Do you know who your best customer is and how to connect with them? Many people struggle because they aren’t clear on who they serve and why they’re relevant. In this podcast, Toni and I review the Marketing Gameplan process and discuss step two: Know Your Customer.
My clients, even the ones with a strong identity, really struggle with this. Oftentimes, our fear of “lack” keeps us stuck and unclear on who our best customers are. You aren’t limited yourself by “choosing” a niche — learn more about this important step in this week’s podcast:
For many independent professionals, knowing where to “fish” for good prospects is a crucial step in putting together a solid marketing plan. Once you know where your most promising prospects gather, you can begin to identify opportunities to connect with, serve, and support them.
Key questions for finding the best prospects
There are a few key questions that can help you profile your customer and hone in on fantastic opportunities for serving them.
Who have I enjoyed serving most? Who has given me a particularly profound sense of joy, contribution and fulfillment?
Is there a group or industry that seems drawn to my work?
Who is giving me the most referrals? Why?
Do I have professional and/or corporate experience in a field or industry that would benefit from the ways I want to make a difference?
While there is no fool-proof road map to uncovering your ideal customer, there are some things you can do to begin identifying where in the marketplace a pool of great prospects exists for your work. I’ve offered several key research strategies for finding customers in my article, “How do I find good customers.” Tops on the list is uncovering which associations provide a gathering-place for people whose needs, frustrations, goals, hopes and dreams are aligned with what you offer.
Network with clients through associations
Associations are basically professional affinity groups, and there is an association for every kind of profession and professional imaginable. When you’re contemplating a certain customer profile, sometimes it can be helpful to learn what associations are acting as a hub for these people; then, you can find out what opportunities might exist for you to network and showcase within them through local meetings, national events, trade shows and industry publications, etc.
There are three resources that might help you find the association(s) you’re looking for:
American Society of Association Executives and the Center for Association Leadership – Directory of Associations. This resource is easy-to-use and updated daily. We recommend using the “Association Name Contains” search feature. This resource will show you the associations, but not their email or web address. You will have to search the web with the association name to find the right URL.
Weddles Association Directory. This list is broken down by subject or industry, and will link you directly to the corresponding website. There isn’t a feature that allows you to do a search of the entire database. You will need to select from their industry categories.
When was the last time you had a bad experience with a pushy telemarketer, or a clueless store associate, or an intimidating car salesman?
These experiences have an interesting affect on us as business owners … they can trick us into thinking that we have to develop aggressive “sales” skills for “overcoming objections” and “getting to “Yes,” and they simultaneously scare us into thinking we have to become these pushy people we detest if we want to get clients and become successful.
What’s the trick to finding new clients?
Finding clients is really much simpler than this. To attract customers, we have to first sell ourselves on what we offer. We do this by understanding who we serve and what they need, and packaging ourselves to solve their problems in a way that they want to buy. When we believe in what we offer, we have a confidence in the marketplace that can’t be faked, and it’s very important to our success! So SELL YOURSELF FIRST.
The next step in the process comes up as a challenge for people almost every time I speak, and on many Strategy Sessions: What if my customer doesn’t even know they need these skills? or What if they don’t know they’re missing something?
Many times, that is the case: Our customers don’t know what they don’t know. Trying to convince them to hire us when they don’t even know they need us…that’s an uphill battle, and seems to require some really aggressive selling.
Build marketing through good rapport
When this question came up at a recent presentation, I asked, “How many of you have ever attended a workshop or conference where they talked about the basics of building rapport?” Hands go up all over the room. Good, I thought. “So what are they?”
“Ask questions about people. Learn about their background.”
“Active listening. Pay attention to them when they talk.”
“Match their words.”
“Appreciate them for what they’ve experienced and accomplished.”
“Smile and nod with them.”
“All right,” I replied. “And that is how you connect with people in your marketing. Understand them. Listen to them. Relate to their frustrations. Connect with what they’re experiencing emotionally that they don’t share with most people. Use their language, not yours. Make the exchange all about them.” I looked around the room at the wide-eyed faces. There were “A-ha!” lightbulbs going off everywhere. They’re really getting it! I thought, and I smiled, too.
