(The mathematical notation in the title means “’For all 𝑦 there exists a 𝑥’ is not the same as ‘There exists an 𝑥 for all 𝑦”.)
We’re always on the hunt for the silver bullet. The Golden Ticket. The quick fix.
Even when writing resumes. We tinker, we optimize, and we look for services to help us make our CVs the perfect high-impact document we need them to be.
But too often, we make a basic logical mistake — something I’d like to call “wishful reasoning.” We think because there is a perfect resume for each employer out there, there must also be a perfect resume that works for all employers.
There is no such thing as a “perfect” resume that will work every time. Even experienced hiring managers struggle to say what makes a good resume.
Resumes are hyper-contextual. Each resume is an act of communication between two unique parties. To work well, a resume should be equally unique.
Experience this article as a podcast, a YouTube show, or as a newsletter:
Every CV is a message between a sender and a receiver with radically different motivations and intentions. No singular message will ever be optimal for all potential combinations of sender and receiver. No two employers want the exact same thing, and no two employees are ever equally skilled and experienced.
To assume that you could write a generic resume to have the maximum impact among all the employers you send it to is foolish.
Yet, in marketing, we take this path all the time. We want to find “the perfect landing page copy” instead of considering how to structure our marketing system to optimally reach a multitude of different customers.
We always look for “the template that works for every use case.”
But the truth is, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for your marketing efforts. Every customer is unique and has their own set of needs, wants, and pain points.
Instead of trying to find a single solution that works for everyone, we should focus on understanding our customers and tailoring our marketing efforts to meet their specific needs.
This approach starts with the realization that a good product is specific.
At least in the beginning. This won’t scale forever, but it’s not meant to.
You might be tempted to think that the most common services we use in our professional lives —Excel, Google Docs, Dropbox— have always been great at everything. They’re certainly used for every possible task. They’re general tools.
Well, they’ve become general tools. When Dropbox started out, it was a file storage system that met a lot of resistance for being too opinionated. Google Docs is the general tool that came out of Writely, a web app focused first and foremost on real-time collaboration and not necessarily fully-featured word processing.
Most successful general tools start out as niche products serving well-defined niches. They are “for all 𝑥, there exists a y” solutions. Each industry needs its own products.
Yet so many founders want to build the general tool first. They want to be the 𝑦 for all 𝑥. And just as much as sending the most generic resume to a hundred different employers won’t get you a job, neither will your generic early-stage product find solid footing in multiple industries simultaneously.
In fact, spreading your initial target customer persona over too many audiences will do you a massive disservice: you will be unable to receive clear feedback about the viability of your prototypes. Trying to validate a new product in multiple industries at the same time is diluting an already weak signal. It’s quite likely that demand for your product —intentional, conscious demand for your specific solution— is very slim before you start. That’ll make validation (or rather invalidation) of a market assumption take significantly longer, introducing more risk to an already risky act.
Eventually, you might find multiple audiences for your product as you explore what’s working and what’s not.
Eventually. And then, you can do a lot of things that allow you to support multiple customer audiences at the same time. You’ll dive into experiments with new niches and start to segment your customer base into distinct and well-defined groups.
Instead of one landing page aimed at a single particular niche, you’ll establish individual landing pages for each audience, filled with jargon that they only speak in that niche and comparing your product to the competitors your prospects from that particular industry commonly use. You will eventually iterate your way out of your first niche and grow into new and exciting markets.
But you don’t start with that. As a bootstrapper, you very likely don’t have the resources or capacity to divide your focus for this. Not with specialized competitors —even in the single niche you start out with— that have already understood the power of niche alignment and are trying to build the perfect product for their specific customers.
Trying to create a product that is supposed to appeal to everyone is a recipe for failure. The reality is that building a successful product means addressing a specific need or set of needs that a particular group of prospective customers has.
That doesn’t mean that you should skip considering market trends, competitors, and potential disruptions that might hinder or prevent your long-term success. Any bootstrapper has to pay close attention to market dynamics and consider their broader context to make sure that the chosen niche is sustainable and aligned with the demands of the people they will end up serving.
Ever more reason to aim your early business efforts at understanding a particular group of customers the best you can.
A well-defined niche.
That’s where you should start. Don’t try to be the 𝑥 for all 𝑦. Instead, for a specific 𝑦, be the best 𝑥 you can be.