Does your customer have a first name?

Intentional Entrepreneurs Masterminds

To build a successful business, you need to be intensely focused on your prospective customers. In order to find them and attract their attention, you first need to understand who they are and what they really need.

When you are crystal clear on your ideal customer:

  • You know how to best serve them.
  • You know how to speak their language.
  • You will save $$ with focused and effective marketing.
  • You can begin to build relationships so they get to know and like you!
  • You will earn their business and increase your sales!

Can we agree that “everyone” is not a target audience? I hope so, because “everyone” does NOT need your product or service.  Really.

Once upon a time, in the days of mass media, it was enough to market to “18- to 49-year old men and women who have disposable income.” Those days are a thing of the past.

With the internet and social media, people have more choices than ever on how they buy and consume products and services. There is a lot of noise in the marketplace vying for their attention.

In order to stand out from the competition, you need to position your business by crafting compelling messages to interest and engage them.  We will talk more about that in a few weeks – but it starts with knowing your customer.

In today’s highly social and relationship-oriented market, the most successful  entrepreneurs drill down to discover their ONE person.  The ONE person they exist to serve.

When you know your person, you can:

Market to and own a niche where you become “the one to go to”.

Hone your marketing message so it appeals to a specific someone as opposed to a generic everyone.

Increase conversion rates by saying the right thing to encourage your customer to take action.

Attract more of the right customer because the “wrong” people won’t be attracted by your message.

Avoid spending time, money and energy on strategies that just don’t work.

So while your business could theoretically serve any number of people, who would you most like to work with on a consistent basis?!

What you do want to end up with at the end of this exercise is something like this:

Stacey Anderson is a confident 47 year old woman.  She has a BA in Communications and was raised by middle class parents – her dad was the sole breadwinner and did very well.  She is married and lives in Chico, California.  She and her husband Dan earn a combined annual income of $95,000.  Dan is in insurance; 5 years ago Stacey turned her passion for photography into her own business that she runs from home. She usually shops at Safeway (using coupons and buying what is on sale). She is starting to eat more organic food and loves Whole Foods for produce. She occasionally splurges at Macy’s or Nordstrom’s – but you will find her looking for thrift store bargains and in Target, too. She drives a Subaru Outback. She and Dan have two kids, Cole is 16 – a freshman in high school, and Danielle is 20, and in her sophomore year at UCS. As a family, they love the outdoors. They ski in Tahoe and Redding when they can, and hike and camp around Lake Almanor. Stacey dreams of traveling internationally with the family. She is a spiritual woman who is starting to meditate and re-discover herself.

Stacey is frustrated with her business. Being in business is harder than she thought it would be. She is making (some) money and has (some) clients but it isn’t as profitable as she wants it to be.  She is:

• Frustrated by the lack of growth in her business.

• Overwhelmed with the details of running it.

• Not really sure where to focus her efforts.

• Not making the money she deserves.

She feels she isn’t living her full potential, and doesn’t know what to do or how to pull the pieces together. Stacey really wants to make her work profitable while having an impact on her client’s lives. Financial freedom is important to her, but deep down she is afraid they will never really be able to live the lifestyle she yearns for which includes a house with a view and more traveling with their grown children and spouses in the future.

Stacey has become a real person!

Think about your ONE person. The one who you were thinking of when you started your business. The one for whom you developed your product or service.  If the answers don’t come quickly – think about who you are drawn to.  Who do you want to work with?  It’s your business – you get to decide!

Here are a few questions to get you started:

  • What is their gender, age, education, occupation or business?
  • What was their upbringing?
  • What is their income, financial and relationship situation
  • What is their situation today in life or work?
  • Where does your customer live or work?
  • Where do they shop?  Where do they eat? What kind of car do they drive?
  • Do they have kids?  How many?  How old are they?
  • Where do they travel?
  • What is their greatest fear?
  • What keeps them up at night?
  • What do they really want but think they will never have?

EXTRA CREDIT!  Give your customer a name and find an image that best represents the person you’ve described. Next, frame the photo and place it prominently in your work space as a constant reminder of who the right PERSON is for you.

Now, examine everything you do, through their eyes.  Create every product or service, every piece of marketing, every blog post, and every branding decision with them in mind. Will they like this? If the answer is yes, you are successfully sticking to your brand identity and talking to the right person. And they will recognize that and reward you with their business!

So how about you – do you know your customer’s first name?!

A little Market Research goes a long way!

business mastermind, marketing
For many business owners, market research ranks on up there with paying taxes and root canals! It is one of those critical business strategies that people go to extreme lengths to avoid – and yet even a few hours invested here wisely can make a huge difference in your bottom line!
Market research gives you insight into your market, your competitors, and your customers.  
It helps you:
  • Make better business decisions which saves you time and money
  • Focus your resources where they will be most effective.
  • Improve your position in the marketplace.

