Monthly Archives: March 2019

Indian Scops Owl in a niche

Your Minimum Viable Market

Minimum viable market is one of the hardest things to understand about marketing.  It’s counter-intuitive. How is better to target a smaller market?  We’ve all been there.  At a business network meeting, you ask someone who their business is for and they reply: my market is everyone!  I’ve done it myself and so have you.  But not knowing your minimum viable market may damage your business.

Minimum Viable Market

In the early years of your business, until you are clear about your offer, lack of clarity about your minimum viable market is unavoidable.  Businesses fail if they don’t address this but it is a slow burner.

What is your minimum viable market?  It is the smallest market that generates the turnover you need for a viable business.  Too small and your business cannot grow.  Too large and your business lacks focus, trying to be all things to all people.

The idea is particularly important for niche businesses.  When businesses enter the mainstream, they inevitably standardise their offer.  They design an offer to appeal to the widest possible market.  This is a difficult transition to make and it is made only where a business develops a product with mass appeal.

Who Are They?

They have a problem and you have a solution.  This key unlocks your minimum viable market.  Before anything else, identify the problem you solve.  Define it carefully.  Describe it in crisp sentences with detail.

The hard part is identifying those who share the problem.  Understand how they experience the problem.  They may not realise they have have the problem.  Or they know they have it but do not believe it can be solved.  These are two distinct positions, requiring different approaches.  

You make voluntary decisions about your market.  Choose to market to one sex or in a specific geographical area, for example.  You make these decisions for reasons of preference or convenience.  Is it discriminatory?  Not necessarily.  If you provide a service for a specific group, you hone your service to appeal to that group.  For example, hairdressing is different for men and women.  There’s no reason why a women’s hairdresser can’t provide the service for a man.  Most men prefer the male version but possibly not all.  The few men who prefer to use a women’s hairdressers are a secondary market.  Any marketing the hairdresser practises will be to their usual market of women.  If a man approaches them, they decide whether they provide the service. 

A service promoting itself for one group is usually accepted.  Problems start where a service with no stated preference discriminates.  A recent case where a cake decorator refused a cake for a gay couple for religious reasons, was problematic because the shop could not define a market that did not include gay couples and so some argued it was discriminating on grounds of prejudice.  Defining on grounds of demographics is fine so long as it does not discriminate against legitimate users. 

What Do They Believe?

Let’s follow the cake decorators a bit further.  They were accused of discrimination on the basis of faith.  They became known as followers of that faith and so may find they attract customers who share their faith.  People who agree with may start to go there to get their cakes iced.  Equally, those who disagreed may go elsewhere.

Businesses often talk about the need to know like and trust.  This is a powerful positioning tool. It is possible choices are seen as discriminatory and so business owners must take care what they say.  But a business owner’s worldview need not be discriminatory.  Mostly it doesn’t matter whether we agree on a particular issue.  But someone who knows me is likely to know where I stand and might choose me on that basis. 

My general worldview can be important. For example, I emphasise the contributions business people make beyond making a profit.  I buy from business people who take a very different view on this issue.  So, I know that worldview is important not because it attracts like-minded people but because it flags up what to expect. If someone needs support over a particular problem, they may explore whether I can help them precisely because I do not share their worldview.


In terms of business failure, there are two issues.  One is to fail to define a minimum viable market.  This leads to marketing with no focus and is likely to attract no-one. 

The other problem is where, defining your minimum viable market, you deliberately or inadvertently apply the wrong constraints to your market.  These may be perceived as discriminatory or else do not attract the people you thought it would.  Examine your own motivations here – if you attract people who are not the ones you expected, who’s to say they are not your market?  Maybe you need to overcome your own prejudices first!

A lot depends upon reading the context in which you market your business.  Another dimension to business depends on context: technical solutions.  Implementing a new technique can be fraught with disaster!

A mangle

How to Boost Sales Online

Sarah has a new coaching offer.  She charges £500 for several sessions and offers an opportunity to change over to a more healthy diet.  How can she boost sales?

If this were an online course, Sarah could try a product launch.  She could aim for huge numbers of clients and manage them through a members area on her website or through a service provider such as Kojabi. 

However, Sarah has capacity for a limited number of coaching clients.  She could sign up 10 – 15 and realistically, if successful, allow a steady trickle of clients climb to her maximum capacity.  She could try an Evergreen launch, where people access her site any time and make contact.  They negotiate a start date, so Sarah has control over numbers who sign up.