Marketing isn’t smoke-and-mirrors (though understandably, this is often its reputation), it’s Human Behavior 101, and you achieve success by aligning with how people naturally understand their own problems.
Building rapport and becoming the person that others enjoy doing business with is our most important work in the marketplace. To achieve this goal, understand your customers well:
Learn what’s frustrating to them, where they get stuck, what they want to change.
Understand and empathize with the challenges they face in the office, at home, even from their in-laws.
What is overwhelming about being stuck?
How is “being stuck” keeping them from achieving their goals personally or professionally?
How is it affecting their sense of contribution, of value, of self-worth?
With these distinctions, you can begin to craft a marketing message that connects with their point of need – their pain and frustrations. Use their words, highlight their dilemmas, empathize with the frustrations they have and let them see that you really understand them. People want to know that you GET THEM.
Oftentimes, people are struggling with things they’re not talking about with their peers. These struggles can be a very internal, private experience for them, so when you begin connecting with that pain and frustration, and empathizing with the places they’re stuck, your light begins to shine. You don’t need to connect solely with the pain and frustration—connect with their desires and dreams as well! Understand what they want to achieve, attain or become. And believe in their potential to actualize it!
You won’t even have to tell people what you offer—they can FEEL that you must offer something fabulous because you really get them. You even get the stuff that no one else seems to understand. They’ll ask you how you can help—a refreshing change-of-pace!
Build rapport through meaningful connections
We want to connect in a meaningful way with the people we serve, using their words and their experiences to build rapport.
In Tom Richard’s article, 5 ways to build rapport with a complete stranger, he reveals that, “Your prospects think that THEY are the most important person in the world, and they expect to be treated as such. To build rapport quickly, you must learn to put that customer and their needs first. Curb the talk about how your company is the biggest and the best, and skip the part about how your product is superior to all other products in the market. The prospect needs to come to that realization independently, and the only way for that to happen is for you to remain humble.”
Here are 5 simple rapport-builders that you can leverage through networking, speaking, and marketing:
Connect wholeheartedly with your customer’s pain, frustration, and/or desire. Show your customers that you “get” them. You can do this in marketing copy by leading with bullets or a “typical scenario.” When talking with your prospects, ask them questions that show you understand the struggles they’re dealing with or the desires they have. Understand their struggle, and give them permission to dream for something different.
Use your customer’s words and colloquialisms. Many times, our expertise on a subject features its own vernacular, and it’s quite likely that your prospects, who often don’t even know that they need you, will be completely unfamiliar with the words that you use to talk about your expertise. This will interrupt rapport. In the beginning, instead of talking about your processes or the solutions you provide and the way you provide them, talk about THEIR processes, their common work experiences and scenarios, and use their words when relating to them.
Dress the part—as your customers define it. The market you target is going to expect an “expert,” or someone from whom they’d accept help, to look a certain way. Make sure you understand what your market expects, and look the part—especially in your headshots and while on stage. For some, this means wearing a suit. For others, this means NOT wearing a suit. This doesn’t apply solely to your physical appearance—this applies to anything aesthetic related to your business that can make a first impression: website, one sheet, brochures, books, and more. Your customers are making a judgment about your quality and trust-ability based on their first impressions—don’t confuse them about how great you are by putting something out there that doesn’t represent you well.
Shut up and listen. We love what we know, and we love to share it. We’re passionate about it; we get so excited to talk about these fabulous distinctions we’ve learned. We think the whole world is gonna be so moved by what we say, because it’s moved us! The truth is … no one cares. They really don’t. They are more excited or preoccupied with what they have to say, and if you can give them the opportunity to say it, and really connect with them when they do by listening and empathizing, you will become the hero. The respect and affection will be reciprocated—they will realize how fabulous you are and how useful you might be to helping them find a breakthrough.
Pace yourself. Every customer has a different “speed” they track to process how you can help and to make a buying decision. Don’t rush them; mirror them. Learn to read the clues that reveal where they’re at, what information they need, and give them the time they need to figure out what is right for them. This doesn’t mean you don’t follow up—it means you don’t rush them or leave them waiting when they’re ready to say, “GO!”
