Success is multi-faceted, with so many factors that can make or break your business. But there\u2019s one factor that\u2019s underappreciated…and super important. That\u2019s the ability to FOCUS your product niche.Pretend, for a moment, you\u2019re at the doctor\u2019s office. You\u2019ve been told you\u2019ll need extensive open-heart surgery. Uh oh.Would you expect your General Practitioner to perform the surgery? Of course not. That\u2019s what specially trained heart surgeons are for.Even your surgeon isn\u2019t planning to do every task at your surgery. There will be an administrator at the front desk when you arrive to help you fill out paperwork. There will be one nurse to put in your IV, and another to assist during the procedure. An anesthesiologist will make sure don\u2019t feel a thing and that you wake up afterwards. (Yay!) Everyone has their role to play.And so do you!In the business of online courses, your role is to teach about a specific topic that you\u2019re passionate about. It\u2019s your job to be the expert in one area, just like the surgeon\u2019s one job is to fix your heart. And it\u2019s your job to build a community — a tribe — that\u2019s engaged and excited about what you have to offer.Other reasons you should focus:Picking one area you care about is vital in maintaining your interest over the long term. If you try to take on too many subject areas at once, you\u2019ll become quickly overwhelmed. If you choose just one topic, but it\u2019s something you\u2019re only marginally interested in, you won\u2019t be able to maintain your enthusiasm for long. If you want to keep your business profitable for the long haul, and generate enthusiasm among your tribe, you need to find something you really care about.Your niche helps define your brand. Do you want people to refer to you as \u201cOh yeah…that guy…what does he do, again?\u201d Or would you rather be known as \u201cThe email marketing guru for small businesses\u201d or \u201cThe go-to guy for helping web designers get better gigs\u201d? The more specific your area of expertise, the easier it is for your students (and the general public) to identify who you are and what you do.Companies that can\u2019t figure out their core focus often fail. They become disjointed, can\u2019t decide what their priorities are, and pass that confusion on to the customer, who decides to bring their business elsewhere. That\u2019s a risk we don\u2019t recommend you take.One great example of a business that lost its focus is Radio Shack.Radio Shack has been in a consistent decline for years now, and there are many reasons why. We think its biggest problem is an identity crisis that stems from its lack of focus.Radio Shack\u2019s somewhat limited inventory can\u2019t compete with behemoth brick-and-mortar stores like Best Buy and Target, or internet retailers like Amazon. On the other hand, it has too many diverse items in stock to become a niche destination like an Apple store. Radio Shack doesn\u2019t know what it\u2019s good at, so it languishes at the bottom of the pack.AmEx Open Forum sums up the problem:\u201cFocusing your product line\u2014and staying committed to that focus\u2014is the key to building a strong brand. The adage \u2018jack of all trades, master of none\u2019 certainly can apply [to Radio Shack].\u201dLet\u2019s make sure your business doesn\u2019t develop unfocused Radio Shack Syndrome. How should you focus your online courses? How exactly do you decide what you\u2019re good at? It\u2019s easier than you think. Start out by making a three column list:In Column 1, list all of your INTERESTS, no matter what they are. For example: I\u2019m interested in classic cars, Ruby programming, and vegan cooking.In Column 2, list all of your SKILLS, the things you\u2019re good at doing. For example: I\u2019m good at Ruby programming, writing\/reading\/speaking, and oil changes.In Column 3, list all of the INDUSTRIES in which you have experience. For example: I\u2019ve worked in the tech and customer service industries.Next, see if you can create a niche by combining things from two or three columns.Using the above examples, this person who is a Ruby programmer with good language skills might decide her niche is teaching English to programmers from non-English speaking countries.It\u2019s a much narrower focus than \u201cteaching English\u201d or \u201cteaching Ruby,\u201d which may be too broad for your first online course adventure.Go ahead and create a few different niches, and write them down. Which one are you most excited about? Which one feels like it will be a viable product? Which one will you be able to build a passionate tribe around? That\u2019s the area you should begin to focus on.Once you have your niche, make sure that\u2019s where you\u2019re spending the majority of your time. What we mean is, don\u2019t waste too much time on the secondary tasks of building your business — always focus your efforts on your core competency.One way to make sure you stay focused is to enlist Technology Helpers (software, services, and apps) to handle all of the stuff that doesn\u2019t fall into your core competency. This stops you from becoming \u201cinsanely proficient at useless tasks,\u201d as Nathan Barry explains in this great podcast about productivity. And after all this talk about focus, you won\u2019t be surprised to hear that the best Technology Helpers are also focused on doing one task really, really well.For example, SegMetrics focuses on being the best at one thing — providing accurate, easy to use attribution for marketers. We don\u2019t focus on customer communication, support or content delivery, because we integrate with services that do those better than we ever could.Look for other \u201cbest of the best\u201d Technology Helpers to save time. We recommend Wistia for all of your video creation needs, and Stripe for your payment processor.In general, the influx of new technologies that allow different platforms to talk to each other — think the Cloud and APIs — is great for you. You\u2019re no longer limited to picking just one overarching platform or software that does a mediocre job at a lot of things (sounds like Radio Shack!). It\u2019s now possible to pick and choose singular platforms that are the best in their category, and connect them to other platforms that are the best in their categories.Basically, you can build yourself a custom team of Technology Helper awesomeness. You no longer need to be an expert at everything from web development to video creation to email marketing to have a successful online product. You can let your Helpers do it for you, easily.Now, with all this time and energy you\u2019re saving, we hope you\u2019re spending it mastering your niche. If that\u2019s the case, and you\u2019re doing really well, there may come a time when you want to expand your course offerings. Certainly, gigantic businesses expand all the time, some successfully, some not. As long as you don\u2019t lose your focus, expansion is a great thing.When you\u2019re ready to grow, do it wisely. Think about keeping your new products and new ideas connected to your niche in some way.You could expand within your VERTICAL.If you sold toilet paper to drugstores, and then decided you wanted to manufacture the toilet paper in your own factory, you\u2019d be expanding within your vertical.Expanding in your vertical makes a lot of sense. You\u2019re still dealing with your main course topic, but you\u2019re delving more deeply into it. For example, your \u201cEnglish for Ruby Programmers\u201d could expand to become a course solely about \u201cGrammar for Ruby Programmers.\u201dOr, you could expand within your HORIZONTAL.If you sold toilet paper to drugstores, and then decided you would sell paper towels to drugstores, you\u2019d be expanding within your horizontal.Entrepreneurs who like to jump from one unrelated project to the next sometimes like to use \u201chorizontal expansion\u201d as their excuse. But your new course still has to have a strong connection to your niche.For example, your \u201cEnglish for Ruby Programmers\u201d could expand to \u201cEmail Marketing for Ruby Programmers.\u201d Or a course teaching \u201cEnglish for Java Programmers.\u201dProceed with caution if you take the horizontal approach. Don\u2019t expand too far! Think like Brennan Dunn. When he launches a new product, no matter what the topic, it\u2019s always targeted to the same audience: freelancers. He doesn\u2019t have to rebuild his email list for each product, or scramble to establish himself as an expert in an unrelated field, because he grows with his list of 10,000+ freelancers in mind.