Bigger Offers Require More Promotion

Sarah’s offer occupies middle ground.  It is a bigger commitment than attending a workshop and for many a substantial financial commitment.  The key is to prepare through an email strategy.  Sarah should consider three strands:

  1. A sequence of emails introduce the coaching topic without making an offer.  She sends emails to people who opt into her list.  They include valuable information readers easily implement.  Typically, she sends a sequence of 4 emails and the fifth carries her call to action, which might be a link to a page on her website that makes her offer.
  2. The website carries more information and valuable teaching.  Typically, this is a video or a long sales letter.  The call to action is to book a telephone conversation with Sarah. 
  3. This enables her to complete the sale and fix a regular day and time for the coaching.  It’s important to sort out payment at this stage.  It should be understood coaching starts once payment is complete.  It should be a single payment for the whole coaching programme. 

Product Launches

So far I’ve described an intermediate sale.  If you have capacity to offer something online for unlimited numbers, try a product launch.

The product launch has two aims.  Make as many sales as possible and grow your list, through referrals and affiliates.

Prepare a sequence of four emails.  The first three contain high quality teaching, in the email or on a webpage.  Send this to your list and encourage people to read or watch the teaching and forward the email to others who may be interested.  Anyone new, signs up to your list and then receives all the emails in the series.

The emails also go out to the lists of others prepared to collaborate.  Offer them a percentage of what members of their lists actually purchase.  There are ways to tag new list members so you know who they come from.

The sequence of emails / videos are together similar to a sales letter.  Great teaching with an offer to follow up with in-depth teaching.  The fourth email should be highly anticipated, with a call to action to sign up for the offer.

Squeeze Pages

Squeeze pages are landing pages with a single link.  They include no distractions, such as navigation to other parts of your site. 

If you use a long sales letter, use a title, text and images and a call to action.  Usually, the CTA appears in several places on the page.  Some people want to buy before they get to the end

A video is possibly more effective.  Here use a title, the video, possibly a brief summary of its content and a call to action.

If this works, you may find your list grows rapidly.  So, it is worth thinking about the implications for your business.

do not give up

Businesses Fail Through Lack of Confidence

We tell ourselves stories and sometimes we’re not aware we’re doing it.  Think of times you have contemplated a course of action and not taken it because it is too risky.  Right or wrong, you told yourself a story.  If you are not aware this is story, then how do you know whether it is true? These stories undermine confidence.

I’m not saying anything is possible but how do you know until you try?  Confidence is not solely being prepared to try, it is not being stopped by failure.  It’s the ability to pick yourself up and start over. 


Tenacity works when it is perceptive.  Attempting something that never works is probably not a good idea.  After any activity, ask yourself what went well.  What could have gone better?  Learn from mistakes.  Find out more about the barriers to your objective.  Apply what you learn to your next attempt. 

Remember, the biggest reason businesses fail is when the owner gives up. There are times when you have to conclude it is better to call it a day.  But usually, when you learn from experience, it is worth another try.


Adapt your strategy to meet your learning but don’t forget why you are in business.  Your new strategy must be consistent with your business aims. 

People around you will offer advice.  Listen carefully.  Do they help you understand what went wrong or do they offer a solution to the problem, as they understand it?  Beware of solutions – they are often not what they seem.  Solutions, offered in a spirit of helpfulness, are rarely right for you or your business.

Ask why they think that solution would work.  Try to get to their analysis of the problem.  Then thank them and work out your approach, consistent with why you are in business. 

The Stories You Tell Yourself

“I am not the sort of person who …”   Maybe that is true for now.  But you need to see where your experience of failure points.  Repeated failure may mean you need to try things you genuinely believe are not right for you. 

Trust your subconscious mind.  You accumulate experience all the time and when faced with something new you are not keen to try, tell yourself a new story.  You could fail but equally, you may be on the brink of something new and exciting. 

The alternative is to give up.  That’s how businesses fail.  Draw inspiration from others in your field.  Their stories may help.  But beware!  Your heroes may not be as heroic as they appear.

Social media images suggesting hype

How to Use Email to Promote Products and Services

Sarah does not want to appear “salesy”.  Her efforts to avoid universal opprobrium for the sin of salesy-ness means she does not make many sales.  She makes sales in real life over a coffee but it’s a lot of work finding and pursuing leads.  Her problem is how to promote products and services online.  Automated sales would not consume so much time but isn’t it likely to cause followers to unsubscribe if she bangs on about selling her stuff, when she emails her list?

