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I’ve just got back from a business networking/information meeting that I irregularly go to and wanted to tell you about something that I thought was very clever and is something that every business owner needs to think about.

When anyone talks about marketing (myself included), one of the first things that gets mentioned is a variant of “who is your customer?” Any successful business is able to understand who their customer is and refine their marketing towards that individual or organisation – and if you don’t know who your customer is, there’s a good chance that you’ll struggle.

…but there’s another very important element that you need to consider, which doesn’t get anywhere near as much press when it comes to as the customer… and that’s you.

For many businesses, the key reason for failure may not be a bad choice of customer, but rather being a bad supplier!

Now for many traditional businesses, the concept of a “product” that you sell is traditional and known.  You may be a pub, and you sell beer by the pint, a supermarket that sells broccoli by the bunch, or a restaurant that sells a curry by the plate – in which case you’ve got a clearly defined product you are selling… and more importantly the customer knows what they are getting when they buy.

…but this concept becomes rather muddled when it comes to service based industries.  I’ve attended countless networking meetings where the person I’m speaking to provides a service (as opposed to a physical product).

If you’ve been there, you know the ones… the could be a business coach, or a decorator… or a web designer.

You have a nice conversation, and become interested in what they do, and you ask the question (or a variant of) “so what can I buy?”

…and then they spend 10 minutes explaining what they do and that it all depends…

it all depends…

No… it doesn’t depend

If I’m aligned to you and am your type of customer, then you should already know what I’m likely to need… the first step into your world.

Don’t make it difficult for me to say yes… don’t put up confusing barriers and things I can get confused about.

Make it easy for me to buy… so easy that it’s almost a no brainer!!!

So for a coach, this could be “I offer a great initial session where we spend a few hours going through some of your key plans and discuss better ways to keep them on track. It usually lasts about 2 hours, this is what you’ll get and it costs £x.”

In that sentence there is everything I need to know… my investment, both in time and money… and what I’ll get for it.

Most people understand that sales are usually very emotionally driven… but that emotion comes from simplifying the decision making process… and making it easy for people to say yes.

The reason I mention this is I met a very astute Personal Assistant businesswoman today, Rebecca Bromley (email).  She’s already highly recommended, but during the meeting she mentioned that she had a specific product which was very specifically targeted…

She’s identified that for a small business, one of the biggest steps that they can take is to expand and hire someone.  Going from 1 to 2 people in a business is likely the biggest expansion you can ever have, and so is something inherently risky.

…and so she’s packaged up a service which allows small businesses to “scale” and try out having extra support. So instead of jumping to a full new staff member, the business can “scale themselves” up using the PA resource and then, when they are ready to take the next step, have a clear view of what type of person they’ll need AND know that they have the work for it.

Plus, it’s all clearly packaged and branded (it’s called “Aspire to Hire”) so people know exactly what they are getting and what it costs – and thus making the purchasing decision for the business very easy.

I thought this was an outstanding example of how a business can really understand their target audience, and develop a specific solution for that audience… a perfect fit

So when you look at your business, you have to ask yourself, how hard is it to do business with you?  Are you putting barriers in the way of prospective customers, making it more difficult for them to make a decision?… or have you got the perfect product/service for your target market, so perfect that they fit together naturally… and make the purchasing decision a total no-brainer?

The harder you make it for someone to buy your stuff… the less likely you’ll sell it!