Monthly Archives: May 2017

Signpost with many directions

How to Tell Right Targets from Wrong Targets

Perhaps the biggest problem facing any business is to identify its market.  It’s difficult because your target market needs to be small.  This is counter-intuitive.  We all have a gut feeling the bigger the market, the more business we will find.  This is not true because once we have found the right targets, we can aim our marketing to that market.  In a big general market, you compete with everyone else.

So, here are a few things to consider.  They will help you work out your wrong targets as well.  It is a waste of resources to market to the wrong targets and so it is helpful to know who they are.

Is there a real need?

Your target market will have a real need.  You need a story with which your market can identify.  Often in business, new technological developments supersede methods that worked a few years ago.  If you can help adjust to these changes, you may have a business.

Remember technological changes have social implications and it may be changes are not so much about learning use of some new device or application as dealing with its social implications.  The early adopters of a new technology find a way to use it and then later adopters find their needs are not fully served by these early methods.

Inertia is a growing expectation things are done in a certain way.  So, some people may feel they do not benefit from technology because they do not use it appropriately for  their market.

Proven methods are rarely so proven as they first appear.  An approach that works in one place does not necessarily work elsewhere.  The real need many customers have is to work out solutions that work in their particular circumstances. They need to know you understand their problem and can help them resolve it.

Do we promise real value?

If you promise to show why your customers have a problem and help them work out what to do about it, you offer real value.

Off-the-peg solutions can work but chances are the big players have them covered.  Also, many problems can be solved by searching online.  If you have a generally applicable solution, it is likely to appear online sooner or later and perhaps this is no bad thing.

The real challenges are where the mainstream solutions do not work.  The chances are the problem is not with the technology so much as the customer’s response to it.  The real value is  to help a customer identify their particular issues and make informed choices as a result.

Who are Your Prospects?

Clearly define the prospects for your offer.  They may experience the need and appreciate the value of your offer but there could be other barriers to a purchase.

Perhaps the biggest issue is whether they can afford your offer.  Let’s say you offer help with websites.  You may find the hassle of putting a site together is worthwhile over £2000.  Below that even a simple site is not worth the effort.

There may be many businesses that would benefit from your support if they could afford it.  But there is no point seeking prospects who can afford less than £2000.  You can’t afford to take them on.

Have you Something Valuable or Important to Say?

If you have a story or information of value to your prospects, this will help them identify you as the potential solution to their problem.  Many people struggle for years with a problem because they do not believe it can be solved.

If you can show you offer a solution to a problem they have never believed they could solve, they are likely to be interested in your offer.

You need to show knowledge of use to the prospect and show you know how to apply it.  You are not just offering information but insight into how your knowledge can be applied effectively.

Do You Promise to Solve a Problem?

This is the fundamental issue every business faces.  Do you offer to solve a problem that is live and real for your prospects?  Your prospects need not be aware of the problem but it is important they want to tackle it once aware of it.

It is essential your promise to solve the problem is credible.  You need to show there are solutions to the problem and that you are uniquely placed to offer the best possible solution.  It does not matter if this does not work for people who are not your prospects.  So, long as there are enough prospects  and you reach them, you have a business.

Doctor in mask in laboratory

Who Do Your Target Prospects Admire?

What is the point asking: who do your target prospects admire?  Hot pursuit of detailed answers to this question could be a waste of time.  However, there are some advantages, so it is worth giving it some thought:

  • It helps you build a detailed picture of your key prospects
  • You can seek an endorsement from people they are likely to admire
  • You can show you admire people similar to the ones your prospects admire. For example, you can use your blog.

Let’s take a closer look at some possible targets for admiration:


Consider established, well-known brands.  You could place adverts on your site or include photos of you using a brand.  This would be a sort of product placement and I’m not sure how far I would want to go.  Perhaps a mention in a blog would be a possibility but take care not to overdo it.  The important thing is, if you wish to associate yourself with a brand, your endorsement should be genuine.  If you include it solely to impress your prospects, you are likely to be found out.

A casual mention of an established brand may be effective and not too pushy.  If you are planning to feature it in a big way, it may be worth communicating with the brand owners.  They may not wish to be associated with you!  But if there is mutual benefit, you may be able to arrange some sort of affiliate deal or at least permission to use their logo.