Promoting Events, Products and Services

If you sell over coffee, you can sell online.  Switch it around, if you can’t sell over coffee, you are unlikely to sell online.  Observing what works in real life helps you understand what sells online.

The context in which you sell online is important.  Give your list something of value.  Then offer them the option to opt into some deal to further their interest.  There are several ways to do this.  They are sometimes referred to as product launches and mostly include high value teaching, as a prelude to making an offer.  More sophisticated approaches include using affiliates to grow your email list. 

It depends on what you sell.  If you aim to fill a workshop with capacity of up to 30, you don’t need methods designed to draw in hundreds of customers.  A sales video or long sales letter may do the trick. 

Think it through.  A good email with some teaching, followed by a link for those who want more, is not off-putting.  If someone is not interested, they ignore the link. 

From Attention to Action

Your aim is not to offer customers a get-out clause, you want them to follow the link.  So, you need a compelling subject line, excellent email content and a clear call to action. 

Capture attention and then move readers to take action.  Think about what you do, when you go to a sales page.  What makes you buy?  On the sales page, you read on because you are interested.  Once you finish reading or watching the video, you decide whether to make a purchase.  You may be impressed by the offer but for some reason, not this time.  But you decide to keep an eye on this business, maybe someday.

Tune Down the Hype

It is not hype to state what you offer and outline its benefits. It is hype to make outrageous claims, such as “Best in the World”.

The challenge is, show you have a product or service worth exploring.  Then leave it to the prospect to decide.  Give them time but try early bird offers, so you can assess viability.  For example, if you’re trying to fill a workshop, offer a lower price for the first 50% who sign up or who sign up by a given date. 

You don’t need to attempt a hard sell to make a sale online, so long as you are confident about what you are selling.  Next time I’ll take a closer look at ways to boost your online sales.

Money exchanged for invoice

Your Pricing is Too Modest!

It’s tempting to reduce prices.  Reasons include low self-esteem, competitors with a large share of the market, customers who seek reductions on grounds of lack of funds or friendship. 

The rule of thumb is, if you think of changing prices, increase them. 

The Race to the Bottom

Perhaps prospects don’t buy and explain they can’t afford it.  Not having enough money is a great way to let you down gently.  We’ve all done it.  “Your offer is really great but I can’t afford it” sounds better than “I don’t like your offer”.

Then you find someone who turned you down on grounds of price has found money to pay someone else!  What does this mean?  Perhaps, you were not right for them.  Or perhaps you did not make an offer as irresistible as your competitor’s.

If you reduce prices, you might undercut competitors.  What if they respond by undercutting you?  This is called the race to the bottom.  Experienced competitors hold prices or increase them.  We need to understand why.

Cut prices and you need more customers to break even and more time for marketing.  Reduced prices are a prelude to going out of business.


Another reason to resist price reduction is self-esteem.  Price tells your prospect how much you value yourself. 

Successful businesses increase prices for a reason.  They think about capacity.  When a business attracts many customers, providing a reliable and quality service is important.  The business also needs time for marketing.  Increased prices reduce demand and the business needs fewer customers.  Having a waiting list is no bad thing!

High prices communicate about your business.  They are part of your story.  If prospects want your services enough, they find the money.  Your challenge is to respect that and meet or exceed their expectations.

Pricing Tells a Story

Pricing opens up options for your business.  Your prices tell a story.  You need a range.  Always have one or more high-end offers and free stuff that captures interest, drawing people into your business as prospects.

In between, offer opportunities for prospects to try you out.  A coach might use workshops to engage interest.  This can be at a significant price but not huge; between £50 and a few hundred pounds.

If your basic price is high, you have room to make offers and not lose out.  These might be early bird offers or offers for those who are on your list or those who bring a friend.  So long as you have a good reason, you can make generous reductions. 

Consider using a workshop or low-end events to upsell to higher end offers.  If someone attends something, offer a reduced rate for higher end activities. 

With high end offers, you have scope to make reductions for customers where there is a good reason to do so.  This works where you have a good story!

A lot depends on confidence and so that is the next topic in this sequence about business failure.

hands moving together

Using Email to Generate Leads

Sarah is puzzled by her sales funnel.  She has a large number of people in it.  They read her blog posts and when she has an opportunity to ask, they all say how much they appreciate them.  Despite this, she struggles to convert them into customers. 

