photo by @ChrisLee, art on slide by Jeffery Slim.
Great content does not make a business
Standing on a stage in front of a group of smiling and supportive audience members, I felt on top of my game.
The message resonated, the content was useful and the delivery connected. I had done my job.
Afterward, as I mingled in the crowd, people pulled me aside and said “I loved the presentation Pam, but you didn’t sell anything! How can I work with you?”
Coming from a blogging and social media culture where direct selling from the stage is frowned upon, I was kind of shocked. Don’t people hate to be sold to?
I had a profound mental shift right on the spot.
I realized that people hate to be pushed irrelevant crap that does not solve their problems. But they are extremely happy to hear about useful products and programs that will add value to their life and their business.
And if you can’t provide it, they will go elsewhere.
This realization has made me think about my business in a whole new way.
May I invite you to think about yours in a whole new way?
The starting place: what do your people need?
I have been reviewing a lot of business plan templates to find one that fits the way I think about my market.
Many have great information about how I need to structure my business so that I have clear offerings and remain profitable. But what I felt was missing was a way to think specifically about the needs of my clients.
So I took out a pad of paper and put a big box in the middle labeled “My People.”
Then I asked myself: what do they really need?
My people are corporate employees who want to quit their job and start a business. And four major things popped out:
- Knowledge: How do you work through each stage of creating a business? What are the most efficient/effective ways to get things done? Whom can I trust?
- Encouragement: Giving up a job is mighty scary. Many people are racked with self-doubt. So ongoing doses of “you are not crazy,” “you go girl/guy” and “you are almost at the finish line” are very important.
- Community: It is very isolating to make a big change by yourself. The more positive, supportive people surround you, the quicker you will make progress and launch your business.
- Promotion Once businesses get up and running, they need well-connected people to spread the word so they make enough money to quit their day job.
I don’t have great drawing skills, so my son Jeffery cleaned up my original sketch and made it a work of art:
The Natural Path
Once you are clear about what your people need, you want to build a product/service map that follows them through the natural path they walk as they are trying to solve whatever problem you are helping them with (do better with money, start a business, put up a website, organize their garage).
It may help to visualize a person looking down a path, with steps along the way. (thanks again to Jeffery for the image):
In my own coaching work, I know that people generally follow the path outlined in my book:
- They want assurance they are not crazy for leaving a good corporate job
- They have to figure out which business to start
- They have to figure out if there is viability in that market
- They have to produce and test a product or service
- They have to tell their loved ones they want to make a major career shift
- They have to build relationships with their market, and larger tribe of supporters, peers and mentors
- They have to figure out their personal financial plan
- They have to create an implementation plan and then make it happen
- They have to give notice at their job and leave relationships intact if things don’t turn out as planned
Imagine how cool it would be if your people had the exact information and support that they need as they take each step on their path.
And in an Internet Marketing for Smart People style, they would have a wonderful combination of free information and products and services at a variety of price points.
An Example: BabyCenter
A perfect example of a company that really gets this “natural path” perspective is a service I signed up for early in my pregnancy with Josh which is called BabyCenter (see sign up at right under “Your Pregnancy Week by Week. “)
When you enter in your expected due date, each week you get an email that explains exactly how the baby is growing. It also includes tips for what you should eat at each stage of pregnancy, and connects you to a discussion forum with other pregnant women. The service itself is free, but there are plenty of links to paid services, and advertisements targeted to your specific needs. The service continues after your child is born up until they are 9 years old.
I get the exact information I need each week (“What to do when 2-year old is throwing a tantrum in the grocery store”) and I feel very supported.
They have hundreds of thousands of mothers getting this same sequence of autoresponder emails, timed according to individual due dates.
Isn’t that an elegant, non-pushy solution?
Tie it all together
So how do you tie the needs of your market and their natural path together in a business model?
- Define the specific needs of your people.
Take a piece of paper, put them in the middle, and ask yourself “what are the major things they need to fully solve their problem?”
- Sketch out the natural path they walk as they address their problem
Think of a typical client who comes to you for help. What is the first problem they want help solving? Once that problem is solved, where do they tend to go next? Create a path of steps that ends with them realizing their goals.
- Create a combination of great, free information and paid products and services at each step along the way.
You have wonderful tools like blogs, podcasts, tweets, ebooks and videos to create useful, valuable content which helps your people solve their problems. Couple this with more intensive support (paid teleclasses, workshops, tutorials, coaching, retreats) and they will have everything they need to solve their problem. Remember that many of your audience will solve their problem using your free stuff. But there will always be people who are willing to pay for more specific and individual support.
- Sprinkle the products and services with the specific things that your people need.
Think of ways to strengthen your paid offerings by adding in the specific things your people need. As an example, the way I meet the needs of my people is to offer Knowledge with blog posts, programs, workshops and retreats. I give them Inspiration with speeches, interviews with experts and cool people just like them who have made the leap successfully, daily Tweets, Facebook updates, emails and free calls. I give them Community with the Escape Community, and invitations to lots of live events where they can gather with like-minded people. I give them Promotion by Tweeting and blogging about their businesses, mentioning them in my press interviews and making introductions with mentors and customers.
- Organize your product road map in a clear and compelling manner and promote the heck out of it!
Depending on the communication style of your market, you can develop a whole range of promotional materials, including a web-based product map, or a nicely designed set of printed materials. Organize your back-end email autoresponders so that after someone buys a product or program which solves a specific problem, they will be invited (in a non-pushy and genuine way) to the next set of free information/paid offerings in the natural path of their journey.
I am going to be doing a lot of planning in December to lay out a much more clear roadmap of products and services for 2010. I really look forward to your input and invite your feedback and suggestions!
It has taken me awhile to get clear on this need/natural path business model. What is missing? What resonates with you?