You don’t have to learn how to overcome objections when you align with people in a way that keeps you from getting objections in the first place. And when you take the time up front to build trust and rapport, your customers will reach out to you to work together, no manipulating or conniving or “aggressive sales tactics” needed.
I got an email today from a local coach who was referred to me by a colleague. Her dilemma: she’s having trouble getting business (“I’m having trouble marketing myself as a coach”) and doesn’t have much money for marketing. Can I help?
Have I ever heard this one a thousand times.
Just yesterday, I was talking to one of my copywriters about a significant challenge we see among “vendors” of marketing services–they either help a client get the message right but the client doesn’t know how to market the message well, or they help the client get the “marketing” right, but it doesn’t produce results because the message is crapola.
First the Message, then the Marketing
You can’t be successful with only one of these approaches. You have to get your message right, and you have to get the marketing of the message right. In that order, of course.
Marketing successfully relies on the convergence of a few key conditions:
Solid understanding of your market (who they are, what’s frustrating them, what they need)
Awareness of what makes your work relevant and special
Marketing efforts aligned with how they organize themselves and / or how they search for solutions (examples: speaking at association meetings, articles submissions in reputable directories with the right keywords, networking at events to build your relationships that can give you referrals)
During the first month of our relationship, one of my clients, who is a brilliant business coach and consultant, kept asking me the question, “But how do I explain what I do?”
My answer? No one cares about what you do, so why bother trying to explain it. (More on this in an upcoming blog post.)
It’s true. People don’t care about you, or what you do. It’s small talk. They care about themselves, their frustrations, their deadlines and pressures.
What do Quality Conversations have to do with Good Marketing?
To be successful at marketing to them, you have to get good at having conversations that reveal to people that you have answers. A conversation is simply an exchange of communication and can take place under many different scenarios: you talking to someone one-on-one, you in front of the room talking to an audience (or on a teleseminar or webinar), you talking to your “followers” through Twitter or your blog (to name a few).
And you’re not having a conversation about you. You’re having a conversation about them:
Here’s what you’re facing.
Here’s what’s frustrating about it.
And here’s what you’ve tried to do that didn’t work.
Here’s why it didn’t work.
And here’s what WILL work.
If you’re giving a speech, you do the talking; if you’re having a conversation, let them tell you their “problems.” Listen well, mirror back what they’re saying, then engage with the dilemma. Ask key questions. Offer a suggestion that might be helpful, should they invite your perspective.
Nothing about that conversation requires you to have a job title or a one-liner or a compelling speech “selling someone” on how brilliant you are. Let other people ramble on about themselves. Be the guy or girl who listens well and flat solves problems – a little mystery about what to call you only adds to the allure. (I’ll talk more about this in my next blog post.)
Deciphering who your customers are so you know who to market to–and how–is perhaps the most elusive part of the marketing puzzle.
When I speak, part of my presentation is often devoted to helping people get clear on where they are in relation to the customer question. It’s important to me that people get some clarity around this idea because it’s often the difference between success and failure as you’re marketing your business.
In a breakout session I was giving to a group in Houston, the attendees were starting to “get it” and their new understanding of where they might be stuck was bringing up a lot of questions. One woman decided to speak for the group. “We are all struggling with this customer thing, and we feel stuck. We don’t know how to determine who they are, and based on what you’ve been teaching us, this is our missing link. Until we figure this out, we aren’t going to get anywhere in our businesses.”
She was right.
How do we figure out who our customer is so we can build a list and market to them?
This is the area most of my clients have struggled getting traction in their businesses. The majority of the time, they haven’t defined who NEEDS what they offer. Frankly, what good is a flashy website or fabulous marketing materials if you don’t have a pool of prospects to whom you’re marketing? If you don’t know who your customer is, you can’t proactively target them, right? Picking a niche can be scary because you don’t want to “limit” yourself, but it’s not likely that you have the time, energy or money to target the whole world with your offerings. You need to concentrate your efforts on a specific group to get the most bang and traction for your marketing buck.