When I first started my business and at various points in my evolution; I was eager to serve every client and their every need. Of course, this is really impossible but as a young entrepreneur I didn’t want to turn anything down. In fact, I was scared to death to turn down business for fear that I wouldn’t be able to pay my bills each month. And like so many early stage entrepreneurs, I was reluctant to narrow down my target market. Everyone was a potential client and I wanted to serve all nonprofits and all talented artists on my journey to making an impact and the world a better place. I had a long menu of services for my consulting firm that covered anything people might want that I had the skill to provide. I was all over the place. No elevator speech could cover all that I was offering. But there I was creating multi-page brochures with all the various categories and services. That coupled with fear of saying no had several consequences that negatively impacted my growth.
- Market confusion – no one really knew what I did and it was hard to develop a reputation for being excellent as something when you are a jack of all trades and a master of none
- The master of none was also a problem. I was often overbooked and my capacity was stretched to the max as well as my learning curve, which meant the quality of my work suffered. This is the worst thing you can do to your business.
- My limited marketing efforts were scattered and unfocused because I was trying to reach everyone.
Now this was before the internet. To my millennials, this was not the dark ages but it meant you spent a lot of money to let people know you were there. I sent my beautiful and expensive brochure to lots of organizations whom I had no contact or relationship by postal mail with first class postage. I sent press releases by postal mail and fax to industry publications. I even bought a few very, very, small ads in magazines and newsletters. Because the research showed that someone had to see your name and information at least seven times before it would actually register in a potential customers mind. This was a lot of printing and postage to shot gun out into the ethers on a hope and a prayer. But it yielded some results. This was a shot gun approach that is the mistake of many new entrepreneurs and some seasoned ones as well. Back in the day, you could get some traction in this way but today as potential clients want their services customized to their specific wants and needs, the shot gun approach just doesn’t get it.
I continued to read and learn about being focused and targeting your market. Eventually, I narrowed down my offerings. This happened about the same time that I made the transition from being a freelance consultant looking to pay the rent with a big vision to a business owner looking to build my vision of my business. That is when I yielded to the wisdom that I had been given and started to really focus on what I was great at doing that my clients really needed.
With the digital age, the research began to show that a potential customer may need to see your stuff 47-78 times before it registers and this has taken online, digital and email marketing to a frenzied pace. We are now burned out from too much digital noise – too many emails, too much of everything. They want their messages and services customized to their specific needs and wants. And the technology is there to do just that.
After the 2008 economic downturn as I approached my 50th birthday, I engaged a powerful coach for myself and really assessed the changes in the environment that I had been tracking, looked at what I loved to do and what clients were hiring me to do and the times when I was in my sweet spot and most effective in my work and narrowed my focus, offerings and clarified my target market. It took a minute to gain some traction with my new brand and start to attract my new ideal client and all the seed planting and effort was so worth the effort. Over the last 7 years, I have focused even more clearly on 3 key services and look to serve small businesses and nonprofit organizations that are nimble, action oriented, and about 30 employees or under. This way we can get all of the organization in the same room to do the work of planning and strategy development.
This clarity allowed me to package my services differently. For strategic planning, I moved to flat fees vs the customary hourly rate that most consultants charge, I standardized processes so we could spend time customizing the interaction with the client, and I added coaching and follow up to support implementation. This allowed me to have powerful conversations with potential clients the results they could expect, the time and resource commitment needed to create a powerful plan that would specifically address their challenges and move them positively forward towards their vision and get their whole team on the same page. The impact is that my business started growing again. And without the overload and overwhelm I’d experienced in the past. I am excited and confident about what I am offering to clients because I know it’s in my sweet spot and the results of my work with other clients that support that these practices and processes work.
So what is your menu of products and services? Which ones are actually generating you revenue and which ones are not very profitable or popular? What is creating excitement and positive results for your customers and clients? When you think of all of your clients, which ones are your favorites, which clients have benefited the most from your products or services?
My suggestion is to cull your list of products and service down to 3 primary offerings. (You may keep some of the other stuff as add-ons or up-sell opportunities but these 3 are the ones you will market)
Create 1-3 profiles of your best and most loved clients. Look at the characteristics they have in common and start to target your marketing to speak to them specifically. You will be thrilled to get more of your favorite and most profitable customers who you can best serve. And you will know exactly what they need, their pain point, and the results that they need.
Then you can re-write your copy with this clarity in mind and start sharing your services with those folk where they read, live and hangout both in person and online. Give yourself a little time for them to find you and get to know you. I promise you that you will be very happy with the results of this targeted approach vs the shot gun methods you may have been using.