A number become customers but the rest seem perfectly happy reading her emails and blog posts.  She produces a lot of high quality content, but why?

Why would someone forward your emails? 

Perhaps Sarah needs to think of her list not so much as potential customers, as followers who know like and trust her.  There are many reasons they choose not to be her customer at present but that does not mean they are unwilling to support her business in other ways.

She gets positive responses to her posts, so she is building networks of goodwill.  There are many ways she can use goodwill, for example low-end events, webinars, testimonials (text or video) but perhaps the easiest is to forward her emails.

Sometimes a satisfied customer recommends her services to their contacts.  This is word of mouth marketing. It is possible to structure marketing so customers bear her business in mind.  Forwarding an email to contacts who may be interested is not a big ask.  It takes a few moments to think of someone and forward, perhaps with a brief message. 

It is short of making a recommendation of her services, hard for people who have not yet used them but not if all she asks is they recommend what they have experienced. 

How to get people to forward emails

The key to getting people to forward emails is to ask them.  Drop in a line that explains who you are trying to reach and ask your followers to forward emails to people they know who may be interested.

It’s easy and if your content appeals, it grows your list.  Remember, if the email is forwarded to someone new, what do you want them to do? You need a link in your email to a webpage, maybe a blog post or a landing page.  There you can invite new visitors to sign up to your list.  

It is possible to set up website pages that don’t display a sign-up form to people who are on your list.  Ideally, use something like that but otherwise signal on the page newcomers are welcome to sign up.

Think through each step.  Why would a newcomer open this email? Maybe because they trust the person from your list who sent it.  Why would they click on the link provided in the email? On the website, why would they sign up?

Affiliate Marketing

A final thought.  Can you offer incentives to your followers?  This may be access to more material, discounts, conversations with you …  For higher end offers, you might offer a percentage of fees for each referral that signs up. 

This approach is called affiliate marketing and is most effective where you have a product affiliates are willing to offer to their lists on your behalf.  Those who respond to your affiliates’ emails sign up to your list and may in time become customers.  

This works where affiliates have high quality lists.  For a great offer, affiliates may offer bonuses to their lists.  They benefit and so do you.

This approach is sometimes known as a Product Launch.  This is not like asking people on your list to forward emails.  You are asking people who are well-established to share their list with you.  They do that only if they believe in you and your offer.

Affiliate marketing is an advanced approach to marketing.  For most, the challenge is to effectively promote events, products or services. 

four happy and one grumpy ball

Using Positioning to Market Your Business

We hear a great deal from politicians about competition.  They say competition is a driver of capitalism; competition provokes innovation.  To get one over on my competitors I must be cleverer.  I have to be more powerful, if I have more money I can take greater risks and outgun them.

In practice, this false worldview does not play out so much in armed warfare, where armaments are business cards, flyers and social media posts, as fear.  Fear of competition leads to stasis, you draw back from engaging in your market for fear of offending more powerful or experienced competitors.


Experienced business people know capitalism is rooted in collaboration.  Let’s start starry-eyed and then look at some issues.  It is easier to promote someone else’s business than it is your own.  Apart from thick-skinned individuals, most people find it easier to be generous than overtly confrontational.  Pooling knowledge leads to strategies that raise awareness of the need for your products and the range of solutions on offer.  This is a purpose of business networking, even though we sometimes lose sight of it.

The downside of collaboration is where businesses form cartels and work against the interests of their market.  Perhaps the most dangerous example is lobbying politians.  If you invest cash in lobbying, you can support cartels of interested parties.  Huge business interests bend political discourse through social media.  It may be one person’s investment, until you look closely and ask where they got the funds they invested.

Big business collaborates because they know collaboration works.  They compete in tacitly agreed ways.  The principle applies to small businesses too but they inhabit a different world, where opportunities for mischief are scaled down.


Business is a force for good, especially at the local level, where they aim to produce something of value.  Whatever market you target, you find many other businesses competing for the attention of the same people.

Why should a prospect choose you and not one of the others?  There are three main ways to gain separation.  Once clear about what makes you distinctive, your position helps you collaborate for mutual benefit with others in similar markets.


The problem you solve is the most important positioning element.  How you describe the problem, its effects and the changes that happen when it is solved, matters.  Stories demonstrate the problem is real, how to know whether you have it, that it can be solved and why your solution is best for some people.

