Self Starter of the Week Amy Manuel writes the first of her two part blog on How to be a problem solver when starting and running a business...
As I’m moving into the second year of my business, I’ve taken some time to reflect on the past 12 months.
Time is precious when you’re starting out and the list is always long. I’ve tried to do as many things as possible myself because I haven’t wanted to spend money if there was any way to avoid it. Perhaps there has been some stubbornness involved as well as I love the challenge of solving a problem.
So I taught myself to use WordPress to build my first website. I designed my own logos and business cards. I labour over editing images for promotional materials. I do my own marketing…Anything that needs to be done to run my business, it’s usually me who does it.
And I know I’m not alone. There are so many of us out there, slogging away, trying to be as effective as possible with as little financial investment as possible. And we wonder why they say the first few years of your business are the toughest!
One of the things I feel lucky about is that I’ve had a career over 15 years in marketing, always working closely with the sales department. I have a solid foundation in two areas that are critical to the success of a business.
However this expertise has been somewhat of a hindrance as well. I’ve found there’s a big difference between doing your own marketing, and providing marketing for someone else. And that difference is objectivity.
I’m so entangled with every aspect of my business that it can be hard to look at it objectively, to step outside my head and see the opportunities clearly. I’ll put the time in for someone else and do things the right way but don’t want to waste the effort and time on myself.
A lot of the things I do for others, I don’t do for myself as it’s easier to cut corners with your own business.
So in the spirit of “practicing what you preach” these are some of the critical things to think about when you’re preparing your marketing strategy. It’s not rocket science, but as with anything, marketing does take a certain skill set that can be learned.
#1. Be a Hero
Thinking about your product or service as the solution to a problem can help you focus on two areas: to identify a real problem that needs to be solved; and second, to make your product as useful and relevant to that problem as possible.
What do I mean by a problem? One of my clients is a wedding photographer. She found that many prospects have a deeper lack of confidence that holds them back in every day life let alone affecting the outcome of a photo shoot. And that’s a specific problem that she can address with a tailored service that puts her customers at ease and helps to build their confidence.
Imagine if you could solve a real problem that is going to help improve someone’s life in a small or even a big way. You’ll be their hero, and you’ll be remembered for it.
#2. Challenge Your (Mis)conceptions
Can you name three competitors who are directly competing for the same business as you? Can you name three competitors who are addressing the same problem as you but in an alternative way?
If you can’t, then you’re one of many business owners working in a silo. It’s often easier to make assumptions about our competition, or to ignore them completely in the hope that what we don’t know, doesn’t actually exist.
But that’s not what your customers are doing. They’re looking for alternatives, finding the best fit to solve their problem, and your product is just one of many options.
The same goes for your Ideal Customer. Do you really understand who they are? What motivates them? What other brands they buy and why? What prompts them to hand over their money in one scenario and not another?
We can all make assumptions on what our competition are doing (or not doing) and what our customers really want. But until you ask, research, explore…you’ll never know for sure, and your product can never be the best it can be.
#3. Go On…Niche Yourself
It took me a year to identify a big, compelling customer problem and to figure out how I was going to mold a product to solve it. Quite simply there were two main reasons it took me so long:
1.I didn’t want to miss out on any potential business and so followed up on every potential lead no matter how random.
2.I hadn’t found a problem that was worth committing to entirely.
And I’m not the only one. Many small businesses strives to be all things to all people, running around in circles to please everyone for the sake of a dollar.
Now think about how much easier life would be if you had only one type of problem to solve. Or one type of person your product could help. And you got to know that problem or person inside out.
Suddenly the rest of the world doesn’t matter because you’re too busy focusing on your distinct market and becoming the expert in that one area. Your days become less haphazard. Your customers are much happier because they’re better served.
And yep you guessed it. Next week Amy returns with part two...and three more fab pointers.
Amy is planning the launch of the e-learning program Content Cogs to enable businesses to take control of their own online marketing with confidence.
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