Author: Dr. Steven Kirch

How to Discover Your Ideal Customer in 2 Simple Steps

How to Discover Your Ideal Customer in 2 Simple Steps

How do you describe your perfect client avatar?

When it comes to marketing, many business gurus offer some version of this advice:
• figure out who your ideal customer is
• be really specific
• then sell to that person

Most entrepreneurs know they need to have an ideal customer (or ideal client, or ideal customer avatar, etc.) in mind. Understanding the specifics about the person you’re selling to can be incredibly helpful, whether you’re crafting your message, working on your marketing, or developing your products.

But when it comes to actually figuring out that ideal customer, the strategies these gurus suggest tend to be pretty abstract, asking us to “imagine,” “picture,” or “visualize.”

We’re supposed to “imagine a day in the life” of someone—but how can we do that if we don’t know who that someone is?

The old way works (sometimes)

While ideal client visualization exercises can be helpful once you know who they are, visualization can be challenging if you don’t immediately know the type of prospect you’re looking for.

Some business owners know instinctively who their ideal customer should be. If you’ve been selling a service for a long time, you may have a sense of who you enjoy working with (and who you don’t enjoy working with—but that’s a topic for a later blog).

Others start with a specific client in mind and design a product around their needs. That approach is a little better, but it doesn’t help those who already have a product or service and need to figure out who to target in their new marketing campaign to take their business to the next level.

Unfortunately, most business owners lack a strategy for zeroing in on their ideal customer avatar.

Consider my client, Elaine, who is a coach for women executives. While “women executives” may feel specific already, Elaine knows that the more specific she is about who she serves, the more effective her marketing campaigns will be.

But waiting for a client avatar inspiration is no way to run a business. We need a strategy.

Here’s a new approach:

Step 1: What is your unique selling proposition?

Instead of trying to pull an idea customer avatar out of thin air, start by looking at your offer.

What is unique about your product or service?

What is the superpower that only you can offer?

An accountant, for example, might be especially good at sorting through an unorganized mess of documents and receipts. A painter might be especially good at capturing the dynamic movements of water and the ocean.

For Elaine, her superpower is helping women speak with voices that will be heard. So often, diversity is treated as a checklist; while women and people of color may be invited to the meeting and allowed to “sit at the table,” their ideas are not always taken seriously. Elaine’s unique selling proposition is helping people position those ideas so others will really listen.

Step 2: Who is going to benefit most from that proposition?

Once you’ve zeroed in on what you offer and why it’s unique, use that to brainstorm your ideal client.

Who is going to benefit most from your superpower?

Who is going to want or need your unique product or service the most?

That accountant who is good at making the disorganized organized could be especially helpful for business owners with ADHD. That gifted ocean painter could market their work to avid surfers.

As Elaine and I started working together, we realized that the person who most needs her superpower is the female chief diversity officer. This woman not only clearly gets the problem—she lives it every day in her job.

And here’s the beauty of this particular avatar: After Elaine is effective in helping the chief diversity officer be heard, she is a great conduit into the C-suite, with potential introductions to other women executives who experience this same problem on a daily basis.

Stop waiting and start strategizing

The days of aimless visualization are over. We no longer need to close our eyes and cross our fingers, hoping the perfect idea for an ideal customer avatar will somehow fall into our laps.

Instead, we can use a concrete strategy to reverse engineer our market based on what makes our offers unique.

It’s a simple exercise, but it works. By taking the guesswork out of developing an ideal customer avatar, this strategy leaves more time for us to dig into the details of who this person is and what is motivating them so we can actually put the avatar to use in our marketing.

If you try this exercise, comment below to let us know who your ideal client is!

How to Get More Referrals from Business Partnerships

partnership
shaking hands

The business world is going through a major shift right now.

For many, business is very slow indeed. Some businesses may find themselves unable to work the way they normally do because of the lockdown.

But if you can’t work in your business—work on your business.

As more and more people are able to connect using video conferencing technology and other communication apps, this is the perfect time to build relationships.

One great relationship to cultivate right now is a joint venture partnership.

A joint venture, or JV, refers to any situation where two parties engage in a commercial enterprise together while retaining their individual identities and businesses. A common example is giving referrals in exchange for some amount of affiliate income.

Seems simple enough, right?

Unfortunately, a lot of small-business owners are going about joint ventures the wrong way. And this can significantly limit how effective those relationships are—and how much profit they can bring in.

The mistake you’re probably making:

Here’s an example of the typical way most joint ventures work: “I’ll send you a referral, and you send me 10% of whatever you make from that referral.”

