steve Jobs did when he came back to Apple that I admire. He cut out most of their product line and focused only on a short list of really good products. Since his passing, their product line has bloated, and now we’re seeing those unnecessary products fall out of favor.

Second, re-evaluate your profit margins on that core service/product/whatever, along with the current market response. Do they still want/need it? Has competition crept in and reduced your market share? If you’re still good on all fronts, congratulations. Now comes the fun part.

Finally, get damn good at that “one special thing”. Devote all your resources to ensuring that no one could possibly do better than your business. The deeper the expertise, the fewer competitors you’ll have. As Henry Heinz put so well, “To do a common thing uncommonly well brings success”.  If you have a law firm, be the best in your practice area. If you’re an app developer, make that one app amazing. Instead of being mediocre with a number of things, get really good at one. Dig deep – that’s where the gold is.

So now, it’s time for you. What’s your “one special thing”?

Patrick King

Patrick is the Founder of Imagine and advisor to places on brand strategy and creative. His insights have been published in Inc. Magazine, SmartCEO, Washington Business Journal, The Washington Post, and Chief Marketer, among other publications, and shared at conferences throughout the US. He also has an amazing sock collection.

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