What’s the Difference Between “Specialization” and “Exclusivity”?

Specialization vs Exclusivity

There are two terms that you may hear spoken about in marketing — specialization and exclusivity — and I ran into both of them this past week, so let’s define them now.


In a business networking group recently, I described my work by saying that I “specialize in Internet marketing for IT providers, law firms, and other trusted advisors”.

I didn’t say this because I wanted other members of the group to hope that they could someday work with me — I said it because I wanted others to understand that there was something specific about my background and experience that suited me to provide Internet marketing for those particular vertical markets. This is an example of “specialization”.


A few days after that business networking group, I came across the website of a service provider and was surprised to read – in several places on their website – that “We are currently booking eight (8) weeks in advance” and “There is a waitlist for many of our services”.

Why would a business write this on their website, I wondered, and what does it say really? This is an example of “exclusivity”.

My Take on Specialization and Exclusivity in Marketing

I think having a specialization, or marketing your products and services to specific vertical markets, can be extremely beneficial, for these reasons:

  1. By specializing, you’re giving yourself the time to become expert at identifying and serving the needs of a narrow market — that should mean that you’ll do a better job than someone who’s a generalist;
  2. Marketing yourself as a specialist should significantly increase your perceived value in the marketplace — prospects should seek you out, and clients may be willing to pay more for your heightened ability to understand and serve their needs.

A software company that caters to the needs of law firms, an interior designer that focuses on restaurants, an architect that specializes in green building techniques — each of these specializations speaks to the vendors’ unique abilities and qualifications, and should be a positive component when making a decision about whether or not to engage with these companies.

But offers of exclusivity (“Hurry — we’re booking-up fast!”, or “Sorry, we’re not accepting new assignments for 8 weeks!”) make me skeptical, and I believe these are often made-up or fictitious. Of course, a business that’s genuinely busy is busy for a reason, and when I’m in the market for a neurosurgeon I don’t want one who has an opening this afternoon. Yet businesses need to be able to scale up and down as demand for their services dictate, and none of us should fool ourselves into thinking that we, and only we, are qualified to perform a particular service.

What is your specialization, and how do you communicate it?