The importance of targeting your audience

creaturesoflogicI’m constantly prattling on around here about the importance of targeting your audience and there is no way for me to overstate the importance of this principle.

Targeting your audience is part of the foundation for the success of your business.

You can have the best product – the best service – the best solution ever seen and your business can still fail simply because you failed to target a specific audience when creating your marketing messages.

I’m in the middle of doing some research on a new business I’m preparing to launch with a colleague.  The business idea is solid and it’s based upon solving a problem.  I personally prefer this as opposed to a problem prevention business idea because human beings in general are exceptionally BAD about engaging in proactive behavior.   In other words, marketing a problem solving business is much easier than marketing a problem prevention business.

Yeah!  I’m starting another business and I’m currently in the research phase of that process.

In the course of my research, I’ve come across a company making an exceptionally well crafted offer.  That in and of itself is reason enough to spend some time exploring the company’s site however, it’s possible that this company’s offerings may make sense for my new business.

I begin the process of gathering information from the company’s website with the enthusiasm of an archeologist entering a previously undiscovered tomb of an ancient pharaoh   The opening page of the site is utilizing every conversion technique known to man.  This is good – this is REALLY good.  However, as I navigate the site, I find myself in a frustrating “loop”.  Every link which promises “more information” takes me to a contact form to request a personalized demo.

Frustrated, I head to the company’s blog.  Perhaps I’ll find the answers I need there.   What I find there are a lot of “shameless self promotion” pieces – but still not a clue whether their solution is priced within our means or not.  Another thing absent from the blog posts are anecdotes illustrating how real companies have reaped the harvest of the “solutions” promised in the company’s website content.  It makes me wonder…

Are the so called “solutions” offered by this company simply platitudes?

For some reason, this morning I’ve had the Seals and Croft song, “We may never pass this way again” stuck in my head.  It was there before I began this search – but now it seems to be hammering home a point: Visitors to your site may never pass this way again.

When I publish this blog post, I’ll close the two tabs – one for this site, one for the site I’m referencing – and soon that site will  fade from my memory.   It took five clicks to reach the site in question but it will only take one click of the button to close it.  I’ve already spent more time on the site than I normally would simply because not only did this company’s site inspire this blog post – but it’s also serving as a warning to myself as I embark upon the exciting adventure of starting a small business.

Your website is great – too bad your business sucks

This is the story of a locally owned business with a fabulous website.   The website “worked” – it brought a new potential customer into the store and the staff went to work to make sure that a potential new customer  left – never to return.

Our story begins many years ago when  I purchased a small fish tank for my small children for Christmas.   My son chose as “his” fish a specimen called an iridescent shark which is not really a shark but a catfish.  This demonstrates the power of “branding” – because I’m sure my little tyke would not have been nearly as passionate about the prospect of owning an iridescent catfish.

At the time, I encouraged the kids not to name their fish because surely they wouldn’t survive long enough to justify a name.  I was wrong.  That darned fish lived for more than 7 years.   Over the years, I had to buy a 10 gallon and then a 20 gallon tank to accommodate the growing fish.  When he passed – we had to bury him in the backyard instead of flushing him down the toilet… he was that big.

Fast forward to another Christmas when I again purchased small fish tanks for my much older children.  This time the aquariums were more of a “gag” gift – and once again the joke was on me.  We originally purchased 3 fish and awoke the next morning to find a swarm of teenie, tiny fish trying to avoid the bigger fish.  We filled the additional tanks with these “bonus” fish.  A year later we purchased a 28 gallon tank to accommodate our fishy pets.  The new larger tank means purchasing more fishy friends.

This blog post isn’t about looking ahead  and acting accordingly- though it could be.  🙂  This blog post also isn’t about something becoming bigger than you ever thought it would be – and it could be as it happens often in the world of blogging.

This blog post is about being disappointed by the business I found lurking behind the effective website.

There is a locally owned pet store which is housed in a building with elaborate decorative images painted on the exterior.  I’m kind of surprised that it never caught my attention before.  See – even though I’ve driven past this particular pet store dozens — perhaps hundreds of times – the elaborate paintings on the building and the prominent signage never registered with me.  I have regularly ignored this pet store’s signage – until I became an aquarium owner.  Now, the signage declaring this pet store was voted #1 caught my attention- breaking through the cacophony of advertising messages and singing a sweet melody compelling me to come hither.  My inner chatter changes to focus upon this new discovery….

“Voted #1 you say?  Isn’t that giant panda painted on the front interesting and unique?  Gee – I need to check this place out.”

I talk about this phenomenon in my book Beyond the Niche: Essential Tools You Need to Create Marketing Messages that Deliver Results.

I didn’t stop at the store on that trip – but I did check out the store’s website when I got home.  The website did a GREAT job of “selling” visitors on why this pet store was indeed the best in the region.   The next day, I piled my family into the car with the intention of filling our fish tank with fishy friends from the interesting and unique pet store we had just discovered.

