You’ve heard it before: the vast majority of businesses fail within a few years.
Now… let’s think about this for second.
Why do smart, hard-working people with good intentions crash and burn? It’s often a combination of factors, from co-founder conflict, to funding issues and execution struggles…but at the core of it, businesses fail for one fundamental reason: they can’t sell their stuff.
That’s the bottom line.
One of the root causes is that most entrepreneurs don’t truly understand marketing. You might be super passionate about your product or service, have a tremendous work ethic, and a wonderfully designed website…If you’re not highly skilled at marketing and selling, chances are you’re going to fail, sorry to break it to you.
Now if you’re thinking, “Oh I took a few marketing classes in college, I’m good,”… think again.
I personally have a marketing degree and an MBA from two reputable universities, and when I started my first business, I was in for a rude awakening.
I quickly realized that marketing in the entrepreneurial world is a whole different game than what I learned in the classroom. Business schools tend to focus on Fortune-500 type marketing, they don’t allow us to interact with real customers, and they’re years behind when it comes to online marketing. If you’re committed to building a world-class business, you have to be willing to saddle up and learn, “real-world marketing.” Take online courses, read books, get out here, experiment relentlessly, and get excellent mentors to help you build your marketing skill set.
If you’re willing to do that, sky’s the limit. You’ll develop skills you can use to be successful in any business endeavor for the rest of your career.
Today, I want to share with you the three most common marketing mistakes you’re likely to be making right now and how you can effectively solve them for good.
Mistake #1: Trying to Serve Everyone
The blessing and the curse of many entrepreneurs is that they’re good-hearted and really want to make world a better place.
The blessing part is easy to figure out, but the curse? By trying to help everyone with their product or service…they often end up helping no one.
Having too broad of a target market is probably the single most common marketing mistake people make. In order to stand out in the crowd, you need to be really specific with which sub-segment of the population you’re targeting; the narrower your niche, the better.
Now you’re probably thinking…, “Ahh, but what about all these other prospective customers I’ll be giving up on?” I get that.
You have to think about it the other way: get excited about how well you’re going to be able to serve the specific customers you’re going after. By focusing on a specific group, you’ll be able to serve them much better and have a more profound impact on their life.
Let’s go concrete with this. When you’re describing your ideal customer, you should be able to get highly descriptive of that person, both on a demographic and psychographic level.
For example, “Men between the age of 25 and 40,” is a lousy target market. Instead, it should be something like, “Professional men between 25 and 40 who live in major cities, are passionate about the outdoors, who struggle to find time for their hobbies, and are afraid that their best years are passing them by.” Now we’re talking. This is a target you can really help and make a lot of money in the process.
Solution: Write down the main characteristics of your ideal customer. Describe their frustrations, fears, and aspirations. Get as deep and as personal as you can. You want to able to put yourself in their skin and feel what they feel, think what they think.
Mistake #2: Building Without Customer Validation
Many entrepreneurs have a weird fantasy. They envision themselves spending a few months in a basement/garage/cave, building something extraordinary, emerging from their confinement, announcing their creation to the world, and becoming a massive success.
Sounds cool pretty cool indeed… only problem is that it’s NOT how the real world works.
It’s very hard to accurately predict what your customers want. Conversely, it’s very easy to get carried away with an idea, without seeking validation along the way and then fall face first when you realize that no one actually wants it.
In business and marketing, you should take on a, “scientist,” mindset: always experiment and test your assumptions, and have as much contact with your test subjects (customers) as possible.
Now in order to do this, it’s important to keep your ego in check. You don’t always love the feedback you’re getting, but that’s ok. It’s only data. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you.
Here’s why: If your idea isn’t good, you’re much better off finding out about it now, instead of six months down the road, when you’ve already sunk thousands of dollars into the project. Test, test, test, that’s what all successful marketers do,because it works.
Solution: Before you even build anything, you should spend time interviewing potential customers to discover what they want (and learn their frustration, fears and aspirations). Then, build a prototype and test it to get customer feedback as fast as possible. From there, go back in the lab, incorporate the feedback, and test again. Repeat this cycle until you have something that customers really love, and for which they’re willing to pay money.
Mistake #3: Shouting from the Rooftop
Now that you’ve clearly established your ideal customer and that you’re building exactly what they want, the next step is to communicate with them effectively.
The key to that is to speak to each customer as though you’re talking directly to that person. One-on-one, not one-to-many. This distinction is so critical, and so often overlooked.
When you’re writing directly to one person, you can speak to their frustrations, fears and aspirations. You can make them feel understood; which in many ways is the magic sauce of marketing.
Eben Pagan, one of the best marketers of our time once said, “The moment you make your customer feel understood, magic happens.”
When they feel like you get their problem, they will automatically assume that you have the solution. Once that happens, selling becomes easy and fun.
Solution: Every time you create marketing material, write directly to your ideal customer. Put yourself in their shoes, and ask yourself, “Does this really speak to me? Do I feel understood? Does this inspire me?” If the answer is not a resounding, “YES!” Go back to the drawing board.
Since marketing revolves around human psychology, and the human psyche is a complex system, many nuances and subtleties that go into becoming a world-class marketer.
To become excellent and shine in your niche is not as hard as you think. Simply by focusing on the solutions to the three common mistakes I’ve outlined above, you’re likely to outperform your competition within a few months.
To recap, here’s the magic recipe:
1) Get crystal clear on who your ideal customer is.
2) Regularly interact with live customers and build exactly what they want.
3) Communicate with them in a “one-on-one” way, and make them feel understood.
Apply these three principles and you’ll be well on your way to beating the odds, building a very successful business, and actually making the world a better place.
Phil Drolet is a Peak Performance Coach and helps entrepreneurs improve their marketing, mindset and lifestyle so they can build their business faster while having more fun in the process. You can check out his blog and follow him on Facebook.
Image credit: CC by BK