I was having a conversation with a good friend and fellow business owner when she made the statement, “Lisa, you know my brand is schizophrenic in the marketplace!” That statement painted a very real picture for me.
First I understand mental illness is no laughing matter and it wasn’t a joke. She wasn’t be insensitive to those with mental illness. It’s a very real issue and both of our lives have been touched by it. It was a very real description of what she felt her brand, her business was experiencing in the marketplace and I get it. A lot of entrepreneurs and small business owners are experiencing this same phenomenon.
Soon after I launched my business, a very wise man told me that “confused people will not buy from you.” It’s important for every entrepreneur, every small business owner to understand what problem they’re solving in the marketplace and their solution to that problem. If you’re unclear or unsure, your messaging will come across confused and customers will respond by moving on to the next business.
It sounds easy enough—define the problem and state the solution but this is probably one of the hardest things some of my clients said they had to do.
They have a very broad view of their business and narrowing the focus proves difficult. Paring it down so they can answer that infamous question…what do you do…and it not be followed by a lengthy dissertation takes work. Unfortunately, these dissertations are usually met with a lot of weight shifting, eye rolling and time checking by the poor soul who asked.
So how do you heal your brand? How do you come across as a competent business owner and brand?
First, make sure what you’re offering is something the marketplace wants.
What You’ve Got vs. What They Want
In college I remember reading that it doesn’t matter if you make the finest seven-fingered gloves the world has ever seen unless you have a buyer for seven-fingered gloves. You can use the finest materials, hand stitch it perfectly but none of that matters unless you have market to sell them to.
Some of the entrepreneurs I’ve worked with have grand ideas. They want to change the world and many times what they think are viable for profit businesses are often nonprofit organizations. Bill Gates built Microsoft first, then came the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The profitable venture came first then he and his wife could help save the world.
Give the marketplace what they want, not what you think they should have.
This can be a hard pill to swallow because aspiring entrepreneurs are told to build it and they will come.
They’re told to follow their passion and the money will follow. Well not if you’re making high-end six-fingered gloves.
Aspiring entrepreneurs who aren’t able to narrow their focus, see trends and be open and flexible won’t survive.
We start businesses to yes, share our gift and talents with the world but we’re also in this to make money. We have to earn a living! So knowing what the customer wants, knowing what problems they face and creating a solution is what will help you be a profitable and sane business in the marketplace.
Shhhhh! The Marketplace is Speaking
Business owners can get so excited about their latest product or service that they fail to listen to the their audience in the marketplace. We can get caught up in our own vision and plans that we miss opportunities to generate sales.
I’ll use myself as an example.
I knew exactly the kind of client I wanted for my creative agency and I knew the kinds of projects I wanted my team and I to work on.
What we got were a lot of calls for basic web design work and logo designs and potential clients wanted to know if we offered start-up packages.
I was insulted.
The calls didn’t match my vision for the company and I pouted.
Then I decided to listen.
There’s a real need for web work out there in the marketplace from reliable designers and developers. From startups to universities, the need is real. You wouldn’t believe some of the stories I’ve heard.
I listened to business coaches I knew. I listened to the customers that reached out to us.
I listened to the media that said women were starting business in the U.S. at twice the rate of men.
So instead of sulking I created a business and a product specifically for this audience. People who were starting businesses, needed logos and business cards and a website and bundled it all together at a reasonable price.
This new business allows me to serve this customer, make a profit and still follow my passion.
It worked. And since it’s a pretty automated system, I can dedicate my time to my primary business.
If you listen and give the marketplace what they want with excellent customer service, they will reward you with the sale (most times).
If you don’t want your brand or business to seem confused in the marketplace or be all over the place with service offerings, take a good amount of time deciding what problem you’re going to solve. Evaluate what you have to offer versus the needs and wants of the marketplace. Ask yourself if there is a need for your product or service. Who will buy it? Do they have a history of buying what you offer? Is your idea truly a for-profit business or is it a nonprofit organization?
Once you’ve answered these questions, once you can clearly and succinctly tell your audience what problem you solve and why they should choose you, then be quiet and listen. Your customers, the marketplace, even your colleagues (competitors) will tell you what’s needed/wanted and even how much they’re willing to pay for it.
The key to a lucid brand is being clear on what you do and who you serve, listening to that audience and being willing to adjust.