Chaos. Uncertainty. Distraction. Together they are the Three Horsemen of the Apocalypse for small businesses. If any of them run amok in your business, success will be elusive. If more than one of them is present, well, dust off your resume…
Chaos. A chaotic business treats each new occurrence as new. It reinvents the wheel time and time again. No aspect of the business is predictable; heroic effort is the solution to all.
Uncertainty. Many entrepreneurs build their businesses upon their expertise in a specific area. They tend to do well delivering a solution. But, other skills needed to run, grow, and sustain a business are often missing. These missing skills lead to guessing or unwillingness to make a decision creating uncertainty.
Distraction. If you don’t have a clear idea of your goals it is easy to get sidetracked in search of shortcuts. If you don’t have a clear vision of how to reach your goals, any idea can seem a good one. It becomes easy to shift focus and move to the next great idea.
How can you fend off the Three Horsemen? These aren’t new problems. They’ve been around as long as businesses have existed. If they have changed, the change is in their speed. It takes no time for them to introduce themselves and make a mess of things.
Banish them. You’ve suffered enough. Business is challenging enough without self-inflicted disadvantages. Set a clear destination, define a path to get there, and ensure you have enough fuel for the journey. Do this and the Three Horsemen will never catch up to your business.
Three Steps to Banish Three Problems
Set goals for your business. Create one to three goals that are meaningful and clear. The acronym SMART works well for defining goals. Make the goals Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant and Time-bound. Long-range goals (a year or so) will help you organize your business to reach them. You can break up the goals into smaller quarter or month parts to track progress.
Have a framework for your business. I like creating a business model. The model defines how you deliver value to your customers. It also defines how you capture value as revenue. You define the nine critical elements of your business in your business model. Each element focuses on only the essential components of delivering and capturing value.
With goals and your business model in hand, chaos and uncertainty will find no home in your business.
Go get customers. Most failed small businesses owners blame marketing for their failure. Most existing small businesses find marketing a challenge. The bottom line – marketing is how we get customers. If we are bad at it, it proves hard to get customers. Simple.
It is in marketing that distraction takes hold. Because most entrepreneurs don’t have a marketing background, they try to educate themselves. Bookstores, libraries, Amazon, etc. are full of books on marketing. Everybody you talk to has “the” idea on how you should market. Turn to Google for marketing research and the sources seem unlimited. There are marketing courses for everything, and each course touts its training as the latest and greatest.
So, how do you pick from the unlimited sources of marketing information? How do you choose how to market, where to market, who to market to, and so on?
Unfortunately, many people will buy book after book and course after course. Often, they won’t even finish the book or course before looking for another one. Or they will try a method for a bit and then move to something else before becoming good at it.
The distraction of always thinking the answer is around the corner hinders success. Successful marketing starts with a few simple bits of knowledge. Knowledge about what you sell is the key, methods and techniques to sell will come later.
Four Steps to Making Marketing Clear and Easy
First, know the features and benefits of your product. Features are how you describe your product. You know what went into creating the product, and you are proud of it. But, your customer doesn’t buy those aspects of your product. Your customer wants to buy benefits. What can it do for them? Understanding this difference will help you write your marketing copy or talk about your product.
Second, understand what problems your product solves. Do some research. You think you know, but get out and ask people who would be potential buyers. Do they see your product as a solution to that problem? If not, you need to adjust.
Third, get clear on your customers. Who are they? What do they like? What do they read? Where do they like to go? You get the picture, the better you understand your market, the better you can solve their problems.
Fourth, know the circumstances that your market is in when your solution is the answer to their need. When do they have the problem you solve? Learn everything you can about what causes your market to look for a solution.
When you have clarity about these four areas, only then can you begin to market and expect results. Take this information and look at the marketing options. What works for your type of business? With what are you familiar? What is your budget? You can market in many different ways, and you want to get great at two or three of them. For instance, you may decide to get skilled at running Facebook ads, blogging, and speaking.
Don’t try to market everywhere at once. You won’t be able to do any of them well. Instead, focus on a few types of marketing. Run a campaign and measure your results. Change a few things and try again. Get better and better by testing. Once you understand and are good at a few areas of marketing, you can predict your results. You might know that if you speak to a group that it will take you ten to fifteen hours to prepare and speak. From testing, you know that twenty percent of the room will buy from you. Now, all you need to know is how many people will be in the room, and you can predict your revenue. That’s when marketing gets exciting!
Setting goals, building a business model, and getting good a few areas of marketing is something you can do. But, you will need to have a clear idea of what you want to do and take the time to do it. As entrepreneurs, there is a joke that describes us well. “Entrepreneurs can work whenever they want, they just pick the 80 hours of the week they want to work.” You need to give yourself space and time to do a bit of organization. Become immune to the Three Horsemen and get some of those 80 hours back!