How To Make What They Want To Buy

People talk about “Balance”. Work-Life balance. Nature is said to be “in balance”. Or you can have a “balanced outlook”. There is balance in business too: between what you like to create and what your market likes to buy.

Obviously if what you create isn’t any part of what a market likes to buy then you don’t actually have a business. Not long term, anyway. Not many people buy Pet Rocks any more, though we knew that was a fad from the start. Not many people buy film for cameras, cassette tapes, VCRs and a huge list of “no longer popular” things that were once considered vital.

It starts right at the beginning, when you are developing your product – as much fun as it sounds to get paid to have fun you need to make sure that there is a market first. Not many people bother to check, and most of those who do just ask their mother and their best friend “If this is a good idea”? What I mean is people who will say “Of course it is”, not matter how bad an idea it is because they don’t want to offend you.

That just condemns you to join the ranks of those who start a business, put all their money into it for a couple of years (until all your money is gone), then they shut the doors and walk away. That’s the most expensive way to discover that there is no market for what you sell. There are other posts in this series about doing market research that is very cost effective, so I won’t duplicate that here (It can be no financial cost, just a few hours of your time).

Now you know that you are producing something that there is a market for. Where will you source your raw materials? These are the building blocks for your product, and by the way: if you provide a service then the team you have that helps you deliver those services can be seen as your Suppliers, its just that they supply you with trained people.

You need to treat your suppliers well – pay a fair price, and act as though they are partners in your business. That’s because they are partners. Without you they have no place to sell, without them you have no place to buy. Yes, there may be other sources for the same thing, but if you treat them badly and they stop trading with you then eventually you run out of people to do business with.

That leads to the question: what production facilities do you need? Imagine a boom starts – can you supply everybody who wants what you sell? What if a bust comes along – can you survive?

It helps to have a plan for the business and to monitor that plan in action. That gives you controlled growth, and if you are monitoring the right metrics you get an early warning of any slow down. That then allows you to scale up or down without any panic. Other posts in this series discuss planning (even if you don’t like planning, or maybe especially if you don’t like planning!) and which metrics you should measure, why and how. It’s easier than you think!

The next post will continue looking at your production: your storage requirements, your team and the technology you need.

Show Them That You Care

People can be strange creatures, at times. We prefer to buy from those we know, like and trust for example. Sometimes we are happy to pay more than their competition charges, just to keep buying from our favorite place.

And that’s good news if you are in business. Here’s why.

If you get to know your customers and they get to know, like and trust you then those dynamics are working for you, not against you.

Being friendly and likeable is a good start when you are dealing with your market, and behaving in ways that deserves their trust.

So how do you let them know who you are and what your core values are? Let them know about your social responsibility program. Be a visible part of your community.

Before we go further – you can’t just do this as a means of promotion, and maybe feature it in your advertising! The public would figure that out and they’d stay away in droves. There has to be a genuine, compelling reason for you to be helping those you help, and once you “allow the public” to find out that will give you the presence you are looking for.

As an example: If you read the first post in this series you will know why I am writing these posts. You have been lied to. I don’t like it when people lie. (Telling your significant other that you forgot their birthday and didn’t get a chance to go shopping so you can surprise them on the day with a great present doesn’t count!) I am also a co-founder of a charity that helps to feed children. Yes, there are lots of those, but we have connected to a UN program, and we believe that feeding them is just the beginning. Now that they are being fed they can also be educated. That might only mean a basic education, or it might mean a University degree. Once someone is educated to their satisfaction they need an outlet for their new knowledge: a job, a research idea, a business of their own, or any of a number of possibilities that you may have thought of. If they choose to start a business them some seed funding and mentoring would be of assistance to them and we don’t ask for a share of the outcome in any way.