This quid-pro-quo is how most small businesses are thinking about joint ventures.

Typically, a small-business owner will look for potential partners who solve different kinds of problems for a similar client base. For example, one of my clients is an interior designer. Homeowners who hire her are probably also looking to hire a contractor to complete her designs.

If she went about it the usual way, she would partner with a contractor or two and send the homeowner to them to get bids. Then the homeowner would pick one and that would be the end of it. Perhaps one or both of the contractors would send referrals to the interior designer, and maybe there would be some money that changes hands in exchange.

And that would work.

But there’s a much more powerful way to connect with referral partners that has the potential to bring in a lot more clients.

Do this instead:

Think about the problems that your referral partners have when they work with your common clients.

What are the hot button issues for these potential partners? What are their concerns? And how can you or your offerings help alleviate those pain points?

My interior designer client noticed that contractors really don’t like working with clients who constantly change their mind. When clients can’t make a decision, it usually results in lots of change orders for the contractor. It can really impact the schedule and it’s a huge hassle.

When setting up their referral relationship, then, this interior designer stresses to the contractor that she will help them deal with those client issues. She explains how she’s not just a designer—she’s a project manager, too.

She doesn’t just throw her design and the clients at the contractor saying, “it’s your problem now.” Instead, she stays with the project from start to finish—and even helps coordinate deliveries of hard goods like cabinets and appliances. She takes care of all the things that distract the contractor from doing what he’s there to do.

By emphasizing these aspects of her work as an interior designer, she helps contractors understand how she can solve their problems.

As a result, her JV contractors are much more likely to send clients her way.

Here’s another example:

As a business coach, accountants are a great resource for me. One of the biggest problems they have is when their clients come to visit them in March with an overflowing box of receipts and invoices and expect them to solve their tax issues in two weeks.

I help my CPA partners by guaranteeing that the clients they send to me will come to see them at least two to four times per year, if not more. This way, they get an opportunity to work with clients throughout the year, instead of dealing with a mad scramble to get things done during tax season. The CPA can finally move from being a bookkeeper and on-demand tax preparer, to building a valued relationship with that client.

Ask not what your partners can do for you, but what you can do for your partners.

When you set up a joint venture, don’t just think about how you and your JV partner can solve your mutual clients’ problems. While that can be a useful first step in finding a good referral partner, it is not the only ingredient in cultivating a fruitful relationship.

In addition to solving your customers’ problems, think about how you can solve your JV partner’s problems—especially the problems that arise when they work with your mutual clients. If you don’t know, perhaps that can be a topic of conversation at your next (virtual) coffee meeting.

When you emphasize how you can make their work easier, smoother, or more profitable, they will be even more motivated to send their clients to you.

It’s the very definition of “win-win.”

Black Lives Matter. PERIOD.

Black Lives Matter. PERIOD.

Ready to march in Pleasanton’s Black Lives Matter protest

Children are an amazing gift. You bring home this little blob from the hospital, turn around a few times, and discover an amazing person. That’s what’s happened to me recently. My amazing daughter, an adjunct professor of writing at Columbia University, challenged me: “Are you going to do something, Dad?”, “Do you have any plans for showing up on LinkedIn as an anti-racist?”

This is a hard thing: I am a small-business owner and have tried to keep politics out of my business even though I have very strong theological roots and care deeply about the plight of all humanity. Today, I serve on the board of The Gratitude Network and give that work the highest priority as I set my schedule for the day and the week.

Given today’s environment, it will be impossible for me to say what I believe to be important without appearing to be taking sides politically. But I can no longer stay silent.

My daughter knows my heart.

From the very beginning of our relationship, my wife and I have worked to improve the lives of the under-resourced locally, across the US, and around the world – investments of both time and money. Although never wealthy, we knew we came from privileged backgrounds as we never had to worry about where our next meal would come from – even if it might be waffles at the end of the month as the food money ran short.

We were both raised in white, suburban surroundings, attended fine schools, and were afforded excellent college and graduate educations. We have worked hard to provide for our family and I do not apologize for what we have been able to achieve.

But the events of the past two weeks have shown that I must do more. The senseless killing of George Floyd has re-awakened the nation to respond to this issue at a level that I don’t recall since the height of the civil rights movement in the late 60’s and early 70’s.

This is not just about standing on the right side of history but about standing up for what is right, period: I must stand with them.

My daughter asked me the following questions: What don’t I know? What do I know? Where do I have influence? What am I going to do?

What don’t I know?

