Obstacles of Life

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

Robert Frost gifted us with these wonderful words which we use in reference to life, careers, business and many other challenges. As an idea guide, I follow this same thinking by attempting to visualize what obstacles we can face as we travel along our selected path. Many times I hear wonderful goals and expectations without the pondering of the obstacles that may impede our journey.

Just seeing the obstacles is not enough to ensure a successful journey, we must contemplate the effects on our goals if we can not overcome these obstacles. How will our path change or be diverted at each unsuccessful hurdle?

The next time you create a plan for the future, try listing every obstacle and how you will overcome them and what will be your course change if you can not prevail.

Visualizing the solution is the first step towards success.

Visualizing Business Communications

How does one know if their communications is too cluttered or confusing and hindering business opportunities?

I was asked to view a website and share my thoughts about the effectiveness and overall design of the site. This drove my thinking to a very powerful thINKing Canvas visual analogy and then the creation of a physical activity I call “The Marble Jars” to explain what I was seeing and to help the inquirer see from a potential customers point of view.

I don’t wish to explain this visual in great detail as it is very clear already. Imagine every piece of information, subject or offering in your communications (especially websites) as a marble; colors and types for various topics. Place each marble into a glass jar. Step back and look. This is how a potential customer may interpret your communications. How easily can you find all of one color or type of marble?  Business communications should be designed as a call for action and not an encyclopedia of information.

Visual thinking and a thINKing Canvas are great tools in looking at business communications to get a clearer picture of its purpose and value. I helped one group, maybe I can help you visualize your communications.

Hunting in the herd

Everyone in business wants more customers. This is a basic fact of life. Too many times though, we spend much of the time searching and not selecting. Many small business owners and service providers choose to follow the “shoot gun” process of generating business. Broadcasting into populations in hopes of having someone hear your message. This process is time-consuming, unfocused and requires high levels of failure. Yes, advertising has its place and purpose, but it may not be the best use of your funds if you’re in a small business. Take example of the best direct mailing campaigns. Traditional  1.5 to 3 percentage of readers may, may, respond. How much did each new customer actually cost you and did they generate enough revenue to cover both your product/service and the advertising? Television advertising, radio spots, newspaper ads and even webpages are all shotgun approaches.

It’s time to refine your skills at customer/client acquisition.

First, study the animal world for a moment. Predators, either solo or pack hunters, are successful because of a basic fundamental rule, be strategic and only focus on that which you can catch. Skilled hunters don’t spend their time chasing between one target then another or running head long into the herd in hopes of tackling a meal. They find the best candidate with in the herd and begin the hunting process. Working all their energies on weeding out and driving their target out into the open to ensure success. Gruesome analogy? Maybe, but this method and the analogy are visual and work well.

Sure, business owners may not be predatory hunters, but the thinning or funneling process will decide the survivors from those who are destined to perish. A similar idea can be used for business in very much the same way only with less physicality and more psychology. Weeding out targets is more about understanding your customer than trying to be heard as a single voice in the noise of a crowd.

Before you begin, head out the door, order those flyers or even set up your website, ask yourself some basic questions about customers, your business and your capabilities so that you clearly know what you’re going to need and understand to survive and then eventually be successful.

1. What is your operating cost per week? (B)

2. How many client/customers can you truly handle in a week? (W)

3. How much does each client/customer need to provide in revenue dollars each week that you can handle? (R)

That was the easy part. It’s doing the basic math of business (R*W<B).

Now let’s tackle the filtering process. Imagine a herd of customers; many different types locations and even size. (For reference, I am using color dots in the diagram above to express this.) Not all these dots are people will be your clients or customers for many various reasons. What you want to do is thin the herd. You want to only speak or direct your communication to those who would be willing to respond. Use the language common to them about their need and your offering.

At this point is best to have a clear understanding of who your best customers are and why they acquire your product or services. Be critical with yourself. Fine tune the reason. It will help create conversation, elevator pitches and marketing materials. Know who you serve! There are various methods to create customer profiling, use what works for you and keep these profiles close. *See previous posting “Lessons from the mantelas an example.

Once you have identified your potential clients or customers, avoid being drawn back to the herd. Review your potentials and evaluate which of them is your best opportunity for doing business first. Prioritize your targets. For those who follow the shot-gun approach, this method will feel unorthodox, but as you learn to understand your customers and know where they are in the marketplace, the process will be easier to follow, especially after you have some success under your belt. Always record where, when, and even why your prospects respond. This will help refine your process even more.

Here is an interesting bit of observation, the process works the same way for the customer seeking a provider. So who’s the hunter now?

Have great success growing your business and we’ll talk soon.

Kevin Dulle