So why don’t more entrepreneurs embrace this activity?

I think it’s because most people don’t realize how easy it can be.  They hear terms like “quantitative” and “qualitative” research – and run!

Don’t let the lingo scare you – market research is simply finding information about your competition and your customers. Depending on your business model (and personality type!) you may need to deeper – but most entrepreneurs can uncover some pretty great stuff in a few :60 minute sessions with Google and regular conversations with clients and potential customers.

Your Competition:

  1. Find 3-4 websites of competitors.  Study them.
  2. Who are they targeting?
  3. What information/value do they provide?
  4. What is their opt-in? (Sign up for it and study their follow-up sequence)
  5. What is their point of difference?
  6. How do they package their products and services?
  7. What are they charging?
  8. What can you do differently?
Your Customers:
The key is to ask the right people the right questions, and ask enough people to get meaningful results.  Asking friends and relatives what they think about your ideas is not market research. You need to gather information from a significant sample of people who match the profile of your target audience. 
Here are some basic survey questions to ask:
  1. Gender 
  2. Age Range:  under 21      22-34       35-44        45-54        55-65            over 65
  3. Education:    High School Some College     AA       BA      Graduate School      Other
  4. Income:    <$25K          $25K – $75K        $75K – $100K      over $100K
  5. Do you own your home or rent?
  6. What do you like most about our product?
  7. What changes would most improve our product?
  8. What do you like most about products from other companies?
  9. What changes would most improve products from other companies?
  10. What would make you more likely to use our new product?
  11. How much would you expect to pay for this type of product?

Keep in mind that unless people really know and like you and your products and services, survey response rates are generally low. Offering an incentive can help lift those rates.

Other Types of Research:
There is a lot of info on the internet about your industry, your market, and buying patterns…a few simple searches can reveal details that might change the way you position or market yourself.
If you are thinking about a location –  observe traffic. You may also want to carry out an experiment as part of your market research, such as a blind tasting of different products. Or even watching people as they shop!
Market research needs to be a regular planned part of your marketing. Even if you are an established business, you need to stay in touch with your customers’ needs as well as market trends and your competitors. It measures the effectiveness of your own marketing, giving you information about attitudes to everything from packaging and advertising to brand name awareness.
What do you think?  Do you research your customers and competition?  What works for you?  I woulds love to hear YOUR thoughts below!

The Best Way to Get Something Done is to Begin

business masterminds

I am not a writer.

Yet, I made a decision to write a blog post every week for a year. I did this for many reasons, primarily to find my voice, the unique message I’m meant to share. 

When I was younger, I used to write, a lot. I mean MUCH younger. I wrote short stories, and poetry in grade school – and I loved it.

I have written many things in my career. Newsletters, Annual Reports, Press Releases, Radio Commercials, Technical Manuals and much more. Some were more challenging to write than others, but none were as difficult as this 52 week assignment has been.

So I procrastinate. I lay in the grass and gratefully soak up a few rays after the long winter. I find new recipes for the fresh produce from the farmer’s market. I take a nap. I even did some overdue housework this week (!) – and I think about what I will write – but I don’t write.

And this week I am behind. Again. It’s Saturday.  My deadline was Thursday.  Riley, my beautiful Springer Spaniel  is begging to go for our weekend hike in the mountains – and I have to say no, not now.

Thankfully, I have a VA who helps hold me accountable. In order for her to meet her deadline, I have to meet mine. When I do, I can focus on the “C” level tasks that grow my business – and take weekends off! When I don’t – my self-imposed consequence is to “stay after school” and process the post myself. Which is what I will be doing today.

So what’s really up? Why do we put things off to the last minute? We all do – hence the number of posts and podcasts on procrastination!

Why DO we Procrastinate?

Some reasons are more obvious that others.

  • We don’t like the particular task
  • It isn’t urgent and/or important enough relative to everything else we have to do
  • We think it will take too much time
  • We don’t know what to do or how to do it
  • We are too busy with other things

I think it goes even deeper.

  • We are afraid the result won’t be perfect.
  • We are afraid to be vulnerable.
  • We are afraid we will fail.

Now, I am a huge proponent of scheduling and being organized. I have a great system developed over time that I will share in the next few weeks.

Even so, things fall through the cracks in spite of our best intentions. Sometimes our minds become full and we become less mindful of what we need to do. And sometimes we just intentionally put things off!

