Actually, starting a business is pretty easy these days.
Figuring out how to sell something, something you know how to deliver or something in demand, isn’t that hard or expensive anymore – if, your goal is to simply bang out a living and get by.
If, however, your goals are a bit more ambitious, say to grow an asset that you might sell, become wealthy or dominate an entire industry, then you better be prepared to do things a little differently than most.
Below are five questions that, when answered intentionally and addressed constantly, will keep you rooted in the place where real growth and world domination occurs – in the realm of the customer.
1) How can we make our value proposition as simple as possible to communicate?
Of course, this assumes that you have a truly unique point of differentiation, one that allows you stand out over and above anyone that dares call themselves your competition.
But, possessing this core value proposition isn’t enough. You must also find a way to communicate it in a simple and consistent manner. A phrase, one word perhaps, a metaphor – lacking these, you’ll find it hard to garner the kind of momentum that real growth and strong branding requires.
I’ll boldly suggest that the name Duct Tape Marketing carries the kind of simple message of difference that you’re looking for. A great deal of the success of my venture is due to the pure luck of associating that metaphor with my systematic approach to small business marketing.
2) What additional streams of revenue can we develop from our core offerings?
Many companies fall into this one quite by accident, but real growth comes from seeing what you do well and proactively building additional streams of income, residual or otherwise, into your business model.
Over time this is a very powerful way to build an asset. When you can point to revenue coming from many converging streams you build a buffer against a sudden market or competitive change.
Look at every product or service you offer and start ask yourself what the next natural sale could be. For example, if you offer an online training program, could you offer a live workshop and then an ongoing maintenance program? If you’ve discovered how to do something well, could you teach others in your industry how to do it well and generate addition revenue while elevating your status in your industry?
3) What does our total customer experience look and feel like?
It seems like most businesses focus attention on all of the elements that get the phone to ring, but spend very little time diagramming exactly what happens during the sales process, the product or service delivery process or anything that might happen down the road that would stimulate repeat sales and referral introductions.
By mapping out the entire process of marketing touchpoints, all the places where your company does or should come into contact with customers and prospects, you can design a total brand positive experience – the kind that gets people talking about how you’re different.
Stop and ask how you could be easier to do business with. How you could do something that not only wows, but also inspires. What could you do that would make your customers smile? How could you surprise them?
4) What resource gaps do we need to fill right away?
In order to build an asset you’ve got to stop doing things that don’t make you money, that rob you of time needed to practice your high payoff activities, and that you simply don’t do well. You’ve probably still got to get many of those things done, but by others.
Map out how you will hire, outsource and retain the resources needed to fill your current gaps.
Do you need someone to take over your bookkeeping? Do you need a graphic designer on staff? Do you need a VA? Should you hire a VP of Operations?
Have you stopped to figure out what your time is worth? Have you determined what a unit of labor produces for your business? There’s a wonderful book by Greg Crabtree called Seeing Beyond the Numbers that teaches a tremendous lesson on how to calculate labor as a lever rather than a cost.
5) What mutually beneficial partnerships could we develop right away?
To me, this is perhaps the most potent and most underutilized mindset of all. To a large degree I’ve built my brand by creating content that others want to share and perhaps 50% of my revenue is derived directly through these relationships.
Strategic partnerships have a tendency to multiply quickly. If you can associate your brand with the right three or four partners, you can develop a kind of momentum that attracts many more.
This is an element that should not be seen as a nice bonus left up to chance. This is an element that must be an essential part of your quarterly planning process. Maintain a short list of attractive strategic partners at all time and go to work on building a plan to recruit, introduce and amplify a mutually beneficial program of relationship and community building with these partners.