I am a heterosexual, white male. I clearly do not know what it is like to be a person of color. Or a woman or gay or bi or trans or anything other than what I am. I do not know what it is like to be denied fair treatment just because of who I am or what I look like.

I do not know what it is like to grow up in a system that is biased against me.

What do I know?

I know that I was born into white privilege. I would say “solidly, middle class.” Dad worked, as an engineer, Mom didn’t (well not for pay, anyhow). While there were clearly limits to what we could afford, we never wanted for anything growing up. That was not a choice I made, I just got lucky.

I also know that all people are God’s children and we are all equal in God’s sight. I know that I hope for a world in which every child can grow up free from fear and want and able to live out their own dream, and any system which perpetuates inequality is wrong and should be abolished.

I also must acknowledge my participation in the systems here in this country which perpetuate that inequality. I have not done so intentionally, but nonetheless, I am part of the system.

I even have to admit that deep down, I am a racist. My brain is wired to prefer those who are similar to me – this was a survival mechanism as we evolved as a species, so it’s there and I need to acknowledge it.

The question is, do I act out of that racism? Do I let my “reptilian brain” control how I act? I work very hard to be able to say “No!” to that instinct. I think I’m doing okay, but it’s still there.

Where do I have influence?

I have influence in my community, with my friends, in my church, and even a bit on-line. Over my lifetime, I’ve noticed that I’m a natural leader, so in most settings where I participate, I wind up in some sort of leadership position.

As Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben said, “with great power comes great responsibility.” So I need to acknowledge that I have that responsibility and speak out against all systems that continue to, in the words of Al Sharpton (from Mr. Floyd’s eulogy last week) put a knee in the neck of black people. These are our systems of education, employment, justice, and public protection (aka police) at the very least.

What am I going to do?

Well, last week, I participated in a march here in my local community with my mask and my sign “Black Lives Matter, PERIOD.” Yes, all lives matter, but when you read the parable of the lost sheep, it’s clear we need to focus on the one who is lost, not the 99 who are doing fine.

Assuming social restrictions continue to loosen, I will go to Washington for the march on August 28 to commemorate the anniversary of Dr. King’s speech, “I Have a Dream.” Between now and then, I will speak out. I will not remain silent. I will challenge the status quo. And I will begin working to change the systems that perpetuate injustice and inequality.

It’s time for this privileged, white man to state firmly and for the record: Black Lives Matter. PERIOD.

The Simple Way to Find More Money for Your Business

The Simple Way to Find More Money for Your Business

man working with calculator to calculate numbers.
Saving money by reviewing your expenses

The current pandemic crisis has made things especially difficult for small businesses. Funds are low. For many, business has slowed to a crawl—if not halted entirely.

Many business owners are concerned that their businesses will fail. They worry that people will stop buying, and they’ll lose all of their customers.

But here’s the truth: no one goes out of business because they lack customers. Businesses fail because they run out of cash.

Every business owner should have 6 months of expenses in reserve, but most do not. Why is that?

Consider one of my clients (we’ll call her Amy). Her interior design business was growing, but her expenses were growing, too. Her business was making just barely enough to break-even.

Even in her best quarter she wasn’t able to bring much of that hard-earned money home—and she certainly wasn’t able to keep enough on reserve.

This wasn’t for lack of clients. In fact, Amy had more business coming in than she could handle all by herself. She needed to hire a junior designer to help relieve some of the workload, but didn’t think she could afford one.

The issue? Expenses.

Amy’s expenses were simply too high. And when expenses are high and growing as fast as revenue, it’s difficult to increase the bottom line, no matter how many customers are coming in.

This is why it’s so important to review your expenses. You may be leaving money on the table!

 

The simple way to audit your expenses:

Reviewing your expenses is a simple, straightforward way to figure out how to cut costs and improve your bottom line.

I recommend following the process laid out in Profit First, by Mike Michalowicz.

First, get out all of your bank and credit card statements. You may find it useful to print them out.

Next, categorize your expenses using the following metrics:

1. For anything that creates Profit, mark those expenses with a P.

This might include employee payroll, necessary software, and professional development resources.

For Amy, this included things like Quickbooks, her customer relationship management system, her project management software and her part-time office manager.

2. Label expenses with an R if they are Replaceable.

Are there expenses you might be able to switch to a cheaper option?

Now is a great time to review all of your expenses and see if there are better rates available. Some vendors may cut you a deal rather than to lose you as a customer.

For Amy, this meant looking at her internet and phone bill and asking a Technology Services Agent to review her service to see if she could get a better deal. We also reviewed her business insurance to see if she could reduce her costs there as well.