However, personal brands are perhaps more important in local marketing and so it is worth exploring association with local brands and then work out how to feature them in your marketing.

Check out my post about Trustmarks for more about featuring brands.  Featuring well-known clients or sources of qualifications can be fairly powerful.

Job Types

A medical practitioner might use images of nurses or doctors on their website, for example.  Or simply dress like people in those professions.  So long as such images are relevant they may reassure visitors to a website, shop, clinic or office.

Another approach is to challenge the idea of a job.  Think of Kirosaya’s four categories: employed, self-employed, business owner and investor.  In some circumstances, your prospects may admire one or more of these approaches to finding income.  Certainly, if your offer is for business owners, you need to show you understand business ownership.  The same applies to all four categories.


You may be able to get an endorsement from someone your prospects admire.  You would discuss this with the person and work out how best to feature them.  They may for example, see this as an opportunity for mutual benefit.

You can show you admire particular people by, for example, blogging about them or about their work.  This will be particularly effective if they are dead.

You would not have any problem featuring a dead person’s quotation. So long as you keep it short, you don’t have to ask a living person if you can use a quote.  Obviously it must be attributed, or there would be little point.  A sentence or two is all you need.  Most people look at the name and may not read a long quote.

Remember, though there is a point where a quote might be a breach of copyright.  Short quotations are never a problem so long as you attribute them.

If this has been helpful, let me know.  What else would you like to know about this topic?

Speech bubbles: blah blah blah

Who Should Not Take Advantage of Your Offer?

One way to reduce conversations with people you do not need to talk to is to be clear about who your offer is for.  How do you work out who should not take advantage of your offer?

You can list (1) those people who should take advantage and (2) those who should not.

I don’t mean by name of course.  If you can say “If you are like this, contact me” and then “If you are like this don’t bother”, you are doing both prospects and non-prospects a service.  They can be self-selecting, saving both of you time.

For example, I work with people who are new to marketing and need help developing their first marketing plan.  So, I might say if you have a plan, maybe you don’t need to see me.  Now I need to refine that further:

Contact me for a conversation if you are

  • a coach, consultant or freelance or planning to start a practice of this type;
  • returning to work as a self-employed business owner, perhaps after time out to raise your family, following a period of illness or redundancy or early retirement;
  • an introvert and so find marketing challenging (or an extrovert who finds their approach is not working);
  • without a marketing plan or your current plan is not working for you; and
  • mainly focused on marketing locally.

We may have common interests but it is unlikely I can help you if you are

  • an established business that employs staff;
  • an established practitioner who is making a satisfactory income;
  • an extrovert satisfied with their marketing practice;
  • using a marketing plan that works for you; and
  • mainly focused on marketing online for a national or global market.

Generally I’m happy to talk to anyone interested in talking to me and certainly I would not raise these with someone I met through networking.  OK sometimes we don’t have a great deal in common but any meeting might bear fruit.  Some networks, eg 4N, provide opportunities for 10 minute one-to-ones and these are excellent opportunities to assess whether a longer conversation would be worthwhile.

Lists like these might work on a website as a quick way to reassure people it is worth getting in touch.  As you get to know your target market better you can refine these lists.

Using these Lists

You may have spotted in the lists I have not said whether people should contact me if they meet some or all the bullets on the lists.  Certainly someone who does meet all the criteria, is very likely to be interested in my offer, so I could say contact me if you meet all these criteria.

On the other hand, there may be some benefit to talk if someone meets some of the criteria.  Ultimately, these are only rules of thumb.  Where you set the entry criteria to your business is up to you and can become more accurate as your experience develops.  Your aim is to encourage the right people to make contact.

You’ll find out if it works from the quality of your contacts.  Remember people who meet all your criteria are your primary market and you should aim to find as many as you can.  People who meet some of your criteria are your secondary market.  Returns on conversations will be less likely but not impossible.

If this has been helpful, let me know.  What else would you like to know about this topic?

Three niches in a wall

Who Must Take Advantage of Your Offer?

In one sense, the answer to this question is: no-one.  It implies force or obligation and most coaches do not want this.  Who must take advantage of your offer?  No-one

However, this question implies a sense of urgency.  If you know about the people who are really enthusiastic about your offer, you can keep an eye out for them, address them directly and offer  exactly what they want.  You will repel those who do not want your offer but that’s OK because they are some other businesses’ prospects.