That resonates with me because history is full of people who nearly didn’t survive and then went on to achieve greatness – maybe the child that is about to succumb to starvation is the one we need to cure cancer (my father died of cancer and several friends as well).Or maybe they will be the one to enlighten the population of the planet so we achieve real and lasting peace. Or maybe they will invent a faster internet, a cheaper computer, a sustainable vehicle, or reduce world temperature change. OK, world peace might be a stretch since so many make a profit out of the current situation, but you get the point!

Imagine one day being able to say that you helped give that child their start in life. That’s a legacy I’d like to leave. Don’t misunderstand – I doubt that more than a half dozen people will ever know, should that ever come to pass. It would be enough that I know. In the meantime I’ll just keep on walking down that road.

What can you do that would make a difference? What can you do that tells your market something about you, your values and what you stand for? Share your social vision and get them on board, and they will step up to support you in that aim if it resonates with them.

Connect Your Business

We need to connect our business in the same way we build our own support network of friends. Friends support each other, and groups of businesses also support each other.

You don’t pay your friends to associate with you and neither should you pay businesses to support you – so don’t compete solely on price. Give them the benefit of your expert knowledge, share your wisdom so they can figure out the best supplier (you) of what you offer. How do you do that?

Put your information onto the internet. You can utilize your own blog or any business-related website.

The biggest business-focus website is LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/). Placing information about your organisation there, or the business pages of Facebook, will deliver your details to a wider audience than you can otherwise reach. You might also be able to use sites like eBay, Amazon or Kindle.

There are obvious attractors to using the internet for business, and you can decide to take the step – establishing a business presence or not – by looking at your own business.

Can you deliver what you do over distance? Products can be shipped, and information can be delivered almost immediately. How much of what your company delivers can be delivered to remote corners of the world?

You can also use the internet to increase your scope, the ‘reach’ of your promotional activities. You can connect with new people and establish your credentials, and demonstrate your niche knowledge.

If you don’t currently utilize the internet – can your products or services be marketed and delivered to a wider range than your current premises allows? Would it be effective if you promoted your business to a wider geographic range? Would your sales improve if you could target specific types of people to deliver your message to?

You also might choose to promote your business on the internet if people will travel to where you are to use your services. That doesn’t have to mean a special trip – maybe your service is attractive to tourists who are arriving near you anyway. Maybe you operate a specialist bus service taking tourists to a particular type of local sights: historic sites, natural wonders, shopping tours, or pub cruises.

It comes down to: where are your clients and how do you contact them?

 

When You Can’t Meet Face To Face

Humans like to connect, we’re social animals (Well, most of us at least!). And we’ve found ways to connect over distance. That started with elaborate message systems used by ancient armies and continues today with the internet. The ancient systems each had a specific purpose and so too do the networks on the internet.

Some are designed for personal connection, some are designed to connect business. Your job is to use the right kind of network.

Why would you need to use the right kind of network? Customers have always wanted to know you as well as your business. In the old days they simply spent time in or near your premises and they found out about both. Now you have to tell them because many live too far away to loiter near your place of business, many don’t have the time to do that even if they were close, and the rest don’t think they should chase you anyway. So you have to be proactive, and tell them.

People want to know that you are good at what you do – whether you sell quality products or provide excellence in service, and they want to know about you: are you trustworthy? The good news is there are places on the internet that are designed to deliver business or personal information. You use the business networks to educate your target market about your business, and the personal areas to introduce them to you: your ethics, values and the fact that you care.

Why? People prefer to do business with those they know, like and trust. You have to arrange things so your market believes it knows you, it likes you and can trust you.

In principle then you use the personal networks — also known as social networks – to make an initial connection, to establish your credentials, and to introduce people to your income-producing sites. That said – some networks are trying to monetise and that means they try to be all things to all people. YOu just need to utilise the internet sites of your choice, those best suited to your needs, to deliver your message.

Examples of personal connection sites are Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and more are being added every week it seems. LinkedIn is aimed at business, as are Government sites (Local, State and Federal Governments do what they can to promote business), and again more are regularly being announced.

