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The go-to

One recipe for success is to become the go-to – the one that people reach for when they want to do X… like Clayton Christensen’s McDonald’s milkshake.

Some rules about being the go-to:

  • You can’t be the go-to for everything.
  • The more categories you try to span, the more people you might attract, but the harder it is to stand out.
  • Conversely, the more specific you are, the smaller the pool of people you’re fishing from… but the more likely the right people are to be looking for you.
  • Combining several specific attributes is a good way of narrowing your focus: “Salary negotiation for software engineers,” to name a famous example… “Graded reading books… in Indonesian… that reflect the daily life of normal kids…”
  • It’s easiest to begin by making a go-to solution that you’ve gone for yourself… and not been able to find.
  • Once you know what you’re making, you need to talk to the people you seek to serve: “I’m thinking of making this” / “I’ve always wanted something like this…” / “Does anyone know where I could get X.”
  • Work on the thing that… is tractable (you can make an impact on it), resonant (the right people get excited when they hear about it), and underserved (there aren’t many people doing it).
  • Points of comparison may help as a jumping off point to the new: “It’s like X but with dinosaurs.” / “It’s a crash helmet specifically designed for ballet.”
  • It helps to be easily accessible, affordable, and simple… but you don’t have to be.
  • Whether you’re expensive or economical, it’s easier to be a go-to for people who can afford to pay and are eager to do so.
  • Use this as a filter for what you’re working on: ask: how does this add to my status as the go-to for this thing?
  • By all means experiment, play, try a range of things – but focus mainly on two of them at a time until something sticks: it’s much easier to leap into new ventures using the trust that comes from a strong platform.
  • Find out where the people who should be going to you hang out, and get good at telling them what you do.

Go to it.

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