The Hedgehog Concept for Bloggers

The Hedgehog Concept has been around for a number of years in business circles. I was introduced to it when I read Jim Collin’s books Good To Great and Built To Last.

My blog aims to introduce business concepts that work in the business world to the blogging world so an article on the Hedgehog Concept fits perfectly with my blog’s message and the needs of my readers.

I was surprised a few years ago when I bought an internet marketing course (which will remain nameless!) which was essentially a series of videos from a conference aimed at internet marketers. I watched as they did a one hour session on the Hedgehog Concept and it appeared to be a totally new concept to the audience. I couldn’t believe that none of them had heard of it before!

If you’ve never heard of the Hedgehog Concept, then read through this article to get a feel for it, and then go and buy Good To Great by Jim Collins and learn more. It’s well worth it!

If you’ve never heard of Good To Great and Built To Last, they’re a series of books that are based on years of research of successful companies. The authors set out to determine what makes some companies perform substantially better than their peers over the long term. The Hedgehog Concept is one of the discoveries they made.

What is the Hedgehog Concept?

The concept is a way of developing your blogging (or business) strategy.

Jim Collins says it this way:

The essence of a Hedgehog Concept is to attain piercing clarity about how to produce the best long-term results, and then exercising the relentless discipline to say, “No thank you” to opportunities that fail the hedgehog test.

It looks at three concepts and how they mesh together:

  1. What are you passionate about?
  2. What can you be the best in the world at?
  3. What drives your economic engine?

It’s best demonstrated in a diagram like this:

Hedgehog Concept - Venn Diagram

There’s a place where these three circles intersect, and that’s the place you want to be.

Let’s go through each of the three questions and learn more about the Hedgehog Principle.

What are you passionate about?

The number 1 piece of advice I give new bloggers is to blog about something they’re passionate about. You must be passionate about something!

For me, I love learning more about running successful businesses and passing that knowledge on to other people. I also enjoy playing guitar and I coach my son’s soccer team.

So I could blog about a number of things.

But what about you? Stop reading for a minute and write down the answer to this question:

What are you passionate about?

Now that you’ve done that, let’s move on to the next question.

What can you be the best in the world at?

This is where you begin to filter through your answers to the first question.

hedgehog principle holding soccer cupWhilst I love soccer and coaching my son’s team, I know I’ll never be the best in the world at it! But it is possible to break this passion down a bit and look at a niche within it. So I’ll never be as good as Sir Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wegner, but maybe I don’t need to compete in that niche. Perhaps there are opportunities to blog about coaching junior soccer teams or a particular age group?

When it comes to this blog, I knew right from the start that there were many blogs that aimed to teach others how to make money on the internet. It’s a saturated market! But within this market are many niches, and that’s the strategy I’ve chosen to take.

My niche is aimed at people who have blogs that are currently hobbies, but they’d like to turn them into successful businesses that provide sufficient income so the blog can support their chosen lifestyle. There’s a lot less competition in this market, and I’m well qualified to help people in this area.

So can I be the best in the world at it? That’s an aspirational goal and some people would feel that it’s only suitable for big companies to consider. The reality is that those big companies were once little companies who dreamed big.

So if the concept of ‘best in the world’ is a bit daunting for you, change it to ‘can I be recognised as an expert in this area?’ – it’s a bit simpler, but still serves the purpose.

Don’t underestimate the power of the niche! I’m working on an article about this, but differentiating your business is a great strategy to consider. And one of the best ways to differentiate is to find a niche and focus on it.

So again, stop what you’re doing, grab your notepad again and work through your list, looking a niches that you can be the best at.

Now it’s time to bring it together and move onto the third question in the Hedgehog Concept.

What drives your economic engine?

This question may not be relevant to you. If you only want to blog for the joy it brings you, and you have no desire to make money from it, then the answer here doesn’t matter. But if you want to make money from blogging, this question is very important.

Can you make money from it? That’s the question that needs to be answered.

Hedgehog concept - dollar in headThe best thing about the internet is that it enables you to reach a huge amount of people globally. Are there enough bloggers in my hometown who want to turn their blog from a hobby into a business? I don’t think so. But I know that globally there are more than enough people who fit that criteria. So my blog ticks all three boxes. Yay!