So. Now what? Here is what (usually) works for me:

Getting Unstuck and Taking Action

1. Recognize WHY you are procrastinating – it is different for everyone and for every task – and the first step to getting “unstuck”. Once you know why you are putting something off – you can usually, logically, get yourself in gear.

In my case, writing is not my favorite task. I would much rather work in (any) other areas of my business!

2. Verbalize the consequences of putting off the activity. Ask yourself, what will happen if I don’t take action now? If the answer is increased stress, or lost income, or not living up to a commitment you have made – then you know it is time to act.

Frankly, the result of not getting the post to my VA on time is not a huge penalty for me. I don’t mind the next sequence in the system. Now, I WILL have the post processed through step “B” by Monday because I do want to avoid step “C”! That is too painful for me! Fortunately, my VA rocks that piece!

3. Decide to take action. Just do it. And set a timer!

My favorite tool for getting unstuck on a project is to use a timer. I set it in :30 minute increments so I can get up and move around every half hour. This keeps my body and my creativity flowing. I decide ahead of time how long I will allow myself to work on a post. (Usually 90 minutes) And then I get it done. I know I only have a certain amount of time, so I stay focused and commit to the process.

4. Celebrate! Do the Happy Dance! Revel in the feeling of accomplishment. You have earned it – and proven once again that you can do anything you set your mind to.

These steps work for me when I am consciously avoiding a small task or project that doesn’t have a huge amount of pain associated with it.

What if You Don’t Know Where to Begin?!

If there is a huge project you are putting off – there are two more steps to add to the beginning of the process.

1. Chunk the project into smaller pieces that take one hour or less, and can be crossed off a list.

For instance, if you are creating a new product like a 6 month online program, or a new sequence to your marketing plan – that can seem incredibly overwhelming. And if you break it into a series of manageable tasks, it becomes very do-able!

Tasks for a training program could include:

  • Write a survey to send to existing customers.
  • Distribute survey to existing customers
  • Distribute survey to potential new customers
  • Research 2 competitive products
  • Research online learning platforms
  • Create Outline for program
  • Talk to trusted friend or affiliate about options
  • etc., etc., etc.

2. Schedule 1-3 of those hourly tasks in your calendar each week. Now you have a plan to eat that darn elephant one bite at a time! And if you begin to put off these tasks – start at the beginning of this post.

Of course this is usually easier said than done – and having a system to keep you on track and moving forward in your business is the best way to avoid the procrastination trap.

Ahhhh – there goes my timer!  Time to wrap things up and go for that hike!

We all have developed our own ways of dealing with procrastination – what works for you?

I would love to hear your comments below!

What is Your 20 Mile March?

Intentional Entrepreneurs Masterminds

Do you ever feel overwhelmed with the sheer number of tasks required to run your business?  Or your life?

This was a recent hot seat discussion in one of my mastermind groups.  Everyone was dealing with this!!

We agreed it all boils down to work/life balance, and, business systems!

In order to do the work we love; serving customers, creating products, delivering services and solving our customers problems, we need to implement effective business systems to generate and nurture qualified leads and convert them into raving fans – i.e. paying customers.   Having systems to reduce the overwhelm creates a business that is easy, fun and fulfilling.

And it takes time.

So while we are working to create those systems – how do we maintain a life filled with family, friends, love, movement, meditation, spiritual and personal growth, travel, recreation, and ___________(fill in the blank)?!

This is a true “question of the ages”.  One that every human being seeks an answer to.

There are many practical strategies to deal with the question of balance.  (Our mastermind members shared some very creative tactics and we all left the session with several new nuggets!)

As with all challenges life throws our way, I believe combining mindset and strategy is the best approach.

With that in mind, I would like to share a story that has helped me virtually eliminate overwhelm.  Really.

The Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration.

The year was 1910.   The South Pole was one of last unexplored areas on earth, and two great explorers were each determined to be the first to set foot on the bottom of the earth.

Robert Scott, an Englishman, wanted to plant the flag at the Pole for his country, while Roald Amundsen wanted to claim the victory for Norway.

Historians have compared these heroic journeys for over a century and found many distinctions between the two.

Among them is the fact that Roald Amundsen and his team of five men skied and sledged for 5-6 hours and went an average of 20 nautical miles a day. Day in and day out.  No matter how horrible the weather or how wicked the terrain.  20 miles a day was the goal.

Scott took a different approach.  On days when the weather and terrain were in his favor, he and his men might go 40 miles.  When the weather was foul, his team might not leave their tents at all.

The result?  One leader led his team to victory, and one led his team to defeat.  Can you guess who succeeded and who, tragically failed?

Amundsen planted his flag for Norway and returned safely, exactly as planned.  Scott and his men did reach the South Pole, and all of them died on their return voyage from exhaustion, starvation and exposure.