3. If expenses are Unnecessary, mark them with a U.

These are expenses you can do without entirely. For example, if you have a gym membership, are they still charging you even though they’re closed during the lockdown?

Amy had signed up with a credit card processing service, expecting clients to pay that way—but none had. She was able to cancel that $70/month contract.

She also discovered her 401(k) plan was costing her more money than she was saving in taxes, so that became another unnecessary expense.

 

Now it’s time to cut

Once you have marked all of the items in your statements, it’s easy to see where to cut expenses.

Eliminate anything marked with a U, and look into alternatives for anything marked with an R.

Keep the items marked with a P, since those are what actually create profit. Ideally, these goods or services should essentially pay for themselves.

This process also allows you to spot redundancies.

For example, Amy had switched project management software but had neglected to cancel the old one, so she was paying twice. We were also able to trim back marketing expenses by cutting out the services that were not bringing in new prospects.

Once we reviewed all of Amy’s expenses, she realized she actually could go out and hire that junior designer for at least 20 hours a week. Taking away some of her workload (and her stress!) will allow her to continue to grow her business—and continue to service her clients with the quality of attention they deserve.

 

Don’t leave money on the table

Many entrepreneurs think of increasing profits as solely increasing the revenue that comes in—but the expenses that come out of that income are just as important a part of the profit equation.

Furthermore, freeing up expenses allows business owners to put more money towards things that will actually lead to generating profit—like marketing, professional development, or hiring an assistant or a business coach.

What will reviewing your expenses make possible?

Kick Start Your Marketing

Today I’d like to teach you about the three most important start up marketing tools you need to get and keep new customers.

  1. In person: It’s essential you meet with customers/clients in person whenever possible. This shows you respect them and take the time to work with your clients to give personal attention to each of them.
  2. Follow up letter: Always take a moment to send a follow up letter about what you talked about, new agreements or partnerships made and to thank them for taking the time to meet with you. Likewise, you should always send thank you letters or small gifts to partners you find success with.
  3. Phone call: Use a telephone call to follow up with them to talk again about the matters you talked about in your meeting and offer any assistance you can to help their business run smoothly and more successfully.

None of these will work if you don’t have a quality product/service to back you up!

Here are the key steps for putting together your start-up marketing tools:

  1. Research potential customers, buyers, competitors and their preferred methods of distribution.
  2. Talk to potential customers. Take a hard look at your product from a customer’s perspective and see what it needs to be successful.
  3. Follow up with your 3-step process from above.
  4. Develop systems for contact follow through, quality control standards and customer service.
  5. Develop post-sale follow up system to keep lines of communication open is customers and build on your current relationship which increases future purchases.

“Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs” Peter Drucker, management consultant

Here’s another one I love from an icon:

“If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.” Henry Ford, Founder of Ford Motor Company

This lesson has offered you the tools to put together a start-up marketing plan that can be used over and over again to help your customer base and business grow in a manageable way.

Stop Wasting Your Resources!

Today you’re going to learn how to find a target market of potential customers so you aren’t wasting precious resources on blitz marketing. So, the two questions you have to ask yourself are:
  • What do people really want to buy from me?
  • What related products are they already buying?
Once you figure this out you will know who is more predisposed to purchase your products/services. Then, you find other businesses with the same customer base who you can customer share with. Come up with an incentive and great arrangement to encourage both of your customer bases to shop at both of your stores. The basic concept is this: You want to find existing businesses who have the customer profile that you are looking for to market your products/services to. Then strike up a relationship with those business owners to work out an incentive for customers to purchase from both businesses. As a result, you have an audience to market to and they generate an added value from their current base. So, how do you figure this out? There is a great formula from Jay Abraham you can follow with great success. LV = (P x F) x N – MC Here’s what it all means:
  • LV is the life time value of a customer
  • P is the average profit margin from each sale
  • F is the number of times a customer buys each year
  • N is the number of years customers stay with you
  • MC is the marketing cost per customer (total costs/number of customers)
Once you know how much you need to spend to attract a new customer, you will know how much of an incentive you can offer to a business to help attract new customers. So, here’s your step-by-step process:
  1. Find companies who already have the customer base you are looking for.
  2. Negotiate an incentive for them to share that customer base with you.
  3. Focus your marketing resources to this group of predisposed customers.
If you need help working through this process, please contact us and we’ll set you up with the most comprehensive system of marketing tools and resources.

Educate Your Customers

Educate them about what, you may be thinking. Well, consider this, many businesses focus solely on attracting new customers, but you NEED to spend a good chunk of your time retaining current and former customers. These are people you already know to be a good sales potential…they’ve already bought from you!

