This post I tackle a business question sent in by Laura. (Please note that I have anonymized Laura's business, e.g., "widgetizing", so you'll keep in mind that today's ideas can be used by anybody starting their own small business.)
"I have a widgetizing business that I haven't quite gotten "off the ground" due to numerous reasons... the biggest one is finding my "target market!"
Every idea I've come up with has not worked out and now I have used up my savings. If I take a part time job, that will take away from my time to work on my business....
FYI, I have done mailings to all sorts of business that could benefit from my services.... I tried posting on various blogs/forums and got slammed for "advertising" (which was a real eye-opener)!
Funny thing is that the small number of small jobs I have gotten have been from people seeing my website and contacting me. I love the Internet....
Guess I'm looking at where I should go from here, today?"
First things first, I'm gonna give you the most appropriate marketing lesson you need to learn right now and keep in your mind forever. Here you are:
It if works, keep doing it. If it doesn't work, stop doing it.
So, if your website is attracting interest and getting people to call, then work on making sure your website answers the questions that people seeking widgetizers are asking. Make sure it helps them understand how you are the solution to their widgetizing needs.
Continue to participate in social and business networking sites by answering questions, sharing your experience and knowledge of the widget world... and leave it to your signature file to tell people that you're a professional widgetizer.
As long as you're participating in the community, (not just submitting blatant advertising emails) most groups & sites won't have a problem.
If you find that certain sites/groups are pushing back even when you play by the rules, that's a good indicator that that group is probably not going to be part of your target market -- no matter how much you think they ought to be -- or that you're not sharing your experience in a way that's attractive to that group.
Either way, you're getting good feedback that helps you figure out your target market. In general, there are 3 simple ways to define your target market....
1. Trial and error.
Take on the widgetizing projects that come to you. See which ones you enjoy doing, that bring you the most joy, that are the most profitable.
2. Get specific about the type of person you enjoy working with.
The temptation is to just keep accepting every customer who calls or comes through the door.
Big mistake. Everyone is not your client. But until you can describe what the "perfect" client looks like, you'll keep taking on un-enjoyable and money-losing projects.
Think of (and write down) your description of your ideal client: the type of work they do, their family life, their educational background, where they live, the types of activities they enjoy -- anything and everything you can think of (including whether they are male or female).
Don't think about everybody who might some day be a customer of yours, think about the perfect customer and describe that person.
Soon, you'll have a little biography of the ideal client for your business.
All that's left is to give this ideal client a name. Let's say, "Pat".
3. Get specific about who you don't want to work with.
Okay, you just created a description of your ideal client. Now I'd like you to create a description of your least ideal client.
Do exactly what you did above, but this time think about the type of people you absolutely do not want to work with.
(See, this is the great thing about running your own business, you can decide who NOT to work with -- and that's a lot easier to do if you've spent some time thinking about it early on in your business building.)
And, for fun, let's give this person a name. Let's say, "Voldemort".
With these two things in hand, you can work on developing marketing that will get in front of, and appeal to, Pat, but which, if done right, kindly let's the Voldemorts know they should look elsewhere for widgetizing help.
If you can't get your marketing to actually keep the Voldemorts away, you'll be able to spot them easily, since you have already created an "evil client" checklist (of sorts) when you came up with your Voldemort bio.
Likewise, attracting the paying Pats with profitable projects becomes much easier, because you know exactly what you're looking for... which should make it easier to figure out where to find those people.
Now, all that said, Laura, I really believe there's one step before all of this that you need to do first, and that is to sit down, crunch some numbers, and come up with a workable plan that lets you create this business with less financial pressure.
My experience is, the more money pressure there is at this point in your business life, the more difficult it is to make the business work at all.
So, sit down with your finances and your original business plan rework both so that you have a specific, workable plan for how long you can continue pushing on this biz before you must change course.
You should be able to figure out exactly what the time frame should be, what the next course will be (maybe a part-time position would be helpful?), and when to switch to it.
ce you have that plan in place, working on the other stuff gets easier as you now have a sense of "breathing room" that will allow you do really work on the business.
