Today’s marketplace is hyper-competitive, and big businesses armed with data, apps, and other technologies are tough to compete with.
I have a simple but powerful 3 step strategy for you to fight back and to create a business with purpose and profit. And for the record, I am not a consultant, so I am not looking for clients. I believe that small business owners matter. You are the heart of our economy, and it is in our collective interest to your dreams and enterprises beating strong. For the past year, thanks to the support of RBC, I have populated my platform, Chatter that Matters with podcasts and videos to help small business owners get to where they need to go.
Let’s get back to this competitive marketplace that you are fighting for a share of, and my 3 steps to show you how.
Amazon, Uber Eats, and many others train the customer to be promiscuous and treasure hunters, to use their use apps for the game the marketplace. They put the world – products, services, business to business, within arms’ reach of desire and condition the buyer to click and buy, when they do, the faster you can say goodbye.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Before I share my steps, let me ask you these questions about your business:
1)Is what you offer your customer unique?
If you are like most businesses today, you aren’t that unique – it’s not your fault there is too much and too many competing for a finite amount of demand. If that’s the case, then Amazon and others can make a compelling case for Convenience. Click and it will come.
2)Are you finding that you have to sell more of your product or service at a discount?
And if price or promotion is becoming a key tactic in attracting and selling, then apps that compare shop and match will eat away your margin.
3)Do you hold a position in your customers’ hearts-are you a place they want to be, or someone they want to buy from, or only somewhere to buy?
This is where you can succeed. An apps connection might be fast and convenient, but it doesn’t have a heart. It doesn’t have an emotional relationship. You do and it is what makes you unique.
So how do you strengthen your unique emotional proposition?
‘Understand customer intent and motivation
and you will be of immense value.’
Stop segmenting your customer base based on age, gender, ethnicity, and income. Instead, focusing on their intent and motivation.
Intent – what does your customer value or dream about, and what is preventing them from realizing it?
Motivation – how motivated are they to realize it?
Cluster your customers based on these values. Let’s say, for example, that you own a cheese shop. Is the customer coming in that door there to buy cheese or accentuate the perfect dinner party they are planning? Are they foodies, looking to highlight that bottle of Pinot Noir, or trying to get more protein in their diet, as they are eating less meat?
If you can cluster them by what they value, you can position what you offer accordingly. For the foodie you have some rare Gorgonzola, the dinner party – the perfect crackers and a jar of olives, the wine lover an old cheddar to balance the acidity in the wine.
If you are a Star Wars fan, you are most likely a fan of YODA. He didn’t defeat the Evil Empire, but he played an essential role in helping Luke Skywalker with his intent and motivation. What is your YODA role in your customer’s life? What quest are they on, and what can you do to help them get to where they need to go?
If I was selling real estate, my concern would be the increasing amount of information available to my clients. I no longer have proprietary data on what houses sell for, the market’s inventory, walking scores, or the quality of education in the school around the corner.
“Bring numbers to their life”
So how do I find my way into my client’s heart? I bring those numbers to their life.
Instead of selling them a house, I focus on their home. What is their intent? To raise a family, walk and shop locally, and find a dog-friendly neighborhood or one accessible to their aging parents or to invest in a second property? Instead of citing a walking score for someone looking for a neighborhood oasis, I would animate every city block, as no one has walked them more.
Be their YODA versus being an agent.
Small Business Owners are passionate and often subject matter experts as many started businesses based on their interests. Someone in professional services is happy to talk about their degrees and experiences, a craft brewer about their Hops, and a repair shop for computers about drives. I have to be honest. I am busy, and I am confused by the amount of choice, so unless you have to say matters to me, you contribute to the noise. Instead of telling your story, focus on mine.
Let’s imagine that you run a Golf Simulator Shop. It’s your passion as you went to school on a full Golf Scholarship. It’s also your lucky day as I am looking for some golf lessons, and so is my daughter.
We have already talked to three potential Pros. One was a woman who cited her golf scholarship and the successful amateur tournaments they played across the United States. The second one played on the Nike Tour and met some players that we watch today on television. The third had a room full of gadgets they couldn’t wait to strap on you.
But imagine if you took the time to realize two things. Since my Divorce, my relationship with my daughter had suffered, and I struggled to find something we could share and do together. You talked about a Father-Daughter tournament coming up in eight weeks and a program we could do to prepare us for it. I bet that we would buy the lesson and practice package, and our outfits that day would come from your Pro Shop.
If you are still with me, you must think that these three steps are very similar. You are right, as they all have to do with emotion and feeling. The key is to climb these steps in order.
1) Stop segmenting customers and instead identify intent and motivation. What are they trying to do? How serious are they?
2) Identify your Yoda Role
3) Stop Telling your story; become part of theirs
Small business owners who are my guide, curator and motivator I reward with my loyalty and business. I talk about them, rate them on Google, and support them. I live in the East End of Toronto, in a neighbourhood called The Beach. There is a tiny Men’s Wear Store called Pony Club. Two brothers, Gabe and Angelo, run it. Gabe doesn’t sell me suits or shirts; he dresses me for my moments. He knows I do TV, speak to audiences that are sometimes in the thousands, and today make my living on Zoom. He curates my clothes based on what matters to my livelihood.
My fish shop knows that I am not afraid to grill raw and expensive Tuna. My bike shop took the time to understand our intent, and we drove away with a tandem bike. Sam, who takes care of us at our local restaurant, knows us by name and insists we taste some of their new wines as part of the experience. And when I owned my agency, I was loyal to the suppliers that had my back.
It’s always better to be valued than to have to sell on value.
And speaking of heart here’s to all the small business heroes, stay resilient and strong. Better days are ahead.
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