Take the time to market and sell new products to your old customers and less time trying to sell old products to new customers and you will see a drastic change in your sales, customer quality and branding position.

Here are a couple of key elements to use to retain your current customers:

  1. Stay in contact: This means by phone, email, e-newsletter, in person-by pigeon if you have too!
  2. Post-Purchase Assurance: This means you need to follow up with customers. Your customers need to feel like they are being supported for their purchase and with the item they purchased. How many times have you purchased a product, then felt completely abandoned? Something as simple as a Thank You note with your contact or customer service information can go along way in retaining a great customer.
  3. Deals & Guarantees: Always offer your current customers the best deals and guarantees you have. Show them you appreciate their business or even come up with a club specifically to reward loyal customers. You can also do this with a preferred pricing option.
  4. Integrity: Using good business practices and simply upholding integrity, dignity and honesty go along way with customers. Let’s face it, there’s a lot of swindling and crap out there and the safer and more confident you make your customers feel, the more they will trust you and that makes for an amazingly supportive and loyal customer.

There are three cornerstone ideas to a successful business:

  • Quality product/service
  • Offering useful products/services that solve a problem for or enhance the life of a customer
  • Offer subjects your customers find interesting

Use this approach of educating your customers and offering them real information and insight and you will be rewarded with loyalty and success.

Stop wasting all your time on new prospects while your current customers fall by the wayside!

As Jay Abraham says, “Your best prospects are your existing customers. If you’ve been putting all your marketing efforts into acquiring new customers, stop and diverts some of your resources into reselling, upselling, cross-selling to those same customers. In every ways possible – through package inserts, regular mailings, special offers – stay in touch with those customers and get them used to buying from you.”

So, there it is! Remember, we can help you put together the resources and tools to do exactly that. We can help you educate your customers and you can watch the benefits pay offer many-fold.

Lessons I Learned from Paris Hilton

Today we’ll talk about shameless self-promotion. That’s right, I said it! Shameless! After all, we are learning from Paris Hilton here.

It’s all about self-promotion! Self-promotion comes in many forms and you can use different tactics to get your name out there. Look at politicians! Talk about self-promotion and in some not so discreet ways, at that. But, seriously, consider some of the major superstars we all know. Madonna, Donald Trump, Howard Stern and Bill Clinton, just to name a few.

We all self promote. Did you raise your hand in class to show the teacher you knew the answer? Of course! That’s self-promotion. This is the kind of self-promotion we are talking about. With dignity, class and the knowledge to back it up. If you self-promote only to prove you don’t really know what you’re talking about, you’re going to lose business.

Natural self-promoters are the former and I want to tell you about the three major traits they have and use to build themselves and their businesses.

  1. The first is position. You need to position yourself around people who can make a difference in your life. You need to do this frequently. You need to wake up every morning and ask yourself “Who can I meet today who will make a difference in my success?” In fact, go a step further, write it in big, bold letters and tape it on your bathroom mirror.

Also consider:

Who can help me meet my goals?

Is it a prospective customer/client? A colleague with contacts? An association with key members who may become prospects?

Don’t settle into interacting with the people who are the easiest to access. You need to reach outside your comfort zone and there you will find a wealth of new connections that will bring you great success.

  1. Now, let’s talk about Style. No, this doesn’t mean you need an Armani suit to bring in more business (though, let’s be honest-it wouldn’t hurt) ☺ What this really means is how are you different from your competitors and others in your industry. What makes you memorable with customers?

If you are meeting a lot of people and they don’t remember you once you leave the room, you have a serious problem! This means you have an opportunity to present yourself in a more memorable way.

There are lots of little subtle changes you can make. Reassess your:

  • Business cards
  • Company message
  • Your picture
  • Your wording

Maybe even, your hairstyle (of course, now we’re back to the expensive suit, but it really works!)

You get the idea. There are lots of little ways you can work on making your image and business more successful. Also, consider how you sound on the phone and how you great people at meetings or other events. Think about your 30-sec elevator speech.

  1. The third trait of natural promoters is repetition. You can’t say it once and leave it at that. Successful self-promoters say it as many times as they need until they get a response. Would you remember a commercial for Coca-Cola if you only saw it once, no! You see it over and over and eventually you head out to the store.

You, also, have to make multiple impressions on those you are networking with in order to build brand awareness. Repetition is in direct connection with positioning. Once you find people to network with, reach out and find hundreds more who can help in your success as well.