Personal sites allow you to demonstrate your values, business sites allow you to demonstrate your knowledge. Together they present a whole picture of you, and that is what it takes today to succeed.

One word of warning before I go: How long can you pretend to be someone else? For most people I know the answer is “Not very long”, so present your real values and knowledge, otherwise your new customers will form a queue at the door – on the way out.

Face to Face Networking

Some people really enjoy getting out and meeting new friends, some feel that is a chore. But it is an activity that you need to master if you are going to make a success of your business. The good news is there are ways to make it easier, and maybe even fun!

First of all – before you attend a networking event: set some goals. How many people do you want to meet? What kind of people? Meaning maybe what role they play in the company they work with, maybe the kind of company they work with, or maybe the kind of problems their company has. Of course you can establish absolutely any criteria that works for you, you just have to have a good image of what you are looking for.

Having a detailed image of who you are looking for allows you to quickly decide if the person you are talking to is or is not the kind of person you want to establish a relationship with, and then you can take the appropriate action.

That action might be to get to know them better, or it may be to make a polite excuse and move on. Either way you then haven’t wasted your time.

Later in this post I’ll share a link that will take you to where you can learn all about networking, but for now just practise saying things like “I think I just saw someone arrive that I need to connect with – will you excuse me?” With a simple statement like that you are free to pursue someone that you actually do want to talk to. And note that it says “Need to connect with”, not that you already know them, so anyone can be the person you next speak to.

It’s great to catch up with old friends and talk shop, reminiscing about the old days. And you should acknowledge those you already know, and spend a little time reinforcing the relationship. You just have to remember that you are there to meet some new people, not to talk shop all night. If you have things to talk about then arrange a time for a coffee meeting, after all they should have goals to meet new people too.

Your goals can be directed at finding people who want to buy what you want to sell. You are looking for buyers but you are not necessarily trying to close the sale right here, right now. That is: if they initiate the part of the conversation that says they are ready to buy the of course you go along with that. What you don’t do is push that yourself. This is a time when you must think of the lifetime value of a customer – how much they will spend over time if they always buy from you. Your job at the networking event is to establish the connection in such a way that it makes them want to buy from only you. That will make you far more profit than closing a sale right here, right now but losing the relationship going forward.

You make them want to continue to business with you by getting to understand them and their perception of their problem, then educating them about how you and your product or service solves that problem better than your competitors. That doesn’t mean you say nasty things about your competitors, it means you demonstrate that you understand your customer – the person you are talking to – and that you demonstrate that you care about them getting the service they really deserve.

Yes, you talk about the good things that you do, and you then bring in the phrase “…and what this means for you is…” and you describe what they will experience as a result of your great service or fantastic product. The point here is that most buyers don’t really care much about your list of features, nor do they care a lot about the way most state benefits. They probably know what they want, so your list of features just gets you into the game, it doesn’t ‘win’ the game for you. If you don’t have the features they are thinking about then they cut the conversation short.

They don’t care much about the list of associated benefits either, because they know that “You say that to all the potential customers”. What they do care about is that you understood them when they described their specific problems and that you can help them fix them. That means that you have to talk form their perspective, using their terminology where possible, using their descriptions as examples, and educate them about your solution.

It doesn’t hurt to arrange a coffee meeting with them either so you can show them your presentation, bring some samples and start the actual sales process.

To succeed in business you need to regularly attend events where you can meet new buyers, have goals that help you at those events, minimise the time you spend with people that can’t help you, maximise the time you spend with those that can help, and demonstrate value to those who have problems that you can solve. And if at all possible arrange to meet them later!

This post is a quick introduction to business networking – I have consulted to a group that specializes in teaching the skills needed to succeed. If you want to know more just visit www.masterclassnetworking.com. You don’t have to say I sent you, just take a look and if it seems that what they offer is what you need then: problem solved.