Building relationships is useless if you aren’t reaching the people who need and want your product. One of the biggest questions we ask as we’re starting a business is “How do I get people to start trying me out?” I, too, felt this was a frustrating question. Most of my work started out with companies with some established customer and prospect lists, with a year or two of proven record. But what about for a business just starting out?
The good news is the methods don’t really change, they just don’t have to be as intense after a customer base and long prospect list has been developed. The bad news is it’s not a single event. It’s an on-going process like sleeping or eating. It’s something we’ll have to do over and over again, and review the effectiveness of over and over again. It’s a process that needs refining and tuning and careful attention.
Many sales coaches will talk about the Sales Funnel. The concept is that you get a whole lot of prospects and slowly work on the keepers until they become customers. In this chapter we’re going to be discussing how to find and bring people into that sales funnel.
Step One: Define Your Audience / Niche
You might think that you’re helping your company bring in big bucks by being “all encompassing” and serving “everybody” but you’re actually sabotaging your marketing. Large companies can pull this off because they have the budget to hit a massive marketplace of diverse people and saturate it. When you’re marketing budget is next to nothing, the more diffused your audience, the less likely any marketing will bring in customers. That’s because you’re unable to afford to saturate a large audience so they see, know and trust you enough to try your company out.
Therefore the smaller, more pinpoint, your audience the more effective your marketing can be. I once got some great advice from James Garner, a branding and marketing guru. He explained niche marketing is like the bulls eye on a target. Sometimes you’ll get customers who aren’t exactly in your niche, that doesn’t mean you can’t or won’t serve them, but by keeping your marketing centered on a point, you’re more likely to reach and impact people in a meaningful way.
For example, my business, Marketing Mechanics, is all about helping local micro-businesses in my area to control and empower their marketing. (A micro-business is what I call any business with 10 or fewer employees, down to solo-prenuers) Have I helped micro-businesses across the country? Yes. Have I helped businesses which had a few more employees? Yes. But would I be a good fit for a multi-million-dollar company that wants to buy air time in the Superbowl? Absolutely not. I’d be a terrible fit, no matter how much money I could make off it. That customer is too far outside my target and my expertise.
Here are some questions that can get your juices flowing. This may feel very hard to think about, but if you take the time to develop your ideal customer and niche you’re going to feel much more confident and future marketing efforts will be clearer and more directed.
- Who do you like serving?
- Who have you served in the past with your product or service?
- If you haven’t run your business before or free-lanced on the side, can you think of the type of people you most liked working with in your normal jobs?
- What qualities did you most like about them? Where they organized or spontaneous? Energetic or logical? Etc.
- What needs when you interacted with them did you find the most joy in fulfilling?
- What work habits does your ideal customer have?
- Where do they tend to reside?
- What is their typical solution to their current problem you intend to solve?
- Where is their pain? What are you going to sooth/fix/make easier for them?
- What is their life like outside of work? Hobbies? Habits? Time constraints? Special needs or worries?
- Why would they look for your product/service?
- Where would they look for your product/service? Magazine? Community Board? Local paper? Word of Mouth? Networking Event? Special trade fairs? Where?
- Who is your LEAST ideal customer?
- Who can you not serve and why?
- What places would you not want to sell and why?
Looking at your answers, dig a little deeper into the psyche of your ideal customer. Give them a name. Describe the niche you’ve developed by focusing on this customer. Don’t worry about perfection or total completion. It will be something you try to refine as time goes on. Right now the goal is just to get some sort of rough sketch of your niche and audience so we can focus our work where it will do the most good.