Do I know what you do?

I wrote an earlier post on the first question which we all ask when making any kind of purchase decision, "have I heard of you?" and "do I know what you do?" is the logical next step.  These days we're all time poor, and if we don't understand, its easier to walk away than take the time to learn.

Telling the world what you do starts with a simple business description.  It's the text you need to fill your profile page on LinkedIn, or Twitter or Facebook (assuming you've build a business page).  It should be clear and concise and free of jargon.  Think of this step as a foundation stone.  Your business description/profile should be the facts without frills version of what you do, but attracting customers means taking a step further and building familiarity.
  1. Think about your ideal customer.  Who are they?  What age are they?  Where do they live?  What do they do?  How much spare time do they have to hear your message?  What are they reading your message on?   The language you use to describe your business is key.  Which words would your ideal customer use to describe what you do? (It's often helpful to get a friend or family member to tell you what they think your business does.  If your mother doesn't understand your description, there's a good chance no-one else will).
  2. Does your company produce products/services which mean the same to everyone? If you sell ice cream then most people know what that means.  If you're an applications developer then explaining what you do to a technical audience, requires the use of terms they understand and would expect you to use for credibility.  An applications developer pitching to the marketing team needs a different slant.  Don't leave any group to assume they know what you do.  Tell them.
  3. Familiarity comes from meeting your ideal customer where they already are.  Often I hear SMEs moaning about the uphill battle to attract customers.  These days we all have so much choice that its unlikely we'll go looking for the next big thing unless it comes to find us.  Having worked out who you want to target, consider where those people are now.  e.g. Twitter is a great tool for finding others interested in what you have to say.  Type relevant words into the Twitter search bar and it will return lists of those already talking about that subject.  Also think about the publications/blogs they might read.  If you know who's already influential to their world, you can work on a plan to be seen in the same space etc.
  4. Be there when people are looking for you.  Seems like the opposite of what I've just said above, but now that we're all so google dependant, make sure that you can be found when someone types in a search term relevant to your business.  It seems so obvious, but without visibility there can be no familiarity.  Your google rankings is a whole other blog post though.
Have you guessed what I do yet?

4 Traits of the small business owner

The advice I would give anyone who has made a resolution to start a small business? You will need curiosity, kindness, stamina and a willingness to look stupid.

> Curiosity because the internet is full of wonderful, free tools and advice to get you started. There are groups to join, blogs to read, sites to bookmark, you just need to be interested enough to go looking for them. Feel free to ask for recommendations.

> Kindness because your first steps into the small business world are about building trust. No one has ever heard of you. They don't know what you do. Be prepared to give away some of what you know, take time to network, whether its on the school run or at a designated event. Since people do business with people, kindness is a rather under utilised way of differentiating your brand from the rest of the noise.

> Stamina is self explanatory. There will be ridiculously late nights and early mornings. Moments when you think its just not worth the effort. Days when you're fed up self motivating. Just keep going. Having a small business is a labour of love.
> The willingness to look stupid comes from the daily revelation that no matter how long you've been in business there is always something you won't be prepared for. In my case this always surfaces around tax return time.

I'm in my third year of being a 'solopreneur' now and I'm still working on each of these traits but I know I'm not alone. Go on, you know you want to.



A morning coffee with some fellow freelancers kicked off the generalist versus specialist debate. Which is best and does it matter? Should one be more expensive than the other?

On reflection both attributes carry equal weight and we all need to balance the generalist and specialist elements of what we do for the companies and products we represent.

Generalists because
  • everyone needs a level of education to make sure you're not assuming anything e.g. top of the funnel* marketing messages designed to set the ground rules 
  • customers want value for money, knowing about lots of different areas, how they interact, what to consider, where to prioritise etc. before making further investment. Think wikipedia versus squidoo pages
  • wisdom is gained from experience and generalists tend to have a wealth of experience to draw from, earned from a number of years of 'doing' 
*in the spirit of not assuming anything, top of the funnel refers to the lead generation or sales funnel where lots of potential customers start the sales process and the aim is to retain as many of these as possible through to actual sales.

Specialists because
  • audiences like 'boxes'. She's a social media expert, he's a copywriter etc. Putting a label on who you are and what you do is essential to finding and retaining your audience 
  • the devil is in the detail. Specialism drives differentiation (giving your customers a reason to buy your product/services over the available competition) 
  • narrowing your focus ensures you can keep up with the latest developments in your field, spotting the opportunities, increasing your usefulness in a particular area and as a result the likely success of the endeavour. 
As to whether one should be more expensive than the other, I think your customers will ultimately decide.

The Excitement of new

The above came from Santa. A present for my 7 year old, who was delighted with the box but disheartened when an hour later all he had was a pile of bricks and a seemingly endless instruction booklet. Trying to restore the joy, 5 further hours of parental input had the dream model complete. Waking up to success is not as fulfilling as taking the time to get there yourself though and I fear this model will now be just another thing to dust.

The lesson? I'd like to think we all start the New Year with a sense of excitement. Even if you haven't made any resolutions, hope is renewed by the possibilities ahead and how we might do things differently in the next 12 months. Trouble is our focus tends to be on the outcome and not how we get there. Doing, is a huge part of the initial excitement and eventual satisfaction. It's the learning along the way that actually changes our outlook, pushes us forward and renews our passion.

This is my first day back at work post Christmas holidays and I'm going to use the excitement to set myself some SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time sensitive) goals to help me enjoy the journey. Some may call this stalling. I see it as breaking myself in gently ......

Happy New Year.

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