I’m writing this while the rest of the world watches the last episode of Breaking Bad. While I still have two seasons to play catch up, I think I’ll just sit here and empathize with the most common small business marketing mistake I see…trying to be everything to everyone.
Sounds counterintuitive, what I’m about to say, but…
In your quest to reach as many people as you can with your marketing message, are you blowing your chances at connecting with the right people?
A lot of solopreneurs and small business owners do exactly that. It’s almost inevitable, but oh-so-understandable.
When you’re starting out, you offer your services and products to anyone and everyone. Call it an overblown desire to satisfy everyone. A belief in your own amazing skills, an exaggerated conviction regarding your flexibility and universality. Small biz folks aim to please.
There’s nothing wrong with that, per se, unless that “be-all, please-all” mentality causes your best customers to confuse you with your competitors.
Their interest isn’t focused on you because your interest isn’t focused on them. You’ve failed them by falling into the murky world of average. How were they to know you’re really good at dealing with that “one thing” they’re struggling with, when you’ve been two-timing them? Spreading yourself thin at their expense?
On top of that (I’m guessing here) you’ve taken every job that came along, hardly bothering to be selective when someone waves cash in your direction. No judgment here, trust me. It’s easy to be a generalist.
But a jack of all trades never ascends that mountain of “Really-Freaking-Good.” He just circles the perimeter, never plants a flag, never enjoys the view. He’s just wanders around somewhere in the middle, with all the other average business people.
So how do you break out of that rut? A change of direction will cause pain at first. But I’m thinking it’ll be worth it.
Editing for scrupulous growth
Shorten the distance between where you are now and the summit. Leave some equipment behind, so to speak. Climb into thinner air. Choose the steeper, more dangerous path. Chop your message in two and kick half of it down the face of your mountain. You won’t need it where you’re going.
If you’ve been wondering how to get more engagement from the people you really want to serve, then you have to show your value to them. And the only way to do that is to whittle, hone, prune, purge and clear out the junk. Put your energy into proving your value — and leave the rest behind.
Circle in fast on your business’ unique value. With the same ruthlessness you decline the jobs that make you crazy and the tasks you aren’t cut out for, stop with the flowery descriptions of platitudes you half-heartedly endorse.
Instead, get right to the point. Capitalize on the best service or product, the best customer you can imagine, and the best delivery of your offer.
The editing challenge — three places to distill your value right down to its essence
I just read an amazing article about mission statements. Joe Pulizzi (The Content Wrangler) lays out a plan for a memorable mission statement, one both customers and employees can get excited about. I remember working for a company whose mission statement document hung on the wall like a relic. It was starchy and wordy, full of vanilla marketing-speak. An average declaration. I’m sure you’ve read some like it.
On the other hand, a short, lucid mission statement wows the reader. It implies respect for your customer’s time and a powerful self-knowledge about your own business. Brevity requires honesty, self control and dedication to the company’s values, qualities you want your business to exude.
What about your “elevator speech?” Do you have a concise way to say what you do in a minute or less? Use conversational words to forge a quick connection and get right to the heart of the matter. You’ll stand a chance of being remembered for the value your business provides, rather than a jumbled string of big words that no one understands anyway.
Finally there’s the tagline. Love ’em or not, brands deliver a promise (or try to) when they’re used well. A great tag line should be a short phrase that clarifies your value…your raison d’être.
Three-step method for declaring your unique value:
• What you do: No need to be clever or say this in a new way. If you buy houses, you buy houses. If you write you write. If you wash windows, you wash windows. If you teach, you teach. Get my drift? Simple is better.
• Whom you serve: To pinpoint your target market, take into account your skills, experience, expertise and how your customer benefits from your products and services. Define these things while clearly picturing your customer in your head. Otherwise, it’s just you in a vacuum (and it’s difficult to build a business in a vacuum).
• How you’re different: Do you do your job differently from your competitor or the general practitioner? Show and tell how. If your client has the choice between you and someone else, how will you stand out? Why should they choose you?
I know what you’re thinking. “I’m going to leave a lot on the table if I do this. I’ll alienate some people whom I could serve just as well?”
Here’s the irony, when you’re struggling to build engagement with receptive people, you create a safe, comfortable spot by catering to one particular group. As those folks begin to gather and realize your value, your business will grow faster, and you’ll get higher engagement from more people just outside of that narrow circle. You can build on your core market once you gain some traction.
First, you must be genuinely interested in a specific group of people. As you make connections that really sizzle, couple of great things happen:
• Other people will see the growing engagement — your interactions through social media.
• Your expertise becomes more apparent as you engage with your core group of people.
• New customers and prospects will be more inclined to jump in and be part of your community.
You’re only as valuable as others think you are. Getting people to engage with you and your brand starts with editing — and proving value to just a few people at first.
One last thought, beings I’m paying the price for being late to the Breaking Bad party. Hopefully you won’t close the doors as soon as the whole world knows about you! My fault for being the last one to see value and engage.