Unfortunately, the store displayed and described on the website was very different from the real thing.  Warm and inviting?  Hardly.  Try disheveled and stinky.  Forget the fact that the tanks were streaked and dirty and that there was water standing on the floor – what truly horrified me was how the store’s three employees huddled behind the cash wrap area talking amongst themselves.  Despite spending more than 20 minutes in the store, we were never acknowledged and we left empty handed.

I pity the person who handles this pet store’s internet marketing because it’s inevitable that the business owner will complain that “the website isn’t working.”

I can attest that the website DID work – perfectly.  Bravo to the architect.

That website was the reason we hopped in the car and made a trip to their store.  Unfortunately, the store’s employees are the reason we hopped back into our car and headed over to the big chain pet store across town.

We weren’t the only people to leave that store empty handed that day though I have no idea whether the others were compelled to visit based on the signage or the website.  It doesn’t matter – because non of us received any customer service from the staff of this store.

Dear Store Owner:

Your website worked.  It motivate my family to take action – but your staff obviously wasn’t prepared for our arrival.

As a result, one of your competitors “ate your lunch” this past weekend.

Sincerely,

Just one of the many lost customers last Sunday afternoon.

Honestly, I could have forgiven the disheveled appearance of the store’s interior if a smiling, helpful clerk had offered friendly assistance.  A simple acknowledgment of our presence would have gone a long way that day.

You never get a second chance to make a great first impression.  That’s why it’s important that your website makes a great first impression.  However, it’s even more important that your business lives up to the expectations set by your website.

Keys to Success in Business

I absolutely ADORE Denny Hatch.  I subscribed to his email newsletter Denny Hatch’s Business Common Sense YEARS ago and he has yet to disappoint.  Every month he regularly delivers on the promise of “Business Common Sense” promised in his newsletter’s name and continues to generously share his wisdom and experience with his newsletter subscribers.  In each newsletter, he includes Takeaways to consider – and the quote above is from the December issue.

“Your new business can only make money two ways: creating wants and satisfying needs.”  ~Denny Hatch

I talk a lot about your target audience’s GDP – Goals, Desires and Problems.  Goals, Desires and Problems are simply three different types of “needs” that consumers experience.

Assuming you’ve zeroed in on the needs your product or service satisfies – it becomes “easy, peasy – lemon squeezy” to put your business blog to work  outlining the many different ways your product or service can satisfy your target audiences various needs.

When I work one on one with clients – that is the most important and productive work we do – identifying the needs of a particular target audience.

In my book Beyond the Niche: Essential Tools You Need to Create Marketing Messages that Deliver Results I share an example about how three different people can purchase candles and while each is purchasing the same item – each consumer is satisfying a different “need”.  One is purchasing candles for emergency lighting – while another is purchasing candles to create a romantic mood for dinner.  The third is purchasing candles to cover the odor of the family dog.

Even though each consumer is purchasing candles – each is purchasing the candle to satisfy a need.  As you blog for your business, you must keep in mind the need your target audience is seeking to satisfy.

Satisfying needs is easy – creating wants is another story.

Creating “want” is the most difficult task you can ask your marketing campaigns to accomplish.

It’s not done quickly, cheaply – nor easily.

I want to go on the record at this point in saying that it’s possible to create a successful marketing campaign on a shoe-string budget.  Your business blog can be a literal marketing powerhouse which can  do a BEAUTIFUL job of positioning blog posts right in the path of prospective customers and clients who are seeking the solutions your product or service offers –when that product or service is tapping into an existing “want”.

The most successful problem solving products and services don’t need to create an awareness of the problem – they only need to offer a solution.

By the way – if you’re a government – creating a problem is easy.    All you need only to pass a law in order to create problems on a MASSIVE scale.  Fortunately, in America – there’s a ready supply of entrepreneurial minded business owners ready to jump in and make a profit solving those problems.

For most small and medium business owners who don’t possess government’s far reaching problem creating power-it’s far easier to tap into existing wants than it is to try to create a demand.

What wants does your product or service satisfy?   Answering that question is the key to success in business.  The answer to that question can then be put to work – via your business blog – via your Tweets – via your Facebook Page- via your LinkedIn profile – via your  [insert latest social media craze].

Customer Reviews Set Consumer Expectations

Expectations of your business will literally shape the whole consumer experience for your customers.   This is nothing new. In my post, “Social Media – It’s a Moral Imperative” I wrote about how a movie’s marketing campaign painted an unrealistic expectation of being a comedy – and then delivered scenes of horrific violence and very little “humor”.

The same is true of your business.  Marketing sets expectations.  If you deliver on the promises – if expectations are met – then consumers will be satisfied.  Fail to deliver – and consumers will complain.

While this is nothing new – what is new is that we’re living in a world where communication is lightning fast and ridiculously easy thanks to social media.   This creates a world where your consumer’s unmet expectations (realistic or not) can mean an avalanche of negative online reviews .

Setting realistic expectations of your products and services is essential to your business survival.

I’m seeing a worrisome trend – one which is not only being recommended by various “gurus” but also being practiced by business owners who obviously are not aware of the danger involved.