Your market determines the problem and understanding of the problem comes from study of your market.  If you notice a problem behind the problem, you demonstrate understanding of the issues your market faces.  But always your stories demonstrate understanding.


Here you impose constraints on your market.  You might offer services primarily to women or to men.  Your market might be a particular age-group or locality.

You make choices for reasons of preference or convenience or to narrow your market.  Aim for the minimum viable market; that is the smallest number of people who can generate enough customers to make your business viable. 

Using demographics helps because you are in control.  Say you choose to market to women only.  You could decide that men are not ruled out.  This might mean you design your marketing solely for women but consider any men who express interest.  They are your secondary market.

Or it could be you choose women only.  At a later date as you grow in confidence, you are free to decide to extend your market to men.  They’re your rules!


The final dimension is your worldview.  What might appeal to your market?  You could let it be known which way you voted for the EU referendum.  Maybe you don’t want to serve those who voted the other way.  Perhaps you want to convey a specific worldview that attracts a particular type of customer.  If the referendum is irrelevant, then don’t say anything about it.

Given 2 or more businesses with similar problems and demographics, how does a prospect choose between them?  Customers don’t always choose on experience or competence because businesses are often hard to tell apart on these factors.  Customers are drawn to someone they feel they will get on with.  Who at least understands their worldview. 


The point is not to be like everyone else.  Your offer may be similar to many other peoples’.  You could redesign it but if you are successful, others will copy you.  If you are innovative in positioning, you have an advantage because others cannot be you.

By narrowing your market, you make space for others to position themselves relative to you.  Once all are confident in their positions, opportunities for collaboration by promoting understanding of a shared problem or available solutions become possible.

One common error, is to position on pricing.  This triggers the dreaded race to the bottom.

Multiple signposts, confusing

How to Increase Web Traffic using Email Strategy

Sarah was a bit puzzled.  She has just set up a half-day workshop ina couple of months’ time.  It’s to be her chance to demonstrate nutritional principles and even a few recipes.  Her problem is how can she sell through emails?

She’s set up an Eventbrite page and could put the link in an email.  But she’s uneasy about using emails for a sale.

Email and Your Website

Let’s keep this simple for now.  There are well-established product launch systems that use sequences of emails.  These work for high-end products but are not necessary for a modestly priced workshop.

Sarah sends a weekly email to her list with tips about healthy eating.  She could send an email, just like the others, including a call to action to sign up to the workshop.

She could use the link to the Eventbrite page but it is worth considering a link to a landing page on her website.  Here there is more space to market the workshop.  She could include on the landing page a video introducing the workshop, a summary of the benefits from attending and the link to the Eventbrite page. 

The big advantage on her own site, is Sarah has more scope to design an attractive page.  This can be promoted in a variety of ways besides email, eg social media, SEO or direct methods, such as flyers. 

However, this extra step may lose some people who need to click a second time to get to the Eventbrite page and again to register. 

There’s no such problem if she links to Eventbrite from her email.  But perhaps the only way to be certain is to test whether more sign up if they go direct or via her website.  Remember too, people can forward emails to friends who may be interested in the workshop.  They may follow the link to find out more about Sarah’s business.  They might explore her site and there she can encourage them to join her list, even if they do not register for the workshop. 

Even if the landing page includes only a link to the registration page, you can arrange it so that a light box appears when they move to leave the page.  This can invite them to join your list.  With some systems this need not show if someone is already on the list.

Click Through Rates

The main barriers are likely to be in the email.  What percentage of recipients open the email and then how many follow the link, wherever it goes?  Sarah’s email service (Mailchimp, Aweber or whatever) records opening rates and click through rates (CTR). 

This way Sarah can see how many people open the email and how many follow the call to action and click on the link.  So, the first question is whether there are improvements she can make to the subject line to increase opening rates.  Then what changes can she make to the email content to increase click through rates?

Landing Pages

Generally, it is good to encourage visitors to your site because it improves the ranking of the site with Google.  But what should be on the page?

Generally, it is better to remove all links and other distractions, whilst giving the link to registration great prominence.  

You don’t need a lot.  A heading, an image or a video, a list of benefits and maybe some features, eg dates and times, should do the trick.  And don’t forget a big friendly button to press to move to the next stage.

The interaction between your email list and website is important if you plan to grow your email list.  People on your list can do much more than buy from you.