Do you know your customers?

Your customers are the ones you want to convince to buy your stuff…whatever your stuff is.  So you better know them, understand them and communicate with them or you are not going to be successful.  That’s a bold statement, but it is true.yellow-blue guy

I love it when I talk to an entrepreneur and ask them “Do you know who your target customers are”?  Nine times out of ten they say something like “Well, everyone could benefit from my product.”  Wrong!  While you might want to think that everyone on the planet wants your new software, your bookkeeping services, or your fantastic new widget, not everyone does.  Get over it.  Find the people who do want it and market to them.  As an entrepreneur, you don’t have the time, money or energy to market your business to everyone on the planet.  It is much more effective to find the people who need your stuff and directly market to them.

Defining your ideal customer is the second most important thing you can do to build your business.  Remember the first was defining your business goal.  The second is defining your ideal customer.  It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about social media , PR or online advertising – if you don’t know this stuff, you won’t be effective.

Start by identifying who your customers are using standard demographics like age, sex, influencers, vertical markets, company-size, or revenue.  Then find out what they care about and the reason for it.  Finally, figure out the problem they are trying to solve?  This is what THEY are trying to solve, not what you think they are trying to solve.

Once you know who they are, you need to know where they go for information.  Do they spend time online, offline, with industry leaders, in their community, do they read magazines or blogs?   Understanding the problem your customers are trying to solve is the third most important thing you need to know.  You can now communicate to a specific group of people whpo have a problem that you you can uniquely solve.  They are looking for something you have.  Now go out and tell them all about it!

Do what you enjoy

I want you to think about the things that you’re good at and that you enjoy doing.  Life is too short to spend your time doing things you don’t like and you’re not good at.  Plus, if you don’t like it, you’re probably not going to do it anyway.  If you’re trying to build a business by doing stuff you don’t like, then you can’t really be enjoying it.  If you’re not enjoying it, you gotta ask yourself what can you do differently?  Here’s how you figure it out…confidence

I want you to write down the first thing that comes to mind when you read this question:

“Remember a time when you felt a sense of accomplishment and pride in a job well done.  What was it?”

Write it down.  Now,  think about times in your life when you had this same feeling – a sense of confidence, accomplishment and pride.  Go way back…to school, university, when you first started out in business, personal and professional things, it doesn’t matter.  Write these things down. Now go thru them and figure out what they all have in common.  This is a fun way of figuring out what you really like doing.  Because chances are if you like doing something, you will be successful at it.

Know what you want to do

If you want to be successful and build your business, you need to know what you’re trying to exclamation pointaccomplish.  The simple fact is, you need to have a defined goal in order to be successful.  We have all read the research and heard the studies that prove, people with written goals are significantly more likely to achieve them than those who don’t.  So, that’s where we start.  This is the single most important thing you can do to help yourself build your business.

It’s like building a house – if you don’t have a vision of what the house will look like, if you don’t have the construction plans for how to build the house – all you have is a big pile wood and nails.  But if you know what the house looks like….then you can build it.  Same with your business.

Here are some examples of business objectives you might be considering:
→    Get more repeat business?
→    Increase your referral business?
→    Charge higher fees?
→    Launch new product or service offering?
→    Generate passive revenue?

Be honest with yourself on this one – your business goals need to be specific and have some time element built in.  For example, Increase my referral business by 25% in Q1.  OR Increase my average fees by 25% by Q2.

More often than not, when I ask business owners what their business goals are they say 1 of 2 things:  1)  be profitable or 2) drive traffic to my website.  These aren’t business objective.  Being profitable is the reason for existence of a business – the question is how profitable, by when.   Be specific so you know if you have been successful.  Driving traffic to your website is the goal for a marketing campaign, not your business objective. So what if you increase traffic to your website using social media?  What do you do with it?  Do you track sales leads?  Do you get affiliate fees?  Do you convert it to sales?

Once you know your objective, write it down.  It doesn’t have to be fancy.  Hand written notes on a piece of paper is fine.  I have my business objectives taped to the wall above my desk.  I look at it everyday.  It keeps me focused and helps me make decisions when I’m prioritizing my time, my investments, my energy.