This is a crucial question to answer. You need to be very clear about how you’ll make money from your blog.

And you need to be realistic about the answer. You must make sure that within your chosen niche there are enough people who are willing to buy whatever products you create that can help them. And, not only do you need to sell these products, but you need to make a profit in the process.

Go back to the Jim Collins quote I posted earlier – he talks about being able to say ‘no’ to things that fall outside the hedgehog concept. So in your business you need to sell products that are profitable and stay away from ones that are not (unless there’s a deliberate strategy there to up-sell those customers).

So, back to your pen and notepad and answer this question:

How will you make money from your chosen niche or idea?

How the Hedgehog Concept has helped me

I’ve used this blog as an example in this article to show you how I’ve applied the Hedgehog Concept to this business. But I’ve also applied it elsewhere.

Around 18 months ago I was thinking about this concept as I was engaging in one of my passions – playing guitar. It got me thinking about starting a blog on guitar playing. It’s something I’m passionate about, with my web marketing knowledge I’m sure I can become well known in the guitar blogging sphere, and I can make money from it. Note that I didn’t say I could be the best guitar player – that’s not the area I’m in. I do think I can become one of the best guitar bloggers – I’ve been playing for over 30 years, I can write and I know enough about internet marketing and social media to promote my blog.

So I’ve been working on a guitar blog. At the moment I’m just concentrating on adding content, but I’m also looking at product creation and promotion as a means to make money from it.

The point is, that playing guitar is something I love doing. If I could quit my job today, I’d happily sit at home in my home studio playing guitar and recording. I’m passionate about it.

What do you think about the Hedgehog Concept? Please leave a comment below and let me know if Jim Collins’ Hedgehog Concept is something you can use as part of your blog strategy.

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Allan lives in Adelaide, South Australia with his wife and two boys. He is the founder of Blogger Business Plan and loves helping bloggers learn how to transform their blogs from hobbies into sustainable businesses.
When he's not blogging or working in his financial planning business, you'll find Allan playing guitar, reading or coaching his son's soccer team.

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6 Responses to The Hedgehog Concept for Bloggers
  1. Stephen Jeske
    March 21, 2012 | 11:29 pm

    Allan, I really liked this post. The diagram says it all. Interest, ability and economics all need to converge in order to be truly successful as a business concern.

    I think many people fail when they only focus on one of the three criteria. In fact even focusing on two of the criteria won’t bring long term success.

    Yes… you need all three for it to work.
    Stephen Jeske recently posted..The Truth About Making Money Online; You Can’t Do It AllMy Profile

    • Allan Ward
      March 22, 2012 | 9:57 am

      Hi Stephen,
      Thanks for leaving a comment. I like the way you sum up the three areas – “Interest, ability and economics”. It’s true – only focussing on one or two areas won’t lead to a sustainable business.


  2. Monica Carter Tagore
    March 24, 2012 | 6:03 am

    Really insightful post. Breaking it down in the three ways you did makes a lot of sense. Passion helps fuel the work, even on days when you are tired. Seeing where you can be the best shows where you can shine. And finding the income potential lets you know you can bring value to others and create something for your family in the process.
    Monica Carter Tagore recently posted..3 Smart Ways to Manage Client Feedback and Complete Writing Projects on ScheduleMy Profile

  3. Betty
    April 1, 2012 | 12:49 pm

    Do you mind if I quote a few of your posts as long as I provide credit and sources back to your site? My website is in the exact same area of interest as yours and my users would really benefit from some of the information you provide here. Please let me know if this okay with you. Many thanks!
    Betty recently posted..numerologyMy Profile

  4. wardwidew
    April 4, 2012 | 9:03 pm

    This is a wonderful post! Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us! I hope to read more of your post which is very informative and useful to all the readers. I salute writers like you for doing a great job! Webpage Design

  5. Adam
    April 18, 2014 | 7:42 pm

    Very good article i was reading about this topic earlier but this post give me good vision and some new ideas!

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