August 6, 2019

The “Two Adjective” Strategy

For too often, I believe, marketers and makers go way too wide with their ideas and products. I’m not totally sure why, but I think there’s often a fear about limiting themselves by being too narrow or having too small of an audience.

I just talked with someone who was doing this exact site.

Her site looks like any other ski resort information site. The same reviews and ratings and blog posts and wording. But as we talked, she described a much more specific mission:

“I live in NYC and I know how hard it is to find good advice now that we have season passes. We want to help city dwellers like us make the most of their Epic of Ikon pass.”

The advice I gave to her was to not fight that focus, but embrace it. It’s something I describe as the two-adjective principle.

First, find the industry.
That high-level word that describers the area you want to work in. For her, it was the ski industry. Maybe that’s travel or leadership or email.

Then, add two adjectives.
Then, start adding to adjectives that match your skills but also represents a pretty solid subset of that industry. Maybe that’s travel with young families or leadership for remote CEOs or competitor tracking for email marketers (you’ll see this pattern in a lot of my side projects.

For her, that’s city dwellers who own one of the two mega-passes sold by either Vail Resorts or Alterra. A group of tens of thousands of skiers and growing who, from her research, simply aren’t being served by the generic content other sites provide.

But you wouldn’t know the difference by looking at her site.

So instead of her value proposition being:

Get the most from your ski season.

I suggested it needed to be something like:

Got the pass, but live in the city? My custom resort guides will you get the most from every season.

Even just one adjective can make a huge difference, as Nathan Barry found with ConvertKit by filling in the “Email Marketing for ______” blank.

Big Players Can’t Compete
Adding two adjectives is a clever, uncommon strategy for competing in a crowded space. You’re not finding a true blue ocean, you’re simply going to the level of granularity in terms of features or strategy or information that the larger competition can’t or won’t due to scale or expertise.

This is what I did with SlopeFillers, a blog I’ve been running for about 10 years about ski resort marketing.

I was writing about the same marketing topics as Copyblogger and Convince & Convert and Seth Godin – teams and operations I could never compete with – but I was speaking to such a specific group in a language so close to theirs, that Copyblogger and Convince & Convert and Set Godin, as crazy as it sounds, couldn’t compete against me.

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June 29, 2023   Read this post →

Hi, I'm Gregg.

I'm a SaaS marketer and maker.


Never heard of me? All good, these days I don't chase influence as much as I do balance. By day I run marketing for Inntopia and evenings see me building SendView, but my happy place is playing in the mountains with my family.