Deep Thoughts about Your Target Audience

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Rethinking and transforming your business means looking at all aspects of it, even those pieces you think are sacrosanct, like your target audience.

I know you spent a lot of time defining your perfect customer and even more time building relationships with the customers you have.

Here are some “what if” questions to ponder that might open your eyes to new ideas:

  • WHAT IF you could serve the people who also serve your customers? For instance, I’m a small business consultant and coach. What if I could serve the financial advisors, accountants, virtual assistants, website designers, human resource and training companies who serve my customers?
  • WHAT IF you could serve a different target audience? Let’s just pretend for a moment that you didn’t want to offer one-on-one private services anymore, but you didn’t want to throw away all that knowledge and experience either. Could you create a training program to teach people how to become what you are? Then they could serve your original target audience.
  • WHAT IF you could narrow your target audience to one from a specific demographic? For instance, let’s say you are a graphic artist and you’ve been working with local companies to design their marketing materials. What if you focused solely on service firms, or solely on manufacturing firms? What if you focused only on businesses which make more than $1 million a year? Or focused only on women-owned businesses? Or focused solely on businesses with a strong social-responsibility stand?
  • WHAT IF you could ponder all the past customers you’ve had and choose the ones that you most enjoyed working with? What do they have in common?

You don’t have to make a major shift to a brand new target audience, though that is one viable business reinvention strategy. You can re-define who you most enjoy working with and which clients are the most profitable, transforming your business to align more with your goals and values.

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Category: Rethinking Your Business
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Creatively Reinvent Your Business Offerings

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I was speaking with a client, helping her get a new vision for the products and services she offers as she reinvents her business.

We had a long discussion about being so closely involved with your own industry that you can’t come up with a new business model because you can’t see past what’s currently being done within your industry.

So we played a little game. It’s called Insight Is In Sight.

We are surrounded by inspiration but don’t pay attention to it because we haven’t framed clearly the question we want answered.

Say that you want more success in your business and you want to be creative in what you offer your customers.

If you frame your question to this: “What are the different ways that business, people, animals and things are successful?” you will open your eyes to a whole new world.

Keeping the above question in mind, imagine your typical day. Pay attention to all the businesses, people and situations you come in contact with throughout one day.

For Instance:

  • What does our lawn have to offer to the local population of deer that they can’t get elsewhere? (And how can my business products and services be this uniquely irresistible, too?)
  • How can my business mirror the way the local grocery store offers its products and services?
  • What is McDonald’s business model and how do they offer their products and services differently than our local fine dining restaurant?
  • How are children (and cats) so efficient at saying what they want — and getting it?
  • What are the real benefits of school buses in our community? How do the parents, children and the school administration view school buses? What business and marketing model does the school bus company use, given that it has three different audiences it’s trying to please?
  • What is the business and marketing model of the city of Las Vegas, and how has it changed over the years?
  • How is it that one species of tree can dominate acres of forest? (How can my product and service offerings dominate my industry?)
  • How (and why) did Southwest Airlines create the next generation of airline travel? (How can I be as innovative in my business offerings?)
  • Are all movie stars’ marketing models and branding the same? Which ones stand out from the crowd, and why?
  • Once I’ve purchased an iPod, why do I feel compelled to fill it with my favorite music and podcasts, over and over again, through iTunes? What business and marketing model (and psychology) is in play here?

See? By paying attention for one day to everything that comes across your path, you can ask questions about how all these things can be related to a new way of offering your products and services.

Warning: Once you see the world in this way, you may never be able to have a normal life again. 🙂

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Category: Rethinking Your Business
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Phases of Your Business Reinvention Journey

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I’d love to be able to tell you that there are set of linear and finite phases that every small business owner goes through while you’re reinventing your business model…

…but if I told you that, it would be a lie.

But there are some well known phases that you might go through, sometimes circling back to one you thought you already finished, and skipping others completely. Here is a short list of some of the signposts you’ll encounter on the road to reinvention:

  • I know/feel something needs to change – You find yourself pausing in the middle of the day (or worse, in the middle of the night) and asking, “Is this the business I want? What’s next for me?” People report feeling restless or frustrated, knowing deep in their heart and mind that the business needs a shake-up, a new way of being in the world.
  • Getting lost in the not-knowingness – This is one of the toughest phases in business reinvention, because you have to be okay with not having the solution. Some spiritual teachers call this not-knowingness “the grace of mystery.” Puts a different spin on it, doesn’t it?
  • Finding clarity on goals – If you spend time tapping into your goals for your business, and for yourself personally, you’ll find that it’s easier in the next phases to explore and choose the right business model for you. Is there a particular problem you need to solve? A particular dream you’d like to achieve? Values you’d like to express into the world?
  • Exploring the possibilities – In this idea-generation phase you explore every aspect of your existing business model, looking for places to add, modify and discard. No idea is sacred and no idea is thrown away. Even the craziest of ideas can be a springboard to a new business model. Creativity and innovative thinking are crucial keys during this phase.
  • Making a road map – This is where you design your new business and marketing model, keeping what still fits from your old model and mixing in the new ideas you’ve generated. This is also where you create your transition plan and map out where and when changes will take place, and what resources you’ll need to make it happen.
  • Taking the journey – Implementing your business model changes can happen in a week or it can be a two-year process, depending on how complex the changes are and how many resources you have at your disposal. This is often a journey through the weeds and can be rough going. Why? Because you have to continue to run your existing business (unless you’re independently wealthy!) while creating your new business at the same time. Managing change can feel like a juggling act, and I’ll talk more about it in future posts.

Where are you on the path to reinventing your business? I’d love to hear your story, so join me in the comments below!

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Category: Rethinking Your Business
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Drop That Sacred Cow

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Do you have services or products that you love, but your customers are unwilling to pay for? Are some of your offerings no longer profitable but you find yourself resistant to removing them from your website?

In business we call these “sacred cows,” the untouchables that are exempt from questioning. Often you are emotionally attached to them because you developed them yourself, spending huge amounts of time and money to bring them to the light.

Sacred cows don’t only include unprofitable or unwanted products and services. Sometimes you have a vendor or contractor who needs to be released because their quality has slipped.  Sometimes you need to look at tasks and processes that are ineffective time-wasters.

Don’t hold on to sacred cows: they’ll suck your business dry. During your business reinvention, look at all aspects of your business and cut things that no longer serve your customers or the goals of your business.

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Category: Rethinking Your Business
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Learning to Tolerate the Ambiguity

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When reinventing our businesses, we’re often in a state of “not knowingness.” Questions swirl in your head:

  • What do I want to become?
  • What’s next for my business?
  • What do my customers want?
  • What’s the right path to take to reach my goals?

NOT having answers to these questions can make you feel restless, uncertain, and even fearful. But this state of not-knowingness is an important part of the cycle of business transformation, reinvention and growth. Instead of jumping in to choose an answer — any answer — try finding comfort in this ambiguity.

Here’s why…

Sitting in the mystery of not-knowingness is a state of grace, a chance to ask all the important questions, a chance to reexamine your values and your personal goals as they relate to your business.

It also allows all sorts of creative ideas to percolate to the surface. If you jump at creating a set plan because you can’t stand to be in the not-knowingness, you’ll miss the opportunity for incredible options to come to your awareness.

And people who can tolerate uncertainty can also tolerate risk better. Being calm and staying centered when you don’t know the answers to the big questions will help you develop other important skills, like dealing with chaos and conflict.

Here’s the trick…

The trick is deciphering whether you’re staying in not-knowingness because you haven’t explored all the creative opportunities yet, or whether you’re staying in not-knowingness because it means you don’t have to make a decision — you stay in not-knowingness because it’s safe there and you get stuck there for a long, long time.

If you can never come up with answers to the big questions or you resist making a decision on those answers, you’re stuck. And the best way I know to get unstuck is a two-step process:

  1. Deciding to decide – make a commitment that you’re going to do serious work on the not-knowingness and that you will choose from among the options you come up with.
  2. Get together with trusted friends and colleagues, tell them the big questions for which you don’t yet have an answer, and brainstorm together some possible ideas.

Learning to be okay with ambiguity and not-knowingness can be a great springboard for the future of your business. This moment holds immense possibility for you to explore. But if you’re resisting the exploration or the making of decisions and taking action, get some help and support in the process.

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Category: Rethinking Your Business
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If You Could Re-create Your Business From Scratch

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On the path to business reinvention, there is one powerful question to ask yourself that never fails to generate great ideas (or freak you out completely):

If you could recreate your business all over again, what would you do differently?

Imagine for a moment that you were going to create the same (or at least similar) business you already have, but that you had to do it all over again from scratch.

  • What would you do differently this time around?
  • Would you pick the same target audience?
  • Would you sell the same products and services?
  • Which marketing techniques would you keep and which would you dump?
  • Who would you want to join you on this journey?
  • Would you work the same hours?
  • Would you be in the same physical location?
  • Would you have the same financial model?

Here’s the best part about business model reinvention: you get to choose to change or keep every aspect of your business and marketing model, based on the years of experience and the vast knowledge you already have about running a business.

So, what would you do differently and what would you keep exactly the same? I’d love to hear what’s going through your mind. 🙂

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Category: Running a Strong & Efficient Business
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