Most entrepreneurs by now realize the power of the Internet for growing their business. They often approach an online business coach when they are dissatisfied with their results and are hoping to get better results. This post discusses what often happens in such a conversation.
Entrepreneurs are usually action oriented individuals. They expect answers, not questions. So if you ask a simple question like, Are you sure you are heading in the right direction, you will often get almost a brush-off with an assertion that the strategy is in place. If that topic is not open to review, then in many cases you would be well advised to stop the process right there. It is often just because the strategy is not well founded that satisfactory results are not being achieved.
The Clash Of Ideas
The Lennon Wall
A discussion between an entrepreneur and an online business coach can be difficult. Their ideas may often clash. I often give the following disclaimer before accepting a project.
You must realize that I will tell it like I see it. That may reveal some hard truths, but I only work on projects where that is accepted. I will usually be diplomatic in presenting my results but you will get the unvarnished truth.
Most entrepreneurs say they welcome such an attitude. If they only wanted a favorable opinion, then there are many others who would give that for free. However in terms of developing improved results, such a favorable review is of no value.
Although there is apparent acceptance that difficult problems must be surfaced, it is highly likely that a clash of ideas will develop at some point. There are three reasons for this:
- NIH (not invented here) and the pride of authorship
- We all tend to believe that our ideas, based on a profound knowledge of our marketplace, are most likely to be superior to anyone else's.
- Wish to move rapidly
- Most entrepreneurs have a GTD (get things done) attitude and do not wish to be slowed down by what appears to be ponderous planning systems.
- Not understanding the Customer viewpoint
- Although many business persons think they keep the customer in mind, they are not really seeing things from the customer point of view. They do not realize that the Internet has changed who is in control.
Cyberspace Or Web Space
The Internet has changed the way human beings interact in two important ways:
- Everyone can see everyone
- Everyone can communicate with everyone
There are pluses and minuses to this. Most importantly, customers have a variety of sources of information about products and services that are available. This puts them in the driving seat. However it is now easier to send prospects information about what you offer. Of course your competitors can do likewise.
The other problem is that you may get lost in the crowd. Your prospect may find it difficult to find you and a competitor may be the first to appear on their radar screen.
Your entrepreneur needs to accept this view of online reality, because an effective strategy can only be developed if the true nature of the online world is understood. There are many opportunities but there are many challenges.
Key Steps In Formulating Effective Strategy
The following four aspects need to be handled:
- Product Driven versus Customer Centric
- Niche - Persona
- SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats)
- USP (unique selling proposition) - Stand Out From The Crowd
The Best There Ever Was
Product Driven versus Customer Centric
Many highly technical companies with skilled employees often feel they know better than the customer what will work best. They produce the very best products they are capable of, and then supply them to their marketplace. This mind set is often described as being product driven.
They may not be fully aware of how customers value certain features or services and so do not pay attention to these. Only by conscious effort is it possible to gain an understanding of how the customer really sees what is on offer from both the company and from its competitors. This approach in seeing things from the customer's point of view is often labeled the customer centric approach. If the online business coach can present to the entrepreneur how he or she believes a target prospect will view what is offered, then this is the most useful service of all that they can provide.
Niche - Persona
A company strategy can only be developed by pinpointing which customers you are attempting to serve. Not all customers can be served equally well. By focusing on a certain market niche, you are more likely to be able to supply products and services which are a best fit for people in that niche. As mentioned, what counts are the views of typical members of that market niche. It is often recommended to consider certain persona or typical individuals in that niche and then view the products and services through the eyes of that typical market niche member.
This question of focusing on a market niche is often the entrepreneur's first major stumbling block. They may have had feedback from others outside the niche that the products and services could be useful. It is difficult to say No to such enticing perversions. However strategy is difficult just because it requires that you say a firm No to all opportunities except those represented by the chosen market niche.
Some entrepreneurs are so passionate, enthusiastic and energetic about their new products and services, that they cannot envisage that there could be competitive products that may be more attractive to their target prospects. Even just asking an entrepreneur who are the key competitors can sometimes produce a stunned silence. The entrepreneur must examine the competitive playing field with completely open eyes if success is to be achieved. This is often done using what is called SWOT analysis. It involves the following steps, which should be done trying to see things through the eyes of one of those market niche personas:
Check competition - SW
What are the strengths of the company as compared with its key competitors when supplying to prospects in this market niche. What is the company's Competitive Advantage versus its competitors? Why should prospects buy from the company?
Does the company have any weaknesses versus its competitors, again as market niche aspect might see this? If so can the company take corrective measures to overcome these weaknesses ?
Check the market environment - OT
Are there opportunities in the market niche that the company can exploit for competitive advantage or for profit? Conversely are there environmental or government threats that may jeopardize the ability of the Company to stay in business.
USP - Stand Out From The Crowd
Even though focusing on the right market niche and ensuring that the company has a competitive advantage were challenging, the final item is the most difficult of all. How can the company stand out from the crowd by developing its own unique product/service offering that is very attractive to its targeted prospects?
One important attribute here is the name that is used for the product/service. In this online world, the majority of searchers for similar products and services will be using search engines. The name and ideally the domain should be ones which will never be confused with other companies and certainly not with the competitors for the market niche. Choosing the right name or abandoning a name early that has proven to have difficulties is a priority. The name should be one of the strongest levers on sales.
Another important element is the tagline that identifies what the article/service does to meet the needs of prospects. A prospect taking a quick online scan of a website homepage may move on rapidly elsewhere if what is offered does not immediately ring a bell that their needs will be met.
Many entrepreneurs reading what has been written here will likely have been nodding their heads as they run through the various items. From an intellectual standpoint it all sounds very appropriate.
Where it runs into difficulties is when this approach is applied to your own product or service. If you can get someone to be viewing what you are offering as if through the dispassionate eyes of that niche prospect, there may be some disturbing revelations.
That can be disconcerting, but it is better to be aware of them at the strategy planning stage, rather than after some months of ineffective operations. The sooner you can correct any weaknesses and get back on track in the right direction, the sooner you will see the growth in sales that you hoped for.
Reference: Winning Marketing Plans Are Customer-centric