So, the question implies narrowing your niche.  If you can find those who really must accept your offer, you will convert more of your prospects.  There may not be many such prospects but if your offer really appeals to them, you may have a viable business.  If not, find another group of prospects and design a new offer for them.  This does not necessarily imply a different product or service, a new to present it may appeal to a different groups of people.

So, ask yourself: who really needs your offer?  Can you define their need?  Can you narrow this market even further?  Who are the less than 1% who really want your offer?

How can you speak to them so they hear what you say and respond because you are saying it to them?

Do not fear putting off others who don’t need your offer so much.  If you can find those who really must accept your offer, you will have customers who will be great advocates for you.

If this has been helpful, let me know.  What else would you like to know about this topic?

Two birds in conversation

How to Avoid Unproductive Conversations

The problem is we often discover people we don’t want to talk to once we start the conversation!  So, it’s worth knowing the warning signs and how to avoid unproductive conversations.

During a one-to-one, I know fairly quickly when a prospect is not going to be a good customer for me.  I need clients who are going to do their work; because they commit to making their business work.  If they are time-wasting or convinced I am conning them or unable to sustain a conversation, then they are not good prospects for me.

However, someone who is not suitable for me may still be a genuine prospect for another provider.  Sometimes they need something I don’t offer.  So, I try to help people find the right person if they are not right for me.

False Positives and Negatives

We all make mistakes.  We reject someone who would make a good client or accept someone who turns out much less than ideal.

This is why it helps to know about the people we don’t want to talk to as well as those we do.

It is rare for a conversation to be a total waste of time.  With experience you can identify several possible outcomes to pursue as the conversation proceeds.  Someone who is not suitable as a client may put you in touch with other prospects, or sign up to your email list … You never know how someone may help you.

Some network groups organise 10 minute one-to-ones.  Ten minutes are ample time to assess someone and bow out of the conversation if it is likely to go nowhere.

Some networking systems use even shorter time periods – speed networking can allow just 1 minute.  I find one minute is a little too short.  Whilst I can decline people who are not prospects, I find I tend to seek further one-to-ones with too many others simply because I need longer to assess them.

Overall, don’t worry about false negatives – they are missed opportunities. There are plenty of people out there and the likelihood is you will encounter the same people again.  Fear the false positive – they can be far more destructive.

What to Look For

Some people are obviously not interested.  And some are honest about that.  Maybe check out whether you have any common interests and otherwise part company.

Some are not interested in you as a provider but have some other reason to meet you.  They may have something to sell you or have an hour to kill.  They may be interested in you for other reasons.  Once you work out what they want, decide whether you want to continue the conversation.

The most hazardous contacts are those who may seem to be likely clients but are actually bad news.  Their real nature may take time to emerge.

Some Examples

For example, I’ve had a couple of clients who believed they knew more than I did.  Why they took me on is something of a mystery.  One of them was insecure and forever checking with other providers.  I found she was doing the job she had employed me to do.  The other simply wanted my role and had presumably been overruled by the organisation’s committee.

They were both during my early days in business and I am much more thorough checking my clients understand my offer and know exactly what to expect.

Another species of time waster is the person who takes you on and then disappears.  These days I make it clear they are entering a contract.  We shake on the deal.  This is theatre but it makes it clear they are making a serious commitment.  They can still pull out but I’m wise enough these days to do nothing for them until their money is in the bank.  I send them some preliminary exercises but they pay for my response to their work.  The issue is not giving away my secrets – I don’t really have any – but it is important they don’t waste my time.

Explain the Rules

I have read about coaches who take on board someone who at some stage tries to make trouble.  You need to be clear about the ground rules.  Explain exactly when you will meet and how you can be contacted between times.  Promise results, not hours and be careful what results you promise.  When coaching, we expect clients to do their work.  I find it easy to respond positively to work produced by clients.

If a client wants you to do something for them, by all means consider it but charge more if you agree!

We can all live without the client from hell.  If they become impossible, refund them and tell them to piss off (in the friendliest of language!)

If this has been helpful, let me know.  What else would you like to know about this topic?