Both were great men and courageous leaders.  One had a detailed and thoroughly executed plan that include daily progress.  The other took a different approach, one heavily influenced by reactions to daily conditions.

In what has come to be known as the 20 Mile March, Amundsen achieved his goal by setting a steady pace and sticking to his plan.  No matter what.

Scott, on the other hand, pushed his men so hard on the good days, there was nothing left in reserve to continue the journey when the going was tough.

This powerful story makes me think of my business like my own 20 mile march.  I remember that each day I have to:

  • Set a goal, have a plan, and stick to it.
  • Keep moving forward.  
  • Set a steady pace.  

One thing that really resonated with me was finding the balance between full throttle and burnout.

On days when you are super stoked about your business and are on fire (!) – remember to hold back – because this can lead to burnout and exhaustion.

On days when you hate your business (!) keep moving forward anyway – because it is the nitty-gritty-daily-unsexy stuff that will mean the difference between success and failure.

When you start to feel overwhelmed, it is a sign that you are working too hard.  It sounds like a paradox.  It feels like you should work harder.  I think what you should do is breathe.  Consider your goals in business and life, and choose the best action for the moment that will move you steadily in the right direction.

This is how success happens.  One day at a time.  Slow and steady – like the turtle and hare – or Amundsen and Scott on the race to the South Pole.

How do you pace yourself?  What works for you?

Why Sales Don’t Always = Profit

Intentional Entrepreneurs Masterminds

I was talking to a friend recently who was very excited because she had 5 new custom orders. She had only been in business a few weeks and this was really cause to celebrate!

Then she asked me how she was going to find the time to fulfill on the orders.

Uh oh.  Red flag!

As we began to talk, it quickly became apparent this wasn’t a time management or fulfillment issue.  This was a pricing issue that could upset her entire business model if it wasn’t addressed NOW.

Her product line?  The one that just received 5 new orders?  It was putting her in the red. 

I see this too often in business.  Sales are great – but the money just isn’t there.

This is often (but not always!) a pricing issue.  It may sound like a no-brainer – but your own business is often the hardest to see.

Pricing is tricky. You have to charge enough to make a profit – and not too much or you might leave money on the table.

There are many ways to determine what you should charge for your products and services including:

  • Competitive Pricing looks to your competition
  • Premium Pricing is based on prestige and results
  • Value Pricing often comes into play with large quantities
  • Referral and Incentive pricing reward customers
  • And the list goes on….

One of the most common pricing strategies is Cost Plus pricing.  It’s pretty simple, and very eye-opening. Basically, you calculate what it costs you to produce a product or service, (your variable costs – Cost of Goods Sold, or COGS) and mark it up so you earn a profit.

What many people fail to realize – and what bites them in the end – is that YOUR labor is a COST.  I find most new entrepreneurs (and some seasoned entrepreneurs as well) consider their labor as profit.

This doesn’t work on many levels.  Your time is a commodity!  It is a cost to your business.

You can’t close yourself (although wouldn’t it be great if you could!!), so if you are fulfilling on an order or a contract – you aren’t available to do anything else.

My friend was investing 4-5 hours of her time on each new order.  She chooses not to hire this work out because it is her passion. That is fine.

What isn’t fine is that she is mentally putting the money in her “profit” category.

With a little quick math I showed her that her hours were a cost of doing business, AND she was losing money on each product she sold!

With that understanding, she can decide on her course of action.  Basically she can:

  1. Raise her prices on her custom orders.
  2. Use them as a loss leader to earn more sales from those (and other) customers.
  3. Focus on making her other streams of income more profitable so she can afford to do the work she loves.

I recommended the choices I would make, (while recognizing it is her business and her choice).  Based on her input, we worked out a game plan to keep her business moving forward and making money – so she can STAY in business!

Fortunately, she sought business advice within a few weeks of starting her business and was able to prevent a potential financial disaster!

As they say – knowledge is power.

Are you making money in your business?  If not, have you calculated your costs properly, allowing for your labor AND a profit?

The main reason businesses close their doors is lack of money.  This breaks my heart, because with proper planning – you can avoid this pitfall.

I’m not sure why people avoid financial planning and projections when it comes to business – to their livelihood!  It doesn’t have to be difficult or complicated.  You just need to know a few simple things:

  1. Cost of Goods Sold
  2. Sales Price
  3. Profit  (in $)
  4. Profit Margin  (as a %)

There are a lot of good free resources out there to help you assess your profitability.  Please invest your time wisely and do the math before you run out of money!

If this is an area you struggle with – let’s talk.  Comment below or shoot me an email and let’s put our heads together to help you figure this out!