Planners, Doers and Social Media

After much observation and questioning, I have come to classify people into two groups: Planners and Doers. This may seem a stereotype, and it probably is, but bear with me.  Most people I talk to can definitely place themselves into either one camp or the other.

Let’s start with The Planners: You know these folks. They think, analyze, request more data and then reassess their assessment. Then something changes – Oh no! After a moment of panic and deep breathing, they get to work evaluating their contingencies and updating the plan.  These folks plan and plan and plan but actually don’t accomplish very much. Planners are important and we need them. Without them the Doers would be running around like chickens with their heads cut off! Remember the hit series Friends? The character Monica, played by Courtney Cox, was the epitome of a Planner. She had her life planned out from the time she was 12 years old. Not only did she plan her life, but her friends’ lives as well. Everyone loved Monica because she was practical and you could always count on her to “have a plan.”

Now let’s look at The Doers: These folks, on the other hand, must be doing something. Anything. It doesn’t matter what they do as long as they are “moving the needle” and “making progress.” Because of their energy, others jump on the bandwagon and everyone starts doing things. The issue is whether the Doers are doing the right things. Back to the Friends example – Phoebe, as opposed to Monica was the quintessential Doer. She did whatever came to mind, whenever it came to mind. Everyone loved Phoebe because she was spontaneous and full of energy.

The point is, when it’s your business, you need to be both a Planner and a Doer.  You get to walk the tightrope between both.  And that’s the biggest challenge – balancing between strategy and tactics, planning and doing.  When we talk about social media most of the discussion is centered on whether you have a FaceBook page, a fan page or a Twitter account.  I’m here to tell you that it almost doesn’t matter.

How do you know if you need a FaceBook page or a LinkedIn profile or FriendFeed if you haven’t decided what your ultimate goal is?  If we don’t start there, you will waste a lot of time and energy focusing on the wrong things – things that don’t support your goals, or things you simply can’t, or shouldn’t execute.

Build your brand based on passion

It’s a lot easier to do things you like, than things you don’t like. You might be thinking…”duh”. But how many of you spend your time doing what you are passionate about? How many companies focus on the things they can do, as opposed to the things they should do?

I’m talking about what in most MBA programs would be called “core competencies”. These are the fundamental things your customers value, and that your company does better than any of your competitors. Let’s use HP as an example. HP is a company with many lines of business, many products and even more things they could be doing. One of the things that has made HP successful it its ability to “stick to it’s knitting”, as my Grandma used to say. When they have veered off course, they have acknowledged it and pulled back – sometimes not as fast as they would have liked in hindsight, but they eventually realized it and corrected their course so that they play to their strength of innovation. Their core competencies are the things that HP people are passionate about – innovation is what they are about. R&D is a vital part of every successful division. HP Labs holds more patents than any other working technology lab. The net result is that HP continues to lead in the businesses where it innovates. Why? Because it is doing what it loves to do.

When it comes to smaller scale businesses, the idea is even more important. Brandon Mendelson (@BJMendelson on Twitter) started his company in response to, well, having nothing else to do (his words not mine.) The company, Earth’s Temporary Solution, is the production company behind Brandon’s campaign “A Million High Fives (#AMHF on Twitter). Brandon is a guy who does good things, because he wants to. He is sarcastic and a bit wacky, but he is nothing if not following his passion. “Our goal is to empower others to help those in need. In the not-for-profit world there’s a lot of mistrust and people looking to make a quick buck on willing, happy people, so as a for-profit, we want people to trust us and know we are providing them with the right tools to do the greatest good,” says Brandon. By following his passion, and sticking to his core competencies, Brandon has amassed a huge following on Twitter, FaceBook and other networks. Currently, Brandon is one of the most followed non-brand, non-celebrity, non-media outlets on Twitter. He is following his passion, and consequently, people are following him.

Now you ask, how can you identify your passion, your core competencies? Ask yourself these questions about your business and your brand:

  • Why do my customers choose our brand over another?
  • What do we do that our competitors don’t?
  • What is the one thing that we would protect over anything else?

Your answers will lead you towards clarifying your competencies. Take them, build on them and make them to focus of your branding (and business) efforts. When your brand is built on passion, it is authentic. There is an honesty that comes from doing what you like to do. You can’t make that up and you certainly can’t fake it.