What You Need to Know Before You Read Anything Else on “Marketing”
Everyone wants more marketing (read: promotional) ideas. As a blogger and strategist, it would be far easier for me to get clicks (and dollars) if I focused on how to get your big idea in front of more eyeballs.
But more often than not, when I sit down with a client, promotion is not the problem. She’s doing all the “right” things but it’s making little impact on her bottom line. And more importantly, it’s not impacting the people she wants to serve. That’s a lot of effort to pour into something that’s not putting anything back in her financial or emotional bank accounts.
Instead of focusing on promotional techniques, we check into her business model.
- Is it set up to harness her strengths and the way her organization works best?
- Is it compatible with the way her Most Valued Clients want to be served?
- Does it address the whole customer and the way s/he naturally evolves?
- Does it take into account the ebb & flow of the conversation the business & its customers participate in?
So, stop for a moment and check in with me here: Is promotion the problem? Or do you need a better model?
Your business model is the way your business creates value (solutions for customers’ needs or desires), delivers value (how those solutions get into the hands of your customers), and exchange value (how your business receives value in return for the value your business provides). I’ve written before on how to quantify this for your own business and how to consider whether the model you’ve got actually works.
But I’d like to take this idea to another level and talk about “social business models.” As I see it, a social business model is one that not only demonstrates how your business creates, delivers, and exchanges value but does so in a way that is tailor-made to the strengths of you (or your organization) and your customer and leverages the way you naturally relate to each other to facilitate co-creation.
It’s not enough to build a model that “works” in terms of numbers. If your business model isn’t built in a way that works for you and your customer, you’ll expend an enormous amount of energy trying to achieve ill-conceived goals.
As Jonathan Fields recently put it in a post on “Upstream Alignment Metrics“–fancy phrase, important subject:
Does the product, business and mode of delivery that customers are telling you they value enough to pay you to create align with the fiber of your being, your sense of meaning, fulfillment, your maker’s modus operandi and ideal life?
There’s a better way.
When your business model works–when it’s social, you’ll be able to count on your own personal strengths and less on your ability to “power through.” You’ll spend less time spastically promoting your business and more time attracting the right people. You’ll have work days that flow instead of feeling like your potential each day is less-than-fulfilled.
But perhaps the best part is that when you develop a business model that is social, you gain an incredibly powerful new team member for your business: your customer. Instead of making decisions in a vacuum, you can weigh each decision against the point-of-view of your customer. You’ll know what products you need to develop and when, you’ll know better how to price them, and you’ll have a more holistic, integrated approach to the way you serve your customers.
Let’s all take a collective sigh of relief: you can stop searching for the killer promotional technique. You can stop worrying if you’re doing “marketing” right.
Instead, you can make your model work for you.
When your business model is social, it:
- Grows from the understanding of your customer as a living, breathing, evolving human being.
- Understands your market as a conversation in which you participate but don’t control.
- Puts the function of what you offer first, well before format or price-point.
- Allows you to work in a way that makes you feel most masterful and puts your customer at ease.
- Involves your customer, whether directly or indirectly, in all decisions.
Customers are evolving human beings.
Customers’ questions change. Their needs change. Their desires change. Some businesses solve this by providing high-end, bespoke services. Others develop broad product suites of specialized solutions. Still others develop a single product that incorporates feature add-ons until the cows come home.
Which speaks to your strengths? How do your customers like to be served?
Your target market is a target conversation.
Customers control the conversation, not businesses. Your model can have the flexibility to adapt to the conversation as it changes.
Where do your strengths line up with the current conversation? How can your customers guide its evolution?
People want holes, not drills.
At least that’s what David Ogilvy said, and I couldn’t agree more. Building your model function-first means that each product evolves from a perceived need (or set of needs) your customers have. Forget trying to build out your model to some previously established set of offers.
What kind of “holes” are your customers asking for? Which “holes” is your business uniquely equipped to make?
When you operate masterfully, your customers feel at ease.
Part of operating masterfully is knowing how your business operates best. Not every business specializes in customer service. Not every business values customized services. Not every business speaks to the masses and draws a crowd.
When do you feel most masterful? When do your customers feel most at ease?
Your customers can guide your every decision.
Most entrepreneurs don’t suffer from a lack of ideas or a misunderstanding of tactics. They have difficulty making decisions between a whole lot of things that seem really good. Customers can help you make better, more confident decisions.
Does your model have a system in place to consider the customer’s perspective? Are you listening?
Remember, promotion probably isn’t the problem. If your model isn’t working for you, your business won’t ever feel like it’s working to begin with. Today, stop and consider whether your business is set up to work to your strengths, make your customer feel at ease, and bring you both together to make things flow.