It’s easy to forget that there are personal and emotional aspects of business. Just because you offer a superior service at a competitive price doesn’t guarantee your market share, because people do business with people they like. So many people are robotic and going through the motions with their customer service and sales pitches, the people that actually make an effort do a tremendous amount to stand out.
As an entrepreneur, I get cold emails daily, all of them asking for just 15 minutes of my time, and all of them get ignored. In all of those cold emails, there’s only one person that did any research before reaching out to me, and that was the only one I actually read and responded to. My name and face are all over Google; you can find out about my track career, my family, my hobbies, and all other bits about my life through a few minutes of effort, and only one person has ever tried, and they stuck out.
There are a ton of self-help books about working with people, my personal favorites are The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and How to Win Friends and Influence People. Among all of these books is a common theme: show genuine interest in other people. Find out what makes them tick, what interests them, and what gets them out of bed in the morning. This not only gives you a huge advantage in business, but it’s also fun, and all it takes is a bit of effort and a sincere appreciation for others. Once you’re likable, you have an advantage.
Effort will always be key, especially in the early days of marketing. You can build momentum for your business on a tight budget with little more than flyers and sidewalk chalk. Write ads in areas with a lot of foot traffic and hand out flyers in crowded places. If you’re a home service business, knock on doors and talk to people in nearby wealthy neighborhoods. Better yet, watch the MLS to find new people in town and reach out to them, even offering your first service for free. Spend your nights and weekends grinding to get the word out and get reviews for your Google My Business location.
Along with the hustle, generate a platform where you can add value first. Create content, and give away as much information as you can for free. This will help you develop a following and build a brand that you can leverage and sell. If you offer pest control, make YouTube videos about basic home remedies people can follow on their own. If you offer financial advice, start a blog specific to your area and talk through common financial questions that people have.
My friend owns a wealth management company and advises rich people on avoiding taxes to maximize their wealth. He goes into the first meeting with a new client and gives away as much as possible for free, knowing that it differentiates him from his competitors and gains trust from clients on the spot. Even better, the clients usually sign on that day, and those that don’t are often back down the road. There’s a fear that you need to capitalize early on each sale, trying to milk your first customers off the bat, but you don’t need to do that.
Finally, hone in on your wheelhouse. Learn everything about your target market, the 20% of customers that deliver 80% of your profit. Find out where they live, how much they make, where their kids go to school, and what they need. Become famous among the right three thousand people, and you’ll have a group that you can specifically design your service around. Then you won’t have to compete on price, and you won’t have to train your employees too broadly, you’ll be working right in your wheelhouse.
I’ve gotten questions on the 80/20 rule, the first one around concentration risk if you only focus on 20% of customers. But it’s much riskier to not focus on the 20% of customers that are most valuable to you because you risk losing sight of what they need. If your wheelhouse gets ignored, your golden goose could die.
Is it okay to focus outside of your wheelhouse if the 80% can deliver stronger profits in the future? Absolutely, but not at the expense of the wheelhouse. Don’t lose sight of what is for what could be.
And can’t customers outside of your wheelhouse provide an edge for the company? What if it helps you bring customers into the wheelhouse? Being a generalist and having offerings that pull customers into your wheelhouse can be an advantage in the early stages. But as you scale, remain focused and specialize on your 20% of customers. Keep your operations simple, and don’t spread your employees too thin.
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