When people consider whether to give up on their business and go back to corporate life it’s not because they prefer PAYE world. It’s usually because they have just run out money. They aren’t able to make enough income to cover their day-to-day costs, let along make a profit.
But these businesses don’t go out of business because of bad service or poor quality products. These businesses are usually run by people who are passionate about what they do and genuinely care about their clients.
Let me give you an example.
Jane is an ex-accountant who got fed up with the commute in to work every day and because of her passion for colours and interiors, she decided to re-train and start up an interiors business. She now offers a range of services from one-off consultations and personal home styling to project managing big decorating jobs.
Jane is based in a fairly affluent area. The current housing market has meant that more people are extending and modifying their property to get more space rather than move. There is a potential market place for Jane’s service, especially when Jane has worked out that she only needs to be working with a maximum of 8 clients at any given time.
She has sensibly got a 6 month financial buffer, but four months in and Jane is finding it difficult attracting enough clients to her business. She rarely has more than the odd appointment in her diary each week and she’s starting to feel desperate (which is not a good look for anyone!).
She advertises once a month in her local newspaper because someone once told her she ought to have a presence and get her name out there. And she has also just signed up for one year advertising in her parish magazine as well with a local online business directory. She has even gone round and put a leaflet in almost every door in her local neighbourhood explaining the list of services that she offers … but not one person has called her.
Selling her business is becoming hard work. It is demoralising and the passion is starting to dwindle. If it carries on like this, Jane will be forced to give up on her dreams and return to her accountancy career to pay the bills.
It’s not fair is it? Jane is offering a quality and professional service which is backed up by study and training, there appears to be a local market for what she offers and she knows that her knowledge can help increase the value of people’s homes and save them endless of hours of research. So why is not working for her?
What she doesn’t know is how to get the right message in front of the right people. All her money is going in to advertising that obviously is not working for her and on leaflets that are obviously aren’t compelling enough to make people call.
The big mistake Jane has made is that she hasn’t taken the time to really get to know her target customers. Targeting the right customers with the right messages is really the secret to great marketing. The better you know the people you want to attract, the more likely it is that you will know where to find them, how to communicate with them and how to make yourself attractive enough for these people to call you.
Jane needs to stop her advertising and go back to basics.
Who are her target customers? What are their worries and concerns? When it comes to home decorating and creating more space, what are their real problems and challenges? (And these will be different from what Jane thinks they are!) How much are they willing to spend for to solved these problems?
By focusing on some simple questions such as these, Jane’s answers will help her work out what her special uniqueness could be to make her marketing activities and offers compelling and attractive. She needs to really spell out how an investment in her services can give specific benefits. Pictures of lovely cushions and stylish lamps are just not going to cut it!
So, for those of you out there who feeling like Jane, take a long hard look at the messages you are trying to get out there. If your advertising isn’t working, cancel it. If those leaflets cluttering up your office aren’t working, get rid of them.
Cleanse your business of stuff that you are doing because you think it is the right thing to do. And stop second guessing by starting with your clients you want to be talking to.