Growing Your Business 101
You are not solving one
Jeanne called one day and said she needed help with marketing her business. A few days later she sat in my office and told me how she had put years into building up resources to launch a new laundry service but was having trouble making ends meet. She wanted us to design a new brochure that would bring in customers left and right.
One of the things I ask clients is what’s the single most important thing they want their customers to understand. The more I tried to explore this idea with Jeanne, the more it became apparent that she had only thought about the business from the business owner’s side. She had planned all the details, how to finance the equipment to get the best terms, how to negotiate a great rate for a prime retail location with lots of drive by traffic; how she even got the town to approve a sign despite all the initial resistance to it. Her list went on about how it would be great business once it took off and people started signing up for her monthly service contract. She wanted us to start out simple with some brochures to help get the word out, and then had plans to really go crazy with lots of advertising once the customers started multiplying.
After a while of approaching the question from several angles, I could see that she was finally starting to realise she had overlooked something critical. All this time she had thought the the biggest challenge was to figure out the advertising budget to bring more customers in. She was not noticing that the customers that stop in out of curiosity were not signing up. Despite all her efforts and enthusiasm, she was overlooking the most important detail in securing customers: she was not thinking about what benefit they would get out of the deal.
One thing every business owner must understand: There is a difference between getting a customer interested, and getting them to sign the dotted line. If your customers are not signing up, make sure you are taking the time to look at things from their point of view. First and foremost: are you solving a problem for the customer? Are you filling a need that they actually have? In Jeanne’s case, the more she looked, she began to realise that her customers simply did not see any value in paying her 5 times as much to take care of their laundry. Where she saw profits, her customers only saw expense.
If you have not already thought long and hard about the problem you are solving for customers, put that at the top of your list of priorities. There is a big difference between trying to convince a customer to buy something because you think they should buy it, vs. solving a problem and having customers line up to get their long awaited solution. This does not just apply to laundry services; we’ve seen brilliant inventors create seemingly incredible products that just don't sell. The common thread is always the business owner looking at creating the business first, rather than solving a customer problem first.
One great place to start, is simply begin asking customers what their challanges are. You often do not have to spend any money to do this. Take some time out of your schedule and strike up a conversation with any existing customers you have, or if you don't have any yet, find a way you can get out there and talk to the ideal target buyer. You may be surprised by what they tell you and they may get you thinking about ideas you never considered. The main thing required for this exercise is patience and genuine interest in your customers. They might go on telling you about things you are not interested in, but you have to be willing to listen with the intent to understand. Once you find a common problem among you customer base that you are capable of delivering a great solution to; you will now be in a great position to begin marketing your solution. Instead of people driving right by, now you know they will stop because they have been wondering where you were all these years!