Stop trying to be all things to all people. You really must find a target market. That may not sound like news or new information, but it is amazing how hard it is for SME and small business owners.
The phone rings, you pick it up and somebody on the other side asks if you can you do “X.” Typically, you say you’ve never done it before, but how hard can it be? The next thing you know, you end up being scattered so thoroughly that no matter what you started out to do in your business, you end up off target.
In many cases, when SME and small business owners are asked to describe their target market, it comes down to anybody they think will pay them. Unfortunately, the problem with that is it becomes so difficult to distinguish your business from another. Prospects want to believe that somebody can truly fill their needs.
A good example is a financial planner who works with family-owned businesses or maybe a financial planner who bills himself as a specialist in working with recently divorced individuals. If you were a recently divorced individual or owned a family-owned business, whether his claim is true or not, you will be predetermined to believe that his business is more suited to fill your needs.
It doesn’t matter if it’s true. It doesn’t necessarily matter if that person who works with family-owned businesses has any more special knowledge or experience than other financial planners. If you say you work with just anybody, a lot of times your prospects will look at that and say they want to work with the other person who says they work more specifically toward their needs.
The problem really comes down to trust. One of your biggest challenges as a SME or small business is to overcome this lack of trust. They’ve never heard of you. Why should they trust what you have to say?
For many people, if they believe you understand them, you serve their needs or if you’ve served somebody just like them, you are more suited to meet their needs.
What we’re really suggesting is you take a look at your ideal client. For those of you who have been in business for any amount of time, think in terms of what makes up your ideal client.
For many people, it’s as simple as taking a really good hard look at current clientele and looking for common characteristics among their best clients. For a lot of people that may not be the clients you do the most business with, perhaps. Sometimes it is. It’s great when it is.
Take a really good hard look at your existing clients and find some common characteristics with your best clients. To me, the best clients are those who really trust what you do, who really value what you do and those who really look to your specific expertise in order to bring them the results they want.
Sometimes, the case may be you’re just starting or thinking about starting and don’t have any clients. If you don’t have any clients, one of the tips is to think in terms of going to some complementary businesses, ones you admire perhaps, ones that wouldn’t necessarily consider themselves competitors but probably serve the same target market as you and ask them to describe their ideal client.
For those who have been in business for a while, you’ll probably find people are very willing to help. People love to be asked their opinions. In many cases, that can be a great way for you to go out and find common characteristics.
When we’re talking about common characteristics, we’re talking about types of businesses, sizes of businesses or number of employees. For individuals, if you’re dealing with homeowners, look at what the neighborhood is like. Does the level of income of that neighborhood dictate where you might find your ideal clients?
When people do this and then look for ways to rank their clients, they end up finding out what makes up their ideal clients. It rises to the top in many cases.
You need to sit down and really describe your ideal client, business or person. Write it down on a piece of paper as though they were literally sitting across the table from you.
This exercise is very important for several reasons. It helps the business get a firmer grasp on who makes up the ideal client and who to go after. It can be as simple as asking where more people who look and act like that or have this problem are.
It’s also a great tool. Few businesses can actually explain to their employees or other associates who they’re looking for. In some cases, their salespeople don’t really even know what to look for in an ideal client.
Once you describe that, you can go out and tell the world. You really stop talking to people and stop taking work from clients who don’t fit your profile. In some cases, it’s just as important to know who is not a client, as who is.
Its not unusual for SMEs and small businesses to take work from clients who don’t really fit the profile of their ideal client. What happens is that those non-ideal clients become the biggest headaches. You can really save yourself some of those headaches by having this firm description and narrowing your focus.
You can say “no” every now and then when you know someone doesn’t fit your profile.
This is Step One in our 7 Steps to getting your business to hum. Continue to read Step Two – Find and Communicate a Core Difference.