There’s a challenging big idea I've been trying to wrap my head – and behavior – around for some time here in the recent past. Let me share it with you…
To start, stop and think about each of your actions and ask yourself why you do them.
Chances are you have a specific outcome in mind for everything that you do. --You are looking to create a certain outcome or a specific effect in your life.
Now ask yourself, how much time do you spend thinking about the effect you that want to create?
If you're like most folk (and I include myself in there, too, BTW), you probably spend a lot of time worrying about the outcome of your efforts instead simply enjoying the process of what you're doing.
What if you changed that?
What if you did things without worrying about the result? Without concentrating on the effect you were having?
I'm not saying that you stop caring about what you're doing, only that you shift you're focus from the result to the process. Consider your success not by how others react to what you do, but on your own evaluation of how you are doing what you do.
It's a shift from being at effect (where you are looking to specifically effect a change) to being at cause (where you do things because those are the things you do).
A subtle – but not so simple – shift in thinking that truly provides a new perspective.
"I feel like the great things of life are only given to certain people.
I have a happy spirit.... but I still feel, after some recent let downs, like 'is this as good as it gets'?"
Look, let's be honest: life has ups and life has downs. Some days great things happen, some days not-so-great things happen.
A great way to deal with this is to develop what Buddhists call an "equanimous mind", that is, an even-minded spirit that doesn't react extremely to events on this roller coaster we call "Life".
You develop that by accepting that good things happen and bad things happen. And, when bad things happen, you just acknowledge that it's just the way things are -- not forever, but just for right now.
Then, rather than focusing on the problem, look for "the lesson".
Thomas Leonard, one of my early coaching mentors, said, "If we stop learning, we stop living."
Every day, every event, gives you the chance to learn and to grow. Even the simplest, stupidest, and least-satisfying event presents you with the opportunity to experience something new... or to re-experience it.
(Thomas also liked to say, "The universe will keep repeating the important lessons until you learn them.").
So, when the going gets tough, rather than asking yourself "Why is this happening to me?" ask "What am I supposed to learn from this?"
As you look for and discover "the lesson" Life has for you each and every day, the less bothered you'll be by those bad days, because you'll know that there is something positive to be taken from them.
Second, more important than asking "Is this as good as it gets?" is actually answering the question!
I know what my answer is... but I don't know what your answer is -- only you can answer this question for yourself.
So go ahead and answer it.
If you don't like the answer you come up with, then it's time to dig into discovering what, exactly, would make your life as great as you want it to be, and then coming up with a plan to achieve that goal.
Lastly, when you find yourself falling into that "great things are only give to certain people" mind-trap, stop yourself -- and fast!
This type of thinking is dangerous and it leads you nowhere! It's merely a mental cop-out: a way of abdicating responsibility for your own life; a way to keep yourself distracted from what you need to doing....
....And that's identifying what you want from life -- and how you're going to make that real.
So, the next time you find yourself slipping into that thinking, snap out of it! Tell yourself, loudly (yes, out loud) and forcefully: "Stop it -- NOW!"
Then immediately give yourself a positive thought. Something like, "I can have great things, too. I can achieve great things. I have achieved great things and I will continue to do so."
If you're not a fan of positive self-talk, then stop and write down 3 things in your life that you are grateful for (feel free to write down even more if it will help you... it surely can't hurt).
Do this frequently (daily would not be too often) and you'll soon find yourself changing the focus of your thinking from what you lack to what you have.
Plus, it helps you change your mindset from that of a passive victim ("Why does this happen to me?") to one of an active achiever who makes things happen ("Look at what I've been able to do...").
As if that's not enough, recent studies show that people who regularly stop and write down positive things about their life are generally happier and more satisfied than those who don't.
Stay positive, think positive, and be on the lookout for the lessons Life is giving you. look for the lessons and until our paths cross again.... Live big!