Many businesses – big and small – are engaging in creating their own “reviews” for their business. One popular info product recommends  this course of action – especially if customers aren’t online actively participating in online reviews.  This popular resource recommends that SEO professionals and business owners go out and actively create the reviews they “know their business deserves” by leaving reviews under pseudonyms.

Here’s the hidden danger with this troubling trend.

Let’s say you’re a physician concerned about your online reputation.  You hire someone to  create 5 star reviews for your practice.  Those fictitious reviews are prominently displayed in your local search listing.

Your multiple reviews make your local search listing tops with Google maps and this begins bringing new patients to your office.  These patients are expecting 5 star service because – after all – that’s what it looks like others have been saying about your medical practice. They’re expecting short waits in the waiting room, they’re expecting considerate, competent staff – they’re expecting the doctor to have a great bedside manner – but when they arrive – that’s not what they get.

Perhaps a “real” review of your office wouldn’t have given your practice five stars on every options.  Perhaps a real patient would have rated your office wait time as “moderate” – but real patients didn’t write those reviews so the new patients who came to your office – expecting a brief stay in the waiting room are now fuming as the minutes tick by and they still haven’t been seen.

Trust me when I tell you…

The online review of the consumer who has been disappointed will be far worse than the authentic review of a dissatisfied consumer.

I’ve observed what seems to be a bit of “social justice” happening on these social media review sites.  It seems that when real consumers encounter exaggerated claims of service and satisfaction – they seem to be motivated to respond.  While my personal evaluation of a particular business may have been a 3 out of five – I’ve seen time and time a glowing 5 star -obviously fictional-  review followed by a scathing 1 star review.  Was the 1 star review accurate?  Probably not – but it seems to frequently be issued in response to an undeserved 5 star review.

The worst part about the glowing – but fictitious  – 5 star review is that it unnecessarily sets unrealistic expectations for your product or service.  While a 3 or even 4 out of 5 star authentic review my not be a huge boost to your ego – it is authentic and not only can it serve as useful consumer feedback but it also sets a more realistic set of expectations for your product or services.  This more realistic set of expectations means higher levels of consumer satisfaction which leads to positive online reviews.

After all – authentic online reviews on only a reflection of what is being said about your business in other areas – not only other online sites but offline as well.

Overcome Business Fear of Sharing

It’s not uncommon for people who sell their knowledge and expertise to  fear that if they give too much information away – that they’ll eliminate their potential client’s need for their services.

When it comes to sharing your knowledge and expertise – the more you give, the more you get.  The more you share knowledge and expertise – the more recognition and authority you accumulate.

Many knowledge professionals are engaged in making what Neil Rackham defines as “The Major Sale“.  Major sales require a large investment of either time, energy or money.   Major sales are more than simple transactions – they’re full blown relationships and relationships are the foundation of social media.

Relationships begin by building a foundation of trust.  Build enough trust with your audience and you’ll eventually find you’re creating authority.

Authority =  trust + power… the power to motivate people to take action.

Building authority does not happen overnight. It happens gradually – as you reveal and share your expertise via the many opportunities made possible thanks to social media.

I don’t have much time these days to bake- but over the years I have learned the hard way how important a tiny ingredient like baking powder can be in a recipe.  It’s such a tiny amount of a seemingly inert powder that surely it won’t be missed if the box in the pantry is empty- right?  WRONG!  That tiny bit of baking powder makes a HUGE difference in any recipe.  Without going into the science behind it – baking powder causes the bubbles in the batter to expand.  This “fizz” helps to make baked goods tasty treats which when combined with long periods of inactivity – cause one’s ass to grow to a mind blowing size.  Thus my retirement from baking as a hobby.

Dietary issues aside, when it comes to marketing your business – your knowledge and expertise are the “fizz” that makes your business rise and grow.  Sure, people can get a plethora of information “for free” on the internet – but there comes a time when general free advice isn’t enough.  It’s at the time when the rubber meets the road and prospective clients NEED your wisdom and hard won insight into solving their most pressing problems.

For example, if you think the self serve legal document service Legal Zoom replaces the need for a good attorney – then you’ve obviously never NEEDED a good attorney.  A good attorney has the education, the experience and the critical thinking skills to either avoid trouble ahead or get you out of trouble.

If you think one of the $25 tax preparation software programs replaces the need for a good CPA – then you’ve never worked with a good CPA.  A good CPA has the education, the experience and the critical thinking skills to either help you avoid tax problems in the future or can keep you out of tax trouble.

If you think an electronic back massage pad is an effective substitute for a good chiropractor – then you’ve never experienced a good chiropractor.  A good chiropractor has the education, the experience and the diagnostic skills to treat current back problems and can help you avoid back problems in the future.

If you think a self help book replaces the need for your services as a therapist or a coach – then you’ve never worked with a good therapist or coach…. yada, yada, yada.

You get the idea.

Which is why – if you’re good – you shouldn’t fear sharing too much of the WHY people should work with you.  There’s no way to give too many reasons WHY someone should want to work with you.  There’s no such thing as sharing”too much” information when it comes to making the major sale which is why blogs ROCK as marketing tools for anyone in the business of selling their expertise.